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September 23, 2014

Tracy Claeys

THE MODERATOR:  Questions for Coach Claeys.

Q.  You've seen Gardner the last couple years.  What are your thoughts?
COACH CLAEYS:  He's an awfully good player.  They've won a lot of games because of him.  In our opinion, in evaluating the tape, over the last two years, they've lost some good offensive linemen.  They're not playing quite as well up front as they have in the past.
They got a true freshman starting at the one tackle.  Like anything, I think the quarterback takes too much blame when you lose as well as they probably get too much credit when you win.

Q.  Do you prepare for two quarterbacks, though?
COACH CLAEYS:  It's just hard.  He's thrown the ball 20 times.  You go off their scheme in general, what they've done to try to attack you the last couple years.  They hired a new offensive coordinator.  The changes that he's made, but not specific quarterback‑wise.  We just don't have enough video to do that.

Q.  You have 13 takeaways.  How pleased are you with that and do you think it's something that could be a season‑long trend?
COACH CLAEYS:  Hope so.  It always has been the case.  I mean, the plus‑minus ratio of turnovers has more to do with winning and losing than how many turnovers you actually create.  If you create turnovers, the same time your offense has to keep from turning the ball over.
We keep track of turnovers obviously, but it's still a game of points, not letting people score.  But we're very pleased with it so far with where we're at.  We've made big plays in the games.

Q.  How did you get the secondary started on Saturday?
COACH CLAEYS:  We got aggressive on a double move, got beat deep on a double move.  Then on the one blitz, they broke the screen on us.
Besides that, I was very pleased with the way we played.  The plays we made, could have played better on third down.  I think we could have played better on third down, got off the field a little sooner.  So it wasn't one of our better games on third downs, but overall, the end result, our kids made some plays they needed to.

Q.  (Question regarding third down percentage.)
COACH CLAEYS:  I think everybody will tell you, you want to win two out of every three.  You want to be successful 70%.  If you can do that, games go pretty good for you.
I didn't look at where it's at right now.  I just look game by game.  I know we didn't get it this last game.  Right or wrong, we look at stats two different ways:  the score at the end of the game and who is in.
We feel like of that, you know, is that half the games we've gotten to where we wanted to be on third downs.  Really three of the four we have.  TCU, they were two of 14 or something like that on third down.  Other big plays we need to stop there.
Three out of the four I think we've played well on third down.  This was the first one.  Then again, you go back a year ago, we played terrible on third down versus Michigan.  Couldn't get them off the field.  We have to play much better on third down against them.

Q.  You said partly because of freshmen you've had to play, you've been making more adjustments than you want to do.  How do you feel going into Big Ten play?
COACH CLAEYS:  Actually real good.  The D‑line kids up front have gotten better each week.  We've been able to move them around more than I thought we could.
We probably played more nickel so far this year than what we ever have with an extra DB, but that's because of the offenses that we're seeing.  We're seeing hardly any two‑backs at all.  Everything is one‑back.  I think we continue to get better and we're looking forward to getting the Big Ten started.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH CLAEYS:  There's just enough differences in there.  But I think anytime we watch tape, and most coaches do, they watch how people get pressure on other teams, if there's anything that fits in there.  At the same time you can't change your whole defense each week.
If there's one or two things they did you think you can get taught in a week, it fits into what you're doing...  Utah did a good job of keeping the ball in front of them for the most part and a great job of keeping pressure on him.

Q.  How good a runner is Gardner?
COACH CLAEYS:  His is good.  Couldn't tackle him a year ago.  Kept getting away from us.  Hopefully we'll do a better job of keeping him in the pocket, a little better job of coverage on third down.

Q.  Seems like you have done a good job so far against explosive plays.  How do you feel about it?
COACH CLAEYS:  I think we can play better.  Our goal is one or less a game.  You try to hold them to one big play or less.  We haven't been able to do that.
We have to continue to keep the ball in front of us a little bit.  I think we can still eliminate some big plays.

Q.  Do they look better running the ball?  Derrick Green lost some weight.  Moving around a little better.
COACH CLAEYS:  Yeah, like I say, with the kids they lost a year ago, I think that fits into them a little bit better to try to run the ball a little bit more.
But then, like I say, the problems, in my opinion, watching them is when they've gotten the obvious throwing situations is some protection issues more so than the quarterback.

Q.  (Question regarding turnovers.)
COACH CLAEYS:  I think that's fair to say, yes.

Q.  What did you learn from the game last year?  The score wasn't indicative.
COACH CLAEYS:  The last two years we played them, when we played them here two years ago, there were about five plays you take away we're in it till the end.  Last year there was about seven of them.  Six of those seven were in the second half.
We just did not compete as well and make some plays in the second half.  But we felt like that game should have been 7‑7 at half.  We ended up being down 14‑7 at the half.
You feel like you can compete with them, but at the same time if you don't make the plays you need to make on third down, it comes to the Big Ten season, keep the ball in front of you, everybody is capable of scoring a lot of points.
They have some really good offensive players, they really do, skill‑wise.  Hopefully our guys up front can control the game.

Q.  Are they as good or better than last year?
COACH CLAEYS:  I think skill‑wise and runningback‑wise, all of that is as good as it was a year ago.  Like I say, having to start a true freshman on the offensive line, another kid who I think is maybe a redshirt freshman, they're awfully young up front.  I don't think that's happened very often at Michigan.  They usually have linemen to where it's always upperclassmen.
I think the experience on the offensive line right now is what is giving them a little bit of trouble.  Skill‑wise they're as good as they've been in the past.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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