BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head football coach Kevin Wilson met with the assembled media at his weekly Tuesday afternoon press conference. Below is a transcript:
"Last week, we didn't do a good job defensively, especially stopping the run. Kind of felt Northwestern with their attack could give us some match-up problems. It was very disappointing. We felt they could throw the ball and make some plays. Their quarterback play has allowed them to run. Once again, that's three weeks in a row. Iowa ran the ball well and Wisconsin the same. With (Wisconsin quarterback) Russell Wilson and with Illinois, the way they played against us, we've had a few weeks where our defense has had a hard time making anybody one-dimensional. The run game, the inability to stop that was disappointing. The best game we've played to date defensively was against Penn State, where as they struggled in the throw game we were able to play decent defense against a team that was running the ball and tackling consistently. Since then we've had a hard time where we've allowed running games to take off with good passing games and vise versa.
"It's now three games in a row we didn't have a defensive takeaway. I saw in the defensive stats that the team right ahead of us in total defense is Oklahoma State, and they're (ranked) third in the nation. They also lead the nation in creating turnovers. They lead the nation in turnover margin. They do have a phenomenal offense that they compliment with their defense. But the last couple weeks we've only created one turnover, and that's with the punt team last week. That's disappointing, so we want to keep harping on that and playing better defense, getting stops. We had three or four third downs where we actually made the stop, but the penalty allowed them to keep it going. We just got to keep playing better defensively.
"We started some young guys. That wasn't by design, that's just right now some of the best guys in the mix. We should have Jeff Thomas back this week. He did practice yesterday. He didn't practice last week with a slight shoulder deal, so we'll see how he goes as we move forward and either get him in the mix or compliment him like we did last week with Chase (Hoobler).
"Offensively, we ran the ball better a couple weeks in a row. At the same time, the line is getting better. (Stephen) Houston is coming along, Tre (Roberson) has a couple games under his belt. I thought Ed (Wright-Baker) had a better week of practice last week, so that was good to see. Dusty (Kiel) is starting to do some slight running, but he didn't practice as of yet, so we'll see as we move through the week. Tre, the more he plays the more he settles down. The run game was better, but at the same time we'll get a tremendous challenge this week with Ohio State's run defense and the way they play defense. We've made some okay strides there, but the real strides are scoring points and winning. Like the defense, we stopped ourselves with a turnover. I think three times we had the first down on third down where a penalty took us out and then we punted. Last week, the way the game was going we needed to keep pace, keep scoring offensively.
"Lastly, our kicking game, we were disappointed. We kicked two out of bounds giving them the ball on the 40, and we let them bust one out across midfield. We gave them three short fields and then a turnover where they started on our side of the ball. We keep talking about how we need better defensive play. You can't put a defense that is struggling and not playing as good as you want in bad situations. The kickoff team was disappointing. Mitch (Ewald) has done a pretty good job of handling our kicks all year, but he has had a couple go out of bounds. We try to pin a team into a corner once in a while, we kind of miscalculated or misjudged our kick spot and that's hurt us. We need to be a little bit better there.
"Moving forward, we had a suspension the other day (Saturday) with Damarlo Belcher that has in fact turned into a dismissal from the team. I'm not going to go into great details other than it's no issue other than our seniors and I back in the preseason went through the rules we wanted. The seniors actually amended and gave me some ideas of things they wanted to do. All the players were aware of that, signed off on that, and we go through that during the year. Unfortunately, just with some things that happened it got to the point, and even our very first meeting I've said this to you all a couple times, the very best players and seniors are held to higher standards. Whether that be on the field, off the field, performance, practice habits, just doing things right. We don't have any sacred cows or individuals above anything, so it's unfortunate that this has happened. He is a good kid and potentially a good player, but at the same time he just didn't follow our guidelines and didn't do the things that he needed to do in situations, and it has led to dismissal and that's it with that.
"Moving on to OSU, coming off back-to-back wins they're sitting at 5-3. They could have three wins in a row. They played very well at Nebraska and their freshman quarterback has done a nice job. Braxton Miller, when he was injured, they didn't close the game out at Nebraska, but played extremely well at their (Nebraska's) place for three quarters. Defensively, (they are) very stout, great run defense, challenged very well in the pass game as well. They lost a close game to Michigan State in a defensive struggle. They lost at Miami (Fla.) and they lost at Nebraska, so they've lost to three solid teams. I got a lot of respect for Luke Fickell and the coaches there. A number of those guys I've known since the '90s, and again, I think they're doing a good job in a difficult situation. Going to Columbus is going to be unique and special. It's one of the great places to play and our kids get a chance to go there, so we look forward to going into a great venue.
