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UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 15, 2009
COACH BREWSTER: In recapping last Saturday night's game against Air Force, obviously we're very pleased to be 2 and 0. You know, as you go back and you look at what a special night last Saturday night was, it was a special night for the state of Minnesota, but most importantly, I'd just like to say thank you to our fans. Our fans were truly amazing.
I've been in a lot of game day experiences across the country, and when our team got dropped off at the McNamara Center and began to go for a victory walk, it was something that was so special, I had never seen anything like it. I mean, it was just a sea of our fans dressed in maroon and gold, and the lift that our fans gave us during the Gopher victory walk was truly amazing. They were just absolutely awesome.
I thought the crowd was great. The crowd was our 12th man. They lifted us up all night long, and it was just a tremendous celebration for the state of Minnesota, being back at home. I thought the stadium was absolutely spectacular in every way as far as I was concerned from a football experience.
And again, I was really proud of our opponent, really proud of our opponent. I just couldn't have more admiration for a group of men like they have at the United States Air Force Academy and how hard they played and how well they represent their school. They played their hearts out.
Air Force has beaten a lot of big-time football programs through the years and last year were real close to beating an undefeated Utah team. I want to make sure that we give the United States Air Force Academy enough credit for the type of program they have and the type of men they have on their football team.
You know, as far as the game was concerned, as far as offensively, defensively and the kicking game, we're continuing to strive for consistency on offense. We've got to continue to improve. I was pleased that we ran the football for almost five yards a rush, and we want to average four or more a rush. We averaged almost five yards a rush. Adam obviously had a really good night, completed 68 percent of his throws.
Our 3rd downs are not good enough. We were 4 out of 11 on 3rd down, and we've got to do a better job on 3rd down of staying on the field. The name of the game in football today is staying on the field on 3rd down offensively and getting off the field on 3rd down defensively. We've got to continue to improve there.
But overall consistency offensively, we'll continue to improve. I thought we were much improved from game one to game two, and obviously we need to continue to improve. But there's some things here that I was pleased with.
Defensively I thought we were outstanding all night. I thought our kids played with a tremendous amount of focus, tremendous discipline. That is one extremely hard offense to prepare for in a week's time, and I thought our kids just really focused. They had great stops all night, played extremely hard and focused for 60 full minutes. And really proud of our defensive effort and the way our players flew to the football, and I think just the overall temperament that we're developing on the defensive side, very physical defense and a defense that can run well and get to the football.
You know, and again, when you look at it, you hold Air Force, the type of offense that they have, to only 13 points, that's absolutely outstanding. So again, I'm really proud of us defensively, and the way that we competed all night long.
Special forces-wise, again, I think our punter and our kicker are really doing a nice job. Danny got a couple of good rolls which helped his average, but I'd rather be lucky sometimes than good. But he's going to be really good. Obviously you can see what type of leg he has. And Eric Ellestad is doing a great job right now.
Our return game is probably as good as there is. We're doing a great job returning kicks. We didn't have a punt return on Saturday night, but obviously in the first game we did a good job with the punt returns. We'll be a good punt return team.
The area where we've got to improve where we didn't do as well I don't think Saturday night was on our kickoff coverage unit. Our kickoff coverage unit needs to improve. I think last year we were in the top of the nation in covering kicks, and I'm not as excited about the way we're covering kicks, and we need to improve there and get better.
Looking at the awards guys for the week, the offensive player of the week against Air Force broke the all-time completion record at the University of Minnesota. He was 20 out of 29, 219 yards, zero picks, threw for a 68 completion percentage, just had an outstanding football game, 15 out of 18 in the second half. It was Adam Weber.
Defensive player of the week is also the national defensive player of the week. He's played two just outstanding football games against Syracuse, against the Air Force Academy, 16 solo tackles, three assists, one tackle for a loss, one fumble recovery for a touchdown, one huge pass breakup, Nate Triplett. And he deservedly is the national defensive player of the week.
He's playing at a level that's really impressive, and our linebacker play across the board has really been outstanding. Again, for the second straight week, our special forces player of the week had two touchbacks and obviously a couple of big field goals, Eric Ellestad. Eric has got a tremendous level of confidence, and I said earlier, you know, at the end of that football game when we were making a decision about whether or not we were going to go for it on 4th down or whether or not we were going to kick the field goal and I was thinking hard about it, Eric came up to me and he said, "You know, Coach Brew, we'll make this kick. If you want me to go out there, I'm going to make this kick." He's got great confidence, and that's such a great thing for myself as a head coach and our football team to have a kicker that feels that he's going to go out there and make field goals for our football team regardless of the pressure and that type of thing. And he's doing a great job.
