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November 25, 2014

Jerry Kill

COACH KILL:  Well, I think our football team, coaches, our school, our fans are excited about the situation we're in.  The kids have worked hard to get where we're at and get in a win in Lincoln, which is a difficult place to get a win, put ourself in a situation where we said we want to be at the beginning of the year.
And we've been able to overcome a lot from the injury status to a lot of things.  And our kids have been resilient.  They've played very, very hard.  We made some mistakes along the line here and there, but it's never been an effort.
We're going to have to have another outstanding effort.  We're going to have to play very hard.  It will be the fourth game in a row that we're going to have to play very physical football.
And we've got to get our kids, get them into cold tubs and get those legs and shoulders ready to go.  And then they're a challenge because they run the three four scheme on defense, No. 1 team in the country, I believe, on defense.  That speaks for itself.
And then you've got the guys on the other team playing it.  We've got our work cut out for us, but we're looking forward to the challenge.

Q.  Jerry, you've had a lot of success wherever you've been.  This is the biggest game since you've been here and in the big ten.  What does this game mean to you?
A.Well, I think the big thing it means to all of us in the program, and it's just a stepping‑stone to where we want to get.
We came in four years ago, I said it would take seven years to be truly get where we wanted to be.  People would have to be patient.  We're fortunate, things are moving along, a little bit faster than we thought.  That's a lot to do with the kids.  And you win with players.
And our kids have listened and we built them in the weight room and everybody has done their part.  And so it's a good step to be in.  I said, we're still not where we need to be.  We're not where we want to be, and we've got to continue to recruit and get the program where it needs to be.
But certainly the situation we put ourself in this year certainly helps the recruiting part of it, no question about that.  And then the other part it helps our school.  It helps our state.  All the publicity and everything that Minnesota is getting right now, you can't put a price on that.  And it doesn't cost anything.
So having a good football team, good football program can be a very good for our state, also.

Q.  Do you have anymore clarity on David?
A.He'll be questionable, very questionable.¬† However, that guy ‑‑ I told Ed and¬† Doc Smith after the game, I told him I don't care what you do, day, night, 24‑7, work about paying you later, whatever the cost, see what you can do.
And so he's been working hard, David has been.  When he's not in class, he's been down there.  And you know he'll do everything he can to be ready.  But that's a difficult injury to deal with.
But they're going to try to jog him around a little bit today and see where he's at, but he's real questionable.

Q.¬† Is that partly you also trying to manage the expectations, in a sense he's been on Twitter and stuff saying he'll be ready.¬† But is that just your way of making sure that ‑‑
A.He has the mindset.  David's worked hard.  You've seen him at the game when he got hurt.  He's all wrapped up and he's on the field.  He wants to play.  He's going to do everything he can.  He's going to tell me he's going to play.  He's going to tell everybody he's going to play.  And that's a great attitude because sometimes the mind, if you're down and you're negative and all that, sometimes don't heal up as quick.
So I'm glad he's positive, and if he's ready to go we're going it to play him.  There's no doubt about that.  I'd rather have him feeling that way than not.  He told me that on the flight home.  I said you doing okay?  Coach, I'm not missing this one.  We'll see.

Q.  Does that change your offense if he's limited or doesn't play?
A.We don't change it any.¬† We've got good backs, we proved that on Saturday.¬† Donnell Kirkwood goes in, he does a great job, great cut.¬† And Rodrick on the touchdown.¬† He made a heck of a run.¬† Had a great ‑‑ I mean we've had that all year.
Didn't play Antonio Johnson, the best in my opinion support safety on the run, and didn't play with him last week.  And we haven't played with a lot of people and that's what's really neat about this.  And that we've got a lot of people that have had to step up.  And that's what I mean it's been a good team effort.
Always worry about the freshmen this time of the year, I said that last week.¬† They're not used to the grind.¬† They're not used to playing this many games and playing ‑‑ Steve Richardson playing down in the trenches, and going last three games.¬† I mean that's tough.¬† And you've got school and all that other stuff that goes along.¬† Getting up at 6 in the morning.¬† It's a grind for those young men, because they're not used to it.¬† Some of the older kids are.
We've just got to get everybody ‑‑ we've got to get their legs, we've got to get their shoulders, and we've got to get their minds.¬† Because we've got a lot of learning from what they do.¬† Certainly on the offense side of the ball because they're a three, four defense.

