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September 28, 2015

Kevin Wilson

Bloomington, Indiana

COACH WILSON: Recapping last game. For us, a good road win. A lot of positives to build on, we think. Got a lot of work and improvement we need to keep doing. We did have what we felt was solid contributions in all three phases, which we need. We need that on the road. We'll need that in conference play. I think we've had that a couple weeks. We've got to continue to advance in all phases.

We need young players to continue to enhance their role. I think a lot of young first and second year players were playing some, but special teams were a more significant part of the rotation. Whether it be our skill players at receiver or some of our young linemen, D-linemen, we've got to keep bringing guys along. They need to practice better so coaches can get them on the field. I think that would help us a ton. Anyway, for what that's worth.

Special teams player of the game last week, we recognize both our kickers, Erich Toth had four kicks inside the 20. Gave his coverage team a chance to do a great job in covering. Griffin Oakes, again, was perfect with the elements. I think I'd give some credit to both our snappers too. We got two new snappers there with both Godsil and Guedel. One is a short snapper. They're both good, using both of those. Our hold guy did a great job managing the holds for Griffin. Griff's kicks were very, very good too.

So with the elements, thought that was a big part. Ball security was pretty good. We did have one holding call, and we had a critical error on the onside kick where we just didn't execute something that's very fundamental and simple we do. We just had a young man mess up that we need to get corrected.

Defensively, players of the game, I'd like to recognize two guys, Andre Brown and Tegray Scales. Several good performances up front with some pressure, with Mangieri and Latham. I thought Marcus Oliver played very, very well. Chase Dutra played well. I thought a lot of guys played better.

We recognize three guys as scout players of the week. We had Zander Diamont running around a little bit last week. We thought they would play their athletic quarterback. He did a lot of things that we do that kind of fit their scheme. Also, Danny Cameron. So both the quarterbacks, I thought, gave us a good look, and Alex Rodriguez, our running back, did come back.

All three of those guys are travel guys that are backups but did a great job on the preparation. That's great to see.

Defensively, we did have five three and outs. We started the game with three in a row. The offense needed to capitalize that, because we didn't, and all of a sudden after three three and outs, we were up, it becomes a 7-7 game. We had a chance to gain some early momentum. It would have been nice to capitalize offensively, and we didn't.

We were better on third down "D" last week. We did have a pick six, which was the difference in the game. We were able to create a little bit better pressure, which had been missing.

Unfortunately, we did have five huge penalties through pass interference and three personal fouls. That needs to get out of our football. We thought we maybe relaxed or didn't finish. 31-10, and we downed a punt inside the 10 yard line. In fact, I believe the offense started inside the 3 and went across midfield and bogged down. But had a nice punt from Erich. It's 31-10, and we got them pinned inside the 10. The defense had a chance to close it out and didn't. They need to step up there.

Offensively, our players of the game, we had two, Dan Feeney, who played really well, and Jordan Howard, who's been really solid for us all year. We recognize one young scout team player, Omari Stringer. That was great for Omari to see that. We need him, as a young guy, to keep developing.

Offense, no turnovers was huge. Continue to build on that, especially with the weather and on the road. Again, that takes everyone. Sometimes that's just back side protection. Center-quarterback exchange. It's blitz pickups. Your quarterback's not getting hit. It's receivers spacing routes. When you're not turning the ball over, it's just not the guy with the ball. It's the function of the entire team. That's been a very positive part for our team this year.

Third downs were better. We charted this as 7 of 16. We don't count that knee we take at the end to make it 7 of 17. You mathematical guys will say that hurts our percentage, but when it's third down and you take a knee the last play of the game, it's a non-conversion, we don't use that in our stats. We think their down stats are slightly better than what you've got on paper, FYI.

We are not in sync as an offense, though. We still keep sputtering. We could be so much better. It's disappointing yet encouraging because there's a lot of good things going on. We just got to keep working. I think it's offensive football. It's just hard to stay in rhythm all the time and just keep your run game in balance and play action and making big plays and third down conversions.

