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UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 21, 2010
COACH BREWSTER: You know, going back and recapping the USC game, we did a lot of things well. I thought we did a lot of things really well.
Most of you were at the game, could see that there were a couple of instances that defined the outcome of the football game to help USC and not us. You know, you add a little levity to the situation, you know, I kind of feel and empathize a little bit with Dennis Green. He's meeting with the press after they played -- Arizona Cardinals played Chicago. What did he say? He said, We let them off the hook. We let them off the hook and they are who we thought they were.
That's kind of how I feel about the SC game. We were in a great position in the end of the third quarter to take the lead. I feel like we, you know, let them off the hook by some of the things that we did, a couple of things we did, that really had a chance to help us win a big football game.
Obviously, USC, I wouldn't think there's a more talented football team in the country than USC. Every player on their roster is a five-star football player. You know, they're an amazingly talented collection of athletes on that field and on that team.
You know, obviously I was really proud with how our team competed. Really thought that our coaches did a great job with the plan and the game that allowed us a chance to be in the game in the third and fourth quarter.
You know, obviously you need a couple of breaks in that game, as well. Somehow a punt hits one of my guys in the back of a heel, which he said didn't hit him. Obviously that was a big play as far as field position is concerned. There's just a number of plays like that, three or four different plays like that, that I think really affected the outcome of the game.
Again, our team was disappointed we didn't come out with the win. I think that's the most positive thing coming out of our meeting on Sunday, talking about the USC game, our players believed they were going to win the football game. They went out and obviously played well.
There's no silver lining with that. Obviously a loss is a loss. The loss to USC counts just like the loss to South Dakota. Obviously, I was much more pleased with the way we played against USC than what we did against South Dakota.
But, again, it was a great opportunity for our football team here. I thought the crowd was great. I thought it was just great football Saturday here at the University of Minnesota to have a team like USC come into our place, our fans get an opportunity to see that type of team.
Unfortunately, we didn't win the game. That's exactly what we were there to do, to win the game. We don't take much solace out of it other than the fact our kids improved and that's a very positive step they took.
This week looking at Northern Illinois, moving forward to Northern Illinois, we're very excited about the fact we're going to play Saturday night in TCF Bank Stadium. In my mind, that's the most exciting time of the day to play a college football game. It kind of brings you back to Friday night high school football. We all remember last year playing Michigan State on Halloween night. What an exciting night that was. What a great atmosphere that was.
I know our team is really looking forward to playing on Saturday night again this week against a very good Northern Illinois team.
I'd like to begin by saying I know Jerry Kill, and Jerry is a good friend of mine, gone through some adversity here with some health issues. He was on the sideline against Northern Illinois last Saturday, and I hope for him and his team he's going to be on the sideline this week for our game, that Jerry is doing well. We send all of our thoughts and prayers down to Jerry and his program and hope he's doing well.
He's got a good football team. Chandler Harnish is their key to it offensively. He's a quarterback runner. He throws the football well. We saw Chandler three years ago at the start. He's a good football player. Again, to me he's the key to what they do offensively.
It's going to be very important for our defense to do a good job at lining up and adjusting and doing the things we need to do to slow down Chandler.
Spann is an excellent runningback. He's a strong, physical runner. He does a nice job, as well.
Defensively they're a lot like Middle Tennessee, we think. They're a slant-and-angle front. They move. They do not sit still. Very similar to what Middle Tennessee did against us. They do a nice job of matching their coverage behind it. They're a very solid, sound football team that's had a track record of beating BCS opponents.
You look at the history, last year they beat Purdue. They've beaten a lot of BCS teams. Every game that you go into against Northern Illinois, you know it's going to be a dogfight. They're extremely well-coached. Jerry has done a great job there. Again, they've got good football players. So we expect a great battle with those guys on Saturday night.
We're very excited, again, like I said, that it's at home under the lights at TCF Bank Stadium. We think it will be a great game.
As far as the depth chart is concerned, we have no changes in the depth chart. No changes offense. No changes defensively, which is extremely positive for us through three weeks in the season, not to have to mix and match our depth chart. We've got guys that have been out there playing, and that's very positive.
