Note: Windows Media Player or another software device that plays .wma files is required for listening to the audio file. Click here to download Windows Media Player
"Very fortunate to come away from Ann Arbor with a victory. I feel that we were really lucky at the end. I thought it was a heck of a Big Ten football game. I said that also the last two years when we came up on the short end. Kind of an expected way for us to win it but we're sure glad that we won the game."
Obviously this is just one game on the schedule… but especially in your situation, you guys are driving towards building for a new season. You've had success in the past, but this really is a marquee win. Talk about this win in the scope of what you're doing at Minnesota.
"That's a good question. They all count the same. I think this one was a little bit different only because in the fashion that we've played the last two times we've played at Michigan, two years ago at home and then last year also in the Big House, when in both cases late in the game it seemed we were on the verge of victory and let it slip away. Which really didn't sit well for us. We only had ourselves to play but we felt it was an obstacle that we had to get over.
"Kind of ironically, in preparation for that game we kept talking about it and emphasized to the players we ought to hope that it comes down to the last play of the game, where either if we make the play we win or you don't make it you lose, because that's what competition is all about. It was kind of ironic that that's what it came down to. It was very important to us."
How is Micah Rucker progressing for you?
"Micah Rucker is doing an excellent job. Besides being a good football player he's a heck of a kid. We got more depth at wide receiver then we've ever had, so he's playing a backup role now. But we rotate him in and he's doing a really good job."
I remember earlier this season, it might have even been the first week, you were not happy at all with your place kicking. What has happened? Have you started coaching the place kickers?
"Well, yeah, I coached him right before he made that last kick. To be honest with you I think we've missed five extra points on the year. I've been a head coach 20 years. We've not missed five extra points in those 20 years.
"Jason's been somewhat inconsistent, especially on extra points. He's OK on field goals. But he's a tough kid and he's a competitor. We've been working hard on it and hopefully it paid off Saturday."
I understand that you broke the ice with him right before the last kick….
"Well, you know what, I knew when we broke the run to the 10-yard line, I knew we'd just play for the field goal. The first thing I looked to just see where he was. I always get nervous in that situation if the kicker's hiding behind the water cooler. But he was right there and he was nodding at me. I said, ‘Hey, you are going to make this kick.' He had a big smile on his face. I really didn't know what to say so I said, ‘You know, regardless if you make this kick or not, I'm still going to love you.' And he kind of looked at me and I said, ‘But I'm going to love you hell of a lot more if you make it,' and he started laughing."
This game obviously features two of the best running backs around in Laurence (Maroney) and Brian (Calhoun). What do you see in those two guys as far as similarities and any differences that stand out among them off the top of your head?
"Brian Calhoun's an outstanding running back. They've got a lot of good players on Wisconsin's team but the amount of time that he touches the ball, not only in the run game, but in the pass game, is really mind boggling. I think that the similarities, if you wanted to look for a similarity between Laurence Maroney and Calhoun is they've got exceptional speed. They've got the speed to get to the outside."
Coming into this season did you think this had the makings of possibly being your best team?
"I'm not really sure. One difference about this club is we've got more seniors on this club than we've had in the past. It seems like year in and year out I say that we have a young team. I like my team. I think if we play well, and that's a big if, but if we play well, offensively, defensively and kicking game, we've got a chance to be in any game that we're playing. But I don't know."
Compare Wisconsin and Minnesota running games. Is there any kind of mutual admiration of, in this day and age, two teams still trying to get it done running the ball?
"First of all, let's face it, neither one of us are just one-dimensional. Barry's done it longer in this league than we've tried to do it. But you're right, we still, we still try to do it more often than not, the old Big Ten way. You know, the black and blue league or whatever. Bunch of guys up front that when the ball is snapped come off the ball rather than taking steps backwards. So I think there is some similarities, yeah."
On league parity:
"I really think so. Most of us have, at least for the last couple years have been kind of echoing what you just said. But I can't remember when there was really a consensus amongst the coaches at the summer meeting, when you started looking at the ball clubs that were coming back and how many teams had a great number of returning players off of teams that were pretty darn good last year.
"This sure is a long cry from the big two and the little eight, I can tell you that."
Is it something that is here to stay?
"Well from our perspective I hope so. I don't know. Everything goes, it seems, in cycles. Right now there's a lot of good football teams in the Big Ten. I guess maybe the only problem is on a national scope if you don't watch out everybody beats [each other] up and you still have a bunch of good football teams, but the records don't reflect it."
On John Pawielski. (Originally a walk-on, now a scholarship player and a captain). During that first year what did he show that made you believe he was worthy of a scholarship?
"Well, you know, really, from literally the first day he was here, David Lockwood, who was my secondary coach, is now my coordinator, we get together as all coaching staffs do and just talk about personnel on a daily basis. I remember him saying, ‘Hey, I really like this J.P. kid.' I said, ‘Who?', because he couldn't pronounce his name and neither could I at that time. Just, he's a bright-eyed kid. He's a really good athlete. He's a tough kid. He's got a football savvy. All the things that you bring to the table. It wasn't long; it was just a matter of time that he was going to end up playing for us. And was a guy that we did not recruit with a scholarship in mind, but we should have. Every year all of us, we recruit some kids we probably shouldn't, we pass on some kids we should offer a scholarship too… I try to take care of those kids that are deserving as fast as I can."
Over the years have you had other guys that have gone from walk-on to captain?
"The best of my recollection I had a young man from Chicago that came to me at Kansas, Matt Gay, who came as a walk-on, earned a scholarship and was a captain also. That might be the only two."