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September 8, 2014

Kevin Wilson

KEVIN WILSON:  Good to see you guys back.  Coming out of last week, have an open date, but real quick injury‑wise, we had some minor deals in preseason and those guys are back practicing.  I don't anticipate rules changing excessively, but some of those guys missed two or three weeks of preseason work, but we got Wes Rogers back and Dawson Fletcher, Danny, Friend, and all the guys, kind of back and full, and we came out of the first game with no real major issues except I'd say Tommy Mister and Steven Funderburk had surgeries.  Pretty good health‑wise.
I think we tried to take last week into a little bit of my thing, which is in a preseason development process because the open date was so early.  We didn't over‑practice.  We came out of a two‑a‑day mode.  We went two‑a‑day, one a day, two‑a‑day, one a day, and there were many scrimmages and all that stuff.  So it wasn't‑‑ maybe the work, physical side of a preseason where you're trying to just pound your guys and get them tougher, and we did have some contact and had I thought some good physical work, but it wasn't a preseason tough deal as much as a preseason mental deal and how to keep growing and come together as a team.
I thought, again, liked the way we practiced and our habits.  Been talking about our team about that, the winning habits that you need that good teams have.  I thought our leadership has been good.  I think we're moving forward, I think we're progressing.  I thought we had a chance to do some corrections on ourselves, spend as much time looking at IU as much as the upcoming game with Bowling Green or any other opponent, and it was really again looking at not how we play the game but bullets are flying, areas of concern, so again, put a lot of time in on ourselves, concentrated on that and trying to keep ourselves on schedule.
To us we're kind of back to game week and really kind of kicking off a good stretch here.  It's about building momentum this week.  A lot of guys will tell you when you're playing sometimes, you like an open date maybe to get yourself fresh, but if you're playing well you want to keep going.  We did not try to overdo the first game because we knew we were going to have to sit down, so we're trying to build through the first game, through last week, now trying to get some momentum as we go into a six‑game run, three of which are on the road, first two on the road and playing some good teams.
Bowling Green this week, 12:00, ESPNU, they're defending MAC champions, 10‑3 last year, back‑to‑back bowl games.  They're a winning program with winning habits.  They have a new coach.  They have a coach that's coming into a situation where they've had some success, and there's a lot of good leadership and a lot of good habits, a lot of good things going on.  Even though there's a transition, their defensive coaches really have two games under their belt, we've got one here with our new defensive coaches, so if you look about it, I don't know if it's an advantage or disadvantage.
They have a quality program.  We knew that a year ago.  I'm very fortunate, I go back to knowing enough about that place, and going into Doyt Perry Stadium, he's a tremendous coach.  At Carolina we played them in I think '83 or '84 there with a guy named McClure, big quarterback, great player.  You go into the Mid‑American he coached for nine years, you play Bowling Green every year it's one of the haves of that conference, always has been, always will be.
Go to Northwestern and with 9/11, which is this week, we lost a game and we had to make up a game and we played Urban Meyer's Bowling Green team in late November at our place.  We crossed into Northwestern.  We go to Oklahoma and Adrian Peterson's first game, here comes the Falcons into town and we saw the Falcons, and now you get up here and two years in a room with Coach Clawson's team, and now this team, so having worked at five D‑I schools, I've kind of crossed him as a player and a coach everywhere I've been, so know him, respect him, and it's really about this week, it's not about the past.  They're a winning program, great program.
