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September 23, 2014

Darrell Hazell

COACH HAZELL:¬† Recap on the Southern Illinois game, I thought our guys did a good job in executing on both sides of the ball.¬† Came out with a lot of energy and did what we had to do early in the game to really get ahead of that situation coming off of the Notre Dame game.¬† You are always worried about a drop‑off in intensity level, but there wasn't one.¬† When we came out of the locker room, I thought our guys were starting to figure out how to do things the proper way.¬† Obviously there are a lot of areas of improvement that we can work on, that we need to get better at, but really pleased with that win.
Take a look forward at Iowa, it's a team that's been well coached for years and years and years.  I have a lot of admiration for their staff and how they do things there.  They don't do a lot of different things, but they want you to beat yourself.  They're not flashy, they're going to lineup where you know they're going to lineup; they're going to run the ball where you know they're going to run the ball, and they're going to play great special teams.  So we're looking forward to getting back to work today on the field and having a great football game on Saturday.

Q.  As you look at this Iowa team, are you prepared for their quarterback situation?
COACH HAZELL:  I'm not sure what they're going to do at the quarterback situation.  They both look very similar as you watch the tape.  They were 15 of 16, but they throw it kind of the same, they make the same decisions.
I think we just got to prepare for one of them, whichever one that is in.¬† They're very similar, so it's not like you're preparing for a running guy or a drop‑back, back.¬† I think they're similar in their actions.

Q.  (Away from mic.)
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah, you're going to see more of Keyonte coming out this Saturday, going to start Akeem Hunt and play Keyonte as well as Raheem, but he did a nice job for us, came in there and gave us a lot of energy, very physical, and I think his progress is has shown in the last few weeks.

Q.  The decision to start Akeem, what was the factor there?
COACH HAZELL:  I think we have to get the ball in his hands a little bit more.  I think he needs a few more touches and I think the touches that he's had, he's been very productive.  Obviously the one fumble against Notre Dame hurt us but other than that he's been running hard with the football.

Q.  Your improved pass rush, what is the key to sustaining that the rest of the way?
COACH HAZELL:  I think the biggest thing for us down front is we're able to play seven people up there and those guys are rotating in, four on the outside, three on the inside and those guys are staying fresh and they're able to get penetration up the field.

Q.  This would be a Homecoming victory against a Big Ten opponent, put you above 500 with this win.  Talk about the significance of how important this game is for your program.
COACH HAZELL:  This is a big game for our program for a lot of different reasons.  I think being able to play a good opponent in our stadium and play well and, you know, try to get the desired outcome, I think that's huge for our program.  I think we're playing with a lot more confidence right now and they feel pretty good about themselves.

Q.¬† Along those lines, Iowa has‑‑ they're 3‑1 but they've shown some moxy late in games.¬† Pittsburgh could have beaten them but they found a way late in the game.¬† That's an intangible, but there is a knack for that, isn't there?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, absolutely.  When you take a veteran team and a veteran coaching staff, they've been through those things so many times so they don't panic and even in the late games when they are done by a lot they continue to run the football because that's what they do best.  I think that says a lot about their staff and who they are.

Q.  Conversely, you guys, I think, in your last 90 minutes of second half football, you had two touchdowns, and I think at the end of the game last week you said you've got to find a way to energize the offense.  In watching the film and some of the things that you have seen, can you pinpoint anything as to why maybe your offense has been pretty good in the first half and spun its wheels in the second half?
COACH HAZELL:  Last week's game we had offensively two possessions in the third quarter, and we dropped the ball and fumbled the ball, so there was a lack of execution in that third quarter.  We've got to execute better coming out of locker room in the second half.  I think that's what it comes down to.
It's nothing more than guys making those plays that we need to have made.  Same thing happened in the Notre Dame game, driving, hit a screen early, a couple of first downs, and then we stubbed our toe in that first series in the second half.

Q.  I would assume as a staff it is a point of focus this week, to get them out of that locker room with a little bit more success, a point of emphasis, going into this week?
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah, I talked to the team about it on Sunday, after the game Saturday and again on Sunday, and we will revisit that again today, and we have something special for practice.  It's a little bit different thing that can potentially help with that situation.  I don't want to blow it out of proportion because it's about execution, it's not about anything other than execution, but definitely we need to address that issue.

Q.  Along those lines, you know, you talked about Iowa can eat up big chunks of the clock if they get that running game going.  You're going to have to be efficient because you maybe won't get as many possessions as you would against a team that's going to throw it 75 times.
COACH HAZELL:  I think you're dead on when you say that.  It's about being precise with the possessions that you have.  I think you have to be efficient, and the big thing for this football game is you can't turn it over, because you will not be in the game in the end if you don't.  We have to make sure we're smart and making good decisions as we call plays offensively and not call them too crazy.

