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November 13, 2017

Jeff Brohm

West Lafayette, Indiana

JEFF BROHM: Well, we're looking forward to getting back and playing some football this Saturday. I think we've got an opportunity to play a great football team in a great environment, and it'll be a great challenge for our team, but we're going to have to have a great week of practice, get back to working hard, focusing on the fundamentals, and try to find a way to come out and compete and see if we can pull one out in a tough setting. But I know our guys will react well this week. I think we'll come ready to work, practice well. We've got to go out and just give it our best shot and see if we can pull it off.

Q. Curious if anybody turned in their pads.
JEFF BROHM: Not as far as I know at this point. I think everybody will respond. Any time you lose, it's tough. Any time you don't play up to maybe your capability, it's not fun. But it's a big learning experience, and we've definitely had plenty of those, and we've got to utilize them and get something out of it instead of getting too frustrated and not allowing ourselves to continue to grind this thing out throughout the whole season. This is an important week for us, and this is a team that if you don't come ready to play, it could be a very long day, and we've got to make sure that we're up to the challenge.

Q. How about in terms of T.J. McCollum, how did he come out of that game? Do you expect him to play going forward?
JEFF BROHM: I think T.J. came out very well, and I think he felt better after the game than he thought he would, and hopefully he'll be even healthier this week for game time.

Q. I know obviously his main priority is to win the next two football games and help you guys get to a bowl game, but I'm sure he's trying to put some good tape out there for the next level. What do you remember about those games of your college career and kind of that process?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think everybody at this time of the year, you want to try to just concentrate on playing the season one game at a time, and normally if you look too far down the tunnel, it's going to affect your play.

I think our guys will handle it well, and everybody has a dream of playing at the highest level, but in order to get there, you've got to put on your best performance every time you step on the field. You never know when you can elevate your game to even a higher level and improve maybe your stock, and I think it's important our guys against a very good football team come ready to play and showcase what they're all about.

Q. I was curious about the Markell Jones option play you ran there; where did you come up with the idea and what were you looking for?
JEFF BROHM: Believe it or not, we got it from the Saints. They ran it on a 4th down and hit it for a big play. It didn't quite work for us as well. You know, one of those where it either works or didn't. It didn't work for us.

Q. Just one more in terms of Iowa; they've got a cornerback, Joshua Johnson who has intercepted five passes in the past two games. How does that affect game planning with a guy like that on the field?
JEFF BROHM: Well, he's really good. In the last game you saw all the points Iowa had were by his two interceptions, and that says a lot. He's got good size, good range. He can read the football well. I'm sure he'll challenge us at the line of scrimmage and make us earn our completions. They're a defense that likes to bend but not break, but with a couple of their guys they're challenge you, so he's a guy that we have to know where he's at and make sure that we're being smart with our passing game.

Q. You made some changes to the secondary in the second half; what are your plans going forward with maybe your personnel there?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think our guys are playing hard. Jacob Thieneman is the most steady guy in the back end that we have. He's sound. He knows what we're doing. He has had a very good year for us. Da'Wan Hunte has been very consistent when he's been in there, and then Josh has done a good job. It wasn't one of his better games by any means, and we've been able to rotate in the corner position, and the other safety position mostly is showing some good things. Played a little bit more man this last game and we were not effective in it as much, and we've got to learn how to be more physical, challenge things more. I didn't think we got our hands on guys. Nowadays in football, especially college football they're going to let you hold and grab and do all those things. We've got to utilize that. I thought we were too soft in man-to-man and didn't. We weren't nearly as physical and aggressive. We tried to just change things up. If one guy is not playing up to what we feel he should be playing, we'll rotate that a little bit, and we did. We've still got a ways to go in pass coverage, but I think we should and can get better.

Q. Is that a challenge with this particular group, playing man, is the physicality of doing that scheme?
JEFF BROHM: Well, it's a lot of things. I think that right now we are better playing some zone coverage, but you've got to be able to challenge routes, and I think we've gotten better. I thought at corner when we played man-to-man, we were very good, really at corner when we got beat we were in zone. But on the slot receivers, we didn't get our hands on enough. We weren't as physical, and we've got to really improve upon that if we want to play some good sound man-to-man technique.