It's not about playing the MAC.  They talk about the MAC has awesome success as evident last week.  I think the Mid‑American won two games against Big Ten and had a third one in hand and didn't close it out.  Those teams always play well.  There are a lot of players that we know from those teams because we recruit them.
Real quick, when we look at them real quick, defensively they're very aggressive to me.  The first game kind of got rolling, and Western Kentucky got on a roll, but you can tell from week one to week two the strides they've made at a different opponent and it was an FCS opponent but they were more aggressive, more assertive, more downhill, closer in coverage.  They've got a lot of vets on their team.  They've had a few injuries, but they've had guys step in and play well, so a lot of guys we've seen and won against, led against.  Led by Sutton their DB who's from Fishers, Indiana.  Their linebacker last week No. 30, I think his last name is Senn, maybe I'm not saying it right ‑ I didn't see it in their pronunciation guide ‑ but he had 13 hits, so a lot of guys back, they're always good up front, they're giving up very little rushing yardage.  They did a year ago.  They're one of the premier defenses in the country a year ago.  Statistically a lot of those guys are back.
They didn't have one good game in an opener just like we had some numbers in the opening that can skew your stats, maybe that skews them.  I think their defense is really salty and really good.
Offensively similar but different in what they've done.  They've been a no‑huddle team, they've been a spread team, but now with Coach Babers coming in, a background from some Big 12 territory, was the coordinator at A&M.  His background goes back, he was a coordinator at A&M long before I was at Oklahoma, so he's got a great background of NFL and what he's doing, crossed some paths at Baylor, doing a lot of things that Baylor do, some things sometimes we try to emulate in our style, but they do it really, really well.
It starts with a really good running game, two backs that are pretty good, averaging over 100 a game.  Freddie Coppet, a guy we offered and wanted here and he chose to go there, so I don't want to hear the deal that they've got the MAC players we didn't want because there are guys on their team that we offered and recruited, yet they chose to go there, so I don't want to hear that stuff about it's a chip‑on‑the‑shoulder week.  Trust me, when you're playing here trying to earn your respect, there needs to be a big chip on our shoulder every week.
Two good running backs, starts with a good downhill running game.  They had an injury at quarterback and another Indiana kid, James Knapke from Luers comes in, great start, again, it's all a part of their system and package and it's well coached, and the running game gets going, high percentage throws, he's throwing it to some quality receivers.  One of the receivers, a guy we recruited, his brother played here my first year, was a quarterback for us.  So again, know a lot of their skill kids, like some of their young receivers particularly, and a veteran O‑line.
Kicking game is outstanding.  A year ago they blocked a punt for us for a touchdown.  Last week they blocked one for a touchdown.  Last week they returned one for a touchdown in the punting game, in the punt return game, and in week one they would have returned one except the guy tripped because he was in the open field gone, or he'd have had back‑to‑backs, so again, great returner back there.
We know the players, we've recruited them, we know the staff, we've got a lot of respect.  I still come back to I like our team and I like getting started with this team.  Really get started now for a great run.  So like where we're at.  Know we've got an awesome challenge.
Looking forward to seeing a lot of our fans in Northwest Indiana and our Ohio fans getting over there.  Like I said, again, we know this team well because whether it be the Ohio kids we recruit so hard, the Indiana kids, and then they go down and recruit Florida and Georgia just like we do, so it's a lot of kids you know, it's a great program.  I think it's going to be a great game.  I think it's a great opportunity for our team.  I'm sure it is for their program, and I know we're looking forward to the preparation and having a good week.

