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UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 25, 2004
COACH CARR: After looking at the Purdue game, I think the thing that I'm most pleased with is the fact that it was truly a team effort. I think our kickers, Troy Nienberg and Adam Finley and Garrett Rivas all did a great job. I think under the circumstances on a grass field, on a wet field, with a wind gusting at 25 -- 15 to 25 miles an hour, I thought in all phases our kickers did an excellent job. I think defensively, obviously, it all starts with stopping the run, and I thought Gabe Watson was a dominating force up there with a lot of other guys. Lawrence Reid played his best football game. I think in the pass rush, LaMarr Woodley and Pat Massey were outstanding. And of course Massey made a big play blocking the field goal before the end of the half, which as you know, in a game that close that was a major play in the game. I thought Steve Preston did a good job returning punts in that game. But defensively, I think we did a great job pressuring Orton, making the ball come out. I thought our secondary was absolutely outstanding. I don't know who won the Big Ten Player of the Week award, but if Marlin Jackson didn't win it, then something at least as a co-winner, something is wrong. Because he was outstanding. You can't play any better than he played. And of course sometimes those awards go to the guys with statistics. You watch the game, he was outstanding. And of course the last play that Markus Curry and the hit Shazor had to knock the ball loose, and then the hustling play by Leon Hall, those were plays that we're not going to forget for a long time, here at Michigan, especially. So offensively, I thought because of the way teams in the last two weeks have played, Braylon Edwards and defending the passing game, I thought that opened up things for the running game. I think Tim Massaquoi had his best game at Michigan, but the ability to run the football and utilize the time of possession that we had, I thought against an outstanding defense I thought our third down conversions were pretty good. And finally, I think Purdue did a great job on defense. We had some opportunities that we didn't take advantage of. And some of that has to go to them. But we had some chances, we had an interception that ruined one drive primarily because of miscommunication. We had a receiver that was somewhere where he shouldn't have been because he didn't get the ball, and that's something Chad will learn because we should have taken a time-out there. But I think we made a lot of strides. Now we're glad to be back home to play another big game and another excellent football team, a team that possesses excellent ability, very talented football team, and a team that's extremely impressive when you look at statistically their ability to run the football. And of course in my judgment, there's nothing more important than that. So it should be a great game and we're looking forward to continuing to fight for the Big Ten championship.
Q. You've got the best defense in the Big Ten stopping people on third down. What goes into that, and is it tougher when you have a quarterback that can run?
COACH CARR: I think this offense is a lot different than the offense we just faced, even though some people would refer to them both as the spread offense. But the ability to run the quarterback, to utilize the quarterback as you would a tailback, creates tremendous stress on a defense. And of course, there's great challenges there because unlike Purdue, we're going to see the ball run more this week, or at least going into this game, they run the football about 60 percent of the time I think, as opposed to some spread teams are going to throw it 70 percent. So, yeah, it's a different game, it's a different offense and it's a different challenge.
Q. Can you talk about how -- in what ways do they try to get involved?
COACH CARR: That play is designed for him to run the football as you would design a run for a tailback. He'll run a ball out of the shotgun, run the quarterback draw. And then of course they will have some option plays for him and of course he has the ability to create some plays scrambling out of there. So if you're spread out, when you spread out to cover the they are receivers, then that creates a lot more space in which to run the football. So if you don't line up out there on the receivers, then they throw the football to him. So they are going to do a lot of things at the line of scrimmage and that's the difficulty of defending that type of an offense.
Q. Can you talk about the improvement Michigan State has made this year?
COACH CARR: You know, we're just -- we're working as I speak on all of the things that they have done. Obviously, since they have settled in at quarterback, you know, that's I think really solidified their offense. Going back to the Indiana game where he became the starter, he displayed in that game a great ability to run the football and to run it effectively. And I think you know their ability to score points, I mean, that's really been impressive in these last four -- in all of their Big Ten games. Then when you look at what they did to a very good Minnesota team, they are on a roll, they are playing their best football of the season. I think that's the thing that concerns us.
Q. Did you see anything they did differently in that game?
COACH CARR: Well, I think they are a very big -- they are the biggest defensive front that we've seen. They are two big guys inside the tackles. You know, they are a chore to block because they are 330, and I think Vickerson is between 290 and 300 pounds. They are mature guys. Their defensive ends are outstanding athletes. And Stanley I think is an all Big Ten linebacker and I really like their secondary. I think moving Dorch has really helped them. Hayes has really helped them and those two safeties are outstanding. Maples is an outstanding cornerback. So that's a very outstanding defensive football team.
