"Well now it is time for me to sustain what I did this past weekend. I played a game like that before, in our first game against West Virginia. I was confident, I went in there, I was prepared and I was decisive. And you know I wasn't all those things against UNLV, but I was those things against North Carolina and now its just time for me to sustain that week to week. And it's important for me to do that because as the quarterback and the leader of this offense I've got to get people in the right places at the right time. And if I'm unsure and if I'm not settled about something and I'm not totally confident, then it's hard for the offense to be a consistent unit and now it's time for me to take that next step, to mature a little bit and to get back on that horse and do it again week in and week out."
Jim, you guys obviously put a lot of—great emphasis on doing well in Big Ten play, how much does it eat at you then that the last couple years you guys have struggled in league play?
"That's really what hurts. The last couple years we've really been sub par in Big Ten play, and we don't feel like that's going to be the case this season. We feel like we have a strong enough team, a young enough team, but an experienced team to have life and to have the knowledge to know what it takes to win a Big Ten game. Some of these kids that are my age on the team, your Jeff Mack, your Lee Evans and me have to teach these kids that this is the Big Ten—everything speeds up a little bit. Because we've been on team that have pretty much ran the table in the Big Ten when we were younger, and we know what it takes and some of these younger guys don't, I mean we…they have been on teams that haven't done very well in the Big Ten and you know, its time for us to show them what it takes."
Jim, you've always made it a point to get close to the offensive linemen. What was your gut reaction when those guys went up to the coaches and, not demanded, but made it very an impassioned plea that, you know put the ball in our hands, you know, let us run the ball, let us try to take control of game. What does that say to you and do you think that will bode well for the rest of the year?
"It just shows these five or six guys in front of me that want to win and want to play. And it helps me out also. We started running the ball really well in the second half and when we threw the ball, some of the guys were as open as they could be. And it made it easier on me making decisions in the pocket and delivering the ball on time. So, I've got to say thank you to them for having the running game we do have because it does help me out and those guys, if you sit down with those guys and just have a serious conversation with them, they're great guys and they know what it takes to win and they know what it takes to just be a good guy. And like you said, I'm really good friends with all the linemen. I think it's important that it's like that. When you have a line like us, the running game just kind of happens naturally and you've got to put it on them for the success that we've had this season, I mean giving me time. I think I only got sacked one time in the game this past weekend. I feel great this week, no bumps or bruises or anything like that, ready to go for next week. And having a young back, back there, just the holes they were opening and giving him a chance to make plays was good to see."
Coaches have talked a lot about the personality that Raiola plays with, what's he like in the huddle and on the field, from your perspective?
"Well, Donovan's a different type of character. He comes from good stock and he's going to be another one in a long line in his family to go into the NFL and do well. He's a great guy to be around, he's funny, he really doesn't let a situation bother him, he knows how to put things in perspective and I give him a lot of credit coming from as far from home as he did and being able to succeed as well as he did. And he's just a great guy. He's a guy you can just sit down and you can talk to if you've got a problem and he's a guy you can sit down and just kind of have fun with and just joke around, but you know, I'd say he's probably the prankster on the whole line, but he's a good guy, he gets us where to need to be at when we need to be there."
Jim, the last two games against Illinois have been real shootouts. Can you afford to get into another one of those with them?
"Well, let's hope we don't have to. If we have to I think our offense can put up a significant amount of points if we're on our game. And if it gets into a shootout, I feel comfortable with the way we've come from behind and the way we've put up points in a few of these first couple games. So I feel like we can come through."
Jim, I don't know how much you remember from that Illinois game last year but Barry was trying to talk about what they try to do with their blitz package from all different angles. What can you recall that makes it difficult to see where that blitz is coming from and how quickly you have to adjust to it and make the proper call?
"I remember from a couple of years ago where they ran kind of a different defense where they have those three triangle linebackers back there and you just don't know where it's going to come from at certain times. I think from what we've seen so far this year with the blitz packages that teams have thrown at us, they're coming from everywhere. The way we're changing our protecting to try to turn everything up so we don't have to throw hot all the time. I think we'll be alright. I think we'll be able to see it early enough and I think Donovan (Raiola) will make the right call and dive to change a play, get to playing and get to the line of scrimmage and be decisive—just change a play if I feel that things just don't feel right."
Jim, there's been some highs and lows in this non-conference schedule both for you personally and for the team. What kind of mind-set do you think you and the team have heading into this conference for Big Ten play?
"Well the way I'm trying to look at it is we've had our good times and we've had our bad times. We've been inconsistent, but we're 3-1. I would rather be 3-1—actually I would rather be 4-0, but 3-1 sounds better than 0-4 or 1-3. So I just take out of it that we came through when we had to come through for the most part and we do have a winning record and we're a team that has a lot of potential and shows a lot of potential on both sides of the ball. So going into the Big Ten, everything gets a little faster. The speed of the game steps up a little bit and you know you have to be ready for it. I think we all know what a Big Ten season is like and I think we know what it takes through these next eight ball games to get to where we want to go."
Jim, in 2000 when you were a redshirt freshman, I think your first action was against Michigan State during the midway point of the season. It's a different position with Booker Stanley at running back then you are at quarterback, but can you appreciate what he was able to do as a young kid in his first real significant action?
"It's even more amazing to me when someone comes into a program and actually has significant playing time when they are young—with Brandon Williams last year or with Jonathon Orr. To do what they've done and to learn what they have in such a short period of time is astonishing to me because I remember how hard it was for me when I was younger to get thrown into the mix like that. The way he came in there and the type of ball game he played on Saturday was attributed to not only him as a player but the coaching staff as well. Coach (Brian) White has those running backs ready and whether it be Anthony Davis as a starter or going four deep, they're going to go in there and they're going to give it their all and use that, and their performance is going to be pretty significant. So I have a lot of gratitude to Booker and the game he played helping me out and being able to run the football. I just think it's attributed to our team knowing that even though a starter goes down, we have other players that can step in there and make plays."
Jim, you mentioned the ‘99 team a couple minutes ago, about how that team was a team that ran the table in the Big Ten. What did you see from that team or traits that you haven't seen in the last couple years? What did that team have that made it such a great team?
"They just had guys that weren't really all-stars but that just wanted to play football. Guys that maybe are not the best at their position in the Big Ten or in the country, but came out ready to play, were prepared. You look at some of the guys from that team and you got (Chris) Chambers, you got Ron Dayne, you got the whole line, I think the whole line played some kind of game in the NFL, with some team in the NFL. You got guys on defense like Jamal Fletcher and Mike Echols and Jason Doering and Chris Ghidorzi and Donnell Thompson—guys that just knew what it took, and I'm not say that we didn't have that the last couple years, I just think the experience level just wasn't there."