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"Well we're certainly pleased with last week's victory over Purdue. Our defense stepped up, forced some turnovers and two of our interceptions were returned for touchdowns, which separated us in the ballgame. We were very pleased with the win and now in preparation for Illinois."
Can your team, with three league games left, kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel? Are they focused in on all they have to do is win three games and they are Big Ten champs?
"I hope they're not looking at three games. Our whole emphasis is just concentrate on this game this week. Really if you get much ahead of that — they are all smart enough to know what the standings say. But if you really get too far out ahead and not concentrate on what you have to do that day or that game then you are going to get in trouble.
"I know people hate to hear coaches talk about that—not getting past that game. But that's really the way it is."
"I see Illinois as a young squad. I see them learning a new system. I know some of the players because we tried to recruit some of those players. We played against a number of them and have a great deal of respect for them. I see that they are starting to play faster because they understand the system a little bit better."
… This year they (Purdue) obviously are struggling as a football team… What do you sense they are struggling with and are the better than what their record indicates?
"I thought Purdue would have as good a chance to win the league going in as anyone. They had a number of returning back, other than the quarterback. Now, the quarterback may be the most key position on your squad. But I think they've had some injuries on defense. I know they've had some injuries on defense, which has interrupted them. Probably set them back. Maybe they're not satisfied with the how they've played. Although they played very well defensively against us."
The teams in the Big Ten are averaging 32 points a game, which is second most of any conference in the country and significantly higher than in recent memory. Do you have any theories on why the offenses have been so effective this year?
"As I take a look at it, I think you have a number of veteran quarterbacks that have returned…. The offenses in our league are multiple. You really have to prepare each week for a totally different offense. You play Northwestern, they are going to spread you all over the field. You play Michigan, they are going to throw the ball, but if you can't stop an I-formation run team you're in trouble. So you see a multitude of different offenses and you see some outstanding quarterbacks coming at you each week."
Audio file 2 (5:17) -
Just given your defensive line, how many players you lost and some early injuries, guys banged up, could you have imagined that you'd be able to hang on this much and that they'd be able to help you guys out to only one loss in the Big Ten?
"I think if someone would have told me prior to the season that we would have lost our top three defensive linemen right away, by the third ballgame, and then lose three more two ballgames ago, plus lose your best receiving tight end for at least half the season thus far, and (Matt) Bernstein for the majority of the Big Ten season. And then say you'd be 7-1, that would be hard for me to believe."
…. What do you attribute this too?
"Every game has really been a little bit different. Our special teams have been outstanding. We've really made a lot of hidden yardage in special teams. Our punter has just been phenomenal, as far as pinning the ball — kicking for a good average and also being able to down the ball inside the 10-yard line a number of times. So we're getting a lot of hidden yardage from special teams.
"And quite frankly we haven't put a full ballgame together where both offense and defense have played very well.
"Last week, this past week, our defense did some good things. Our special teams and offense wasn't very productive.
"The two weeks prior to that it was just flipped.
"Someone has always been able to step up and carry the team. And we've played four quarters. Our guys have really strained and finished games."
On Matt Bernstein. What is his status and how has his availability altered what you do on offense?
"But the thing a veteran does is… when things are muddy, when everything isn't clear cut, he makes good decisions on his feet on who he's going to block. He can knock the edge off of a defense for the back to get around and that type of thing.
"Naturally, we're not as effective without Matt there. As far as his availability, he's progressing slowly and we're just not exactly sure when or if he'll be back."
"He's got some type of a hernia injury, a sports hernia."
Northwestern started their turnaround with your game… What does that Northwestern offense do that poses so many problems for opposing defenses?
"No. 1, it all stars with their quarterback. He does a phenomenal job of understanding what defenses are trying to do, making very good decisions on his feet. Knowing where to go with the ball. And then, in the same respect, he can beat you with his feet. But that offense starts and revolves around him and his ability to spread the football around."
Can you talk about the boost that Brandon Williams gives not just on offense, but also on special teams?
"Brandon's been a — he broke our all-time receiver record this past game. Has more receptions than anybody in the history of the school. He really has been outstanding as a punt returner and kickoff returner… Our kickers have done a nice job and we've done a nice job in the return game. Primarily that's Brandon."