Sept. 4, 2007
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Head coach Bill Lynch met with the media on Tuesday, Sept. 4, for his weekly press conference in preparation for the Hoosiers' contest at Western Michigan on Saturday, Sept. 8. He was joined by junior wide receiver James Hardy and sophomore quarterback Kellen Lewis.
"It was a good opening game win for us. I think anybody that opens the season, particularly in college football, doesn't know what to expect because we don't have the exhibition season or preseason scrimmages and all that. So it is all out there in the first game.
"I thought overall, we played a solid football game. Early on we were a little bit anxious, but I'm sure the emotion of the night and the tribute [to coach Hep] might have had something to do with it. Fortunately, we made some big plays to give us a little bit of a lead. And then once the guys kind of settled in and got the first game jitters out of the way, I thought we played pretty well.
"Defensively, we were very active, which is a good sign. Not that we didn't make some mistakes, but they were active and they played hard and we were able to play different guys. Offensively, Indiana State's defense gave us some problems with our running game early on because it was a different scheme and we didn't know what they were going to do. But as the game wore on, we got more and more comfortable with it and our running game picked up. The kicking game was solid start to finish and that is something we have to hang our hat on all year. So I think all three phases contributed and it was good that we got to play some of our other guys because they work awfully hard as well and go through all preseason camp and spring, summer and winter programs.
"Recognizing a couple guys, as we will do on a weekly basis, is our scout team guys. They kind of go unheralded and don't get to play in the games, but each week we will recognize a couple on both sides of the ball. This week on defense, Chris Adkins
and Terrance Thomas
up front both did a really good job. On offense, Collin Taylor
, who plays wide receiver during the week but is also plays a lot on special teams and is willing to go to the scout team during the week. I think that shows the quality of his commitment to the team. Dan Rutigliano
also did a good job for us.
"We will recognize people each week for their work on special teams. We have a points system that helps us determine these players. You get points for a variety of different stats. The top five players in points at the end of the week are the ones we will recognize. At the top of the list this week was Leslie Majors, a starting corner. It shows you what a great special teams player he is. J.T. Owens, another defensive back, has made a niche for himself there. Austin Starr, he lost some points on penalties, but gained them back with some good kickoffs and extra points. Tim Bugg, our long snapper, had a perfect night. Tracy Porter is a captain and one of our more heralded players but he takes pride in special teams.
On whether the team will be more relaxed now that they have their first win:
"We will know more today. We got done at about midnight on Saturday and got home about two in the morning and then we were back in Sunday reviewing the tape. So I don't think we have a real good feel for that right now. What is important is that you develop confidence each week but you certainly can't get comfortable. We have a real challenge on our hands this week. I think our players understand that and I know our coaching staff does. I spent a lot of years coaching in the Mid-American Conference, as has our staff since most of them played in it. We know that, to go to Western Michigan, they have had this one circled for a long time. I believe we will be the first Big Ten school to go into Kalamazoo. We experienced that two years ago when we went to Central Michigan and last year when we went to Muncie to play Ball State. We just know that those universities and communities, especially the ones that sit in the middle of Big Ten country ... it's going to be a hornets' nest. Plus it is a very good football team. We have watched tape on their game against West Virginia and they can put up a lot of points in a hurry. They are a good solid football team that is well coached and were picked preseason to win the West Division of the MAC. They were a bowl team a year ago when they played Cincinnati in the International Bowl. So these kids we are playing have some experience and believe they are going to win and we know it's going to be a real challenge. Going back to the original question, you hope to gain a little confidence each day, but not to the point where you have a long way to go."
On the two quarterbacks at Western Michigan:
"They are pretty similar-type quarterbacks. Much different than when we go from Kellen (Lewis) to Ben (Chappell) or Blake (Powers). They are both good quarterbacks and they are big physical guys. They both run around pretty good, but they aren't completely different. Bill Cubit (Western Michigan head coach) has been a really good coach for a long time. I have known him a long time and have coached against his offense and they are always well schooled. They are tough to defend because they will give you about as many formations as you will see all season in one game. They play multiple personnel groups and a lot of formations out of each one and they are very well balanced. So we have week of preparation ahead of us."
On Western Michigan's strengths:"
"Defensively, they are very physical up front. They are tough, hard-nosed guys on the defensive line and linebackers. Their secondary is really fast and we played against these guys last year, but last year doesn't mean too much right now. What got us over the hump last year were some big plays and special teams and interception returns. The secondary guys really jump out at you because they run well and their safeties are physical and their corners can cover.