Q.  You talk about where you need to be and where you are.  Kind of seems like you are where you need to be.  What's the difference?  What are you talking about?
A.You've got to do it year in and year out.¬† You try to build a program, where I've been before, once we got ‑‑ I mean we were in Southern Illinois, and once we got going we got going and stayed consistent with it.¬† And Northern, they're still winning, so I think we left a good program behind.
I mean, we just ‑‑ I feel like we got a lot better this week.¬† That's part of coaching.¬† And we need to do a lot of things here to ‑‑ it's really unbelievable what our kids have done.¬† Because, again, we don't have the resources that some of the people that we're playing against.
We need those resources to take that next step up and that all involves recruiting.  You win with players.

Q.  You may have the best record in the country for adjusting at halftime and completely out playing teams in the second half.  It's unbelievable.  I've been here for 143 years (laughter) and I have never seen a coach make some changes at halftime.  And outside of the TCU game, I think, is the only game, maybe Illinois, I don't know, that you didn't come back and stop the opposition the second half.
A.Well, I think that that's a group issue.  And we work hard and we have the same system.  So if there was something broke in that system, we've been in it long enough you can get it fixed and maybe make an adjustment within the system, not drawing something up in the dirt.
I think our staff has always done a good job at that.  And the kids responded.  And we don't panic when we go in there.  We went into halftime in Nebraska, no screaming or yelling, it was some convincing.  Like I told the kids, I've been part of a program that's been 28, 30 down and we've won.  So don't panic, and we're playing pretty good.  And we haven't turned the ball over.  And if we don't turn it over we'll come back and win the game.  They just had a break or two.
And the kids just went out ‑‑ I think the big thing, we stay like this most of the time.¬† If I have to get after them I will, if it's a lack of motivation and not playing hard.¬† But rarely with this group we've had to do that.
They've done a ‑‑ we made some mental errors and made some mistakes.¬† But as far as playing hard, they played very hard in all areas.

Q.  How often do you see the three four?
A.Not very often.¬† We see a little bit of it, people mix it in.¬† But not a whole lot.¬† And I think that's why ‑‑ and they know the three four.¬† They're very good at making adjustments.¬† They take the perimeter away.¬† They take your best plays and they scheme them up within what they do.¬† They're quick and athletic.¬† And just very, very well coached.¬† I mean very well coached.¬† They just talk about an offensive staff room, they're coached up.¬† We'll have to execute very well.¬† And we understand that.¬† But we felt like we had to do that the last three ballgames.¬† We've got to go in there and go to work and get some repetition.

Q.  You said this team is special.  What's the one trait that sets this team apart from some of your others?
A.I think what happened this summer, the closeness of the kids.  They did things on their own as a group.  And Mitch Leidner took the offense and had them all there and kept them accountable.  Someone didn't show up, I didn't have to worry about anything.  First of all I couldn't.  And he kept them.
And Cedric Thompson had the other group.  And we did team building stuff and all kinds of stuff to just make sure we brought our group together.
And I guess the best example is running back.  Donnell Kirkwood has had a great attitude.  Here's a senior and he's not getting to play as near as much as he'd like to.  But he respects the job David Cobb is doing, but when he went in he did his job.  He doesn't complain and money.  Rodrick the same way, they're good backs.  I just think they sold into the team.  Let's have a good team.
We've always stressed ‑‑ I stress that in recruiting.¬† It isn't about an individual.¬† It's about a team.¬† I think they bought into that.

Q.  Your players talk after games and leading up to games, they clearly have more confidence than there has been in the past.  When did you start to see some of the those signs?
A.I think probably, you know, it started last year, once that we beat Penn State and Nebraska.  You call those the helmet schools.  And sometimes you run out, Jiminy Christmas.  I think we did that for a while.
But I think the Michigan game was a significant win.  That was on the road, at the Big House.  And I think that was the start of Michigan's struggle.
And then Lincoln, going to Lincoln and winning in that environment.  So I think there's been a lot of defining moments.  But you've probably got to go all the way back to Northwestern, through all the adversity, how the kids responded to that.  That was a huge win in the program.

Q.  A lot of fans have been talking about how big this game is.  Some say maybe since the '60s.  Have you been hearing from fans or former players about the magnitude of this game?
A.Yeah, I don't know how many emails and text messages.  I try to live in a bubble, I really do.  And so I'm trying to do my darndest, but also have to get ready for the game.  You've got to draw the line.  But I think those people understand.  I just think they're letting me know.
But I think we all know that and so forth, what it means.¬† The border battle, all those things.¬† If you remember right early in the year I said for us to win a Championship or to have the opportunity we have to beat the border schools.¬† I said that a long time ago.¬† We've been able to beat one, and now we have the opportunity to play for something that we had to win at Lincoln to have that opportunity.¬† And so we did that.¬† We've done our job.¬† And now we go.¬† And what a great ‑‑ we have a lot to be thankful for, we really do.