Q.  Break down Iowa's offense for me, if you could.
COACH HAZELL:¬† Well, last two weeks they buttoned it down, went to two tight end sets, two back sets and running a zone.¬† They're going to run league zone, split zone, zone with one back and play action passes.¬† I was watching the film and I was thinking about when I was back at Amy because they're going to throw it 8 to 10 times a game, but those throws that they're going to make are down the field throws and they're waiting for you to have poor discipline so they can hit those guys wide open off those play‑action passes.¬† So we have to do a great job of creating penetration defensively and making sure we have eyes in the back end.

Q.  I think the last two opponents have averaged 3 and a half yards per carry against your defense, and they average 5.  Where are you in terms of trying to stop the run defense?
COACH HAZELL:  I think our seven guys up front are doing a great job of eliminating those gaps and also you're seeing No. 10 and No. 35 come downhill and run through those open alley, and if we can continue to play physical with John and Ryan and with the two ends, keep knocking people back, it allows them as linebackers to run free and make open tackles.

Q.  What about Iowa's defense?  What do you expect to see from them?
COACH HAZELL:  They're a coverage team and their whole principle is about coverage, not about the front, about taking guys out of the box and playing coverage so you can't hit the big passes, and they rally to the ball.  They have two low safeties coming downhill, and we're going to have to do things to exploit those things.

Q.  Do you feel overall like your team from a line of scrimmage perspective on both sides of the ball is a in a pretty good place right now, stacking up against the styles of play you will see from here on out?
COACH HAZELL:  I think we're much better, we're improving by the day, by the minute.  We need to keep gettin' better, but I think we're playing much better team defense, team offensive line play; I think that's where we're making the strides as you can see week in and week out.

Q.  I think your average touchdown drive is 44 yards.  Is that more a credit to the offense for taking advantage of opportunities or more credit to the defensive special teams for putting you in those situations?
COACH HAZELL:  I think we always talk about playing off each other, and defense creating turnovers and the offense being opportunistic with those turnovers and that's about playing football.  If we can continue to do that we will be in good shape.

Q.  After the SIU game, Sean Robinson spoke about the closeness of the defense.  Does the defense seem to be playing with a passion for their teammates?
COACH HAZELL:  I think so.  Those guys meet all the time together now and they understand how important it is to play for one another and how important their assignment is within the scheme of the defense.  I think they're finally starting to learn where their help is coming from.

Q.  What are your thoughts on Keyonte's performance from the weekend, and how does he fit into the game plan?
COACH HAZELL:  Keyonte did a great job, came in and ran the ball hard, broke some tackles, gave us a little bit of energy in that last drive or two drives that we needed someone to be able to run the football and take time off the clock.  He will have a big role for us this Saturday.

Q.  What'sDanny's health like and what's the status of this week's game?
COACH HAZELL:  Danny was sore yesterday, probably couldn't run yesterday but he says he feels a lot better today so we will find out at practice time how well he's dropping back and can move around on the end.  He got stepped on and rolled at the same time.

Q.  What are the biggest concerns this Iowa team presents that you haven't had time to prep for in the season?
COACH HAZELL:  Obviously they're good up front offensive linewise.  They run the ball and they run the ball no matter what the situation is.  We have to do a good job of stopping the run.  That's always the concern when you play a good Iowa football team.

Q.  When you're now done with nonconference play, how would you evaluate your team now going into the Big Ten?
COACH HAZELL:  I think we're improving.  Obviously we stubbed our toe a few weeks ago but I think we're improving in every phase.  That's the key.  As long as we can continue to get better in every element I think that will suit us well as we continue to move forward.

Q.  What do you like about your team right now?
COACH HAZELL:  The closeness.  These guys enjoy being around each over.  They're hungry, still, and I think they're understanding what is starting to win football games.  The lack of turnovers, and the lack of penalties, and they're starting to become a little smarter each and every week.

Q.  You said initially there are a lot of areas to improve in.  Can you name a couple that are topping your priority list now?
COACH HAZELL:  I think you have to eliminate all those penalties, if you can.  I'm not sure if that's possible but we will certainly work that way.
Also, I think there are situations where we need to continue to make plays and that's putting yourself in the right position and being able to make those plays.¬† The game is 25‑3 or 25‑nothing, we have a chance to go for a pick six, those are the plays that put the game out of reach right now and we gotta make those plays.

Q.  I don't know if you've looked at it overall, but how do you feel you stack up in the west division now because you get that opponent and you're starting that play right now?
COACH HAZELL:  Not at all.  You look at the opponent by who they are on the schedule and that's all you do.  You say who is your next opponent and you break down the film, figure out what are the best ways to attack these people in the three phases, and that's all you look at.

Q.  Why do you think Ryan Watson has had success?
COACH HAZELL:  I think a lot of it has to do with him being able to come in off the bench fresh.  He's quick off the ball, he plays with a great pad level and he's relentless.