So there's a lot of good, but we've just got to keep working to play better in all phases. Perimeter blocking's got to pick up, perimeter play.

After the fake punt, I think the offense was in the same situation the defense was. They had the ball at midfield, and we went three and out, and we had a chance really there to extend the lead and try to put it away, and we didn't. We had a chance to close that game out, and we didn't.

Against Florida International, we had a couple of chances, and we didn't. Against Western Kentucky, we did. Now against Wake Forest, we didn't close it out. In our mind, we're 1 of 3 as an offense. 1 out of 3 in closing games out. We've got to be better there.

The health of our team is pretty good. Again, we're playing hard. I like our physical approach. We've got to keep building on that. Update with the two guys in the game -- Ricky Jones has a slight ankle. He should progress and be good. We don't do much on Sundays. We'll see how he goes through the week. I think he's played enough that he won't need a ton of rest. Looks like he'll be good.

Danny Friend has a knee. I don't think it's major, but he'll be a while. Probably doubtful this week and maybe a couple. I think we'll look to see if it can be managed. I don't think it's a major deal. I think it can be managed without a minor surgery, but they're looking to see how he progresses over the next few days. We'll see what's up with Danny. So anticipate Ricky, not sure with Danny.

Moving on to Ohio State, again, very, very good team in all areas. No. 1 in the nation, longest win streak in the country. Those aren't flukes. They're complete.

You talk about all the players, shoot, their punter is as good as anyone last year. They're great in the kicking game, their defense, their front, their aggressiveness, their coverage, tremendous linebackers. Offensively, a boatload of skill and depth and playmakers. Offensive line, well coached. Coach Meyer is as good as anyone on his staff and what goes on. A lot of talent. A very, very strong opponent.

It is good to be at home. We look forward to just having a strong week of preparation. We're into it now. We look forward to having a good week and see if we can continue to improve. Excited with our guys, and just want to see if they can keep working each week and getting better. Looking forward to a strong challenge as we start Big Ten play this week.

Q. With that defense, anything in particular that they do that's made them effective this year?
COACH WILSON: Again, they made a structural change. Not necessarily structural, the core of defensive coaches are there, but with Coach Ash coming in and their other coaches -- they brought Coach Johnson in from Penn State. We know Coach Coombs and Coach Fickell well. They've got a great core group of guys.

Again, they're very aggressive on front, know where they're going. Outstanding at linebacker. They're good enough in the secondary that they challenge coverage. Don't give a lot of easy throws. Every play is competitive. Every play is aggressive. They're very sound and very, very talented. Come at you, and that doesn't mean blitzing. They'll blitz, but they're just very aggressive in their approach.

And some things we like to get to and are trying to get to and a lot of similarities in the style that Michigan State plays where, again, very stout up front, very aggressive at linebacker. They don't give you a lot of easy throws. They make you go the distance. They make you earn it.

Q. They had a lot of plays where they either allow zero yards or negative yardage, zero defense. What's the biggest difference you've seen from them between Southern Illinois and now? What's been the biggest change?
COACH WILSON: One, different opponent. I do think we were able to get a couple hits. Their quarterback, had one kid last week had gotten hurt prior to our game. We got a good shot on him early. I think that limited their desire to maybe run him. This week you've got several quarterbacks. Jones, the big kid, can really run and throw it. J.T. Barrett is a great player. There's always going to be a running threat, which is harder to defend.

I thought our -- we're going to play a much stouter offensive line. One of the better offensive lines in the country. I thought last week our defensive line could match up well. We got some pressure on them. We just tried to get our guys to play harder, and we made some subtle changes in what we're doing, but we have so much to clean up and so many errors and so many correctible, fixable things. We're going to keep pushing forward.

Defensively, it was good to see. In this day and age of college football, there were a couple teams last week, I think, were up by a few points and lost. You've got to keep playing. The ball can get out in space and get downfield, and people throw the ball well enough. You can extend games in college because the clock stops so much with the first downs and the passing game, that there's a lot of football to play.