Q.  Offensively how ready do you figure defense will be because you're so used to practicing against that same kind of speed?
KEVIN WILSON:  Yeah, to some degree, and at the same time we have to kind of slow down a little bit in our practice because I really want our defense to get a lot better in their fundamentals and assignments and all that deal.  We have not majored in ourselves in being as hectic in our practice because we really want to see our defense make some strides with the new system and communication and all that.  We'll try to do it, and at the same time you're going to see it from week to week, it's a part of football.  Again, their attack is very, very sound, very aggressive, and has the ability to go fast.  I do think, though, with the way we're doing things with the referees, you're going to have a chance to always match up, and it just is what it is.  We do it so they'll see it some, but come down Saturday, our ability to communicate, get the calls, be sound in what we're doing, be aggressive in what we're doing and the nature of that offense is try to limit that, and we'll see how it goes Saturday.
But hopefully I'm sure we'll have a good preparation, plan, we'll work together and hopefully be in a good state to play, to have another good outing.  It'll be a much different outing for our defense, and looking forward to see how they rise to the occasion this week, not rise to the occasion but show up and take advantage of this opportunity they're going to see on Saturday.

Q.  You put up 42 points and 600 yards against them last year.  How much can you take from that tape with a different coach and a different system?
KEVIN WILSON:  Haven't looked at it.  We did back in the off‑season, but this week we're really studying their stuff from a year ago and trying to see where they're at and what they've shown in the first two weeks because even though you did it a year ago, they might have different personnel that you favor more or less, so maybe you blitz more, blitz less, play more man coverage or less, whatever.  Maybe you move your alignment more left.  We're really looking a lot at their thought process and their personnel.  We had a great week of preparation last year and knew they were a really good team.  It was a team that beat a BCS‑caliber team in Northern Illinois who knocked off Northwestern last week.  We knew that was a good team last year, and we prepared well and came out and played well, and we'll need to do the same thing.
It's a slightly different structure, so it's really hard to look at.  We've really consumed ourselves with the first two games because again, we're a different team, too.

Q.  Where do you see yourself in terms of offensively the passing game and being in sync with the quarterback and receivers?
KEVIN WILSON:  I think we're working hard at it.  We've been getting guys in the right spots, things we want to major in as you get defended, what's going to be there.  So I think we had a really good week a week ago without overdoing it but just with sense of urgency and communication, and we met a lot together, quarterbacks and receivers.  We do that quite a bit.  Hey, I'm seeing this as the quarterback, what are you seeing.  I want to throw it to you here.  Do you see the space, because sometimes in your passing game what you're doing is you have a concept, that concept is relative to space and where they're at and there's minor adjustments the way you settle and choke down and give your body or accelerate through to increase spaces for the quarterback.
So we've worked a lot together.  I thought we had good preparation last week.  We'll need it to be a lot better because we're going to play a defense this week is really going to commit to stop the run.  It's going to be tough sledding for the run game.

Q.  You mentioned Knapke.  How does he strike you as similar or different to Johnson, the kid that got hurt?
KEVIN WILSON:  Only one game, and against the opponent how much did they do.  You know, bigger.  The previous guy had decent size.  I think James is taller, stands in the pocket tall, very strong arm, can make the shots down the field and spit it out quickly with all the quick throws they do, get it in and out of his hand.  They didn't do as much in this first game running, and I don't know if it's because maybe they didn't need to because they just kind of took it right at him with their downhill stuff.  You do know that the quarterback run game will be a part of it.  They didn't major in that.
I know coming out of high school he had an injury to his knee.  It was at a part maybe they don't have as much depth.  I know at Oklahoma one year, a quarterback got hurt, all of a sudden we didn't want to get the guy hit as much.  They have other ways.  They didn't get away from their run game, they just didn't maybe do as much with him as they were doing with Matt, but maybe it's because they didn't need it.  The offense did not change significantly at all.
It was kind of the same stuff, stuff you see, and like I said, I enjoy watching good football, so I record or get coaches' copy of every Baylor game I can, every A&M game I can, every Oklahoma State game I can.  If you're good on offense you like to watch it and just like to study guys.
When you see their offense, you see a lot of things when I've studied Baylor the last couple years, some things we tried to do, although we don't truly run that offense, we run similar things, and like I said, I don't think it changed a lot with James.  I didn't see a lot of run but I don't know if they needed it and maybe didn't want to do it.  I'm sure we'll see a lot more of that, quarterback draw and zone read and power read as they do it.

Q.  Is that the kind of stuff they ran at Eastern Illinois basically?
KEVIN WILSON:  Yeah, exactly, and again, maybe a little bit different because maybe four wides or less, maybe more tight ends or less just based on what's going on, but it is that system, that package.  It's a great system, and of course Coach Babers has a strong background and bringing all the stuff with them, so they're in sync and they started off really, really good.  Even the first game they struggled a little bit the first quarter but when they settled down they put up good numbers, got rolling.  They'll be one of the better offenses not only in that conference but in the country this year.

Q.  Are you happy with the way the team approached the bye week, and are they mature enough to keep everything kind of level, on an even keel?
KEVIN WILSON:  Yeah, for us, because again, we saw‑‑ I think it's nice we have some guys that played that the offensive line could look and see, there's a lot of things that were far from clean in the run game.  You can take those numbers and say, look at this.  I think Tevin would tell you some things that he missed he really needs to work on.  I know Nate and the receivers for sure, and defensively we had some 3rd down opportunities, we had some score zone opportunities, we had chances to get some turnovers, we didn't.  Had our hands on the ball.
Same in the kicking game, so I really like this team.  I think they're listening, and again, we didn't over‑practice by any means.  We specifically showed some things that we thought needed to be corrected.  We addressed it, let's move forward, and I like the way they practiced a ton.  We had a couple mental days where we didn't do much.  We had midweek a couple physical days, we did some light work at the end of the week to polish us and really get us ready for this game week, but I really liked last week's work from our players.  I think they're buying into the way we're doing it.