"From and offensive stantpoint, number 27 jumps out at you because he catches a lot of balls and he is a unique kind of receiver because he is big, physical guy. He has double-digit catches his last few games. They have a really good tight end that is one of those guys that can be a tight end or a wide receiver and he does both. Their backs run hard and the quarterbacks are accurate. And then the basis of their offense is their offensive line. It is an experienced offensive line so you can see why they were picked to win their division."
On correcting the fumbles from the last game:
"We have to correct that and then we have to knock the ball out on the other side. We are playing a team that takes great pride in that. A year ago, they were one of the tops in the country in turnover margin so they take great pride in it. We had the ball on the ground six times and there were different reasons. The ball can't be on the ground when we have possession. And we will work on that this week, not that we haven't before now. And the other side of that is that the defense has to get in there and get the football out. Anytime you go on the road, if you can get some turnovers it will be a big help.
"The other thing that we take pride in is being a team that doesn't commit very many penalties, and we had a few too many of those. There are some interesting statistics in football that don't really show you whether you are winning or losing and penalties is one of them, along with time of possession. We were up 31-7 at halftime and they had the ball twice as long as we did in the first half. But we take pride in not committing penalties, particularly pre-snap penalties that we can control. We were very good at those in the game, but we had some other types of penalties that we can get corrected. But you are always going to have some judgment calls by the officials, but they usually even themselves out."
On the importance of getting pressure on the quarterback:
"We work very hard at going `goods-on-goods' in camp. By that we mean, our starters on offense against starters on defense. Just about everyday in camp, we have a third down drill, where we put the ball in the offense's favor and sometimes in the defense's favor. We score the drill and declare a winner and a loser. And that all helps us get in work on the pass rush. I do believe that sacks are great and sometimes pressures are just as good. The fact that we have a little more depth certainly helps, so the fact that we could keep some fresh bodies in there definitely helps."
On Nick Polk's first game at safety:
"It was a good start for him. You can see what we thought and what we've seen in practice. He has some acceleration and explosiveness to his play and he obviously has some very good ball skills and there is no question about his toughness. But it was his first game. His pursuit angles will get better with experience. It's one thing to practice and another to go out there and play a game at a brand new position. I think he will get nothing but better, but we feel he will be a huge addition to our defense."
On Kellen Lewis' play so far:
"I think he has done what he should do. He is just a sophomore still and I think we get ahead of ourselves in where he is. He is obviously a talented young guy and a very good quarterback that has matured since his first start. I think he understands the offense in certain situations. The one interception he had on Saturday, he knew as soon as he threw it that he shouldn't have thrown it. But that is part of learning the position. There is always room for improvement and we hope to see the improvement from the first game to the second game like we do with a lot of guys."
On how Roger Saffold and Joe Kleinsmith are doing following their injuries on Saturday:
"They are doing good. As we sit here on Tuesday, Joe Kleinsmith won't practice today, but our training staff feels good about his progress and where he is. The rest should be out there practicing. Some may not go all the snaps, but overall we got out of there in pretty good shape."
On the good play of the running backs on Saturday, in particular Trea Burgess:
"We have a lot of guys, so it is a pleasant problem to have. He is a good runner and he did it in camp. It's not like, `Wow, where did this guy come from?' People in the stands may have been that way, but not to anyone on our sidelines. And Bryan Payton is a good runner. But by the end of the game, I thought we had a pretty good handle on their stunts. It was one of those tough games to pick all of those up because they were giving us a lot."
On Saffold's injury:
"It was the trapezius muscle. But really, he could have gone back in, but it had gotten to the point that we were playing other guys so we just said no."
On relying on the big play to get the team going week to week:
"I was talking about time of possession and penalties and how they are not indicative of winning and losing. But there are some things that carry over, with one being turnovers and the other being explosive plays. If you can get more big plays than the other team, it goes a long way because it is hard to drive the ball in college football. On the defensive side of it, that is a point of emphasis since day one of camp. We had some big plays on offense on Saturday, but just as important was the fact that the defense didn't give up any big plays. I think there were two runs over 12 yards. I don't think you can ever count on it, but we will keep on working at it."
