Oct. 30, 2006
On the feeling in the locker room headed into November in first place:
"Well, it feels good. I think the players are excited with the fact that we are on a little bit of a winning streak, and we are getting some things accomplished that we set out to accomplish. There's certainly a lot ahead to get done. Nothing is going to be easy. We have three games to play, and we need to be on top of our game in all three of them in order for this thing to finish right. Certainly, I'm pleased with how they've responded this season. From the first game up until this game, there's really only one game where we didn't quite play the way we're capable of playing. In this game, you can't play any of them over, so we'll have to live with that one. All-in-all, I'm real pleased with where it's at."
On the confidence level of the team during the recent winning streak:
"The team was really a confident football team right at the very start of the season, and I thought they believed in themselves right from game one. We had road trips against some very tough football teams, and it was a struggle to play three games on the road in a row so it was somewhat physically draining. We had a situation that happened that weighed on everybody mentally a little bit as well as physically. That hit us at that point in time of the season, coming back off of those three road games. We just didn't play well. But, it's obvious to us that we're a better football team than what we played in that game (Bowling Green), and that we wanted to get back to playing well. Everybody looked at what we didn't do right and what we needed to do to get back to doing, and they took off and ran with that."
On how the team handled the elements at Kent State:
"We've practiced in the rain so we didn't think that would be a factor. There's really no way to practice in that kind of wind. We generally haven't gotten that kind of wind since I've been here, down here anyway. They responded really well, and I was pleased with the fact that we didn't let weather take us out of winning a ball game, and that can happen."
On the team's ability to overcome obstacles:
"I think it is a team that has that kind of a make up about it. We've faced a few things this year that some teams won't have to face. We were able to battle through it. I think when you operate a program, you need to operate with the fact that you're going to be focused on everything you do. You're not going to let things take you out of a game, regardless of what those things might be. You kind of coach that as much as you coach the Xs and Os because if not, you can know what to do, you can have the ability to line up and do it, but if all of the sudden you get sidetracked, and there's a lot of things that can sidetrack you, you just don't play good football. We've talked to them about that on a weekly basis. I think it's helped some, plus I think they've matured into that type of football team."
On the team's level of consistency:
"(smiling) I'll tell you in another few games. I think we've been somewhat consistent. Special teams has held up consistently in every game. We've not beaten ourselves by poor special teams play. I think offensively, those guys have been consistent once we found out we could establish some type of running game. We've ran it fairly well against people, although there were a few times we couldn't. They also then found ways to try and make it work. Defensively, we've been pretty consistent. We're not giving up a lot of big plays and that's important. Even as good as their (Kent State's) quarterback was in scrambling and making big plays, we still outnumbered them in terms of big plays. There's a lot of things that we've been consistent with, and I think if you're going to win that's got to be the case."
On the team's red-zone defense being the best in the MAC:
"You've to play that kind of defense because people are just going to get down there regardless of whether its from a special teams play, a big play or a turnover that you give them the ball in the red zone. If you're not ready to play there and keep them from getting at least seven points on the board, hold it to a field goal or hold it to zero, then you're going to struggle because they're going to have some opportunities down there. If they convert those opportunities then you're fighting from behind a lot of the time."
On the players, other than the ones that won MAC Player of the Week Awards, that played well against Kent State:
"Well, Jameson Hartke has played well all season long. He had a blocked punt. Landon Cohen made some tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Austen (Everson) got us out of a lot of bad plays at the line of scrimmage and into good plays. It was not a day where the throwing game was very effective, but he did a lot of other things to make it work. Mitch Morsillo had a great ball game. Generally, on a scoring scale, and this won't mean much to you, but it does to me because I coached back for a long, long time, on a two-point scale, if you're grading 1.85 or better at the fullback spot, you're really playing well. He had a 1.91 the previous game and a 1.89 this game. He had a number of knockdowns and ran the ball well. I think most people were able to zero in on a couple of the runs that he had. He showed strength and power. He's really blocking well and getting places on the football field that sometimes it's not that easy to do. He's got to do a lot of reading of what's happening up front to get to the guy he's going to be blocking. He's really starting to come and play exceptionally well. I thought Steve Jackson and Erv (Ervin Jackson) did an excellent job being put in the situation when Todd (Koenig) got hurt and not having breakdowns and making some plays. I can go right down the line I guess. Mike Mitchell played well at the other safety spot. (Michael) Graham has had two of his better ball games in a row. J.J. (Knabb) played well. I never should've started answering that question. There's just a lot of guys that continued to play consistently and play well. The three that got selected did a great job."
On watching Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman scramble:
"We'd seen enough film of him coming up to the game to know how dangerous he was, and then we get there and he starts doing it to you. It doesn't give you a very good feeling because at any point in time he can break one and make a big play. He's just a great athlete. I visited with their coach prior to the game, and he said that Julian had really created an atmosphere there that maybe they didn't have before. He's such a competitor and that's rubbed off on the rest of his team. It steps everybody's game up when you have someone like that. That's what he's done for that program. He can almost single-handedly beat you."
On the fan support the team has received on the road this season:
"That's been great. There were a great number of Ohio University fans at Illinois. We got an excellent following there, and they made themselves heard. We knew where they were in the stands. There was a good contingent of Ohio University people that went to the Kent game. That's great to see. It's one thing to have a good following at home, but to get some people on the road with you means an awful lot."