Even though we had a lot of negatives, we were hanging on for dear life. We've got to continue to work to be better.

I think the defensive front is pretty good. If we can keep them getting lined up and know where to go and the linebackers are getting better. It will be different with Ohio State getting a bunch of negative plays. They've got a bunch of good playmakers.

Q. [Inaudible] from the guys as well. Do you see more confidence?
COACH WILSON: I had one after the first game that's been embraced a little bit. I just want to be a little bit more where I'd like to be. That doesn't mean blitz. Just know what you're doing and be assertive and be aggressive. We just try to take that approach, and we're building from that now. We have a long way to go. We still have a lot of correctible, fixable things. Lack of trust, confidence, where I'm supposed to be, communication -- it's a work in progress.

There's enough talent that we ought to be playing better defense than we're playing. It's encouraging, and it's things we can build on, but we're going to keep working and finding the comfort level of players and coaches and just how to keep putting it together and give our team a chance.

Q. Performances, I guess especially along that pass rush, they talked about how they feel there's been a lot of improvement. I think Coach McDaniel even said last week the next step for him was it needed to translate into sacks, needed to translate into physical production. Was it important, maybe the timing, of having a game like that for a group of going into Big Ten play, finally getting all that to click and really landing some of those pressures?
COACH WILSON: Yes, but I still think, watching us, that we're still too slow at the line of scrimmage and too slow in our blitzing. It's not as assertive or as aggressive as it needs to be. We were just this morning discussing that. Even though that was good to see, that it could be so much better. I think our offense is playing reasonably okay but could be so much better.

To me that's encouraging. We're not playing our best, but yet we're still seeing a lot of good things. So when you're playing bad, you can always get better. Well, we're playing pretty good in spots, and if we could just kind of keep syncing and working and getting it together. So that was good to get the pressure and good to have some of those plays, but I don't think it's close to what it can be, and their ability to get lined up, get their cleats on the ground, get their eyes on the target and go sick it a little bit. So we're going to keep working on it.

It's better, but it's a long way from what I think it ought to be. I'm going to keep working on that.

Q. We talked earlier about how young players need to step up and give you guys even more depth. Do you feel you have those young players that are almost ready to make that jump?
COACH WILSON: I think we do. I think sometimes, though -- like, for example, I'm on their coaches about playing them, but then sometimes the way they practice, their coaches are right because they're very inconsistent, and your ability to just count on them, trust them. I've got mental bust.

Hey, when a young guy plays well one week, where's he at the next week? He thinks he's figured it out. The older you get, you realize I'm really not that good. I'm not that bad. I'm got to keep working and get better. With a young player, you get peaks and valleys and highs and lows. To me, we need kids like Thornton and Westbrook who have been playing dominant as hell on the outside. We can get those guys on the field, but they need to practice better.

Jameel Cook has played some. He needs to get out there more. We played Jacob Robinson and Brandon Knight. We need those guys to keep coming. To me, that's a part of their approach to practice.

As a matter of fact, I think we're playing guys that are not as talented as them, but they don't consistently show that you can count on them to do the job. So they've got the skill set. We're just asking them, as young men, embrace the process, buy in, pay attention, practice better so we can get you on the field because we need them on the field. They need to earn that right.

Q. Is that a maturity thing at some level? Or is it maybe seeing experienced guys in front of them and needing to remind them, just because a guy is a junior or senior and got all these starts doesn't mean you can't beat him out?
COACH WILSON: I don't know about beating them out. You've got to play a lot of guys. We don't get caught up in the depth chart as you guys do. Where was Tony Fields? Saturday he was in the end zone. You need guys like that to keep playing, keep practicing. You don't know when you're going to be called upon. Just keep coming as a team.

And you're in a society where everybody wants it now. Everybody's got to get the ball, get their touches, who starts. We're talking to guys like Robert McCray, who's coming off a knee injury. He's a more productive player than we've seen yet. We need to get Will Dawkins in the mix and on the field and playing for us. We need Jordan Fuchs to keep practicing well and get on the field and play for us.

