BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head football coach Kevin Wilson met with the assembled media at his weekly Tuesday afternoon press conference. Below is a transcript:
"Light work yesterday and now going to Michigan State, which has played awfully solid with two losses. They have an outstanding defense. Coach (Mark) Dantonio has done a great job for several years now. They have a tremendous quarterback in Kirk Cousins. They can manage the game and when they get their running game going their run and pass is awesome. As always, Coach Dantonio is pretty good in the kick game, so they will keep you on your toes with fakes. They have a lot to play for. I know having been through it the past few years, having the chance to control your division. I know they're awfully excited about the opportunity to have a tremendous shot at us as far as their preparation. Knowing their world, they're looking to finish the season strong and to me, I think it's a great opportunity for us. As we went through some of our shortcomings this year, and to some degree having a slight upswing, we are playing a really good team on the road again. Can we make it a four quarter contest by taking care of the ball, scoring, playing good red zone defense, making those guys work and not handing the game to a good football team? We need to make this football team earn a victory against us and give ourselves a chance to win. Again, my respect to those guys. They are playing well and it will be a challenge, but with the open date, looking forward to it and we'll go from there."
On the bye week:
"It gave us time as coaches to do some prep work. We didn't necessarily over prep as much with the young guys and to get some guys healthy. At the same time, we had to find a balance, so we need to get some guys better. Even late in the year with a young team, a team not playing good, so there's a little bit of emphasis on fundamental work. That's just some fundamental one-on-one blocking, tackling, some fundamental things in the kick game and coverage lanes and protection. It wasn't like we're committing everything two weeks for one opponent, but I guess to some degree there was a little of that. I hope we are fresher and from the nicked up side I'd like to think a little bit healthier as we go into it. With the coaching change and as many young guys that were contributing, it was an emphasis on fundamental play and not minimizing that and taking that for granted because we need to be a lot better in a lot of phases. We were working stance and meshes, depths of routes and throwing the ball on time, getting off blocks, tackling and creating turnovers. It was a lot of fundamental work."
On the team's injuries:
"Chris (Adkins) is running and doing some things. I don't know if he's quite ready. As we go here today and tomorrow we'll get a feel. He still might be a little short of being up to snuff. Donnell Jones is kind of doing everything. We'll see if Chris can advance in a week to get in the mix or be out. We're still kind of in limbo with Drew Hardin coming off a concussion and we won't know until the midpoint of this week where we stand with him. Peyton Eckert's ankle is a severe sprain. It looked bad on tape, but there's no break or a major deal. He's probably, as the week goes, maybe a week out. He still didn't run yesterday, but we'll see as we give him today, this afternoon, tomorrow, where that really stands. Dusty (Kiel) is doing some work. He is running and dropping, but then there are some things that I don't think his comfort level is there when we're doing some things. As of yesterday, he had not done any full out team deals where all of a sudden if something breaks down you have to scramble. Mick (Mentzer) has a knee deal. He got it whacked the other day and is apparently going to be limited for this game, but we're hoping to get him back for the last contest."
On trying to stop Michigan State:
"You control what you control. That being said, we cannot have kickoffs out of bounds and returns or turnovers. (We can't) Give three, four, five short fields like we've done in some games, where the game didn't go our way and it looked like the score wasn't what we wanted. We need to make these guys earn it and go the distance. Offensively, as you might have some success and get field position or make a play, you've got to try to find ways of getting to the end zone and not settling for getting to the 33 and going for it on fourth down and coming up short or pooch punting or kicking field goals. You don't go on the road and beat good teams with turnovers. I heard a comment last night watching the Vikings game where Jon Gruden said "you don't beat the Packers by jumping offsides on a field goal on the road." We don't need to play perfectly, but we don't need to play uphill and against ourselves. We need to make those guys earn it and make sure they play well to beat us, and we don't make them look better than they are by poor play. We kind of challenged the guys. I thought to some degree we went on the road to Ohio State with a greater sense of energy and a greater sense of purpose, a greater sense of confidence. We battled and didn't get it done, so we're disappointed and frustrated by that. Our goal wasn't to be close. We thought we could win that game and we didn't. Our goal this week in going to Michigan State is to put a plan together that we think will give us a chance to win. Part of that is going to be weathering the storm against a good team. If they make a plan can you come back and make them snap it again? Offensively, don't get in positions where you get in third-and-longs and allow their pressure and defensive front to tee off on you because they do lead the league in sacks. If you're playing behind chains and you play behind chains when you're playing a good run defense, can you get a run game going? Can Tre (Roberson) throw on his terms? It's not a difficult deal, but we don't need to beat ourselves. We need to make sure Michigan State beats us."