Q. Is Okonye healthy?
JEFF BROHM: Yeah, he's healthy. He just a couple times was out of position. The two-minute drive we had a cover two called, he sat in the flat way too shallow, needed to sync with the vertical route, and gave up a fade throw in a zone coverage and turned his back on it when all he's got to do is keep his hips open to the quarterback and he'll there to make the play. I think he'll bounce back. He's played solid for the most part all year. I think he's just got to get his confidence back, and we need him in there.

Q. What's been your assessment of Cason in his first couple of weeks back playing for you?
JEFF BROHM: You know, he's done some pretty good things, and we knew that he had the ability to do it. It was just a matter of being consistent, show casing that he wanted to be a great player and spend the time in of working to improve and get better. I think if he takes everything serious and really is into it, he has the ability to be a very good player for us. He was out of position a few times, but overall I thought he did a good job when he went in there.

Q. Can you take us through the challenge process a little bit, maybe what causes you to want to challenge a play like you did on Saturday if somebody upstairs is looking at a replay and telling you to? There have been some instances this year, maybe the Markus Bailey interception against Rutgers where you could have challenged.
JEFF BROHM: Well, the Markus Bailey interception I had no idea he caught it. It was inbounds, so no one told us, no one really saw it. I don't think we were privy to all that maybe you can see after the fact. Now after the game I heard he was inbounds when he caught it, but there's a replay official that reviews all the plays, so you would think they would review it.

On this one, you know what, I was -- I thought we could get less than a half yard handing it to a 260-pound back and running up the middle. We did not. I thought we were closer than what they had said, and I wanted to take a further look at it. You know, it didn't work, but I don't think we needed that challenge the rest of the game.

It was a pivotal play in the game. Us not getting points, them going down and scoring, it changes the whole magnitude of the game. It's disappointing that we couldn't convert, but I was hopeful that maybe we did get a little more yards than they said we did.

Q. You have one challenge per game?

Q. And you lose a time-out if it's not successful; is that how it works?

Q. What were your thoughts on the grounding and the explanation of the grounding call by the referee?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I totally disagreed. I thought it was obvious grounding. The explanation in my opinion was not a good explanation, that they thought the hit affected where he threw the ball. I saw someone on his lower leg, so I didn't see the same thing. It didn't go our way, and you've got to react, but I thought it was grounding.

Q. Where have you seen improvement in this team the last couple weeks?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think that defensively all year we've been a sound football team that does a great job against the run. We load the box. Our guys play hard. We have some good football players, a lot of experience. They're continuing to play hard. Just we're getting exposed a little bit in the passing game and in the secondary, but I think we can work hard to improve that.

On offense, you know, it's been a struggle to find ways to move the ball and get points. I do think our guys are playing hard. I do think our runners are running hard. I think our linemen are giving us as good an effort as they can. We've got to continue to improve there, but they're playing hard, it's just we're not able to be as consistent as we'd like.

I think our receivers finally have -- they made some strides this past game and made some plays for us. They've worked extremely hard the last three weeks under duress in some circumstances where they had not made the catches that we would like, and we practiced them hard. We focused. We've done as many things as we can to improve catching the football. I do think there was improvement even though we had some drops towards the end.

So you know, I think improvement is being made, but we have a ways to go, and we've got to be consistent, and while -- I told our team after the game, I do think we played hard, but I did not think we were the tougher team, and I did not think we were the smarter team in this game. You know, that doesn't mean that we didn't try. I just didn't think we won that battle. So we've just got to continue to fight our way through it. It's no fun to lose games. It doesn't give you a warm feeling. It doesn't make you feel great. But that's what's supposed to happen.

So I think as long as we try to respond in the right way as coaches and players and not lose confidence but understand, hey, this is where the work needs to be done and we've got to find a way to do it, hopefully improvement will be made. I think that special teams, we've gotten better. Are there a few weak elements we have? Yes, there are. But I think we've found ways to get better in that aspect.

There's a lot of improvement to be made. There's a lot of things we all need to do better. But I do think our guys want to improve and want to win, and it means something to them.