"I thought we had a great start to yesterday's practice, but again, still like to see us take some things from the practice field to the game field. Look forward to going against the Buckeyes and it'll be a great challenge."
On Ohio State's offense:
"The last couple weeks we've played a few games that as they (our opponents) got on a roll they've played well and played with both hands, the running game and the passing game. Ohio State is coming in with a definite commitment to running the ball with a young quarterback and maybe the most athletic quarterback we've seen, and we've seen some guys that can run around. He is for sure the guy that is, no disrespect to the others, as good of a guy that can make some plays. That's not necessarily designed quarterback runs, but just a guy that can extend some plays and make some plays. As a young guy, you can see him working through the pass game as they go. They're playing good enough defense, much like Penn State is, and if you play good enough defense you don't have to offensively stress yourself out. You can play a little close (to the vest), take your shots when you want to, but play field position because they backed their offense with a very solid defense. That's given them the chance to play very good these last few weeks and down the stretch."
On the defense's struggles:
"With Leon Beckum coming back, you got (Mark) Murphy from that hybrid linebacker back to safety, and we think he's a nice young player, but that's another position, another read, so you've got four-six weeks where you go through the preseason and you are playing safety. Then after the Ball State game, now you're a linebacker, and that's a different vision, different thought, different keys, different calls, different fits, different responsibilities. Leon comes back, a couple of the safeties had gotten hurt, a couple of the other guys weren't playing as good as you would have wanted, you move him back there. At the same time it's a young guy, so there's going to be some glitches and busts. No disrespect to Mark, he's had as good a year defensively as anyone. If you ask our defensive coaches, they would say he's probably competed as well, been as tough, played with as great of effort as anyone on defense, and that says a lot for a freshman, says a lot for basically a high school tailback that played defense, that's learning how to play both sides of the ball. That's not a slight of him. We have moved a few guys around. That's not by design. I keep cautioning our guys defensively. The one thing we did offensively a handful of weeks ago, we did settle on some things we wanted to do. A couple of games we didn't look that good, but as we've kind of came through it, we've gotten some continuity in Bernard Taylor and Peyton Eckert locked into spots, and they are playing better. You see Stephen Houston getting better, and Tre (Roberson) because we are repeating things, carry over and getting better. Defensively with some injuries, attacking some schemes, I don't know if we've given those young guys a chance to repeat the process and be where they need to be, and I think that's something as coaches we are looking at as we move forward. We can do a much better job coaching. We've got some players that need to play better, and we've got some young players, yes, but as coaches we got to do a better job of going through the week, preparing our team, and putting them in better positions as we move forward."
On not having a veteran in the secondary to be a vocal leader:
"You make a great point. I wouldn't say last week, I would say in general, when you've got new scheme, new guys, we're not a very loud team. We're on the practice field and I can barely hear calls, and I know when you put some folks in the stands, this week pushing 100,000, you need to speak up. A confident man on the field, there's a way you talk, there's a way you carry yourself, and that being said with a young team, with new scheme, with position changes, as we go through our communication, and that's not being mad at our players, but that's something we are constantly harping on. Ways to improve that as we practice, so when we're practicing things that's something we are trying to practice, and as we move forward we've got to be a lot better there. It's almost like to the point as a player, just because you know the call don't sit on it. Don't worry about you, worry about everyone else. Let's be loud and begin passing the calls, communications, because it isn't just getting a call from the bench. A lot of times defensively this day in age, when something is called, as soon as that formation lines up, it gets adjusted. Wait a minute now, because the uniqueness in college football is the ability to line up in personnel, but all of a sudden go to no backs or one back or unbalanced sets, that all of a sudden things need to get cleaned up. This call is nice if we anticipated the formation. A lot of times defensively, you know the personnel, you are guessing the formation. That being said, even when you make the call, there is adjustment, and that's when communication becomes even more critical. When there is motion, backs shifting sides back to the tight end, back away from the tight end, that effects the rotations and coverages of matchups. As those things happen, communicating is critical, and we can be a lot better in a lot of things. Defensively you shouldn't be, it shouldn't be that difficult, but as a young team with a new staff, news schemes, moving guys around, we've got to be a lot better there."
