Sept. 22, 2009
Press Conference Audio: Coach Lynch | Saffold | Kirlew | Press Conference Video
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Head Coach Bill Lynch met with members of the media on Tuesday to discuss his team's 38-21 win over Akron and look forward to this weekend's game at Michigan. Coach Lynch was joined by seniors Rodger Saffold and Jammie Kirlew.
Below is a transcript of coach Lynch's press conference:
On Jammie Kirlew being named to the All-State AFCA Good Works Team:
"That's a really prestigious honor. It is a national honor that I know is part of the American Football Coaches Association. Grant Taft, who has run the organization for close to 20 years now, has really made good end roads with the student-athlete. Community service and academics are richly rewarded with All-State joining in. It is a great award for Jammie. I know he is going to be introduced at the Sugar Bowl, which is very prestigious. Coach Lou Holtz does the presentation show. We are very happy for Jammie and it is very well deserved."
On teaming up with Coach to Cure MD program:
"We are joining the Coach to Cure MD program. We're talking about Duchenne MD, a strain of muscular dystrophy that primarily affects young boys. Our organization (American Football Coaches Association) is involved in several community service organizations or causes. This is a cause we certainly have rallied around. Coaches across the country, not only our staff or Michigan's staff, will put armbands on as a show of support. It is a fundraiser, but is also a great way to raise awareness about this particular form of muscular dystrophy."
On One Play Warriors Awards:
"I want to recap and get in the habit of doing this each week. We do have weekly awards and I think it's important to recognize them. At home games, we certainly recognize them on the video board. Our One Play Warrior is a special teams award. I think special teams are such an important part of football and will be more and more important as we go though the remaining part of the season. Each football game, the special teams have such an impact on the outcome. One of the ways we try to motivate our guys is through the One Play Warrior Club. Why One Play Warrior? That is what they really are because they have to run out and run one play.
"I think you saw Saturday what an impact special teams could have. The kickoff return certainly set the tone for the game and in some ways, probably took Akron's crowd out of the game, which was great for us early. Of course we had a punt blocked for a score, which totally turned the game around too. We grade each kid on special teams and then we recognize them by the game. When they accumulate so many points, they go into what is called `The Club.' Once they are in the One Play Warrior Club, they are recognized at the end of the year banquet. So it really is a motivation. You may not realize it, but we post the scores at the game in the locker room. Some players say, `I had more than that!' That what the award is about: taking pride being on special teams."
On the One Play Warriors for the Akron game:
"The first guy has been on the list has been on the list for three straight weeks and the first guy to go into the club is Mitchell Evans. I think that shows what Mitchell means to this football team. He, in essence, has been our best special teams player. He is also has caught a touchdown pass, ran the ball, and thrown the ball. So he is one great football player. So he was the first one in `The Club' full-time. The other One Play Warriors in the game were Chris Adkins, Justin Carrington, Darius Johnson, and Collin Taylor."
On the Scout Team Players of the Week for the Akron game:
"Our Scout Team Players of the Week are important for showing the opponent's offense and defense. Our defensive winners were Javon Cornley and Kyle Dietrick. Our offensive winners were Colin Rodkey, his second weeks in a row, and Nick Turner at tailback. Brandon McGhee was our special team scout player of the week. I would like to recognize those guys and do it on a regular basis because they are the forgotten guys when we get into the season."
On the captains selected for this week:
"The captains selected for this week will be Greg Middleton, Nick Polk, Jarrod Smith, and Mike Reiter. I am proud of those guys and all of them are very deserving."
On the Akron game:
"Obviously, it was a good win. Every game is a little bit different and I think it's interesting too. Sometimes we point toward some statistical evidence of why you win and why you lose. I got home late last night, but caught the end of the Colts game. So (in regards to time of possession) everything you preach about sometimes goes right out the window. I do think our game was the way we wanted the game to go.
On turnovers during the Akron game:
"First of all, we really thought turnovers would make the difference. When you go on the road and turn the ball over several times, that is a recipe for disaster. I thought our defense did a great job the second half of just controlling field position with turnovers. It is amazing that the three interceptions and all the tackles took place in the same spot on the field, almost within five yards of each other. That was really good play by the whole defense and I told the kids yesterday that it wasn't just the kids making interceptions, there were tipped balls and pressures up front so there was some great team defense."