Q.  Do you follow the same routine on road games that you always do, or do you change back and forth?  I wonder if your plans for this road game are any different than what you've done in previous seasons?
KEVIN WILSON:  Kind of the same.  Everybody is different from where you've been and what you do.  We do what we can here and then it's just based on travel time and game time.  The earlier the kick on Saturday maybe the earlier you try to get there.  We're very fortunate in our sport that we actually probably miss, I think of all athletic sports, the fewest class days due to travel.  This year with our administration we need to have our fall break on an away game instead of one where we'd have a better crowd here, but two, that's a day we're traveling, we're missing class, let's make that‑‑ we don't get that day off as far as we're kind of working and doing our stuff.  We miss very few class days.  We come in and do our work in the mornings.  We don't go super early, let them rest a little bit more, sleep, steal a little bit of time, get started 8:00, 8:30 and go to about 11:00.  Typically we go to class from there, and if it's a travel day it's just are we getting on a plane.
This week we're just bussing to Bowling Green.  It's a four‑and‑a‑half‑hour drive, so we'll hit the road about 12:30, 1:00, 1:30 and get up there about 5:00 or 6:00.  Home games we go to a movie.  On the road we let them watch a movie in their room.  We'll have a quick team meeting.  We do not do a lot of last‑minute Friday night work with the team.  I think that shows a lot of stress.  I think that shows a lot of worry.
I remember at North Carolina one time, Carolina was playing Duke, and I saw Coach Smith driving his car to the game because he didn't want to be with the team because he got nervous.  He wanted to let them go and he'd show up when they were ready to play.  Sometimes as a coach a lot of times in warm‑ups you don't want to be around them in warm‑ups.
When you go to see the basketball, (inaudible) you don't want to watch them shoot, you don't want them hot.  It's not superstitions or routines, it's just things you do.  I'm not a big last‑minute deal.  We kind of do our work at the first part of the week.  We front‑end load it, then we talk a lot about Thursday or Friday mentally what our team needs to do and from a rest, nutrition what our team needs to do to peak on Saturday.
The only thing we've changed this year is we've changed a little bit of our work on Thursday and our work on Friday and what we're doing Thursday and what we're trying Friday to try to get our team in a fresher mode.
We've tweaked some things, whether it be lifting and how we practice and what we're doing to hopefully get our guys feeling fresher and faster on those Saturdays.

Q.  Do you do slightly less on Thursday and Friday?
KEVIN WILSON:  We're doing a little bit less on Thursdays, a little bit more on Fridays than we used to do, just kind of to recover from the practice and then build up for the game, so kind of just talked with some people, flipping it around, we didn't change our time but just from the physical activity and what we're doing, things to jump‑start your body and not be dead‑legged or mentally tired.  We're talking a lot to our team about their Thursday night habits and things they need to sacrifice when Thursday night is a great college night around town.  Hey, we're talking six weeks here in a row we need to give that Thursday night up because what's in your body Thursday night, dinner on Thursday night, you're playing with Saturday at noon more than what you put in your body on Friday, so we're talking a lot about things we need to do.
To me when you say winning habits, it's not practice.  There's winning habits in your sleep and what you're eating through that week that helps you become a winner, and those are things we're working hard to communicate and have our team embrace, and I think they are.

