Barry, it's been a while since we got to talk, obviously, but can you address the status of (Jim) Sorgi at quarterback and do you expect Anthony (Davis) and Mike Allen to be able to go this week?
"I'll be interested to see how we move around in practice today, but according to our medical report all three are expected to practice today. Jim (Sorgi) will visit with you, but I think he'll go through all the team things today and that's what we're planning on. I know he was moving around very well when we broke on Friday morning. I felt pretty good about it, anticipating he'd get a little stronger over the weekend. We're expecting him to practice today, all three to practice today."
In the past it seemed like Brooks (Bollinger) always played really well when he came back from an injury. Do you think there is any benefit to (Jim) Sorgi's missing a game and stepping back a little bit and refocusing a little bit?
"I think sometimes you get away from the activity a little bit and get a chance to look at it from a little different angle. More than anything else, you're able to charge your battery, you're a little healthier, get rid of a few bumps and bruises. Hopefully, he comes back fresh and is able to pick it up and just play well."
After the Northwestern loss several of your offensive linemen talked about the fact that they weren't pleased with their performance. After reviewing the film of that game, can you gauge how they played and was your first impression matched by what you saw on the tape?
"They didn't play particularly well, no. I think their evaluation was probably pretty correct. When you can't establish your running game, normally, it's because you're line's not…it could be the backs not hitting the hole, you know it could be the backs, but I didn't see much movement up front. So that's something that we'll have to improve on because they certainly didn't play particularly well."
Will you have a different preparation for playing in a dome at practice? Do you do the simulated crowd noise thing at practice this week or anything like that?
"Probably do that later in the week. Probably the biggest…the one thing we've learned over the years is you have to hydrate before you get there, just drinking a lot of water during the game is not enough. I'll never forget my first game there, we had guys that were on IVs at halftime and shoveling guys from the sidelines up to the locker rooms and putting IVs in because they were totally dehydrated. So, since then we've educated them, or we've become educated as far as hydrating. We'll use crowd noise probably the latter part of the week. The weather is going to dictate it for a while anyhow, but we'll practice inside probably more than outside."
Barry, in the games you guys haven't had Anthony (Davis) in the lineup or the games he's been limited, is his big play ability the thing you miss most, or is there more that he brings that has been lacking?
"Anthony (Davis) has the potential to hit a home run. He has potential to outrun an angle of a defensive back or a linebacker. And not taking anything away from the younger backs, but he's faster than they are. So that, as well as, I think he's become a pretty good short yardage back, where he sees a seam and he can get to it pretty quickly and if you run a power play there are certain different places he can…if you slam everything inside, he has the speed to get outside and potentially hit a long one or really accelerate to get the first down. It's just…he's more experienced than those guys and his numbers speak for themselves. You just lose an elite player in there."
I know it's a team game, but knowing that Anthony (Davis) has not been able to play at 100 percent, missing several games, do you think at a personal level he's disappointed by the fact that…you know some people have thrown him right up on top of the Heisman Trophy candidates. Do you think that's bothered him in any way, shape or form?
"I think just the fact that he's not playing. He really hasn't been someone who's been injury plagued and to have that thing linger on as long as it has and not be able to do what he wants to do and even when he has come back to play, not be able to put his foot in the ground like he normally would have or have the acceleration that he's had. I think that's more frustrating than knowing where he would be had be been able to stay healthy and what his numbers would have been and whether he would have been involved in any of those national awards."
Against Northwestern we saw the team cycle through a lot of your defensive backs, you had Chuckie Cowans in there for a bit, even had Brandon Williams. Against Minnesota's passing game can we expect the same number of players?
"I think Chuckie Cowans has earned the right to play. I thought he probably played as well as anyone in our last game and has been doing a good job and I think he's earned some more playing time. He's a little more physical, we like what he's been doing. Brandon (Williams) has practiced some, actually we've used the days that we practiced last week to let Brandon work on defense. Now, we feel as though we could get some mileage out of him, primarily in nickel defense and that type of thing and continue to use him more on offense. Just trying to get a little more depth, you know, we've lost a couple guys there so we're trying to be creative in getting some other athletes over there."
Barry, you mentioned with the injuries to (Jim) Sorgi and to (Anthony) Davis why it's important to have the bye week that you did to rest people up. How important is it from a mental standpoint for the team to have the break that you had the past week?
"I think mentally and physically, it was probably pretty good. It's a pretty good grind when you start that early, I think if you, ideally, particularly if you're not a really veteran team, you'd like to have that bye right in the middle, maybe just before the conference starts or early in the conference, having it this far into the season, I think mentally, just to be fresh is just as important. Although, we really would have been in a tough situation in some positions because of injuries, physical injuries, if we hadn't played last week."
