Jim, first of all how do you feel and what did you gain out of the bye-week and first of all watching Northwestern, seeing some things happen on the field?
"I feel pretty good. My goal is to practice this week. I'm going to practice today and my plan is to start on Saturday against Minnesota. The bye-week came at the right time, I think the guys were tired. As for me, I had the last couple of weeks off. My body feels pretty good, I've been throwing the football and I seem to have a little bit more on it, a little more of a feel to it. It was tough watching the Northwestern game from the sidelines. It was actually the first game of my career where I haven't been able to dress and play if need be. Things didn't go the way we planned. We planned on having the surgery last week during the bye-week, but the way things went we had to do it a little earlier and I had to miss that game so, so be it. We came out as a team against Northwestern flat and we didn't play like we can play and I think the issues have been addressed. We had a good couple of practices during the bye-week and it's time to get things going again."
Jim you mentioned some of the guys were tired. How important was the bye week from a mental standpoint, especially for some of the younger guys?
"It was pretty huge. You look at some of the younger guys, you know, coming in here from high school you don't play that many games in high school. Coming in here playing nine straight games and getting a bye week it is pretty big mentally and physically. We had some guys that needed to get healthy, me being one of them. AD (Anthony Davis) being another. I think the bye week came at the right time. I think our guys needed to rest. I think the O and D-line needed to get their feet a little bit and, you know, just be kind of normal students for a week. Get those couple days off where you can just go home after class and take that nap and not have to worry about go watching film or who you are going to play this weekend and you can wake up on Saturday and watch games instead of worrying about your own game. So, mentally I think everybody is back, back in place and now is a time to make a run for the stretch and I feel confident that we if we play the way we can we can win these last few ballgames."
You mentioned the issues were addressed. Can you specify, was this by the captains, by the coaches and also Barry was asked if he was still confident in the team and he said yes. Are you still confident in the chemistry that you have talked about?
"I think so. I think this team is one of the better teams that I've been on here chemistry-wise. I mean guys liking each other and guys wanting to be around each other and it not being a drag just to come to practice every day. The issue is just coming off flat and not playing the way we are supposed to against a ball club you are supposed to beat. You know it showed and as a result we ended up with our third loss of the season, which if we'd win that game we would be sitting pretty good right now. But that is the way this game is played. We've overcome obstacles before and we'll do it again. No we are getting into the part of the season where you need to be at your best and especially the teams you are going to play. And, you know, it's Big Ten. It's the Big Ten Conference: everybody can beat everybody and if we go out there I feel like we're a team that can cause problems. We have to stop beating ourselves and I think you are going to see a more fired up, a more ready to go team this weekend."
Jim, could you assess how your season has gone individually. Has it gone how you've expected and how important are these last three games, not only for the team, but for you too?
"Coaches always talk about leaving your legacy as a player. I've never been one to who was real big on individual statistics. I've always just wanted to win. And being a first-year starter like I am...I'm playing well. I can play better, I can always play better. You always strive for perfection, but to go out there and win ball games and, you know, that is kind of what I learned from Brooks. It's not really how you play it's only what the score is at the end of the game and that is basically the way it has been. We've won ballgames this year and we'll win more ballgames before the year is over with. I think the team is having a very successful season so far. Now, it all depends on what we want to do with that through the last part of the season. But as you can recall, we are in much better shape that what we have been in years past and that is what we are trying to focus on the positives and if we come out these last three ballgames unscathed and go into the Bowl game 9-3, and give us a chance to win the conference if things go right, I think everybody will be happy with that."
Jim, was it arthroscopic surgery that you did have?
"Yes, I had a surgery on my left knee. I had a torn lateral meniscus."
And they went in and just scoped it?
Jim, on the play you got hurt on you went in there kind of awkwardly. Is that something that you have talked to the coaches about, about protecting yourself better?
"I really haven't put myself in a position to get hurt. My knee injury, it is something that I had; that I planned on fixing during the bye week. And, you know, I was playing through it and just trying to play my best with what I could do and it never seemed to bother me in a game. You know, maybe after the game for a day or two I had to rest a little bit but I was always ready to go for practice. The hit that actually I took against Purdue that actually put me over the edge to where the point I had to fix it-it kind of scared me a little bit because they always told me that with a torn meniscus it's loose and if my knee locks out that means I have to fix it and when I got hit I heard--I felt a pop and I heard a pop in my knee and everybody says when you hear a pop that you tear your ACL. So, I mean, there was a bunch of thoughts going through my mind when I was on the field because I really couldn't move my leg down from my knee down, I couldn't straighten it. My first thought was that I tore my ACL, I'm done, I'm never going to play football again. It kind of hit me pretty hard on the sidelines when I was sitting there and stuff. But the doctor said, 'we don't think that is what it is. We think it is just a piece of your Meniscus got caught in your knee and got locked out and you couldn't move it. And, you know, we went to the hospital that night and that ended up being what it was I had (surgery) the next day. It is amazing how fast you know you can heal when you have to."
Jim, you've seen Anthony (Davis) and what he can do for the offense and Booker (Stanley) and Dwayne (Smith) have filled in at times for him well, but when he's not on the field what's the one thing you think the offense doesn't have that he can provide that those other guys can't?