Q.  I know you mentioned earlier last week about wanting to get Nate and some of the young receivers more in sync with one another.  How much closer are they to being more in sync?
KEVIN WILSON:  Well, I wouldn't say it's the young ones, I'd say it's all of them.  Shane is playing outside so to me he's still a little bit new out there.  Our tight ends are new, so to me it's just kind of across the board.  And there's a fine line, we talk about trying to stay fresh so we've got to run our routes as fast as we can, we've got to do a lot of it to get good at it but if you do too much you get tired and dead‑legged and you're slow.
If we practice too much, we practice at a pace that's not game speed, and then the quarterback goes to throw the swing route and all of a sudden he's behind the tailback or throwing the curl route and he's not getting out on time.  Sometimes it's really doing less reps and doing them faster and at game speed and make sure that the guys are‑‑ we've really tried to concentrate hard to make sure that the quarterback is throwing the balls to the guys he needs to throw to, so he's getting timing with guys he throws to.  In other words we don't want to throw a go ball to a freshman we're red shirting if Nate is throwing it.  Throw that with one of the young quarterbacks.  That kid needs that work, but I don't want that to be Nate's shot.  I want that to be with Stoner or with Shane Wynn, one of the guys that's playing, so it's just a little bit more how you practice it, and we've worked hard at it and I think we're gaining, but hopefully we'll keep gaining throughout the year, every day, every week.

Q.  Is it just development of you as a head coach, those kind of areas to where you recognize maybe we change who he's throwing that ball to?
KEVIN WILSON:  I don't know if I've changed so much as much as the first time just trying to see who's in.  Now you know they're in because they're here because some of their buddies chose not to be and went by the wayside.  There's good buy‑in.  Initially sometimes you're doing things hard enough just to figure out are you in or out.  You know, a guy gave an analogy the other day on a scale of 1 to 10, are you in or out.  He goes, no it's either yes or no.  Did you marry your wife on a scale of 1 to 10 as a 7?  No, it's a 0 or a 1 and you married her, and let's go.  She's the one.
So like with this team, these guys are all in where before maybe we were a 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and now it's like, hey, you guys are in, so now you're just changing some thoughts in practice.  Now, that being said, you cannot lose your physical toughness, and I like the way we started.  I think we are so much stronger, and we're not as strong as you need to be, but we are so much physically stronger, that's why we have the rush numbers we needed, the rush defense we needed, we had fewer mistakes, we had fewer penalties.  We're one of the fewest penalized teams, we only had four in the first game as a team.  When you're strong and you're tough, when you get tired is when you make mistakes and you grab a guy and you hold or you flinch and jump offsides.  So as we have developed our team physically with, number one, program development and physical maturity, that being said, it's a different way you practice because your team is more‑‑ a part of the way we practiced was to physically try to mature them through practice.
You don't‑‑ there is no off‑season.  You're always maturing.  Well, part of year one and year two was maturing the team.  We're still maturing now, but physically we're in a place where it's a lot more mental maturity and timing and being in rhythm and sync than it is physical smashing heads all the time.  We've got to smash enough to hit because you're a boxer, man, if you don't get on the ring and do those gut shots and jabs and if you can't take punches and you can't deliver, you can't play this game.
So there's got to be some contact.  We had some contact last week, but shoot, first year we might have went a two‑a‑day on Labor Day Monday.  This week we took it off and just watched video, and game two‑‑ we practiced hard on Wednesday and Thursday, gave them a little time to recover from that preseason deal.  Had a lot of learning on Sunday and Monday, learn from the game, see things you're doing.  Now let's come out Wednesday and Thursday and really go hard, and then we kind of polished a little bit Friday and Saturday and now we're into game week.

Q.  After this weekend it seems like the national perception of the Big Ten is a probably a little down.  Just curious your thoughts on this past weekend?
KEVIN WILSON:  Yeah, I'm not into‑‑ we've got to carry the Big Ten banner because we're a Big Ten team, but my only concern is always about us, and I want to do our part to continue to try to raise our part and value the Big Ten.  I know we've got great coaches, great players, and, in a quote, it's one game, when a guy or team wins or loses.  I like the fact we're getting bigger games.  We'll be playing one this week, playing a championship team, then we go to Missouri, play another high end team.  I like the fact our league is playing good games.  We've got to continue to do so.  You need to win those games, but you've got to keep playing them.
Those are some decent contests.  I didn't sit there and study them.  I tried to watch them like a fan and just watch it, but I didn't take it to mean as a good day or a bad‑‑ to me it was just an Indiana day to me, and we did our work Saturday morning.  We brought our kids in Saturday morning, did some work with them and got them out of here right after lunchtime so they could go watch some games and have the afternoon to themselves.
We started, I think we had 111 plays in the stadium Saturday ourselves, so we tried to do it like‑‑ that was kind of a mini‑game day without smashing heads and playing an opponent.