Q. Do you like what the offense is starting to play?
COACH CARR: Well, I think we've made a lot of strides offensively. I think you know we're running the football very effectively. I think, you know, balance is important. I think we have a much better challenge today than we had six weeks ago. I think we're a better football team because I think we've had a guy like Rueben Riley now is going to start his third game. I think we've gotten the ball to our tight ends recently much more effectively and we're running the football. So I think we made a lot of strides. It still comes down to being able to take care of the football. As you get into this time of the year, you're going to go back and look at games, and the most important statistic will be who won the turnover battle.
Q. What do you need to do better in the red zone?
COACH CARR: I think we've got to spore more points. But like I said we had some opportunities there this week, penalties. You know, if you're going to create -- although the call on Kevin I think would stop which stopped the drive, there's nothing I would be critical there of Kevin Dudley on that particular play. We jumped off-sides once. We had a turnover. If you do things you don't complete passes, we had. Jason Avant hoping for a touchdown, we had Tyler open. So we had opportunities and we're going to make some of those plays. I think that's really the thing in that particular game.
Q. Talk about the interception on Saturday.
COACH CARR: Well, that's a learning -- another learning situation for Chad. We came out of the huddle. The noise in that stadium was deafening. Jason Avant did not hear the last part of the call, so he was asking Chad after the huddle broke what the play was, and because he wasn't sure. And Chad was -- his mindset was on the 25-second clock and he knew it was ticking down, and so he knew that the route was designed -- the ball was designed to go to Braylon Edwards. And so he told him, Braylon was lined up to the right and Jason was to the left. So he told Jason to go ahead and hurry up and get lined up, but what happened on the play was that Jason did not know what to do, did not know the route. And so as he ran deep, there was a guy that ended up being where I shouldn't have been because we didn't run the route on the back side. So, what Chad will learn from that next time that is let's call a time-out. You know, you don't want to use a time-out. You want to save them, but there are things that happen particularly in a stadium when you're on the road that's going to happen. So that was not a misread by Chad, even though -- even though he did throw an interception, you know, that's something that he'll learn from.
Q. What are ways that he's improved since he became your starter, what specific ways?
COACH CARR: Well, I think there's thousands of them. When you go through starting as a freshman the first time you run into that stadium starting a game and then going on the road, just learning how to eat the pregame meal, you know, where you sit. I mean, he's learned that. And now he knows where his room is on the road. He knows the stadiums. There's a million things. But as a quarterback, we've expanded, we're doing a lot of things that we couldn't do earlier in the season. And I think the most important thing is that everybody in our football team has great confidence in Chad Henne. He has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is tough. He's tough physically, he's tough mentally, he's poised. He can handle pressure. He's smart. I mean, this kid, he's proven himself.
Q. And against Purdue and Minnesota, the offense going down late in the game and score, to be able to do that under pressure, I'm sure you don't have time to be impressed with him, but are you?
COACH CARR: Well, I think the confidence that he gained at Minnesota late in the game helped him last Saturday. And of course it was much more difficult Saturday because it's on the road. But, you know, he struggled some at Illinois, and that's all part of the process, too. It's not just one thing. It's an accumulation of things. When this year is over, he will have learned some difficult lessons, and yet where he is today I think is much further than anybody could have ever have hoped he would be.
Q. Can you talk about getting the ball -- has that been a concerted effort or is it using what the defense gives you?
COACH CARR: I think it's all designed within what we are trying to do offensively and that's get the ball to our playmakers. We've got two guys at tight end, Tim Massaquoi and Ecker. He made a great catch on our touchdown drive -- the ball was thrown behind him and probably if it had not been thrown behind him, he would have either gotten hit and the ball knocked loose. So I think it was a good throw from the standpoint he through the ball away from where the defender was and yet Tyler Ecker made a catch to keep the biggest play on the drive and allowed us to answer Purdue's drive for a touchdown which was awfully important in that game because now the crowd didn't have a chance to get into the game. So but our offense is designed to get the ball to guys that can make plays, that can catch the football, that can run with it after they catch it. And certainly a part of that is being able to have a quarterback who can get you into the right play, who can read the coverage and who can deliver the football, and you know, you can always have improvements and we are trying to get better every day, and we have made a lot of improvements.