Let alone Thornton and Westbrook, and I'm talking about Tyler Green. I'm talking about Brandon Wilson. We've got some guys who really need to come on for this football team. I like to see them. I'm pushing their coaches. But those kids have got to back it up with the way they prepare.

Like I said, we'll be a better football team if you continue to get by any guys just embrace their roles and enhance their roles by the way they practice. Don't worry about beating somebody out. Just be the best you can be, and we'll get you on the field.

Q. He's talked a lot about confidence.
COACH WILSON: Who's this?

Q. Simmie. Is it as simple as confidence for him? Or something different in technique and the way he approaches?
COACH WILSON: Now he's older and stronger and just more comfortable. He's played more. The more confident you are, the better you play, the more confidence you get. It's a little of both. Which comes first? Sometimes he's got to play through that.

That's with some of these young guys. You've got to play through that with them as coaches, but they've got to play through that in practice. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday gets them on the field. They're going to go on the field, and there's going to be areas.

Simmie has a long way to go. He could be so much better. Even though he made a few catches and his numbers looked good, he had significant missed cues on Saturday with alignments and responsibilities where he could play a lot better. We're going to keep working with him on that.

Q. Where is he kind of instinctually, to be able to make those plays on instincts too. Does he have the kind of instincts you'd like to see right now?
COACH WILSON: Okay. I don't think he's the most instinctive skill kid we've got. He's okay. He's not -- just, you know, he's like a lot of kids that I don't know how much ball he's really played. I think there's a lot of upside. I think the more he plays, the better, more natural and instinctive he'll get.

Q. Latham had some pressure. He had a hit and a big block. What do you think of the way he played? And do you see him maybe having opportunities to make more plays like that?
COACH WILSON: You would think. I think he is, like several of our players on defense, sometimes can freelance a little and not maybe be where he's supposed to be, and that can haunt you. Sometimes when he looks to make the sack, instead of continuing in his rush lane and closing down a passing window, he'll peek inside because he's wanting so hard to get the statistical stat versus playing within the concept and structure of the defense.

There's times on defense where sometimes we let some protections go longer than they should, where some of our rush guys start looking to make the play versus just attacking the defender and running the twist or running the stunt and being in their gap and kicking tail.

So sometimes our defense guys, because we haven't played good "D" statistically for quite a while, some of them who are good players try to make plays versus just doing your job and let the structure make the play. He can make some plays, but we would be a lot better if he can keep his focus on just doing his job consistently. He would make more plays, and quite honestly, he's not hurt us, but our defense would be better if he and a lot of those guys would just be more consistent at being where they're supposed to be.

They're sometimes hitting 70, 80 percent of where they ought to be. Playing a position that he plays, there should be 90, 95. I'm inside or outside the corner tackle. It's not -- hit a gap and hit it hard. You're big and strong.

But we need him and Jerry and Ralph and those guys and Darius to continue to be structurally better so we can be more sound. That's a little bit of our Achilles heel, I think.

Q. [Inaudible] outside of that, in the secondary creates a lot of camaraderie. How do you encourage that in practice?
COACH WILSON: I don't know if I really talk about camaraderie in practice. Sometimes I worry about the youthfulness where the older guys get, like you're talking about, I can't beat out old guys. A bunch of freshmen beat out some old guys in the secondary at the start, for what it's worth. So it's nice for him to say there is camaraderie. You worry about that. It's nice to get on the field in the selfish world we live in.

I think we've done more off the field with the camaraderie and getting them together with different things we do, be it a meal at coach's house and stuff like that. At practice, we talk more about competition and competing than camaraderie and high fives and all that stuff.

Q. You're averaging 520 yards a game and 38 points, and yet the offense isn't where you think it could be. What's your definition of success for that group then?
COACH WILSON: I think we leave -- we had a chance to finish some games or get some games more in the balance that we've just floundered around a little bit. There's a physicalness in the run game. We probably aren't as good as chunk plays as we need to get. We haven't had a lot of long runs and passes, quite honestly. So we're using that tight end group and that O-line group and those backs okay. But when you get into Big Ten play, you're going to get matched up against defenses that overpower people.

