It was a good game, good football win. Seniors got to go up the tunnel as senior victors for the last time in this stadium, and we put a lot of emphasis on that because of the struggles and what they go through, when you look at a guy that’s been here four or five years, so it was great for them, and great for our team, that the younger guys, the underclassmen, went out there and competed for them, and that’s an expectation, and the guys who are seniors who were playing in their last game at Michigan stadium, I thought they did a nice job of going out there and playing 60 minutes of football.
Coach, how difficult is it to be in this environment, and be so connected with your players, especially with your senior group – how bittersweet is it for you to see them perform the last time here for a victory?
It’s always difficult, and it’s because I’m a very emotional person, good or bad, so pick your poison, but we get very tight and close with the players, because we are there to help them grow, so from a personal life standpoint to the academics, the social, to everything else, you know, they’re one of your sons, and that’s how we look at it.
When did you make the decision for Denard to play, and kind of come up with his type of role?
I didn’t make the decision for him to play. Once he got cleared and he felt good, health-wise, we had talked about doing this for 18 months, and when he got home last week after the Northwestern game, that night, he had nine plays ready, and we put six more in, so I think Al does a tremendous job of taking your personnel and the playmakers you have on the team, and having the ability to get them the ball, and let their God-given ability take over.
Can you tell us what you know about Fitz’s situation?
Yeah, he’s in the hospital now, and he’s had surgery. You know, I think we’ll leave it at that for now, and make sure – his mother wasn’t here, he had two brothers here, but we’ll leave it to that.
How important was it to get Devin and Denard on the field at the same time, see how that offense works in a game, maybe work out some of the kinks before next week?
You know, next week really never had anything to do with it. We had to beat Iowa. We’re still in the championship race, and we wanted to win this game for our seniors, and also because we’re still in a race for the championship.
Was there any thought of using Denard as – I mean, at practice, was their thoughts that he maybe could be quarterback this week, or just say ‘he’s limited, but we’re going to find a way to get him on the field’.
Well, you know, I think it would be unjust for us not to use him in the best way we thought would let him be the most successful, and he’s throwing the ball a little bit, not throwing it a lot, so we thought this was the best. This kid has put up with a lot of criticism at times, so he’s been praised at time, and he’s a competitive guy who loves the game and loves his teammates, and he showed great maturity the last three weeks, and great leadership.
Along those lines, did you have to do any convincing to Denard that he would play, but it wouldn’t be at quarterback?
How did that go? Was there any thought of that, or was it –
Uh-uh. It really wasn’t. It was – he wanted to play, where could he help us best playing.
Can he throw the ball?
Yeah, but not as well as he’d like to.
A lot of quarterbacks who have been leaders the whole time in their career, and called the plays, to suddenly go in the last game as a senior at your home stadium and not kind of be the boss, a lot of players wouldn’t necessarily take that. Can you speak about his personality …
Well, I think it tells you what kind of kid he is, what kind of young man, I should say. He has, in his development, his growth, his character, and the integrity, I think this kid has had some unbelievable moments here at Michigan and Michigan stadium, and has had some moments that weren’t so good, but he’s grown within this team, and this team – this is his team, you know, and him and Kovacs and all the seniors have a big piece of it, and I know Devin said it the other day, he has been the face of Michigan football.
Brady, Devin had, I think, six touchdowns. Looked pretty easy for him today. Can you talk about where he’s at right now overall?
He had six touchdowns?
He had six touchdowns.
Did he really? See I don’t remember that stuff.
He was pretty good.
Well, I think you answered your question. He’s pretty good. You asked for that, now.
Did you hear the crowd cheering ‘beat Ohio’ early in the fourth quarter, throughout the quarter?
Yeah, and I said to someone next to me, ‘we need to beat Iowa’.
You’ve been here two years, and haven’t lost here. Is there something that helps you more at home, or just the nature of comfort, or what?
I think there’s always – and you see it in all kinds of sports, you know, playing at home is something that’s treated us well. I think familiarity with everything. I wish I could tell you, I just think there’s a comfort, I guess.