On the effect of kickoffs coming from the 30-yard line this year:
"Even more so than that, we kicked it out of bounds twice. They took it at the 35, but they could have said kick it again from the 25. That's a big penalty. Giving it to them on the 35 is bad enough, but kicking it back from your own 25 may be worse. Generally the officials just spot it on the 35 unless you tell them differently. I think you're going to find some teams that make them kick it again. They didn't kick it to Marcus twice and we kind of botched one of them, but the other one Leslie [Majors] brought all the way across midfield. So Marcus being back there has something to do with it and kicking it from the 30 if they feel they can't kick it deep enough they're going to try alternative kicks. So I think it's going to be big throughout the year and I think it's going to be big throughout college football."
On what Big Ten schools get out of playing at a MAC school:
"It's a football game. These guys work hard year-round. They come here in the middle of January and they're up at 6 a.m. in Mellencamp or in the weight room. If you drive by in the summer they're out there. They only get to play 12 with the hopes of playing 13, so I think you just put the ball down and go play wherever it is. It's not like some of these other sports where they play three times a week. So, just the opportunity to play football - we've got seven home football games, that's a great opportunity. We're playing a bowl team. We talk around here about going to a bowl game - they were in a bowl game last year. They played a BIG EAST team and it was very close. How many of you have been to a game in Kalamazoo? It's a great football place. All these communities, their students are there just like our students were here. It's going to be great weather, they're on campus and the community, I'm sure will have different promotions to get people to come out. You guys were up in Muncie last year. I've been in that stadium a lot of times and it's never been like that night. That was all because Indiana was coming. So that's the atmosphere we're going to be going into."
On when the MAC started hosting Big Ten teams:
"When Coach Tiller first went to Purdue, his first game was at Toledo. That was back in 1997. I don't know when it started but it's been going on pretty regularly since then. The Big Ten has a great relationship with the Mid-American Conference and it should. We're all in the same geographical area. There's a lot of football coaches in the Big Ten that got started in the Mid-American conference. We recruit a lot against each other. It's a natural tie, it's a travel for your fans. We've got a lot of IU alums in Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan, so I think it makes a lot of sense. Would you like to play all 12 at home? Yeah. But you're not going to play 12 at home, so I think it's a good relationship."
On keeping the team focused on every game:
"It's 2:00. It's going to be addressed at 2:30. There's going to be 105 of them in there and hear it. It's what we started with on August 4 and it's going to be our philosophy until the last one."
On whether he is looking forward to seeing how the team will respond to Saturday's atmosphere:
"Absolutely. We really like coaching this football team - the individuals on it, the attitude, the approach to everything - but I don't think you really know everything you need to about your football team until some point in the season you really have a feel for how they're going to react to certain situations. One of them is going on the road and play. If you're going to have a really good season, you have to play well on the road as well as at home. Until you go and do it, you're never really sure. This atmosphere we're going to go into is going to be similar to the next game at Iowa. That's not an easy place to go either. So it's good preparation for that and we'll see how this football team reacts and plays in this kind of environment."
On the development of the talent in the MAC:
I think the talent is very, very good. There are very good football players everywhere and we know that in recruiting - you can't take them all. There are scholarship limitations and there are limitations of how many players at each position you can take. Years and years ago I think there were probably major college programs that could stockpile so they wouldn't go anywhere else. That's not the case anymore and there's a lot of really good football players out there. You look at Western Michigan's roster, and they're from all over the country. Kids will go places now to play Division I football, whereas years ago they maybe stayed at home. The Mid-American Conference has been upsetting Big Ten schools a long time. Every weekend it happens. Last weekend it was Kent State beating Iowa State and Bowling Green beating Minnesota. It just goes to show you that there's really good football players and really good coaches everywhere."
Junior wide receiver James Hardy
On whether playing Western Michigan last year will help:
"Of course it will. Being able to watch film from last year, to try to break down the defense and see where the holes are, and try to expose them as much as we can. It is going to be a hard game going to their place. They're going to be excited. They're going to be amped up. This is probably their bowl game. They're sure they can beat us. Now, we just have to come in today and tomorrow, have great days of practice, and get prepared for them."
On the team's confidence level after a "blowout" win:
"Honestly, it doesn't do anything for us. We look at it as that is what we were supposed to do. We have to come in with the same mind frame and just try to get another victory this Saturday."