Q. Garrett Rivas, is he struggling or is it just individual circumstances?
COACH CARR: For those who are perfect, or who think everybody else should be perfect, then they probably aren't happy with Garrett Rivas. I'm very happy with him and that's all that counts. Because Rivas has kicked in that game, the field was wet, it had rained all day, it was a grass field. The wind was 15 to 25 miles an hour, gusting in that stadium. He missed one into the wind, he hit the ball extremely well but the wind took it. He had one that was blocked, and the ball I don't think got enough height. But that ball sits down into the grass a lot lower than it does when you're playing on artificial turf. So they had an All-American candidate as their place kicker. He had one attempt. It was blocked. So don't tell me about Garrett Rivas.
Q. How difficult of a play is that to make with the receiver on an angle, not getting the benefit of getting hit on and with the wet turf, coming from a long way away, reflect on that play?
COACH CARR: Well, I think you just did. (Laughter). Well, I think I've always said this, I think you know great players play great in big games. But I think that was -- you have to understand, it was a team effort. Because Markus Curry was going to -- he really set that play up. He left his feet, he laid out what we call, he was prone to the ground in an effort to make the tackle. To avoid Marcus, the receiver left his feet and now Ernest Shazor is making a great break on the football. He went through the receiver. If he doesn't hit them just like he hit them, that ball probably doesn't come loose. But it was a great play and it was made by really three guys because if Leon Hall doesn't come up with a football, then the game is still on. And there's plenty of time there for Purdue to make something happen. So, it was a great effort by three guys. I mean, that's why I say at the beginning, this was a team effort in every -- from every standpoint.
Q. Do you always want your defense to be very physical, is it living up to it's standards in that area?
COACH CARR: I think there's a lot of ways to measure the physical part of your team. I think one certainly is the way you defend the rush. If a team -- if you're giving up a lot of yards, either you're not very strong or you're not very physical up front or you're missing tackles, all of those things factor in, and we've been a very good tackling team. We've been very good, their longest run and the longest run I think we've had here, one of the longest runs this year is the 18-yarder there, and they had a call in to a defense that we were expecting a pass. So, you know, some of that is going to happen when they spread you out. But I think to answer your question, we've been a very physical team. I think that's because we're a much bigger team. Larry Harrison is really coming on. He's a big, strong guy. He's learned how to use his hands. He's very difficult to move. I mean, he's going to fight you. So along with Gabe, who is also plus-300 pounds, is strong and quick. And when you get penetration, it's very difficult to run the football. So I think that's a big part of it. We've got experienced linebackers, and we've got a secondary that all of those guys will tackle well. So if we can continue to improve, continue to play with emotion, then we can be a good football team.
Q. In any of the games your played this season done something to prepare for what this week's game will be about, the emotion?
COACH CARR: Well, I think every time you play, everything -- every time you practice, it's preparation. But certainly, the games, you know, that's really where you grow the most and learn the most; if you're paying attention, and if you're really into it. And so, we've had eight games now, both of those guys have had opportunities in eight games, and they, you know, they know -- if they don't know, they will certainly find out, but I think they have proven that they can compete. And really, once the game starts, it's a game that is like a lot of games. It's going to be hard hitting and it's going to be physical, and it's going to be two teams out there that very much and very badly want to win. So, you know, this will be the first time he's played in this game. And there's always things to learn from that standpoint. But from a competitive standpoint, he's been in games now where he knows what college football is all about.
Q. When you meet with the team on Sunday, do you say anything extra like don't give away any bulletin board material, do you say that more than you do any other week?
COACH CARR: You know, I handle all of those issues before the season. Now if there's things that come up that I don't like, then I'm going to address whatever it is that I don't like. But what you try to do is have a program that respects the opponent; that in victory is magnanimous, and so to me, it's a philosophy, it's a way that we try to do things at Michigan began. If you don't respect your opponent, you don't respect yourself. That's what this game is all about. You don't respect the game, then you shouldn't be playing it, because this game gives us all an opportunity to compete. And what else could you want when you're that age? That's really -- and to compete on this stage and to compete as a representative of the University of Michigan, there's some things there that are important and that we take very importantly. So, sometimes kids are going to make mistakes. I've made mistakes. And so you learn from those. But when you're in this limelight you're going to say some things occasionally, you're going to do some things that you would like to take back and all you can do is learn from them and go on. And so I'm not saying we're perfect, but we're trying to do things that will represent this conference, this university and ourselves in a way that we can all be proud of.