Q.  Was Saturday good evidence of how good the Mid‑American Conference is?
KEVIN WILSON:  Well, I go back, to me, I sit here today because in 1995 we went to Evanston, Illinois, and beat what turned out to be the Big Ten champs because those guys went 10‑1 that year but Coach McCullough's team as a running back beat that team, so MAC has always had‑‑ it goes back to the style, it goes back to those guys, shoot, Coach Mallory coached at Bowling Green, did he not?  I mean, so it's really about Bowling Green.  That's a winning program, and I say that because again, where we're at, we recruit those kids.  All those kids on their team we official visit, they've been here, they've been to camp, we've been to their schools.  So I think it's a heck of a game for them, for us, and we've got to travel there.  That doesn't happen a lot, a Big Ten team going in there, but to me we've got some fans in Northwest Indiana, so it's going to be closer for them Fort Wayne guys to get over there.  We've got a lot of fans in Ohio that are IU guys, so we'll have a great group of cream and crimson guys in the stands.
But to me as a coach, I don't look as much about I want the Big Ten to do well, but I really want us to do well, and I know Coach Babers would say the same thing.  He's more excited about Bowling Green and his opportunity this week than representing the MAC.  We represent our league, but at the end of the day you really represent your team and your institution, and that's what I'm looking forward to.  That's why I say, we looked at Saturday as a day for us, and we worried about us and had a little practice work and then let the guys go watch some games, and we're going to move forward this week with what I think‑‑ I thought they were a tremendous team last year.  That's why they're the conference champions, they won, and we had a great week and we had to play at a high level.  Let's go back to that game, too.  600 yards.  I remember 1st and goal getting stuffed twice, had the ball inside the 10 and didn't score.  I remember a crappy first quarter, a blocked punt that made national TV as one of the bloopers of the week in the 10‑10 game, and then we kind of got on a roll and it snowballed, no different than what happened to them in their first game; team they played got on a roll and it snowballed.
I mean, that happens in a game.  That doesn't mean you're a bad team.  Last year is last year.  Like we said, this is completely (inaudible) again, I respect these guys, it's going to be a tremendous game.  I'm looking forward to it.

Q.  Do you want them watching Bowling Green and Missouri?  Would you rather the coaching staff present those than have them watch other games?
KEVIN WILSON:  I think the more they watch the better.  I get mad at them all the time if they're not watching the Big Ten Network.  If I go in the lunchroom and it's not on the football game, I'm going to put it on.  I'm not sitting there watching‑‑ I love baseball but not this time of year.  I don't care about watching SportsCenter for the 40th time in a row that morning as they keep cycling.  We'll put a taped game on, and let's watch football, learn football.  It's a great classroom, and you can Google up all the time.  Our guys, too, we've got iPads and stuff, and we're trying to get our guys, too, to understand, as you watch football and learn football, it's better to watch it as a group so it's better for three or four of you guys to get together and talk about situations, man, that was a bad penalty; man, look, it just cost those guys, and the kids are talking about it instead of you just watching the game by yourself.
To me the greatest thing these guys got is with all the technology to have a chance to learn and to watch.  We're asking them to watch games in a group and study tapes in group instead of individual because the game is played as a group, and the more we combine those guys together, I think the better.
Again, I like them watching everybody.  I expect them to watch Monday Night Football tonight, and as soon as they're done studying, I'd watch that game because I'm going to be asking them tomorrow what happened in the game, and if a guy don't tell me what's going on, look, what's up with you, it's Monday Night Football, (singing Heavy Action) da‑da‑da‑dum, I mean, don't you guys have that on your phone?  It's Monday Night Football.  It's one of the greatest nights ever.  Thursday night?  We're going to tell them Thursday, here's who's playing Thursday night.  Watch this.
We put on our Friday travel schedule, here's the game tonight on TV, watch these guys play, learn football.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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