On the strongest part of the Western Michigan team:
"I would have to say the defenders. Their secondary is probably the strongest part of the defense. They've got a lot of guys, mostly everyone coming back. Like I said, we've just got to find the holes. They are going to be on us. They are going to try to move me inside and out, because we know they are most likely going to try to play cover 2, try to have the safety roll over to my side. I look at that as a challenge. Last year, I felt we really weren't on the right path. It was our first game. Each and every player on the offensive side got a lot better. I'm just looking forward to seeing what we can do on Saturday."
On whether teams are trying to defend him more physically:
"Honestly I couldn't say that, since we've only played one game this year, but for the most part, I would rather them play physical than play off of me, since that is what I've been working on in the offseason, so hopefully they will."
Sophomore quarterback Kellen Lewis
On the team's confidence level after a "blow out" win:
"I'm kind of in agreement with James. When a Division I team schedules a Division I-AA team, the expected thing is that it is a clash of guys that were better players coming out of high school versus guys that may not have gotten the same high ratings or weren't seen as as good players, so they're expected to obviously win. So, when Appalachian State beats Michigan it's a huge upset. Us winning by that many points is kind of expected when you're a Division I team playing a I-AA team. Coming in as far as more or less confidence, definitely not at all. Like he said, it is something we were supposed to do. We have got to prepare for this week a team that did win the west side of he MAC. I'm pretty sure they are gunning for us just like we are gunning for them."
On the Michigan-Appalachian State game:
"We were in the hotel before the Walk [when we heard about it]. We were sitting around watching the Big Ten teams around the country. I don't think I started watching until about the second quarter, because I assumed it was going to be a blowout. I think I was watching the Michigan State game and they gave an update of the Michigan-Appalachian State game. Right before we had our team meeting or our team meal I thought it was, everyone was updating us that Appalachian State blocked the last field goal and upset Michigan."
On what that game made him think:
"Focus. I'm pretty sure Michigan came in thinking the same thing we were thinking. `Let's go out here and romp these guys, and show them how we play Big Ten football.' Appalachian State came to play that day, and maybe Michigan didn't, maybe they weren't focused. I tried to make sure that we didn't do the same thing."
On the preparation from last season's game at Ball State:
" I can't speak for everybody on the team. Also last year, I was still third on the depth chart for this game, I hadn't ever been on the field against Western Michigan, but I kind of think of it as the same kind of experience. Ball State was a MAC team. Western Michigan may not necessarily respect us in the Big Ten, because of our previous records. They feel like we are the bottom of the barrel from the Big Ten, so they feel like beating us isn't out of the question. We have to stay focused, stay with the intensity. We've got to understand their team improved and so did we, so we've got to go out and play hard."
On the large student presence at the game:
"It is kind of one of those things that you do care about but you don't care about. Lots of schools like Ohio State and Michigan, they can count on packing the Big House and the Horseshoe and things like that, but you can't go out there hoping that there is a full crowd. It's always a better thing to have, because it helps you on the opposite side of the ball. It's a lot harder to make audibles. Obviously when we were at Ohio State last year, we had worked on that whole week silent counts. Just making the other team prepare for things they may not be expecting. Is it better or worse? No. Last year, for the UConn game, it was raining before the game we might have had about 300 people including people's parents. You can't go out there banking on the crowd's being there through thick and thin, because people have their favorites and people that they like or they don't like. So, the home crowd is always an advantage, but you can't go out there praying and hoping the crowd will be your 12th man. You've just got to work hard in practice."
On how comfortable he is throwing to Hardy:
"With most things, the more you do it the more comfortable it gets. Coming from high school, I don't think I had a receiver over 6-1. The idea of me just throwing it up is kind of hard for me. I always used to wait for this guy to come open. Not to say that when I'm throwing the ball I'm not making any of my reads. It's kind of one of those comfort zone things. If it is something that you've never done before, then it is something you have to learn to do. Playing with him last year, throwing with him this summer, seeing how hard him and a bunch of the other guys are working, it's another one of those things that once he does it once, then you just get more and more confidence, and the more and more he does it, then the more and more you don't mind taking that 50/50 risk, or in his case, because of his height, a 90/10 risk. In most cases, he is going to make a play on the ball. Throwing to him this year and last year, I haven't had a deep ball turn into an interception. It is kind of one of those reward and risk things. He has much higher reward than risk, so I keep throwing him the ball."