Q. Roy says he is impressed by some things LaMarr has done as a sophomore, can you talk about him?
COACH CARR: Well, Roy is prejudice. He's from Saginaw. I think, you know, Roy Manning, what I want to talk about is Roy Manning, because Roy Manning is one special guy. I can't tell you what a leader he's been on this football team and what a job he's done as a linebacker, what a job he's done as special teams and his role there, what he's done in the locker room, what a positive guy he is, and he represents everything positive that you want in a student and in an athlete. I'm so proud of him because what he's doing is giving credit to one of his teammates, and that's admirable. But it's Roy Manning because he's taking a guy from his high school and he's trying to teach him the right way to do things. And he's being a great role model, so that's the way I'd answer that question.
Q. Did you see that in Roy?
COACH CARR: Absolutely since the day he got here and LaMarr would tell you the same thing. And he's made great strides and at some time it will be Lamar's time to help some other guy grow and learn the right way to do things. That's what leadership is all about.
Q. Talk about the special feeling this week, the rivalry with Michigan State.
COACH CARR: I think any time you're part of it, you know, and you've had the experience of being in it, you know how competitive it is. You know that you're dealing with people on the other side who want to win just as badly as you do, and you know that in both cases, you're representing people who want to win very badly. But in the final analysis, the most important thing for us is that we use this as an opportunity to play our best, to be our best, to take another step towards the goals that we set for ourselves before this season began.
Q. Talk about the Paul Bunyon Trophy and meeting yesterday, can you describe the trophy, how you use it during the week?
COACH CARR: Well, we bring it out just like we do the little brown jug. We bring it out on sun did I evening when we mitt meet, when we finish the film of the previous game and we talk about you know some of the history of the series and some of the history of the game, and some of the things that, you know, that might be interesting for this team to know. But other than that, I mean, I think it's the ugliest trophy in college football, you know about you that doesn't mean that we don't love it. And we want to give him a nice, secure place to live and to spend his years. So hopefully that trophy will never leave Ann Arbor because we don't want him going up there. I mean, that's not where he belongs. So we're going to fight to keep him. I'm just saying, he's not ugly; the trophy is ugly. I don't know who he resembles. I think the truth is, was it Governor Williams? Is he the guy that founded that? Sophie Williams? That's before your time. I think he was the governor. Hey, any time you're playing for a trophy, it's important, you know. You want to win. But in this game, both teams are playing, they are champions. They have opportunities to be the Big Ten championship. Anybody that's got one loss is right in the thick of this race, so you know, that's -- there's a lot of things going here.
COACH CARR: No, it really doesn't matter to me. I think we've got the greatest stadium in the country and if somebody builds a larger one, that doesn't mean that it's a better stadium. But as far as being able to say we've got the biggest stadium, that means absolutely nothing to me.
Q. Does it surprise that you some of your players are not old enough to remember the last time Michigan State won there or do kids just not remember that far back?
COACH CARR: I can't answer. I'm speechless. I can't answer that question. I remember it, though.
Q. Can you talk about --
COACH CARR: Oh, I think -- I don't think -- I think you'd find a lot of people that would say and agree that they have the best pair of kickers in college football. They are both guys that are -- that have the ability to make big plays. The field position is created by their punter. I have never seen a guy that can kick the ball as far and as consistently as he can and of course when you can make 60-yard field goals, that means defensively you're always at the short end of the field. So the kicking game, it's nothing more important and when you look at the 30 plays or 30-some plays a game that you're going to have on special teams, that's why the return game is so important. You know, normally a guy that punts the ball a long way will give you some opportunities to return the football but you know certainly a year ago, they were very effective in taking Preston away on our punt return. So, yeah, their kicking game is a great strength of their team.
Q. Is there an advantage to playing a 3-4 defense and defending the spread?
COACH CARR: I think one of the things that anybody that has played the 34 defense will tell you is that in addition to being the best run defense, it is also the most adjustable to formations because you've got two tackles or two ends who can contain, you can drop eight. You can't -- you know, you can't drop eight in a four three defense unless you're going to drop one of your down guys. So that's just an example. I think it adjusts well. But it still matters, the real question comes down to being able to match up and so that's always an issue.