On the defense's progression: "When you are giving up 50 a game you would say no, but again, when you are giving 50 a game and your kicker kicks it out of bounds twice and they run it back to the 50, they are going to score points already. If you do stat studies when you start on your side of the 40, you score about 47-50 percent of the time. You've got 28 points attributed to halfway short fields. They need to make some stops. They need to hold them to three, but again it's a total team effort, too. The defense can play better, but if you want to look at all the stats and numbers, I just did that yesterday, I found where Oklahoma State's defense is rated right ahead of us. Their offense is significantly better than ours and they do a great job, but what was amazing, even though they give up plays, they created those turnovers. We have gone through three games and haven't created a defensive turnover. Not that we will get one this week, but we were sitting on 13 after 6 games. That was getting some stops. We had three stops, the other day defensively, and when we do stop them we get penalties. There's some issues defensively, and some of the issues moving forward systematically are how to keep learning our players and putting them in good matchups, whether it be man coverage, how to play man, how to give help, where's your help coming from, inside leverage, outside leverage, how much do you play straight, how much movement do you do, how much do you blitz? There's all kinds of things that we've got to go through, and I would like to think and I said this the other day, but I would hope our players are getting better, but I think the critical thing right now is coaches, are we getting better? Are we learning where we're at talent-wise? Where we at attitude-wise? Where we at systematically? How do we match up and how do we move forward as we move forward in building our team?"
On making defensive adjustments against Ohio State:
"They are doing it with good players and a quarterback that can make plays. The last time we won against Ohio State was in the 80's, so we're playing a team that's pretty good. It's not like all of a sudden I say we have an advantage from playing those guys. Now a younger quarterback, a team playing great defense, you're making some good points, but the point being made here to is you've got to play good defense to take advantage of that, and that's still lining up, communicating, getting off blocks, tackling well when you do get them in third downs, when you do get the stop and get off the field. It would be nice to get the ball out, get it on the ground, get it in the air, make some turnovers. At the same time, if we go and don't communicate and play like we're playing defensively, we'll have our hands full against Ohio State as well."
On giving more responsibility to Tre Roberson:
"You make two good points when you say the word polish. When we're talking about the defense, if there's some things we can do short term, it is fundamentally still learning how to play the game with our hands, getting off blocks. Tre (Roberson) as a quarterback, fundamentally learning how to play the game, how to be better in his progressions, how to be better in his throwing mechanics, getting on target, etc. Fundamentally, we're a young team. Fundamentally, we're not very good, as much as systematically, so we've got to keep working on that. We're actually trying to extend down the stretch without over practicing. The ability of teaching and the ability to learn how we want to teach and play your position. For Tre (Roberson) moving forward, he does have a fair amount, the only time something is not being called for Tre, it's just a throw that we don't know if he's really comfortable at or good or maybe just something that he doesn't like. He doesn't feel comfortable, I don't know if I see that or feel that space, or I'm not comfortable throwing that. When you do put things together with those quarterbacks you would ask them all the time, do you see it? Do you feel it? Do you like it? If a quarterback has an issue and doesn't like something, you slow that down. He's got a fair amount of it right now and he handles it pretty good."
On how much it helps Tre Roberson having Stephen Houston in the backfield:
"Again, good point. We've matched up well offensively where our line had matchups in the blocking game or we were holding our own. They are getting better, but that's still a young line and we're a work in process, so Stephen playing well definitely helps Tre, but we said that even at Iowa, his first start, it looked like he played so well, we blocked him a little bit better, the receiver play was better, tight ends Max (Dedmond) and Ted (Bolser) did well. He had nice complimentary help, and that's what Tre's gotten the last couple of weeks. He's playing solid. He's got a lot of improvement to do, by no means for a young guy has he under exceeded what we want, but he's awfully young with miles to go from what he can be as a player. As a quarterback, all those guys around him make him look good, but the more Stephen's playing the better he's getting. It's happening across the board, but they will get a tremendous challenge when they line up Saturday and play against Ohio State's defense. It would be nice to see on the road with a stouter defense as a young team what's our ability to step up and match that challenge? It will be nice to see how those guys do Saturday, because it will be a very unique opportunity for those guys."
On how the defense in practice vs. games:
"It could be better. I wouldn't say it's a total fall apart. Although again, they have had a run now where they have played three or four really good well-balanced offenses that both run and pass. You know at the time, I know Illinois has since lost a couple games, Wisconsin's lost two game on the last play of the game, but at the time those guys were playing about as good of offense as most guys in the country. With the ability to run and pass, good quarterback play, throwing with a good skill set. The defense you can say it has regressed, but it has had its hands full. They got to rise up to the challenge, but now they've had a good run, but in the Big Ten you're going to continue to see it. We'll see great athletes this week, a young quarterback that hasn't thrown it quite as much as these other guys, but is very athletic. We'll see it moving forward with Michigan State and Purdue down the stretch. We're going to see good players. That's no excuse. We've got to rise up and stop it. Last week's key to me was we needed to stop their run. When we didn't, with their ability to throw the ball, we had our hands full."