The hardhat hit of the week goes to Lee Campbell. Lee Campbell hit their fullback, and it was just an outstanding hit. Obviously it was on a dive play, and Lee knocked his helmet off, and it was just an outstanding physical football play by Lee Campbell, so he gets the hardhat hit of the week.
Our lunch pail guy, five tackles, one sack, plays extremely consistent at all times, really his level of play has been excellent, very stabilizing influence on the interior of our defense, Eric Small. Eric Small is our lunch pail award player.
Our extra effort award was just an amazing play. Obviously it was a turning point in the football game. It goes to Brandon Kirksey. He engaged a guard, two hands on the guard, disengaged the guard, ran down the line of scrimmage, took the ball from the quarterback. Nate Triplett was in position to scoop the ball and go score, but it was all due to an outstanding football play by Brandon Kirksey. And he gets the extra effort award. It was just, as you look at it on videotape, it's a tremendously athletic play by a big man, 300-some pounds, and again, the way he got into the guard, got off the guard, down the line of scrimmage, and obviously the Air Force quarterback is a very good athlete with very good speed. He went and got him, and not only went and got him, but he took the ball from him. And it was obviously a huge play in the game, and Brandon Kirksey wins that award.
The great teammate award guy is no surprise. He just, again, just week in and week out plays very consistently, gets guys lined up, helps with the decision making on the back end and our secondary Kyle Theret. He is the great teammate award winner.
And then our scout offensive player of the week was Mike McKelton. He did a very good job of simulating the quarterback for Air Force. We had a couple of different guys doing that, but Mike McKelton did a great job and he's got a great attitude as an older guy in this program, just sacrificing and doing the things that he knows can help us as a football team. But Mike wins the scout offensive player of the week.
And then the scout defensive player of the week is Matt Garin. Matt is a young guy playing defensive end for us who's got a chance, I think, to be an outstanding football player, and he gave us a tremendous look last week in our preparation for Air Force.
As you move forward and you look at this week's game obviously, this is the stage that we want to be on at the University of Minnesota. We want to play in meaningful, significant games. This is a nationally televised game against a team that is a legitimate National Championship caliber football team. I think that it's reasonable to say that Cal goals and aspirations would be to be this year's national champion. I think they deserve to be in that conversation for certain. It's a tremendous challenge for our football team.
They've got one of the best tailbacks in the country in Jahvid Best. They've got an outstanding quarterback. They haven't turned the ball over in two games, are very big, strong and athletic on the defensive side. For the second straight week, we'll see a 3-4 defense.
But again, this is a tremendous challenge for our football team, to face a team as good as Cal. But you know what, it's, again, where we want to be. We're going to relish the opportunity to be on the national stage this weekend, and for the University of Minnesota to be on the national stage on national TV against a tremendous opponent, we understand it is an enormous challenge for our football team, but again, that's what football needs to be about for us as far as I'm concerned in elevating the status of our program.
I think Jeff Tedford has done an outstanding job with his Cal team. They're extremely well coached in all areas, very fundamentally sound, very physical football team. Again, it's just a tremendous challenge for our football team, for our fans. But it's one in which I think everybody is excited about, and we look forward to the opportunity to play such a good team as Cal on Saturday.
Q. Cal seems to be a pretty big play offense, plays over 20 yards. What have you noticed on film is the key to those plays working for them?
COACH BREWSTER: It's not about plays, it's about players. It's about players, and that's what the game is about. It's not about schemes, it's not -- it's about the players that execute those plays. They've got outstanding football players on their team. They're a big, strong, fast team. They've got outstanding wide receivers.
Their play action pass game is absolutely dynamic because of the fact that they can hand the ball off to a guy that's maybe the fastest guy in America. I think Jahvid Best is a national sprint champ. He's got size, he's got tremendous speed, and so obviously their play action game is outstanding. And Jeff has done it for years. I mean, they're really good, very efficient.
Their quarterback makes great decisions. You know, Riley is a very solid player who's not going to put them in bad situations, and outside they've got play makers. They've got big long, tall receivers that can go get the ball. So again, like I said, I think it's much more about players than plays.
Q. Talk about players, (indiscernible), were you able to rotate three or four or five players in?
COACH BREWSTER: I said that that's where I feel like our program, we're developing quality depth on our football team, and I'm really excited about the young players we have in our program. I think it's exciting to see guys like Brandon Kirksey and Jewhan Edwards and Keanon Cooper and a lot of the other young guys that are the future of our program. And as we continue to add players of that caliber, we'll continue to be a more improved football team all the time.