Q.  Were those qualities you saw in him last season?
COACH HAZELL:  I can't say that I did.  I think he's taken a huge step between last season and this season.  You know, he's one of those guys that walks into the staff room and meeting room with a big 'ol smile on his face and he just loves to get better.

Q.¬† Was it a conversation that you or Greg had with him after last year that said, we need you to‑‑ because I know you've had the that with a couple other guys.
COACH HAZELL:  I think what happens is when you have guys that leave that room and graduate, naturally they're going to step up, and I think that's what happened to Ryan.

Q.  This is your selfie helmet home week.  What do you think of that idea?
COACH HAZELL:  I think it's a great idea, it's different, cutting edge, the marketing people did a good job of putting it out there and making sure we could get people's faces on our helmets, so I'm anxious to see it.

Q.  What jerseys are you wearing?
COACH HAZELL:  Gold, black, gold.

Q.  Is your face on the helmet?
COACH HAZELL:  My face is not on the helmet.

Q.¬† What is your message to‑‑ you have a lot of guys that haven't played in the Big Ten, haven't played the style, what they're going to face the next 8 weeks.¬† What's your message to them?¬† How do you prepare them for what they're going to come against?
COACH HAZELL:  It's a different level of football; that's the message that you have to bring to the team.  It's about physical football play and being able to exchange blows for four quarters and find a way to win the game at the end of the game, and that's what Big Ten football is all about.

Q.  From a physical standpoint, do you feel like you're much more prepared for what you'll see with this group of players as opposed to what happened last year?

Q.  In trying to stop the run, you've had success the last two weeks using a lot of five defensive backs and not as much as your base defense.  How do you attack this week and the rest of the Big Ten season knowing what you're going to see?
COACH HAZELL:  That's the tricky part.  We have been playing so much with those five defensive backs, four defensive linemen, two linebackers, when you get better athletes on the field, now you gotta say, okay, where do you sacrifice?  Do you get that extra big guy in, by taking the secondary guy out?  There is going to be a blend of base personnel as well as corner personnel this week and making sure the right package is in the game and the right key for us.

Q.  Iowa's offensive line obviously pretty good, but the left tackle, Brandon Scherff, evaluate his play and how much he's an anchor for them.
COACH HAZELL:  He's really special.  He's a guy that's fast, quick, powerful, he bends, and you can tell he's a really smart football player in how he blocks guys.  He knows how to get it done.  He's a really good football player.

Q.¬† It was ten months ago, Iowa was here in your home stadium and they won the game by 20‑some points.¬† In the big picture of things, can you look where you are at from a measuring standpoint, just ten months later of how you stack up against Iowa and looking ahead to Illinois next week?
COACH HAZELL:  It's very interesting.  I went back yesterday and as you go through your film study to watch last year's game, we weren't very good last year and just watching that game.  We're a lot better now as a football team than where we were ten months ago.

Q.  Does it have to show up on Saturday?
COACH HAZELL:  Absolutely!  It always has to show up on Saturday, and it will show up on Saturday.

Q.  In evaluating your offensive line the last couple of days, did you find out anything about who you like better where and what changes you might make on Saturday?
COACH HAZELL:  We're going to start the same way we started last Saturday in terms of the tackle rotation.  Jordan Roos played his best game since he's been a Boilermaker, Cooper played extremely well, and, you know, for the first time this week, being out there I thought he did a nice job, I really did.
Obviously there are a lot of technical things that he can improve upon, but I thought he did a good job.  Cermin played exceptionally well, so those guys had great performances, but we need to keep getting better at those positions across the board.

Q.¬† Do you foresee yourself using a similar percentage of snaps between the three tackles, sort of going forward for the‑‑ did you want to be able to have just five?¬† What do you think?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Last week we ran 72 offensive gradable plays and I think they were 56 to 61 plays in terms of those guys getting reps so it was pretty balanced.¬† If they continue to play at the same level, which hopefully gets better, I have no problems, no issues, doing a three‑man rotation in the tackle spot.¬† If one guy all of the sudden excel and he's clear and above the best guy then I think you go with that guy and rotate the other two guys.

Q.  What about coming out in the second half?  Changing things up routinewise on Saturday, or are you not to that point yet?
COACH HAZELL:  No, I don't think we're to that point.  I think you have to constantly deliver the message that we have to be a team that executes in the third quarter.  That will be one of the keys to this victory is to perform in the third quarter.
We're going to do something, like I said, earlier, today different on the practice field.  We're going to take a little break and have the coaches talk to them as if it was halftime and come out and respond after that.

Q.  Is Danny Anthrop turning into a pretty good big play receiver for you guys?
COACH HAZELL:¬† I would say so.¬† The kid has done a great job for us.¬† He just loves the intensity level and we love his productivity.¬† He flies around the field, throws his body around‑‑ he plays as hard outside of his body all the time and we love his effort.¬† If we can continue to get better that's going to help us.