Q. With just two games left in the season, how do you establish maybe some momentum? I know you want to win both of these games, obviously, but what will that look like to you, maybe getting some good feeling kind of going into the off-season?
JEFF BROHM: I think at this point, we're still kind of focused exactly on making this season as good as we can, and we've got a great opportunity with this upcoming weekend. While I understand it's a tough football game against a good team, we've got to do everything in our power to come out swinging and try to find a way to win. You know, if we completely focus on that and come out aggressive, come out with energy, trying to really everybody be into it and do everything right, you never know what can happen. These type of games are not easy, but if you come ready to play, in my opinion, anything can happen. So we've got to try to win this game, and I think our guys will practice hard. I think they'll enjoy coming to work. We'll try to create an environment where they're enjoying working hard, but we've got a lot of things to get done, and we've got to take the field and for 60 minutes just let it all hang out.

Q. I don't know if at this point in the week you've thought of this yet, but what will your message be to the team? Seems like you have a different assistant coach talk to the team every week, but is there something you're going to really stress this week?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think this is a game that really if we can find a way to win it, it changes the whole course of the season. So I think we've got to understand that, once again, our backs are truly against the wall, and if we want to advance, you have to win. Even though there may not be a lot of people out there that think that can be done, we have to internally think it can be done, and we've got to approach it that way and we've got to come out swinging and be aggressive in everything we do and go for it, and I think that's the mentality we have to have. If certain things happen, well then it's all good, but the last thing I want to do is not make sure that we're going all out to try to win this game.

I think our guys -- we've got to find a way to start faster. That's been a problem lately. We've got to find a way to build a lead or come out and create some points early on. And that may help not only our confidence but help the momentum of the game. Easier said than done, but that's got to be our goal.

Q. Coming into the season in this system you thought that the linebackers could be pretty good with the talent that you had at that spot. Have you been pleased that they've produced to what maybe you thought they could?
JEFF BROHM: Yes, I have. I think our linebackers have played well. Jowahn Bentley has played outstanding all year. I think when T.J. McCollum has been in there he's done a solid job and his backups have come in and improved. We still have improvement to make there. Markus Bailey is a solid football player, makes plays for us, can do a lot of things in our defense. Danny E is a guy that's a hybrid defensive end that's been fairly consistent at times, and at least plays hard and understands the game of football. So yes, I do think our linebackers have done a very good job and I think they're good football players with a lot of experience, and as you just said coming in, I thought they'd be the strength of our team.

Q. The TV had mentioned Tario Fuller had had surgery; is that true?
JEFF BROHM: Tario, I'm trying to think which ankle, but one of his ankles, yes.

Q. I know that you were probably trying to figure out if you wanted to run the option with Elijah. It looked like there were a couple opportunities he could have kept it --
JEFF BROHM: There were. We tried to do a few of the same things we did with David. Elijah, he did a good job. You're correct. There were a couple occasions he possibly could have pulled it and ran it, and then we kind of got back or got behind in the game, and our lack of success running the ball we kind of tried to open things up in the second half. I do think Elijah got in a rhythm in the second half and felt better and we were able to move the ball, and we made some plays.

But I would like to have some balance still, and the quarterback running game maybe won't be as productive right now.

Q. Did Tario have surgery this past week?
JEFF BROHM: I don't think he -- what's the date on it? Yeah, you have me confused there because I think it's coming up, but he is going to have surgery on his ankle before the season is over.

Q. So within the next two weeks?
JEFF BROHM: I don't have the exact date in front of me. Is it -- yeah, around the 20th, I think, is what I think it is.

Q. In the second half Saturday, in the big picture, is that how your offense, you want your offense to work? Maybe not this season but when you're building this program? Is that what you're looking at there?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we would like to be wide open and be on the attack. I think that in the middle of the year we struggled in the passing game and we had a lot of drops and were able to run the ball a little bit better, so we kind of went that direction. With David we went that direction a little bit. We had some success. I think now that Elijah is back in there, it may have to be a little bit more back to the passing game.

I think without question we'd like to be diverse and throw the ball around quite a bit. Maybe not quite as much as we did in the second half, but I do think that we kind of just went to our base control passing game and we had some success with it. Yes, we'd like to spread this thing out and be on the attack and figure out ways to score points. We've kind of gone back and forth with some of the things that have gone on during the year, and we've got to just be more consistent at what we're doing.

Q. The fact that Elijah was able to settle in and not have to look over his shoulder, whether you're bringing in another quarterback, did that help him throughout the game get in a rhythm, any kind of rhythm?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I didn't think he was as sharp as I'd like him to be in the first half. Now, we tried to be more balanced and run the football and maybe just throw it when we had to. He was not as sharp doing that. Once we started to open it up and throw the ball a lot, then I think he was able to get in a rhythm. That's more of what his strength is. So I don't think it really had a whole lot to do with knowing he may come in or out. I think just opening it up and giving him a chance to really throw the ball around a lot helped him settle down and make some good decisions.