On the lack of big plays during the Akron game:
"It was a game where big plays were not a factor at all. They (Akron) had the one big touchdown pass, but other than that, the next play was a run late in the fourth quarter on their final drive. As well as we played on offense we had one big play the whole time. Darius Willis had a run in the fourth quarter. So it was a really different type of game in that sense."
On third down conversions during the Akron game:
"Where we really made great improvement from the week before, besides the penalties we spent so much time talking about, on third downs. We went from not being really efficient against Western Michigan to being 66%. I think we were 10-for-15. That is really significant especially in a game like that when you are trying to take control of the clock and field position. Then the defense held Akron to 1-for-7 on third downs, which was a big swing in the game."
On the O-line and D-line's plays during the Akron game:
"I also thought we played well up front on both sides of the ball. We were able to run the ball with some effectiveness and kept Ben (Chappell) clean. We didn't have a sack for the second straight week and the other side of ball we had three sacks and several tackles for loss, so I thought up front, on both sides of the ball, we played well."
On offensive balance:
"Offensively, we had a second straight week of the balance we were looking for. A lot was said coming into the year about the pistol and running the ball. The whole idea of the pistol was to gain a system of balance that we could count on from week to week. We have had two straight weeks where we were really balanced. I am more concerned with that matter than the total number of yards. What we are trying to become is more balanced and tougher to defend. I think we are heading in the right direction with our balance."
On the special teams during the Akron game:
"The kicking was interesting during the game with Akron. We did some very good things and had some mistakes we had to get corrected, which we will. The punt block, particularly after watching it on tape, was a miscommunication. You can't have those because normally when you have a punt blocked for a score, it is going to make a big difference in the game.
"It is interesting we have played football for 125 years and that is the first time we have opened the game with a kickoff return for a touchdown. It goes to show that kickoff returns are not as easy as people think. They happen a lot in seventh grade football, but do not happen a lot in college football. We also had another field goal blocked for the second straight week in a row, which cannot happen. However, we had some other great returns, coverages, and kicks by (Nick) Freeland. Overall, we did not play bad, but had some critical mistakes we have to take care of."
On the start of the Big Ten season and Michigan next game:
"We move on to Michigan and Big Ten football and I know our guys are excited to get into Big Ten play. In going to Michigan, our guys haven't played there. I think we have three guys on the roster who traveled up there the last time we went in 2005. Those three guys were all on the roster, but were redshirted and didn't play. Kirlew, (Nick) Polk, and Justin Carrington were on that team. I know our guys are excited to get up there and get going in Big Ten play. The intensity and everything about the game goes up this coming week and our guys are ready for that.
"Michigan is a very good football team. Michigan is Michigan. They are playing a little bit differently than they have done in the past with the spread offense, but in terms of efficiency they are still great. The will block you. They have great backs, speed on the outside, and their quarterbacks really fit the offense. So I have been very impressed with them and you can tell they have been through a spring, a fall, a winter, a spring, a preseason, and three games. Coach Rodriguez has their offense rolling.
"Defensively, they are very fast which you expect of a Big Ten defense. They have good players, but they run to the ball and give you a lot of different looks, so there are many challenges this week in our preparation. I think a game on the road was good for us and we have a lot of young guys who went through their first road game as well.
"I think our veteran guys did a good job of leading our young guys by showing them what to do on the road and how you handle yourself. I thought it was a very business-like affair, which is what you need to do when you go on the road. We bused up and are going to do so this week, so it won't be much different than last week. We have a big week of preparation and getting ready for the game."
On reducing opponent's third down conversion percentage from last year:
"Honestly, dow-and-distance have a lot to do with it. We have been able to control the run and put a lot of people in third-and-longs. Statistically, that is really important because if you can get people in third-and-long, their percentage is going to decrease. I think the longer yardage you play benefits Kirlew and Middleton even though it always doesn't show in sacks, but shows in pressures. I think we have been better in early downs to put them in third-and-long. That plays into our strength and I think the defensive staff has done a good job of mixing coverages. That was something we worked hard on in the spring and preseason."
On the Michigan game being a measuring stick for the status of this program:
"I think it is a measuring stick. Anytime we get into Big Ten play, they are all measuring sticks. If you look at our season and compare it to a game, we have played three games and are done with the first quarter. We held our own the first quarter and had a good first quarter. If you look at our statistics, we played pretty well the first quarter our first three games. Now we are heading into the second quarter and have a big challenge as we head into the second quarter. That is how we are looking at it. I think once you make it through three games, you get a sense of who your team is. I think each team takes on its own personality and chemistry. By this point in the season, it starts showing itself. There is no question this game is a measuring stick."
