BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head football coach Kevin Wilson met with the assembled media at his final Tuesday afternoon press conference. Below is the transcript:
"Touching on the Michigan State game real quick. We didn't play well in all phases against a pretty good team. We talked about that quickly yesterday as a team, but moved past it quickly and started getting ready for Purdue. We didn't have a lot of good performances on either side of the ball and in the kicking game as well, which is disappointing. At the same time, we are trying to finish up. It's senior week and to me, senior week is always a big week. We are very fortunate here to not only play at home for the last game, but play a quality rival. Not everyone gets that opportunity to have a great rival game, so we are trying to embrace that challenge. There is some great motivation to wrap up our season on a high note and send the seniors out with a very positive week.
"It's Thanksgiving week and we are working a normal week. We will do some work Thursday morning but then give the guys a chance to get mixed up and hooked up with families to have a Thanksgiving in the afternoon, and then come back in on Friday and have a normal work week. It's the last week and we are looking forward to the challenge of Purdue this week."
On what might be holding the team back:
"Schematically, we have tried to do some things as we have looked at our personnel and our size and strength and how we match up. We have tried to tweak some things, but at the same time when you go through the core of your development with spring and preseason, you get moving in a direction...you try to shuffle your cards, but your cards are what they are. That being said, we keep looking internally at ourselves, and how we can make ourselves better with strength gains. I think we are in great shape and our kids have leaned up. Our strength level is way too small and our ability to play physical is not what you need and you desire. But playing a lot of young guys, and they have played reasonably well and will grow. We will try to compliment that with another good recruiting class and have a good offseason. And then scheme-wise, we can keep looking at what a guy is processing and can he do what we are asking him to do? Can he play that alignment and rush the passer while still playing good run defense? Can he play that leverage and play good pass defense but also show up in the run game? We will keep looking significantly at what we are doing and how to be a heck of a lot better than we are right now. We need to be and have to be."
On what the coaching staff is looking to improve upon:
"For one, a greater feel of the internal issues and how to make our core in our locker room and internally better. How to develop what we have. And more than anything, as a coach, is my ability to connect with our guys and our coaches doing a better job of teaching our guys what we want to do. And if we can't do it, how to make adjustments and put them in better positions. I'm not one to come up here and say `we have a playbook, here are the plays so we have to run these plays.' I think we are talking defensively, if we can't execute this defense...it might look good on paper and it might work, but it might not work for us. Let's make sure we are moving to put our guys in position and do things that can work. I think the key thing, short term, is the disappointment in me and my ability to connect and get our guys to still play better than we have played. In my opinion, we are a much better football team than our record and that falls solely on me and our coaches."
On connecting with the players:
"I think the key thing as a coach, and I think when you say connect, it's trust. That your players trust you, believe in what you're telling them, believe that you're doing things in the proper way for them, on the field off the field as we're moving forward. You've got to earn it. I can't tell you how to trust me, trust the coaching, trust that we know what we're doing, trust this works, but it's our ability as coaches to get that connection through that they do trust. They trust schematically what we're doing. Schematically what we're doing isn't always right. That we're smart enough to see that, recognize that, make adjustments and move forward to give us better chances."
On Nick Stoner moving to receiver:
"We actually talked about that a month ago and then we had some issues defensively depth-wise, and we were already playing him. During the open week, even though we still have some thinness in the defensive secondary, we think with his speed, and not that he wasn't doing it playing as a true freshmen, we just thought he could impact us there. That being said, that may effect some of the recruiting thoughts as we move forward if he's in the receiving mix. Our thought process not moving guys back and forth, we kind of saw that as a long term deal. We started that about a month ago behind the scenes, throwing balls and working with him a little bit post-practice to make sure we were comfortable and we thought he could help us there. We just decided during the open week to go that direction and I'm pretty confident that that's the direction for he and for us. I think Nick's pretty comfortable with wanting to do that and I think Coach (Kevin) Johns is excited about his potential there. We have several young guys, but I think he'll give us a little bit of top-end speed and as we move forward in time maybe give us a little more outside speed that we need out there on the perimeter."
On the rivalry with Purdue:
"I think the more you're around it, the uniqueness is that it's a state rival. You have the two institutions of the state. You grow up in the state and for the most part I'm assuming that the majority of the fans are pulling for one that the family has for decades or 100-plus years. It's one school or the other. Again, to me, what makes a rival great is there's a natural rub. There's a respect you have for the school because you know them. The families know each other. The communities know each other. That being said, it's family going against family and that makes for a little heated, bad blood rival. I've tried to tell our kids that not every school has that. I think we're very lucky to have one. That being said, with the way our season has went, we're using this week to try and find some positive motivation for our seniors to try and end it on a high note."