We're going to look at the situation at kicker with Ellestad and Schwerman. We're going to have them both kick throughout the week and at the end of the week we'll make a decision that we think is best for us as far as our kicker is concerned. Other than that, there's no depth chart changes.
Q. Back to USC. You have them for the opener next year. Thoughts about that?
COACH BREWSTER: As I said, I think it's great for our program. It's great for our fans. It's really good for our football team.
We had a number of recruits in last weekend, some really good players, some players that are going to really help us in the future. Again, I don't think there's any negative whatsoever in playing a game. I'm really excited to play the game.
It challenged our football team to step up and play, and that's what we did. So, you know, again, as we move forward, get another opportunity to play them, we'll look forward to it.
Q. You made a number of defensive changes last week. Same defense this week. Are you pleased with the improvement you saw?
COACH BREWSTER: Yeah. I think it was quite obvious that we were much more settled in the secondary. We held a pretty good passing offense to under 200 yards throwing. I thought Kyle Theret was very good in the back end. He really did some nice things particularly from a communications standpoint. James Manuel was much more settled. He played very well.
You know, I thought we did some good things there. Obviously, it was a much better effort, much more improvement based on the performance we had the week before against a much better opponent.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH BREWSTER: Obviously he had a couple of things come up that welcomed him to the big-time. How about that, your first start. He's from Valencia, California. He's grown up watching the Trojans, being around them. The ability to open your college career against them was a great thrill for him. I thought he held up well, did some good things. He's going to be an excellent football player.
That is what is so exciting about that game against USC, so many young guys playing well. Kendall Gregory-McGhee getting a sack. Vereen, a lot of the young linebackers, there's a lot of guys I could mention, but it's exciting they played so well against such a quality opponent.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH BREWSTER: The biggest thing he brings is leadership. He brings leadership. He's a guy that our defense really respects. You know, he's been through all the battles, all the wars, through four years of playing Big Ten football.
Again, he's a no-flinch guy. He's a tough guy. He's not the biggest. He's not the fastest. His heart is as big as his body. If everybody played with the same type of heart that he does, your football team would really be a great football team.
Q. Every week it's progress. Is he further along this week?
COACH BREWSTER: He's chomping at the bit to play. He's going to be in full pads today. We'll see what we get out of him today.
Again, I'm not a doctor. I know he's close, but I think that last step is a big step towards cutting him loose and saying, you know, he can go play. So we just want to be sure, again, that that last step that he takes towards getting back on the field is the prudent one.
Q. Those guys together, Kim and Kyle together.
COACH BREWSTER: They're good. They're good. They play well together obviously.
I tell you, I can't be more pleased with the progress of James Manuel. James Manuel I think is going to be one of the better safeties in the Big Ten as he moves forward. He's got that kind of ability. All he needs is experience.
To him to play in the arena he did last Saturday, do the things he did, get his first college interception, made some good tackles, lined up well, you know, he's got a chance to be really good. He only benefits from the fact that he's got his own personal coach in Kim. You know, he doesn't go two steps and Kim is not there talking to him, helping him, guiding him.
You know, James is going to be a factor for us whether or not Kim comes back.
Q. Gray said after the game last Saturday he's getting more comfortable out of receiver. Have you seen that?
COACH BREWSTER: Guys, again, you see the game. You can see the impact that he's making on the game. I said this to a couple of the guys. I don't know that there was a better athlete on the field Saturday than him, on both sides of the ball. I'm just saying that because I think it to be the truth.
I think that he's got a chance to be a very special player. He is on a daily basis really improving as a wide receiver. He's still getting his work in at quarterback. You know, we're asking a lot out of him, but he's capable of giving a lot. He's been blessed with just tremendous talent. He really did some nice things Saturday.
You know, he did some nice things away from the ball that you don't see. He's 6'5", 230 some pounds, he was blocking the heck out of their corners, doing a nice job. He just takes pride in being a good football player. He doesn't really rest on the fact that he's been blessed with that type of ability; he tries to push himself each and every day to improve and get better. That's what's really exciting about him.