Q. Baas, can you talk about what does it say to B him, making those changes and how difficult it is?
COACH CARR: I'm going to have to talk to his high school coach. I know him well, and I can't imagine -- can you imagine in Baas playing tight end? Well, the thing about him is, if you -- you know, you've got ample opportunity when he played -- he's a great athlete. I'm just kidding there. I can see why as a high school player, as a kid before he got as big as he did that he could play tight end. But Baas is -- here to me, I really enjoy this team. I go back, I was telling the team the other day, here's Marlin Jackson, a year ago moved to safety because I had asked him to. Because I told him that that's what our team needed to do, and here is a guy that even though he's going to be an All-American at corner, agrees to do that. You know, and now, we get into this season, we've got another guy, David Baas, who moves to center in the early stages of the year. It's that kind of unselfishness that as a coach, I marvel at that because there's a lot of guys that don't want to do those things. Because it takes anybody out of their comfort zone, and yet, that's the measure of a team, and to me, that's what David Baas, that's why we've got great leadership. You've got two guys like Jackson and Baas who made moves like that; I didn't elect them captain. Their teammates elected them. And their team elected them captain in my judgment because that's the kind of guys they are. They put winning, they put being the best that they can be above their own individual goals, and what else can you ask for as a coach. That's why I'm so proud of them.
Q. Would you say David Baas is one of the guys you would look to as a leader?
COACH CARR: Well, absolutely.
Q. Can you talk about the uniqueness of your job coaching the freshmen and how you've had to -- if you had any kind of plans about how much you --
COACH CARR: Well, I give all of the credit in his development to the program he came from to Scott Leffler because he spent all of the time and he's coached him. I've looked at my role and his tenure here as being one that is at all times cognizant of the fact that this kid is 18 years old. The expectations don't change. Nobody cares whether you're 18 or 22. The expectations seem to be from some people to be the same. And as a coach, you can make a mistake by expecting too much. So, I've tried to be a lot more patient than I would normally be. I understood I think from the beginning that he's going to make some mistakes but he's being tutored by a great coach. I think Terry Malone has done a masterful job of giving him things on a progressive scale so that each week he gets a little bit more. I think each week he gains a little bit more confidence, and you know I think that's really where the credit belongs to the guys that coached him.
Q. Have you ever coached true freshman that --
COACH CARR: I've enjoyed this team probably as much as any team I've been around simply because the challenges they have had have not been easy. And what I really love about this team is the fact that when you have two freshmen playing and starting then that -- there is some issues of a chemistry standpoint that really tests the individuals involved. And what I really appreciated is how these upper classmen and their teammates have embraced them. I've said that before and I continue to say it. It isn't easy for everybody. It isn't the thing that everybody wants. There's other people impacted, and of course these kids are getting a lot of publicity and hopefully they will just remember who helped them. They didn't do this -- they are not doing this by themselves. They have got a lot of guys fighting for them and trying to help them.
Q. 600 yards rushing the last three games, are you surprised by that?
COACH CARR: Well, I can't say that I'm -- that I expected him to be carrying the ball 25 times a game. I can't say I expected him to be the starter. I think it was pretty apparent early on that he was going to play an important role on this team. And unfortunately for us, when he got his opportunity, he's really made the most of it and he's displayed an amazing durability but he's smarter than the devil. If there's anything that amazes me, it's how quickly he has learned the protections, the passing game, he's an outstanding pass protector. When you combine that with -- those are things that are more impressive to me than running the football. Because we runs the football he's got a lot of help. He's got receivers that are blocking. He's got a line that's blocking and he's got a quarterback that's calling the right plays. Those other things are things that he's done of his own.
Q. When you lost Terry last year, did you ever imagine would you get a guy this fast?
COACH CARR: I didn't look at it that way. Obviously we knew that we would be inexperienced, and yet, you're always hoping that somebody will answer the bell, and of course Michael has done that.
Q. In that vein, can he absorb more than he did five or six weeks ago?
COACH CARR: Well I think he's proven -- I think you do every game presents a little bit different deal and you do that depending on how a game is going. And if he's taking a real pounding, then you know if he gets nicked, then you know obviously that changes things, if his performance isn't good. You can tell, you've been around Fred Jackson, there's not a better coach out there than Fred and so he knows and he knows the people who play that position.
Q. Are you considering Michael on kick return?
COACH CARR: Did I say that?
Q. I'm asking.
COACH CARR: No, but that's a good idea. Oh, I do want to make a comment. I guess Tammy Carr. My daughter-in-law was in here, I don't know if -- she probably didn't tell you that, she wouldn't want anybody to know. But I hope everybody in this state will embrace and join our team here in an effort to build a new Children's Hospital. I think we're fortunate in this community and this state, and all of us, regardless of our age, we're going to have children or grandchildren or nephews and nieces who will benefit from what we can do with a new hospital. We need it desperately, we can't do it without a great team effort. And I hope you'll join this team in support of our efforts throughout this state and around the country to help us in doing something I think is of a critical nature for this community. Thank you.
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