Ohio State, and then the bowl game, could Denard go back to quarterback?
Um…I don’t know. I guess he could. I don’t know. It’s an option.
When was Denard cleared, and what does Denard have to be able to do to get cleared? Is he able to grip the ball?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
When was he cleared?
What’s today, Saturday? Probably six days ago.
And I’m sorry, is he cleared for good now, or does he have to go through another process to be sure, day to day?
He might be day to day.
I know you don’t want to talk specifics about Fitz, but was it his ankle, or his leg.
I’m not going to – I want to make sure his mother has been contacted.
You talked about being an emotional person. Now that you’ve beaten Iowa, can you talk about how playing Ohio State your first time head coaching, what that means, and how you –
It is fun. It’s a great rivalry, and there’s a lot of respect on both sides for those programs, so for both programs, it’s fun. I mean, you asked, it’s fun. It’s going to be fun.
You had a lot of success throwing down the field. What was working out there, and what did you see?
Well, I think some play action set it up, and then I think Gallon made a terrific catch with concentration. The ball was where it needed to be, and defended pretty decently. I think one of the best throws and catches was an out on the sideline to Roy. I thought Roy did a nice job with his hands, and that’s one thing – I said this last week, but I think Roy is really catching the ball more with his hands, and not as much with his body as he had earlier.
When did you see that kind of take shape?
I don’t know, sometime. Probably in practice.
You were talking about just wanting to beat Iowa, and you weren’t thinking about next week, but to the untrained eye, it certainly looked like you threw a lot of things out there that the other team will have to look for in the upcoming week. Now, was that just timing, or is that something that you think you need to do against your big rival—have extra wrinkles…?
You know, if I was that smart to do that, I would have done it, but no, we were trying to beat Iowa. We were trying to put our players, because it would be very selfish of us as coaches for us not to give these kids the best chance to win a football game, and whatever we do offensively or defensively to prepare, if we don’t do that, then we’re short-selling this program, and these seniors, and these kids, and we’re not going to do that.
You said you thought about doing this as long as 18 months ago. What prevented this before now?
How do I answer this?
I would say, in doing it, it would have been done kind of like we did last year a little bit more, when we had both of them on the field, and we just added to it, and there’s a maturity level for everybody that it takes to be able to handle those things.
So you’re saying 18 months ago, you mean Denard at quarterback and Devin at receiver?
Maybe. Sort of.
You talked about Gallon and Roundtree, but they’re stepping up, and talk about, if you could, them helping Gardner, and how Gardner throwing the ball is really giving you a chance to pick up where Denard left off.
Yeah, I think there’s a lot of truth to all that, but I think our front’s blocking better. I think part of that is the play action game.
You have a new formation, the first time you showed it. How did that complicate what teams have to get ready for, and Ohio hasn’t seen it before?
You have to spend some time on it, so sometimes that’s the biggest thing, you know, you’re spending time on a formation that was run maybe three times, you know, and thinking ‘okay, what can you do out of it, and what can they do out of it’, and so as a coach, you’re spending your time, and then you’re taking practice time, so it’s time, and there’s one thing that none of us have, is a lot of time.
Given the emotionality of the last game, how confident are you that these kids can put that behind them pretty quickly for next week?
Well, they’re going to have to, and I’m pretty confident in how our seniors have led, and how we’ve gone to work every Sunday, win and lose.
A lot of talk about the offense, obviously the quarterback has six touchdowns, but how about the defense, particularly after it was 7-7 to not letting them score until it was out of reach.
Yeah, you know, but we’re missing sacks, we don’t tackle. They’re knocking us off the line of scrimmage earlier, we’re – it was awful.
Desmond Morgan, what’s his status?
We thought he’d be ready, but he’s not.
Care to say what part of –
And then, Gary Moeller got honored on the field –
Yeah, that was cool.
What does that mean to you?
Means a lot. Coach Moeller as a person, as a coach, as a man, it means a lot. It means a lot to Michigan.