On if he noticed any difference in the players' attitudes now that Ohio is a first-place team:
"You have to maybe a little cautious there, but I think the fact that they have had to fight so hard to get to that point, they appreciate where they're at. They don't want to anywhere down. They want to continue to play good football. The only way to do that is not to get content with what has transpired. You start patting yourself on the back, and everybody else pats you on the back as they're passing you. You don't want that to happen. You don't want to get down in the dumps if things aren't going well because then you have to battle yourself to battle out. You don't want to get too excited when things are going good because you're one play away, one game away from things not going so well. Our players understand that and our coaching staff, a very experienced coaching staff, understands that. I think we're about where we need to be. We feel good about our chances when we step on the field, knowing that if we play really well and don't beat ourselves we're going to be in the game in the fourth quarter, and that's all you can ask for."
On whether he is nervous or confident about the upcoming game:
"Neither. It's Monday. There's a lot to get done so we're just focusing on that. We're watching a lot of film already. There's so much preparation that you don't have time to have emotions come into very much. As the game gets a little closer, teams always look a little stronger, a little faster, a little bigger, and the nervousness sets in. We'll be fine. I think they've handled things so far very well. I think our staff has too, and that helps. I think we'll be fine in terms of our attitude."
On Eastern Michigan being better than its record:
"If you really look at it closely, people haven't been beating them by much. Central (Michigan) took them into overtime, and we know Central is an excellent football team. Western (Michigan) had to come from behind in the fourth quarter. They are not letting people run away with this. What they're doing is playing good defense, and then they're not turning the ball over and playing a little bit of the field position game. It's somewhat like what we've been doing to be in the game. It'll be a match up of two teams that are trying to take the same approach to winning the game. They can win any game when they step on the field because they've been so close in almost all cases."
On the more "conservative" approach in the MAC this season compared with the league's wide-open offensive reputation:
"I think there are a lot of new quarterbacks. I don't know the number, and that may be an inaccurate statement, but it's not as much of a throwing conference this year as what it was last year. We lost some pretty good quarterbacks and some younger guys have taken over. Then, there's some guys that just run the ball so well from the quarterback position that coaches have utilized that a little bit more in their thinking as far as establishing an offense. You're seeing a little bit different style in the MAC this year."
On getting used to the travel in the league:
"We're getting conditioned to it. It doesn't seem to make much difference whether you fly or take a bus. Flying anymore can be so tough. You have to go through the screening, and you can have flight delays whereas on a bus you can sit back, relax a little bit and get some things done. Let the bus drive take over and show up and play the game. I've not found it difficult to travel by bus in this conference. I don't know how far it is to Ypsilanti. 4 and a half (hours)? (laughing) We''ll be there in the blink of an eye on the bus."
On the injury to Todd Koenig:
"Todd (Koenig) has a high-ankle sprain. He'll be out for probably several weeks. That's my guess. Other than that we're battling through some things to keep some guys on the field. All injuries are meaningful, but that one (Koenig's) hits us depth wise. We utilized Steven Jackson. I think he had 52 plays. Erv (Ervin Jackson) maybe had seven or eight. Those guys are on special teams. It's starting to show up in other areas where we're banged up a little bit. That's what happened to us last year. I don't think we're in the same shape as we were last year because we have more depth on our football team, but we could get there quickly if we continue to have injuries. We're okay, but we're going to miss Todd in there at the safety spot."
On what it means to have the increased depth to overcome the injuries:
"It means several things. It means we've got more players in the system that maybe what we had last year. The coaches have done a good job recruiting and done a good job of getting young players ready to play. An example would be Ernie Hodge who is a freshman. He had a great game (at Kent State) and is really coming along. Jameson (Hartke) was a true freshman last year so there's plenty of examples of that. It's obvious that depth is a key if you're going to be able to have a good football team coming down the stretch. So far we haven't been taken out of that yet."
On the obstacles Ervin and Steven Jackson have been able to overcome to be a part of the team:
"Erv came off knee surgery, and boy when you watched him for about a year's time he really struggled to get back to his running form and get the strength back in it. It healed up so that he could practice, but it was painful to watch him practice. He kept coming out, kept pushing himself and working hard to get himself in position to play and help out on special teams. Now he's getting some snaps at safety. Those are the kind of stories you like, to see guys push through things to make it work. Steven is virtually same way. He had some surgery, and it wasn't clear whether he'd be able to play again. He made it through that with the desire to continue to play. He came here as a guy on scholarship, but things didn't work for him to get here right away so he had to stay back home and wait until an opportunity came for him to come. They've both been through a lot so it's great to see them have some success."
On sweeping the East Division player of the week awards for the second time this season:
"We have good players, but so does everybody else. The circumstances just have to develop right for that to happen. We started off with Western Michigan, which I think is the game we had three players make it the first time, and that was against a very good football team. I think it was recognized what it took to win that game. Now we're on a four-game winning streak and played in tough conditions against Kent State who hadn't lost a MAC game yet, and so when you start building a lot of those things into it you can see how it can happen, but that's not the norm. I certainly didn't anticipate that happening to us twice."
On having the bye week after the Eastern Michigan game:
"We're going to have to be careful. We have a lot of things coming up. We're going to have some off time, and you have to use that wisely or it can disrupt you. If you're going good, sometimes you don't want to have it broken up. I think it will be welcomed by our players to get a little bit of a break. We have finals coming up, and that is so draining on us mentally. Most teams don't have to face that. Even Ohio State, who is on quarters, doesn't have to face it because of when they start and when their quarters end, and certainly teams on semesters don't have to face that, but we do. It was tough on us last year. How we respond to that will be another test for this football team."
On the importance of playing well heading into the bye week:
"I think that's extremely important to line up and play really good football in this game, and do everything we can to get it won. That way we still have some momentum even though the bye week will take a whack at that a little bit. In the whole scheme of things, it's still going to be one game, and you don't want to let it be the end if things don't go well because there is still two games left in regular-season play. We try not to build too much into it, but ideally you want to go into that off week coming off a win."