Q. Talk about Triplett's progress since you've seen him here.
COACH BREWSTER: His development has been amazing. I mean, we've got an outstanding linebacker coach in John Butler. He's a very technical football coach, and he has really done a great job with Nate. And Nate obviously has developed into being an outstanding player. He's got tremendous physical characteristics. He's got great size, he's got excellent speed.
Where I think he's grown the most is he's more of an instinctive player. He's not thinking as much on the field, and he's just going and playing the game. He's in the right spot at the right time, and he's fast getting there. And so his development has really been a -- because he's been what I felt like is the best special teams player in the Big Ten for the past two years. I don't think anybody in the conference has covered kicks like Nate Triplett, but what he's doing is he's translating that play to the linebacker position.
And I can't to be quite honest with you say I'm surprised because it's important to him. It's important to him that he plays well. He's a senior, and he's trying to go out the right way.
Q. Do you look at Best as a legitimate Heisman type of candidate?
COACH BREWSTER: I think you'd have to include him in the conversation, you know, based on the numbers that he had last year and the numbers that he'll put up this year. He's an outstanding back.
You know, I was at the University of Texas when Ricky Williams won the Heisman Trophy. He's that kind of back. He's got great speed, and I'll tell you, he's 195 pounds. He's not a small back. So he breaks tackles, and they do a nice job with him in the passing game, throwing him the football, splitting him out wide, and he's just like a wide receiver when he's split out, and so he's a very multi-dimensional type of player. He's a tremendous threat. You've got to understand where he's at at all times.
But to go back to answer you, without question I think he should be in any type of conversation as far as the best player in college football.
Q. Talk about what you expect Cal's run-pass ratio maybe to be?
COACH BREWSTER: I know Jeff Tedford, and Jeff is going to try to establish the running game. He's extremely balanced. He believes in balance. He believes in balance on 1st down, and he's going to -- they're going to try to run the football and be effective doing it and be very physical doing it. Cal has got an outstanding offensive line. Their left tackle is as good an offensive lineman as there is in the country. They are big, they're strong, and they're a well-oiled offense, and I say that with admiration. I mean, you watch them and their technique and their execution of their offense is excellent.
Q. Best defense would be to keep the offense off the field and get your offense on the field?
COACH BREWSTER: Well, I think that's every game. I think that's every game. I think every game that you play you'd like to sustain your offense, you'd like to get time of possession controlled. But obviously we want to stay on the field offensively. They're a very explosive -- you know, I think that their 3-4 defense is extremely stout. I mean, they are big, they can run like -- they run really well, and on the back end they've got great coverage skills. You know, across the board in all three phases, they're exactly what you'd expect a No. 8 ranked team in the country to be.
Q. Is there a team in the Big Ten that you'd say is similar to Cal or that would help you prepare for them?
COACH BREWSTER: I don't know. I mean, Ohio State, you look at their personnel and you see some similar personnel as far as Ohio State and Cal are concerned. You see some similar philosophies as far as trying to be physical and run the football, establishing the running game, play action pass. So you know, I would probably say that would be the team that I would associate with Cal.
Q. So this type of game obviously prepares you for games later in the season?
COACH BREWSTER: Yeah, I mean, obviously this is a great opponent, and we're going to face a lot of really good opponents as we move forward in the schedule. Again, like I said, I think it's a real benefit to play a squad like Cal's that you have so much respect for and that you know you're going to have to play your absolute best if you expect to be in the game with them. I think that's very positive.
Q. You started out on the road at Syracuse, then you played a difficult offense in Air Force. Does it feel like the defense the first two weeks have kind of helped your team ramp up to this point?
COACH BREWSTER: You know, we've got a 12-week marathon. We've got a very tough schedule, and each week it's going to continue to get stronger and stronger, and we're going to have to elevate our play each and every week.
We played a really good Syracuse football team. I think that Syracuse goes on the road and plays Penn State extremely well. Obviously I think everybody understands how good a football program in team Air Force is. Now we play Cal, and then we get into the Big Ten schedule. We get into the Big Ten schedule.
So it's exciting. It's exciting for our fans. It's exciting for our team to play the schedule that we play, and it's going to force us to step up.
Q. You've be using Bryant Allen on the kick return, a pure freshman. What is it that he's shown that you have so much trust in him so early?
COACH BREWSTER: He's a very mature kid, and it doesn't seem like the game is too big for him. He's been in a lot of pressure situations. He's an outstanding basketball player, football player, but he's just an excellent athlete. Again, I just like the look in his eye. We talk about don't flinch, and I don't see that kid with any type of discomfort as far as being on the field. And I think that he wants to be out there under the spotlight. That's a pretty big spotlight he's under when he's returning punts.