Q. You mentioned earlier that the receivers are playing a little bit better; are you at the point now from a confidence standpoint with the receivers, like these are the guys that are going to finish out the year at those positions?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think that all of our receivers have worked hard. I think we have multiple guys that can all come in and play for us. I don't think there's certain guys that stand out more than the others. I do think we've made progress across the board improving. When we played this team, we did go in knowing they were statistically better against the run and not as good versus the pass. That probably had something to do with it, as well.

But we have improved. I think that Elijah's strength is throwing the football and spreading the field and giving him some reads and some opportunities to get the ball out of his hand. I think if we try to hold the ball a long time, that's not our strength right now. We've got to be cautious with what we do. I think Elijah was hit a lot more than I would like a quarterback to be hit throughout the game, whether he got sacked or hit after he threw. So we've got to be conscious of that and make sure that, while we want to score points, we're taking care of the quarterback.

But I do think our receivers have improved.

Q. The last two weeks you've kind of seen two different Iowa teams, one that clobbered Ohio State, the other one that got clobbered by Wisconsin. Where is the medium ground for them? What do you expect on Saturday to see from that team?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I'm sure they'll respond. Without question, they're good at home, on their home field. That's where they make a living and they win a lot of big football games. It's tough to go in there and win. Against Ohio State they were opportunistic. They got turnovers, and they made plays on offense.

Against Wisconsin, Wisconsin's defense shut them down. They had no points on offense and hardly any yards.

You know, I think they're built around toughness. They're built around solid defense. They're built around running the football, and that's what they like to hang their hat on, and it'll be a challenge for us. It's important against teams like this to figure out a way to get a lead, maybe make them do some things they're not used to doing, and that'll be a challenge is can we find a way to do that. I think if we play their type of ballgame, it may be a long day.

Q. You mentioned that you wanted your team to start fast, and every coach is going to say that, but when you guys have started fast, whether you scored first or had some success early, is that just the situation where this team kind of feeds off that early momentum?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think it would help us at this point. We haven't won as many lately. I think it'll help our confidence. Maybe the last few weeks we've been a little more conservative early on just trying to make sure we don't lose the game and get the ball to our running back and see what we can do, and at times it's been effective, at times it has not.

However we've got to do it, but I do think we have to be aggressive in this game, and we've got to figure out a way to just kind of be on the attack, and if we come out on the short end, I don't want it to be because we didn't throw enough punches. I think we've got to be aggressive across the board on offense, defense and special teams and try to win the game, and that's got to be what this week is about.

Q. The punt return that went for a touchdown that was not -- ended up not being a touchdown, where was the breakdown on that?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we had one key missed tackle at the very beginning that kind of hurt everything, and then they kind of got around the wall. That hurt us. But you know, I think on special teams overall we have improved. There's certain weaknesses that we're aware of that we know we have to mask, but our guys have been playing hard. We were lucky it got called back, but overall we've done a pretty solid job of not allowing the big play.

Q. This is more of a recruiting question than a present question probably, but do you have a blueprint you're trying to execute in terms of the offensive line, building offensive lines moving forward, what you're looking for at that position, how you get it and how quickly it should be in place?
JEFF BROHM: Well, everywhere I've been, I've always tried to over-recruit the offensive line and the defensive line. I think it's important that you get those guys -- they don't get all the credit, but they'll take a lot of blame when things aren't going well, but they do all the dirty work. You've got to get tough, solid, athletic football players that love the game of football, and I think right now you obviously want to get size and you want to get guys that have toughness, but we want to get some guys that are athletes, as well, and that can grow into the position, and that's kind of where we've been able to find guys that I think can go on and play at the next level, guys that maybe don't have quite the weight that you would like at the time but they can put on weight and they have athleticism and they can move their feet and they can do some things on the perimeter occasionally if you ask.

But I think loving the game of football and being a competitor is important, too. So all those qualities are important. We try to recruit the best guys we can and that want to be a part of it, and we've got to make sure that we're on top of it and that we're turning over every stone and making sure that we get the best incoming players around our current ones.

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