Barry, when Purdue put a game plan for you guys, they looked at your tackles and Joe Tiller decided that's not the best way to attack them, but Minnesota is a team that likes to run the ball on everybody, do you expect Minnesota to stick to what they've done all year and just come out and attack?
"No one has really stopped Minnesota, running the football. They really have a lot of weapons, I don't think they'll run, maybe as they did…I don't even know how many times they threw Saturday, 10-12 times? I would anticipate probably throwing more than that, but their game is running the football and everyone they've played against, they've been able to do it. That's their strength. I was really impressed a year ago with two true freshmen in the offensive line that they were able to establish the type of running game they did. Those guys have matured. You add a very mature freshman running back to the mix and with that stable of backs, I tell you what, they run hard. Their offensive line is very athletic, they tie you up. You're going to have to show them you can stop their run before they're going to abandon it, and no one's been able to do that."
Any one of those three backs concern you more than the others?
"No, they're all very good. They all have their strengths. (Marion) Barber (III) is really a slasher and can hit a home run. (Thomas) Tapeh is really physical, can play at the fullback spot. (Laurence) Maroney's very physical, for a true freshman is extremely physical, a downhill runner. So they all have their own style, but they're all very effective."
Coach, do you think the defense is going to relish that challenge to play a run first mentality?
"I think our guys would prefer to play a team like that, than a team that just spreads you out and doesn't even try to run, but it will be a very physical game, I know that."
You mentioned about their line, that they tied you up. I mean, it's not a line that blows people off the ball. What do you defensive linemen have to do defeat those guys? Is it penetration early, is it shedding blocks, what?
"Well, you have to shed blocks, you can't stay blocked. They'll get out on the edge, they seem to be able to get leverage, they're very athletic, so they'll pool all their people and try to get leverage on you. They'll chop you. They'll get down around your ankles. You just have to take good fundamentals and good technique. You can't lose if you're responsible and keep your outside arm and leg free, you can't lose it. You can't let the guy reach it, you can't let him chop you if you've got him contained. You've got to stay off the ground. If you watch the teams that they play, you'll see a lot of people on the ground, that's because their offensive line is chopping them and getting leverage on them. Their tight ends do a nice job on edge.
Barry, can you give us a progress report on your true freshmen? Secondly, the bye week, was it especially good for them, it seems to be a tough, maybe for a true freshman, maybe hitting the wall?
"Normally, they'd be in their high school playoffs, some of them would be finished with their season, and it does get long for them. I think it was especially good for the ones within a four-hour driving time we allowed to go home, and told them to go ahead home this weekend. We practiced early morning on Friday, so when they completed classes that they could go home, they had to be back by six o'clock on Sunday. And then we encouraged them to take someone from out of state with them if they did. I think a good number of them did go home. We were also able to scrimmage those freshman this past Tuesday, let them have a little fun. They've been used as a scout squad and going off the cards. So, just to let them mix it up a little bit and let the other guys watch them practice and have it a little bit. I think it was good for them. It appears as though they are getting along fine and I really think it's a good group and a balanced group, we have good number of skill as well as a good number of big linemen."
One guy we haven't talked about today is their quarterback. Now, he leads the nation in pass efficiency and their running game plays a big part of that. What problems has he presented in the past and will he present on Saturday?
"Well, he's hard to get a grip of and he's hard to corral. You have to be option sound in everything you do because he could hurt you on the option. He's a guy that can pull it down and win with his feet as well as throwing. So, he gives you a lot of problems, a lot of things…if they can just hand it off and run the ball that's what they're going to do. But, they've also been in situations where they've had to throw it, he's had to take the game in his own hands and he's been able to do that. Also, we've seen him do that the last couple years. He's really, he's an excellent quarterback. He's the type that really, defensive coordinators don't really like to play against."
Barry, you've been pretty high on this team from the start. Anything that happened in the last two games shake your faith in this team, going into this last tough stretch, or are you still pretty confident?
"Well, I like the team. I like these kids. I think we have
good kids on our team. I think the guys have done what was asked of them to do.
They had a tough ball game. They had a game and I think if you watch games you
see that, where somebody's flat and you don't know why. Then you take a few
starters out, cut a few key starters out and that multiplies you're situation.
Those kids knew that they didn't play very well. I still like the football team.
I haven't lost confidence in them. The most important thing is that they haven't
lost confidence. I just want to get back and play the way we play. Play our
brand of football and let the guys have a little fun, play hard. We've got some
good teams out in front of us, let's go play, compete, see what happens."