You've got to have that balance. When you cross that midfield stripe, you've got to get points on the board. I just feel there's some games we're leaving 7, 10, 13, 14, 17 points on the board. That will get you every once in a while.

You're talking with a friend, and we're just talking about -- I think our defense is doing better, but it's got a long way to go. There's just certain games you're going to be in, no matter who you are -- I'm looking at TCU and some of these teams that play great defense. Sometimes college ball is getting where you can't break serve.

It's like a basketball game. You've got to keep matching baskets and get a stop once in a while. I don't know if a lot of games are going to be 17-9 anymore. So it comes down to just points. I just think we keep leaving points.

When you're playing a great team like Ohio State. A couple of years ago, I think we had it seven times across the 35 we didn't score, and that's not a good formula.

Q. Special teams, you talked about it earlier with the great kicking game. The only lackluster part is probably the kick return game. Is Devonte Williams -- are you trying to do things on the kick return game?
COACH WILSON: Ohio State is probably the best in the conference at kick coverage with the athletes they've got and what they do on the kicker. As of a week ago, Devonte was No. 2 in the league in kick coverage. Best thing you can do is take it and put it on the 25. That's the best thing to do right now.

Some of these guys are kicking it high enough to the 1 or 2. We brought one out the other day. We told our guy, listen, bad weather, if it's in, stay in. He brought one out, but he was so close to the line, and he didn't know and made a decision. He said, I wasn't sure. Great call. I like it. You don't have time to sit around and look. I wasn't sure where I was at. I wasn't being greedy. I thought I was at the line, so I took off. I said, good deal.

Last week with all the rugby kicking they were doing, we were worried as much about a ball hitting someone last week with some things they were doing. I really thought our punt return team was awesome last week and had no returns. But we saw something extremely unusual, worked at it hard. We'll get similar stuff with Ohio State. I think the return game -- I think you've got to be better in coverage right now than returning.

All you've got to do on returning is make sure you're smart enough that you manage field position and don't turn the ball over. I think that holding penalty we had was more critical than anything else we had last week and made us start a drive inside the 10.

Q. Jordan is a guy, I think Nate's described him as smarter than people would think just because he's kind of quiet. But he really understands football really well. Have you seen that manifest itself, maybe even just beyond his position? Just kind of has a level of football savvy or awareness that exceeds it?
COACH WILSON: No matter a guy being quiet. That's just his personality. Coach McCullough doesn't say much. He's a smart guy. Coming out of Jordan's home, that's a very well raised, educated -- that was one of the best homes I've been in in a long time as far as his background. That kid is well raised. His mom has a phenomenal presence.

Unfortunately, his father passed years ago. We never met him. But that's a very mature kid, very smart kid. I think it translates into football. Football-wise, I think he's a very, very good -- very talented, but I think he's a very, very good player on game day. He's got a nice feel for himself.

He's only played four games here, though. I know he did a lot down there. We'll see if we can keep him going. Got to keep complementing Devine. I think Devine does a nice job. Got to keep bringing those backs along.

Q. With their running style, how important is it they do keep complementing each other? You kind of talked about it today. He lets them both stay fresh, and as much as they can be physical with the defense, having two of them, so that neither one of them wears down too early in the game, and you still have freshness in the third and fourth quarter with the power run game.
COACH WILSON: To me, that's nothing new because the only time we haven't had two here was when we didn't have two. We had Steven and Tevin. Then we had Tevin and D. Lo. You look at the pro game, you've got to have those guys take a pounding, and it's not just fresh for the game, it's fresh for the season.

I really think the great thing -- I think Coach McCullough has a great knack of how to prepare them and practice them and have them go hard, but he doesn't wear them out. I think he does a tremendous job of preparing his kids during the week to get them to -- to give them a chance to play really, really good for us.


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