First quarter, offense was a little shaky. How important was solid defensive effort to set the tone for your teammates?
Kovacs: “Yeah, we knew we were a little beat up offensively, and we were going to have to come out and play some solid defense. I think, at times, in the first half, we did a nice job of getting ourselves off the field, and at times, in the second half, we did the same thing, but at the same time, I think we didn’t do a great job on third and fourth down. You know, that’s something we have to correct, and hopefully we’ll get it corrected by next week. “
Jordan, at what point did you know that Denard wasn’t going to play today, and had you guys talked that you need to step it up even more?
Kovacs: “I mean, I think it was a game-time decision. Nobody really knew. We obviously knew that he was hurt, and that we had talked that the defense would have to step up. Injuries happen, and the other side of the ball has to step up when that happens.”
You guys were backed up a lot in this game, and Minnesota was kind of starting with good field position a lot of the time. What is that like when you start backed up? How much more pressure does that put on you guys?
Kovacs: “We welcome it, you know, as a defense, our motto is ‘spot the ball’, you know? Give us a place to stand, and we’ll make the most of it. I thought at times, like I said, we did a good job of sudden change, or getting ourselves off the field, but other times we didn’t do quite enough, and we didn’t play well enough overall defensively.”
J.T., they seemed to pick on you quite a bit. Did you expect that this much, and how do you guys think you did in the back end?
Floyd: “I just think there’s always room for improvement, you know, we have to just go back, look at the film, get back to the basics of football, fundamentals and technique. Work on our eyes, work on our footwork, stuff like that, so I definitely think there’s room for improvement, but as far as corner, that’s the nature of the position. Every time they snap the ball, I think they’re coming my way. That’s just how you have to think if you want to be successful.”
Devin’s been a wide receiver for a while, haven’t see him at quarterback. What did you see from him during the week at practice to let you guys know that he’s ready to go?
Ryan: “We had confidence in Devin. He played quarterback throughout the week, and he was doing real well for us, and I think just coming from that receiver position, he progressed and knew what he was doing that whole time, so he definitely looked good.”
Jordan, given that you’re a perfectionist, and your coaches are perfectionists, giving up field position early, and that kind of hindered you throughout the first quarter, was that kind of disappointing?
Kovacs: “Yeah, I think that’s definitely a disappointment. I think that they moved the ball pretty well on us. I don’t know how many total yards they had, but it was too many, passing and running. So there’s some things that, obviously, as with every game, we’re going to have to improve on, and we look forward to Coach Mattison teaching us this week. I’m sure he will.”
Jake, I know you guys talk about your championship mentality every week. You’ve had real emotional games the past few weeks, with Michigan State and Nebraska. Was it difficult to prepare for this game, or was it that focus, that championship?
Ryan: “We took the same preparation, just – I don’t want to go back on last week, but we didn’t communicate well, and that’s what a championship defense needs to do, and I feel like we did that today, and we really stepped it up.”
Jake, you had a pretty big stop on that reverse play, never made it to the goal line. What were you thinking as that play was developing?
Ryan: “You know, I actually saw the first running back pitch it, so I wanted to get outside, so that’s the first thing I saw, and he kind of stopped, and tried to make a move around a block, and I ended up being there, so that’s what I was thinking.”
Which of you were on the field for the big field goal. Maybe Jake, were you - ?
Ryan: “Actually, I was putting my contact in. I had a loose contact.”
It seemed like it was a surprising call to most people. Were you guys shocked by it? You usually think there are certain times you plan for a fake, but…
Floyd: “I think what happened was they snuck a guy on the field. It was a guy that he didn’t quite make it into the huddle. Most of the time you see them disperse out of the huddle, but he was just standing on the sideline, so it was just something that they tried to sneak by.”
Can you talk about Raymon’s consciousness on that play?
Floyd: “Yeah, it was a great play. It’s something that – you know, every time we get in practice situations, we always talk about potential fakes that a team could do, and just everything that we need to do to make sure we prevent that from happening. And that was just a good heady play. He saw it at the last minute, went over there, and made a play. That’s what we expect out of him.”
You guys weren’t happy with the tackling last week in Nebraska. How do you feel about it in this game? Pretty good?
Ryan: “Still need to improve.”
Kovacs: “It was better, but still definitely need to improve.”
Were you guys surprised on the fourth and one that they went for it that early?
Kovacs: “Which one?”
The first one in the first quarter. 41 yard.
Kovacs: “No, I mean, we came into this game prepared for everything, you know? We knew that it was going to be a dog fight, and they might try to throw some things that we haven’t seen, and that they play a little more gutsy, and you have to tip your hat to them. They played well, they had some trick plays that they tried to throw at us, but for the most part, defensively, we played well, but like I said, just have to get better.”
So Jordan, as captain, how important is it that you guys retain the jug, and that you brought that back in the locker room?
Kovacs: “It’s always important. It’s one of our rivalry games, so that’s one of those trophy games that you want to win every year, and it’s the trophy that you want to keep at Schembechler Hall year in and year out.”