On picking up Ohio State and Michigan for this Big Ten season:
"If you look at our schedule, with Michigan, Ohio State, and Virginia (the next three opponents), our guys haven't played them and they haven't played us. Even our guys had played against Western Michigan and Akron in 2007. Some of our guys lined up and played against Michigan and Ohio State in 2006, but the great majority haven't. They [Michigan and Ohio State] are not all that familiar with us either, which is unique in conference play. Once we get through those three games, then the last six are games against teams we have played year in and year out."
On leading the Big Ten in fewest sacks allowed:
"I think the offensive line has played really well and when I say that, I think they have gotten better each week. I think they have gotten better with their run blocking and pass protection. You learn so much in a game because you never know what you are going to see. In practice, everything is scripted out. I think Bobby Johnson has done a great job of making O-line adjustments as we go through games.
"I think Ben has also done a great job of getting rid of the ball. Ben is very smart and I think really good quarterbacks in the passing game have a clock in their heads. They know when it's time to get rid of it. I don't think he has run for a scramble once in the first few games. He understands the passing game and knows we don't win or lose a game on stats like completion percentage. So he knows when to throw it away and play the next down. I think it is a combination of the offensive line and Ben."
On the offense finishing drives:
"I think we made better strides last week because you have to end drives with points. We were able to score some points and score in the redzone. I think that is really big and I am pleased with finishing drives. I think we are being efficient with the run and the pass over the last two weeks. If someone wants to be critical of statistics, they need to understand big numbers come from big plays. We haven't had those 80 or 60 yard plays, which boosts your numbers generally. In the last couple of games, we have been more concerned with controlling the clock and keeping the ball away from the other team. The big plays will come and we have enough big playmakers that the plays will come. We have been better off playing our football not trying to make big plays over the last couple of weeks. Look at Michigan, they are third in the country in rush offensive and they have gotten big plays which really makes your numbers jump."
On controlling the clock:
"Talk to the Dolphins about that. That is something we really wanted to make an improvement on. Last year we averaged possession of 26 minutes per game and were last in the Big Ten. I think our defense was on the field too much last year and was something we looked at in the offseason. When we looked at what we were doing, one of the things that led us to what we are doing offensively is being able to control the ball more. We put our defense in some bad positions last year where our offense was off too quick and opponents' offenses were on too long.
"I think ball control is very important to us, but statistically on a national level, it doesn't really hold up like it used to years ago. This is due to big plays. For example, look at Michigan last week versus Eastern Michigan. Eastern Michigan had the ball for around 40 minutes, but Michigan still put up 45 points. If you can get big plays, then time of possession really isn't a big factor. For our particular football team and what we are trying to do, time of possession is important."
On the blocked field goals the last two weeks:
"Against Western Michigan we were in a tackle over. Inside the 10-yard line, if the ball is on a hash, then we go to an unbalanced formation because of the angle of the kick. We had a little breakdown on the right side of the formation and I do think the kick was low. The blocker just blocked it with his arm, while generally you have to jump. I think it was a combination of breakdown and a low kick.
"Saturday's at Akron was on me. We had a substitution mistake and it has to do with awareness for our guys. We were around the 23-yard line and we had guys running off the field thinking we were going to punt. I may be conservative at times, but I am not going to punt from the 23-yard line. We were scrambling and those guys had to get back on the field. I had my eye on the clock and probably should have called timeout in fairness to Nick. It became a rushed field goal and he didn't get the ball up at all. That's a long-winded answer to an easy question. It wasn't a breakdown, it was just parts we have to clean up."
On potentially burning a redshirt on Mitch Ewald:
"He is still one of those kids we are looking at not redshirting. In all honesty, this afternoon the competition is on to see who is going to kick on Saturday. We did it the last two weeks and Freeland left practice on Thursday as the number one kicker. I think it's good for Nick because we haven't given the job to him. He has had to earn it and he has earned it on the field. Nick has kicked off well, except one that went out of bounds last week, but for the most parts his kickoffs have been good. He has hit all of his extra points and done fine on his field goals. We want to make sure we run out the best guy until some point in the year where we may decide we won't burn his redshirt."