He did a really nice job the other night making decisions, did a really nice job catching the one opportunity that he had. I'm excited to see him with the ball in his hands and see him go.
Q. You mentioned this being a nationally televised game. What do you want people to see on Saturday on the national stage?
COACH BREWSTER: I'd just like to see us play well and compete for 60 minutes, compete and execute. You know, the basic things that I think every coach in the country would like to see out of his football team is do a great job in our preparation this week, do a great job in our preparation, a great amount of respect for our opponent, and go out and play a great -- go out and play as well as we can play. If we do that, that will be great. And I think we will.
One thing our football team does is our team goes out and plays. Our team goes out and plays extremely hard, and that I have got great passion and energy for the game, and if you play hard, good things will happen. I think the play that Brandon Kirksey made, that Nate Triplett made, is very indicative of just playing with great effort. We want to play with great effort. We want to play smart. We want to be a smart, poised football team. And those are the things that we want to continue to improve upon as we move forward.
Q. How is Carpenter coming along?
COACH BREWSTER: He's doing good. He's really doing good. He's had good work in practice, and obviously his opportunities and his chances are going to come. He's doing a nice job.
Q. Weber spread the ball around quite a bit the second half. That's when the game is on the line, just like he did in Syracuse. Can you talk about that?
COACH BREWSTER: Again, I think, again, it's not Weber, it's running the football, overall consistency with our whole group. And we did a lot of good things offensively. The consistency that we strive for, the conversions on 3rd downs were not where we needed them to be.
Obviously in the second half we were much better. He was 15 out of 18 passing in the second half. We really did a nice job of establishing the run in the second half and did some things better there.
It's a four-quarter football game, and what we've got to do is do a good job of understanding what it's going to take four quarters of good play to play a team as talented as Cal.
Q. Were you glad to see him spread it around?
COACH BREWSTER: Yeah. I mean, obviously we want to be able to move the ball around. You've got a player like Eric Decker, who's caught 19 balls in two games, and again, like I said, if you're not going to cover him, we're going to throw it to him. So I don't get as concerned with spreading the ball around. I'm concerned with moving the ball and winning.
Q. Penalties obviously have a good bit to do with stopping and starting on offense. What is the key to eliminating that?
COACH BREWSTER: Just being poised, being poised and being smart and continuing to understand those things, and we'll continue to work on them and work on eliminating penalties as part of what we do. And our guys will improve there.
Q. We saw a little more diversity in the play calling on Saturday. Do you feel like you still have some untapped options on offense?
COACH BREWSTER: I think offensively we're a work in progress, and we're making improvement. We did some good things the first week obviously in the second half, and I thought this week we were a little bit better across the board from the beginning to the end of the game, and I think that we'll continue to improve as an offensive football team, you know, every time we play the game.
Really looking forward to starting practice today in our preparation for Cal and improving. You know, it's another opportunity to improve, and that's what we want to do.
Q. Stommes and Sherels?
COACH BREWSTER: Obviously Matt was 100 percent. He was back and healthy and ready to go, and Marcus is still right now day-to-day. Hopefully we'll get him back for Cal. He's got the ankle sprain, but Stommes is 100 percent. Derrick Onwuachi is back to as close to 100 percent as a guy can be. So we're in good shape health-wise going into this game.
Q. Tom has done a pretty good job. Does he kind of deserve to stay there?
COACH BREWSTER: Tom has done a real good job, and that's obviously a plus to have a competition like we've got there, and another guy who can step in if there is another injury. Depth is a great thing, particularly when you play 12 straight weeks without a bye. And we're going to need all those guys as the season progresses.
Q. What's Tedford done to get the Cal program from near the bottom to where it is now?
COACH BREWSTER: Recruit. You know, he's recruited extremely well, and obviously he had a tough go at the beginning. He had about a three or four-year stretch where it was a tough go. But Jeff and his staff have recruited really well, and it's evident as you look at their football team. They have got a bunch of really talented football players. I think he'd be the first one to tell you that, as well. They've recruited extremely well, and Jeff does a great job coaching.
Q. MarQueis had the chance to run the ball a little bit against Air Force and did a nice job. Talk about the experience like that he can learn from.
COACH BREWSTER: Absolutely. He's going to be a really good player, and that game experience is going to help him immensely. He learned a good lesson, and ball security is a major issue, particularly if you're going to run with it. But that was a good lesson for MarQueis, and he'll continue to learn and grow and get better each week.
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