Q.  When you look at him, he doesn't necessarily look like a home run threat necessarily, not super big or tall.  What is it?  His quickness or something about him that has allowed him to go down the field?
COACH HAZELL:¬† He has top‑end speed and he has enough quickness when he's covered to get open.¬† He still has to work against press coverage but he can accelerate off the catch, that's probably his biggest attribute.¬† And we called for one third down route, and his first two steps out of the ground he exploded out of the cut.

Q.  Your kick coverage team has not been the best the last couple of weeks and they don't rank very well nationally.  Are you seeing anything from a technique point of view that is causing you to have issues there?
COACH HAZELL:  That's one of the areas of improvement we need to get better very quickly at.  We're not kicking the ball well, that's where it starts.  Also we've been out of our lanes and missed tackles.  If you miss a tackle it's like playing with one less guy on kickoff coverage, because you have a line of defense and the kicker and the two other guys, the safeties, so you might as well two a guy off the field.  We got to do a better job, and we talked about those things this morning at a kick meeting, so we can make our adjustments.

Q.  MacDougall seems like he's been up and down.  The wind has played a factor, but at times it seems as if he has no issue at all getting into the end zone and other times it does look like he has an issue.
COACH HAZELL:  That's accurate.  When he's kicking with the wind he looks relax and had drives the ball out of the end zone.  When he's kicking against the wind, he tightens up and thinks he has to drive the ball, and the ball hits the ground.  That first kick was a squib kick, was not supposed to be, so he has to relax through the ball regardless of the weather conditions.

Q.  You look at Ryan Russell's statistics, a sack and one tackle for a loss.  Do you feel like he's playing maybe better than what that has shown or evaluate him through the first third of the season.
COACH HAZELL:  He definitely is playing better than his numbers are showing, he's getting a lot of push up the field.  I went into see Ryan last week, I think it was Thursday, and gave him a little hint as to how to get to the quarterback maybe a hair quicker and hopefully he can use that as we go forward, but I think he's playing pretty well.  Obviously you would like his numbers to be higher but I think those things will happen as we move through the season.  This week, move through the running ball he's not going to have those big numbers.  Sack numbers and TFL numbers will be hard to get, but he's playing pretty well right now.

Q.¬† On the running backs, when you look at‑‑ Hunt had a huge fumble against Notre Dame and he stayed in.¬† Mostert had two fumbles.¬† Is it the number of fumbles?
COACH HAZELL:  We're looking at productivity, and they all know that.  I've talked to them individually we need to get more fire in their belly in that room and more productivity out of that group.

Q.  Over the first couple of weeks you talked about the vertical passing game and taking the next step.  Do you see the strides there that you guys are getting better at that?
COACH HAZELL:  I thought so, last week for sure.  I thought we pushed the ball down the field, we made plays and pushed the ball down the field.  I think we're going to have to do that more and more to keep people off us.  The second outcut we threw or called to Yancy on our sideline, I don't know if you remember or not, they were sitting on the route.  The corner never buzzed him, so that's why you have to push the ball down the field to keep people back off you.  We will continue to do that and make sure we pick and choose our times this weekend so we don't put our tackles in jeopardy, but we will continue to throw the ball down the field to get those chunk plays.

Q.¬† And DeAngelo has had a couple of good weeks back‑to‑back, Notre Dame and SUI.¬† Do you feel like he's getting back into the rhythm he was in last year?
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah, but I would still love him to play at a higher level.  He's got to play more effective in the passing game and nor aggressive in the run game.  He missed a block on the flag they picked up on Danny Anthrop's call, calling for pass interference, which was not a bad call, he made the right call, but we got to make it happen.  I want him to play at a high level in every game, slowing the passing game.

Q.  With Anthrop, that one touchdown gets called back and he falls over on the other one.  Did you say anything to him on the play where he just stumble and falls down and it could have been another touchdown.
COACH HAZELL:¬† That was a great play.¬† The wind picked that ball up‑‑ you can see it on the film, the wind picked up the ball and sent it to the right and he adjusted and I thought it was a great play.

Q.  Did you notice him sticking his nose in there?  I know against Notre Dame he gets into it with the defensive tackle and flopped over into the end zone.  I don't know if you saw it on film, but a flop there.  He's not afraid to get his nose in there.
COACH HAZELL:  Has no regard for his body and hopefully he will last the season but he will crack an end, crack a safety and really physical in the run game, and that's what you love about the kid.

Q.  Are you pleasantly surprised with the numbers he's put up so far?  Are those numbers expected?
COACH HAZELL:  No idea what his numbers are but he's being productive.
THE MODERATOR:  Appreciate your time, Coach. 

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