On this being the final game for the seniors:
"We've talked about it. Six of our returning juniors that are fourth-year guys are planning on graduating and not coming back for their fifth year. We talked to them about a month ago. What are your plans moving forward? We talked to every one of our juniors to see what their plans were and I said it because to me, I think senior week is a big deal. I can remember my senior week of high school practice. We took a senior lap around the field and we were in the playoffs and if you won you got to take another lap the next week and the next week. We had senior hit day. You got to pick your guy out, target your buddy, your young guy that you want to hit. It was an honor. You pick out who you want and it was a respect that one of your last hits in practice was someone that you were handing the torch over to. Like I told our seniors yesterday, we've been frustrated to some degree and not had a great year, but that being said, one of the best weeks of the season is your culminating week and it needs to be one of the most special weeks. I was talking to Coach (Mark) Deal and I heard a comment that the last game you don't want to take your pads off. It's a unique feeling. That being said, each guy can get motivated differently, but I know in my life the last time you do things to me is always special because I get very involved in where we are and what we do in my life. I don't like my kids growing up. I kind of like them the way there are, but they keep growing up. That being said, things change in your life. These guys are going on to the next chapter of their life. This has been a difficult year and it's not been what anyone's wanted or asked for, and it's not been what these seniors have wanted or asked for. Our goal as coaches is to make this week as great a week as it could be for those guys. They've earned the right being here for four or five years and again, we've had some shortcomings, but the effort and the time and the commitment that those guys have made has been astronomical. They have busted their tail for us in a great way and our job as coaches is to give this team a chance to win every game, especially here this last week, and especially when you're playing a great rival like Purdue. How they get motivated, because it's seniors, last game, to me there are a lot of dynamics that make this week a great week for those guys and we want it to be as good as we can. The culmination is having a great week of practice, to have the opportunity to go out and play well and get a win on Saturday."
On the team's mindset:
"We didn't make a big deal after the game other than just the disappointment of the way we played, but from listening to our kids talk and their comments, I think they're excited. We've got a lot of guys that have played in this game, even though we've got a lot of freshmen. I think there are key contributors that are playing for our football team that played in this game last year. A lot of guys are Indiana natives, so they grow up knowing this rivalry. I hope we don't respond like we did at Ohio State because I don't know if you realize but we lost that game, so that's not the response we're looking for. We had a good showing that game as far as keeping it close, but we're not horseshoeing it here. I wasn't overly pleased at Ohio State because I thought we let that one get away. I'm not being negative about it, but I thought we could win that game and we didn't. We've had some flashes against Virginia, against Penn State, against those guys, but right now we've been a way inconsistent football team. I think I'm looking at stats and we're the only team in the Big Ten that's yielded more rushing yards than passing yards. That means if you can't stop the run then you've got a team that can play with both hands. When people talk about that they want balance, they're saying the ability to run and stop the run, so I think this game, as all games, will come down to that. I said that before when we played Northwestern and they ran for 300-plus. Purdue will come in trying to run the football. We've got to stop their run. Offensively, last week we didn't run the ball. When we don't run the ball now you've got a young quarterback that doesn't have a lot of help. Now you're throwing and they're teeing off on him. You've got some young receivers, so again, I think the game, no matter whether you're spreading out in the shotgun, under center, got a fullback or three tight ends, the ability in this league to run the ball, stop the run, turnovers. That's what wins."
On the true freshmen:
"They're improving. The more all those guys have played, they've gotten better. Those guys have made strides. They've got 11 games under their belt now. There is still an offseason to be had. But as far as staying on task, going to big arenas, playing against qualities opponents; they've done that. "
On improving the pass defense:
"It's playing a lot. It's studying a lot. We gave up a touchdown the other day when the corner, by coverage scheme, is supposed to be locked on the guy man-to-man, but he gets caught looking into the backfield and the guy runs right by for the touchdown. It was actually a corner that probably played the best game on defense of any one that day. My previous boss used to tell me, `offensive guys got it lucky. When they screw up you punt. When we defensive guys screw up, they score.' That guy played a heck of game, but one bust and it's seven. I use the computer analogy. The ability of your phone access to give you the data you need as fast as it can be. A good player has good access. The more you study, the more you play, the less mistakes. Some times you're going to make mistakes, get exposed. But you've got to learn from those mistakes. I don't think you learn from negativity. I don't think you learn from losing. But a good player will get busted and come right back from it."
On senior offensive lineman Justin Pagán and seniors buying in:
"His comment to his coach one day was, `well maybe if I do what you guys are telling me to do, you'll stop yelling at me.' He did and no one was yelling at him, so he thought it was a good deal. Those were his exact words. I don't know what he's thinking or if it's true, but I appreciate him as a lineman. I think (offensive lineman) Andrew McDonald was actually the first one. Those guys and (tight end) Max Dedmond have been pretty solid. (Wide receiver) Dre Muhammad is another one. He comes out and plays a lot early on and then all of a sudden we're getting Shane (Wynn) and some of the young guys in there. Kofi (Hughes) comes back and he's not playing a lot, but he kept a great attitude. And you have a guy like (linebacker) Leon Beckum who is still kind of unhealthy. But he wants to play so bad, he's out there and fighting his tail off."