Q. (Question regarding him as a quarterback.)
COACH BREWSTER: I think he's much further along as a quarterback, as well, just based on the fact he's been here for a year. To be quite honest with you, I think even though he's not playing quarterback, he's going to really benefit from being on the field at wide receiver. The pace of the game, the speed of the game, if he has to go from wide receiver to quarterback in a game, I think it's really going to help him because he's been on the field, he's in the flow of the game.
I think it's so much harder to come from the boundary, line up and go play. So I think that will help him.
Q. (Question regarding Gray and Weber.)
COACH BREWSTER: And I think it's really building. You saw a great play by Da'Jon McKnight on the deep ball for the touchdown. He's another guy basically new to the game as far as experience is concerned. He gets better and better.
You love the fact you have Troy Stoudemire into this mix. Guys competing. I'm going to make the next play. You get the next one. I think that's really positive for us.
One of the big questions I had going into the SC game was how would our receivers respond. SC's defensive backs are confident in their ability, going to play press-man coverage, could we get open. I thought we showed up really well at the receiver position against them. I think we gave them a lot of problems with our length at receiver.
We saw the matchup on Da'Jon with a 5'8" corner. We went right to it and attacked it and obviously had success with it. I think that we have the makings there of a really good receiver group.
Q. How did Matt Garin do in his couple starts at defensive end? What was your thinking in giving Jacobs a try, too?
COACH BREWSTER: You know, Matt Garin is a good football player. He's a very good football player. He does some really good things. He's not the biggest guy in the world.
Obviously, USC, I don't know whether or not you realize that those guys are all giants, 6'6", 6'7", 300, 320. He was in a position in this football game where he was playing against much bigger guys. You try to get a bigger guy on the field.
Anthony Jacobs played outstanding against USC. He's 300 pounds. Matt Garin is 250 pounds. Matt is in a situation there where he can be at a mismatch in the running game somewhat against a bigger body. Anthony Jacobs is not at a mismatch. He handled himself extremely well, played an outstanding game. Matt did some good things as well in the game.
Q. How did Eric react when there would be some competition?
COACH BREWSTER: Again, I told you the stories about Eric Ellestad. He's been to every Gopher home game since he's been five years old. Since he's been five years old, he's never missed a Gopher home game. It's amazing the love that his family has for this university. He's carrying some weight with that.
What I want to do with him is try to lighten his load a little bit and let him relax because he's a talented kicker. Last year he hit a couple of game-winners for us. He's got a strong leg.
I got to get him to relax. That's what we're going to try to do this week, is allow him to relax. He wants very badly to be our kicker and he wants to execute.
He wasn't pleased with the way he kicked on Saturday. Rightfully so. He needs to improve. I think he will.
Q. (Question regard David Schwerman.)
COACH BREWSTER: He's a young guy who has some ability and talent. Again, it's how are you going to kick under the lights? It's easy to kick out here on the practice field when there's not 50 some thousand people there, game's on the line, we score a touchdown, you got to kick off, those types of things. You try to simulate it the best you can, but you can't do that.
But we'll let those two guys both kick this week and see where it goes.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH BREWSTER: I think the biggest thing is him to understand that just be the best that you can be, don't try to do things you can't do. That's what I've got to be smart with, is making sure that I do a good job with him at making him feel good about himself, him feel good about what he can do.
He's shown that he can do it. We just need for him to do it on a more consistent basis.
Q. Mobile quarterback this week. Will you change your approach, given the South Dakota game, or is it just a matter of executing?
COACH BREWSTER: No, we'll change some things. We'll change some things based on some of the things that happened against South Dakota. Our guys have really I think put together a really nice plan for this week.
We'll do some things that we did against South Dakota. Certainly just want to do them better. But we certainly studied that game and saw some things that we could have done differently and will do differently on Saturday night.
Q. Things you're looking to exploit?
COACH BREWSTER: Things we're looking to exploit? We want to be able to run the ball. I think it all starts with us, with our ability to run the ball with consistency. We've been pretty good running the ball through three games. Again, that's where it all starts.