On (Justin) Pagan's influence on the improvement in the running game the last two weeks:
"It helps and he is a very good football player. I think everyone has played better and especially (James) Brewer has played better. He played his first college football game versus Eastern Kentucky and Pagan played all last year, so Brewer is really younger on the football field. I think (Rodger) Saffold's played really well as well as Saxon. I think Will Matte has gotten better, but having Justin in there is a big help. I still don't think he is 100 percent yet and we have to be smart with him in practice over this week. Sometimes those ankle sprains take a while to heal. I think the running backs have played really well too. I think Burgess and Willis do a good job of running through tackles and I think we maybe were able to wear down Akron even though we didn't get the big play."
On playing many running backs:
"Once you get in the Big Ten, it is pretty hard anymore to line up one back who is going to play nine straight weeks in the Big Ten. You are going to need guys. So early on, being able to play guys gives them some experience in getting hit, holding onto the ball, and learning to get the tough yardage. Some backs are better in the passing game than others. By playing them all, we have learned or confirmed one or the other based on what we did in preseason practice. I think there will be plays for all of them over the next nine weeks. Zach Davis-Walker is getting healthier and may be available for the trip this weekend. He may be able to give us the speed that he has."
On turning up the fake crowd noise even louder this week:
"It could not have been any more annoying last week. We are going to do it, but we will leave it like it was. I think it was good practice for us and I think, as much as anything, it forces your guys to concentrate when there are distractions around them. Now, today we are not going to do it so much because we have some teaching about the defense we are going to see. We will use the sound more tomorrow on the second day of preparation."
On Michigan's defense under Greg Robinson:
"It is a different defense. Scott Shafer was their coordinator a year ago and Scott is a friend of ours. In fact Scott worked with Matt Canada at Northern Illinois for a while. I think Scott is at Syracuse now, but Michigan throws a lot at you. You have to be sound in both your run game and protection."
On preparing kids who have not played Michigan for Saturday's game:
"I think the biggest thing you have to do is focus is on the things we can control. You have to address and embrace the fact you get to go to the Big House. There is a reason kids want to play Big Ten football in that they want to play Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State. They want to play at home against those teams. That is the thrill of Big Ten football, so you look forward to it. Most importantly is to control what goes on between those white lines. You can control what you can and that is how you play, which starts with how you prepare. It sounds simple, but it's 11-on-11. That is the approach you take, but you certainly address the fact that this is a great opportunity. You want to take it in, but not be intimidated by it."
On Rich Rodriguez and the spread offense:
"I think he has such a great understanding of the spread offense. He is one of the real innovative guys who goes back to day one. I think when you are one of the guys who brought it into college football, you have the answers. Every time you go to a new offense, you have to have the answers for what a defense is going to do. If you put an offense in because you went to a clinic or bought a speaker's book, you get the basics, but when a defense shows you something that wasn't in the book, you have to take a timeout and realize you don't have the answer to that.
"He has the answers. If you follow Rodriquez through the years, he has had a great ability to run and throw the ball based on the talent that he has. He is going to play with the hand he has and obviously at Michigan he is going to be able to recruit the hand. A lot of the spread around the country comes from Rich Rodriguez. I say this out of respect for these guys. Some spread is really spread out like what coach (Mike) Leach has done at Texas Tech. That is a different kind of spread, but that spread is going to throw the ball a lot. Rodriguez's spread is more of the spread with a lot of running as a major aspect. Coach (Joe) Tiller also brought it with him to Purdue several years ago. Another one is Urban Meyer who has stayed ahead of the curve. I was a coach in the MAC when he started at Bowling Green and he has taken the offense with him to Utah and now Florida. I think the fact they were at the front end of the spread, particularly with the part of the quarterback running, is important."
On what is the most difficult part of winning on the road in the Big Ten:
"I wish I had the answer for that. I think if you look at the great venues of the country including three of them that hold over 100,000 people, that makes a difference. That happens every weekend in some of those places. The environment is tough including places like Iowa or Michigan State. I think there is passion for football in the Big Ten and everyone wants to win on Saturdays. They have a little extra juice at home and makes it tougher on teams going on the road."
On Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton:
" I think Jammie and Greg have been outstanding. I mean that in the sense that a lot was said around here about Greg having a great sophomore year and Jammie having a great junior year. I think combined, they have played really well this year and worked hard at it. I think they have communicated well. There are some other things like the linebackers behind them communicate well and are for the most part seniors. They have played a lot with Greg and Jammie so there is good communication there. I think the young guys inside have also been a big help. I know they are looking forward to playing on Saturday this week."