Q.¬† Tailback is such a rhythm position.¬† Kirkwood had the big year two years ago, and the carries you've seen since then it seems like he's had flashes.¬† Is that a by‑product of if he was getting confidence in a number of carries, he still might have that confidence?
A.I think the big thing with Donnell right now is that he's focused.¬† He wants to be a coach.¬† And Rodrick ‑‑ Rodrick, he's unique.¬† If you watch him on kickoff, he's running over everybody on kickoff.¬† He's just a physical kid.¬† And he's just a big kid that just plays.¬† So he's always in rhythm.
And then but Donnell is that ‑‑ you just don't ever, ever understand estimate those kids.¬† And I'm sure that he gets his number called on and Rodrick, that we'll be fine.¬† I've got confidence in them.¬† They're all three different backs.¬† And Berkley is different.¬† And Berkley, hopefully he'll be able to play.¬† That's a question mark, also.¬† I've got confidence in those kids.¬† They showed that on Saturday.
Plus they should be fresh legged, too.  You look at that from a different perspective.

Q.  What's your reaction to how Wisconsin is going to handle the ax on Saturday?
A.Again, I live in a bubble.¬† I don't know if you came down and told me or you texted it to me or something like that.¬† And I haven't really ‑‑ I'm more worried about our game.¬† We hadn't beat them in, what, ten years?¬† There's supposed to be a rivalry, so you have to win to make it a rivalry.¬† So I'm concentrating more on that.
Whatever their policy is going to be, and I read quickly through it before I came in and so forth is if there's anything due with the safety of the player, the safety of the game, that's what we're supposed to do.  And you don't want to lose some player for the next week, does something stupid or so forth.  Because kids are kids.  They're going to play with intensity and so forth.
Again, I don't know how that policy came into effect.¬† I don't know ‑‑ I know why, because ‑‑ I don't even know completely why.¬† I think that happened before I was even here, some things.
So I respect Coach Alvarez.¬† And I'm sure he's really the one that ‑‑ he's the athletic director.

Q.  How much does Melvin Gordon, being at another game, how do you start a game plan against him?
A.Well, the biggest thing is, you've got to fit perfect.¬† They've got a good offensive line.¬† We don't talk about that enough.¬† They're good up front.¬† And you've got to fit those gaps perfectly.¬† You can't let him run through ‑‑ you can't let the line open up a gap like that and get to a safety, one‑on‑one.¬† He's made everybody miss.
There ain't nobody stopped him including LSU.  That kid has just been on fire.
We're going to have to ‑‑ I made the statement, when he can get through about anything.¬† He's like a missile.¬† And we better get him deactivated before he gets up there.¬† Before he gets through the hole we better be able to close it and make him have to bounce and be able to squeeze him in.
Nobody's stopped him.¬† And it's one of those things, he's going to get some yards.¬† And we have to make sure nobody else does anything.¬† That's ‑‑ they get the passing game going and zone read going and then plus him going, that's not a good deal.¬† And then we've got to keep him from having the 70 and 80 yard runs.
I think he's a lot like, again I wasn't here, I've eaten dinner with him, and watched him play, Lawrence Maroney.  I don't know how many 70 yard runs he had, but he had a bunch of them, is that correct?  And I think that's probably a lot like this kid.  So great player.  Got our hands full.  But that's what life is about, great challenge.  Looking forward to it and seeing what happens.

Q.  What was your evaluation are of the blocked field goal?
A.Great play by their guy.¬† We had good protection and all that stuff.¬† I don't know if you seen that young man before he went out there, but that defensive end is about 6‑5.¬† His arms hung about down to there.¬† And then when you can get some push and jump up.¬† And they did a good job, when you're blocking a field goal.¬† You want to get in the flight of the ball.¬† They didn't him on the left because the kicker's ball is going to come here.¬† Right where the flight of the ball was and he jumped up with that big old long hook and it was a little bit this side or a little bit that, he wouldn't have got it.¬† He made a heck of a play.¬† He made a great play.
The only thing we could have done, we've got to do a better job coaching.¬† But when Ryan ‑‑ we got to work with our kicker and some of the guys on the angle of pursuit.¬† We were running our tail end off.¬† But we needed to get Ryan all the way, just run him all the way to the boundaries as hard as he could get to turn that thing back in.¬† And through that, you know, those are little things you learn to make sure that they understand that.¬† So that's little things.¬† Great play but we need to tackle it.¬† And we've got to take better angles and we've got to make sure we coach that better.

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