Everything off of that becomes easier. The play-action pass game, moving the quarterback around a little bit, doing some different things. But it all starts with the ability to run the ball and be successful doing it early, particularly on first down. Staying with the chains, not getting behind in down and distance. I think that's absolutely critical for us offensively for the way we're going to run our offense.
Q. (Question regarding Da'Jon.)
COACH BREWSTER: He went into last week's game, slightly sprained ankle. He wasn't at a hundred percent against SC. I anticipate him to be back to a hundred percent this week. We'll continue to see. Donnell Kirkwood, I thought he really did some nice things in the SC game. He challenged USC as a true freshman running the football. I was really excited about his attitude running the ball. I think he's going to do nothing but get better. DeLeon did some good things in that game, as well. Da'Jon has obviously shown what he can do, as well.
Q. How is Connor and Kevin?
COACH BREWSTER: Connor Cosgrove went home last night. Was really fired up about that. He's going to continue his chemotherapy treatments. He'll go from home into the hospital. It's a two-year process for him. It's a two-year process.
But, you know, Kevin has said to me, it's amazing the support that his family has received. I went over to the hospital yesterday to see Connor again. You know, it's truly amazing the human spirit and how people that don't even know the Cosgroves from all over America, all over America, are sending him their best wishes. It's really special, really special.
Q. What were his symptoms?
COACH BREWSTER: I was with Kevin in the hotel two Friday nights ago. He calls Coz. He said, Dad, I haven't been feeling really good. For whatever reason, I've been sweating at night. That kind of threw an alarm up. I talked to Ed. I said, We got to get Connor to get some blood work done. So they did the blood work. It was only a couple of weeks maybe, 10 days or so, that he was feeling bad. They did the blood work. You know, most normal people have 12,000 or more white blood cells in their body. When they checked his initially, he had 800. Obviously then they went and did the test, the bone marrow test, then the process began.
They immediately began a very, very aggressive form of chemo with him. I can't even tell you how proud I am for Kevin. This kid is an absolute stud. Yesterday morning he had three more rounds of chemo. When he went and saw him yesterday afternoon, he was jacked up.
But even more than that, I go down the hall, right? There's a three-year-old little boy Nicolas, okay? Nicolas is a huge Golden Gopher fan. He has a much worse form of leukemia, a much more aggressive form than Connor has got, okay? He wanted to meet Coach Brew. He had his Minnesota helmet on, his shoulder pads on and his jersey. The kid is three years old, three years old, going through the same things.
So, you know, it puts things in perspective when people have challenges.
Jerry Kill is going through a hard time right now. He's battled cancer. He's had a number of issues. Mark Dantonio, fellow coach up at Michigan State, is going through a hard time.
Life throws all kinds of challenges and curve balls at you. One of the guys in the hospital said to me yesterday, he said, Coach Brew, you just keep fighting. I said, What I'm doing as compared to what they're doing on a cancer ward in the hospital.
Q. With that said, Mark Dantonio has a heart attack, Urban Meyer talked about how the stress is so much worse now than in the past. Is this a high-risk job that you're in?
COACH BREWSTER: The profession is hard on you. I think that you've got to be able to exercise. You've got to be able to have an outlet. I exercise daily. I watch what I eat. I see a doctor once a year. Once a year I get a full physical.
I just think this profession can eat you up a little bit if you let it. So I think the big thing is just taking care of yourself and getting a full physical every year. So many guys don't want to go to the doctor and get themselves checked, get a physical. That's what we need to do.
Q. How much would a win do for the team?
COACH BREWSTER: That's the thing. We're talking to the team about what we've been through as a team. Lost a great man in Terry Hoese. You know what, Sharon is doing really well. She's strong, got great support. Doing really well. Connor Cosgrove went home last night. We're going to help push him through.
You know what, okay, guys, let's focus on football. Let's focus on the game against Northern Illinois. We're trying to limit the distractions that we've had the best we can and go out and win a football game and have some fun doing it. That's what I want this team to do.
End of FastScripts