"I mean all of them have played football, Anthony (Davis) of course has played a lot more. Plus I just think he brings that quiet experience to the field. He knows what he's got to do in certain situations and the other guys are still young, they're still growing up. They've played a lot of football but they really haven't played a lot of football. They're getting their chances now. But I think when Anthony (Davis) is on the field there's just that quiet sense about him where he knows he's going to do what he has to do and I think the offense knows that. We all have faith in Book (Stanley) and Dwayne (Smith) that they're going to get it done, they've proven it and they've got it done in the past. But when you have one of your starters like A.D. (Anthony Davis) not in there you know it takes away a little bit. Nothing against those other guys, they can do the job. A.D. (Anthony Davis) has that quiet presence about him where he knows and you know that he's going to do what needs to be done."
Now that you are back, what is the chemistry like. Is the team pleased to have you back?
"Well yeah I would like to think so. I mean they will ask me how I'm doing every day and ask me when I'm coming back. And the O-line jokes around with me a little bit and Schabes (Matt Schabert) and Stoc (John Stocco) joke around, 'you know I'm just taking all your reps until Saturday. So we play around with it a little bit. I'm just glad to be back. I think the team has confidence in me. I think the guys know that I've been around and I've been through the stuff before. I've got it done before. You know I think you are going to see a different player in me coming back. Maybe I was taking being the starting quarterback a little bit for granted. I mean going out there and playing to the best of my ability but not going out there with that fire, with that emotion and pumping guys up and getting them going. No matter what happens this weekend, good or bad or for the rest of the games, I'm--you are going to see a different ballplayer out there. I'm going to have fun. I'm going to go out there and play football and have fun. I mean I only have four more games with the Red and White on so I might as well."
After the win against Ohio State everybody talked about how you had 24 hours to enjoy it and then you need to put it out of your mind and focus. I imagine the same holds true now after the Northwestern game. Is that a tougher challenge now coming off of two losses and the loss at Northwestern and the way it unfolded? Is that a tougher challenge to put that out of your mind and get ready for the next game as opposed to after a big win like Ohio State?
"It's tough, but it can be done. For me the situation kind of sticks with you a little bit. You're not supposed to be in this situation right now, you're supposed to be in a better situation. But this is the situation we put ourselves in and now we've got to dig ourselves out of the hole. But like I said, we're in a much better situation this year than what we were last year. We're going to a bowl and now it just depends on how many games we can get through the stretch to see how much better of a bowl we can get. We're still not counting out a Big Ten Conference championship. Certain things have got to happen and we put ourselves behind the eight ball. But nothing says that other teams can't beat other teams and we can't beat the three teams that we have left and share the conference championship. We've still got a lot to play for. We've still got a lot of our goals that we can attain. I think everyone is on the same page of achieving those goals."
Jim could you talk about playing in the Dome. For a guy with an injured knee that obviously isn't ideal.
"It is true. I've thought about it, having to go back and start the game in the Dome and play on a turf that is probably not ideal for my knee. But, you know, I figure that if I just go out there and play, chances are I'm not going to get hurt. That is the way I'm going to approach it. And whatever happens, happens. You can't predict the future. I'm just going to go out there and play football and if the turf messes with me then, you know, it does.
Jim, you mentioned that we are going to see a different player emotionally. It sounds like you had some kind of realization during the Bowl week or when you were just resting from surgery. Is that what happened?
"I took a long look back at my career and my four years that I've been here and this season. Maybe I treated it more as a responsibility and a job, which it is to an extent, but I'm still young, I'm 22 years old, I'm playing a sport. I'm playing a sport that got me a college education. There are a lot of people that would like to be in my shoes right now. You know I'm going to take advantage of it. If anybody is going to enjoy it it might as well be me because its my life. I'm just going to go out there and have fun and play football. Like I said I have three more regular season games and a Bowl game with these guys and these guys have been with me for however long now-two, three, four years and we are going to go out there and enjoy it together. And hopefully more good times come than bad but whatever happens we are going to get through it together."
Minnesota's offense has been really prolific, like some guys imagined your offense being. What do you guys have to do these last three games Jim do you think to maximize your potential offensively?
"What we have to do is just execute. We've got the playmakers, we've got the players that can do the job and have done the job before. We've just got to go out there and execute and just play. I don't think there's anything this team can't do. We've started to run the ball a little more these last couple weeks because we can run the ball. We had a difficult time running the ball against Purdue but that's when the past games come out and we've got to be able to win games both ways. We talked about being an offense that can hit you from every side. We have to get back to that. We have to get back to being able to score and moving the ball with both a run and a pass. It all comes down to execution and that's our focus."
I just wanted your thoughts about what Minnesota will give you and also what your views are on the big comeback win Michigan had against Minnesota and how that will affect how you view the game?
"The Michigan-Minnesota game-I watched that game. It was a Friday night, it was before we played and, you know, it was a great comeback. Both teams played hard and both teams deserved to win the game. The coaches of the both teams said it well. It was a great game and neither team deserved to lose that game but somebody has to.
"It really doesn't affect my focus at all because you can't predict a game from week-to-week. Things are going to happen. Mistakes are going to happen. Big plays are going to happen that are going to change the game and changed things instantly.
"I think Minnesota will come out fired up. They are having
a great year. They are playing good football and I expect nothing less than
their best and I think they will maybe try to bring the safeties down and heat
us up a little bit and maybe try stop the run but, you know, we just have to
prepare, run the game plan and listen to the coaches because we're the guys that
have to go out there and play. The coaches on the sidelines they can help us and
see things. But we have to go out there and execute and get it done. Whatever
they throw at us we'll be ready and if we are not we'll make adjustments on the
sidelines and comeback to play."