On trophy games:
"You get them and that's nice, but they need to play for themselves. We've got a pretty good environment going with practice and our locker room right now. The heart and desire they have for each other has to come out. Internally, I think we're creating, and it hasn't showed in Saturday results, some positive energy that our players are creating. I think they're starting to create some good things, but that needs to transfer into not just an individual performance, but into a team win. That being said, you have to win as a team. Offensively, we can't turn the ball over as we've done in some games with the short field. We can't kick it out of bounds and give our defense a short field. They have a couple good running backs. The quarterback is one of the best, if not as good as there is in our league. They'll get you one-on-one and make their pass checks. If a guy makes a pass, then fine, let's get him on the ground, make him do it again, make them earn their plays. We've addressed that, but at the same time if you're a senior walking out of here you don't see that trophy any more. That's a memory. The real memory is that you're playing for each other and I think internally, we've kind of got ourselves positioned inside where we've got some good vibes going on. We're trying to get these guys to learn how to play for each other and playing from the heart."
On the Ohio State game:
"I tried to use the Ohio State as not a positive, but as a disappointment because you lost, because you did get beat. You're moving the ball and you turn it over and you're down at the 12-yard line and you jump offsides and miss a field goal and you turn it over. You don't line up properly and let a guy run out of the gate to the 5-yard line and they score a touchdown to ice it. I was trying to use that as motivation to be frustrated and not be happy because I do think around here some of our players, we don't handle negative things well and we don't handle positive things well. When things go bad, if I get beat out at my position do I fight or am I just now a back-up player? If I get beat on a play do I come back and make the next one, can I make them snap it again? If I get beat on a rush can I firm him up the next time on a pass pro? Same thing for a player that does well. I have a nice game running, can I run hard the next game? I have a nice game as a quarterback, I make some tackles, when you saw some guys last week play better than you had seen this year, can they do it again the following week? That's what good players start to do. Can we handle adversity, which will be one of the keys to playing well at East Lansing? I'm trying to use it, I don't know if a couple Saturdays ago was that positive and not to beat you up and be negative, but let's fuel the fire. Our goal was not to be close, and we let that one get away and let's learn from that and take it personal and take some ownership of that as coaches and players. Let's find ways to keep connecting and move forward, and that's how we've tried to approach that."
On this weekend:
"You want to try to win and it's a daunting task this week, going up there and playing a team that's in first place. My deal, I've said all along, and I think we've got some internal things moving in a cleaner direction, you want these seniors to feel like they've been a part of something that's on a higher note. At the same time, we're not going to win this game because it's our time. We're not going to win this game because we're hoping and praying and it's time for good things. You have to make it happen. We need our best week of practice and that was our goal with them as we started this week both yesterday and this morning, is that we need to be better. We're going to need to be positive in what we're doing, have some positive energy that you're creating, but we need to gas it up down the stretch. We're coming off an off week. We've worked on some fundamentals. We've worked on getting healthy. We didn't physically overdo it, but that being said, we need to throttle down a little bit and go harder with some confidence, with some stability that now we've played. A lot of young guys, you've got 10 games under your belt, that is a freshman year. You've now played a season, you've been in big environments, you've been on the road, let's go to a great environment, play a really good team and let's put forth our best effort and with that said, it needs to be our best week. That's the challenge that we have. We want our best week this week to give us a chance and then we want to follow that up with a better week the following week."
On the team's improvement:
"I just think inside, as we practice, I think we've gotten accustomed to each other and I think as coaches we're doing a better job. We're not close to where it needs to be, how to push some buttons and how to get a spark. I think our players are learning how to connect with us and how to play. Still, we're light years from what you want and I think we're gaining on it in a good way, but it's not like we've got it figured out. That being said, I was personally challenging them yesterday and this morning as we started on some things. This needs to be your best week and you don't talk about it, actions are different than words. You don't go to Michigan State and beat a good team like they're playing this year by just showing up and thinking it's just going to happen. It happens as we went through the process. They'll come in playing extremely well. They'll come in wanting to continue building their momentum, their case, their energy, and we need to match it. It's time, I feel, with our seniors and the young guys that have played, it's time we hold our end of the bargain. Our end of the bargain is Saturday, but again there is a little bit of a process, you take ownership of Saturday, but the ownership is greater when you invest in the process. Is it your best week of practice as a scout team guy running down the kickoff cover team, as a guy playing left guard on the scout offense? Is it your best week to help our guys get ready to go out and have a chance to play? Coming off an open date, a little fundamental time, trying to be fresher, maybe a smidge more confidence, maybe some positive energy going, maybe some better connections, but the goal is we need our best week of work to go up there and put our best effort."
On the younger guys:
"Some of the young guys that are playing, the more they play you see a guy making mistakes less, but still making them. You see guys battling and you see some of the young linemen getting better as they play. The same deal with some of the receivers and the DBs. I think you see those guys learning how to practice better, how to take care of their bodies, how to rest, how to come in and do some extra work with their tape study. I still think we can be so much better physically as we move forward and we're gaining on it, but you're always trying to gain on it and you never get there, you're always working to be there."