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September 13, 2011

Danny Hope

THE MODERATOR: Welcome to week three of Purdue football. The Boilermakers will be hosting Southeast Missouri this week Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium. Just to remind everybody, there will be no teleconference next week because of the bye.

Q. Hey, Danny. First just thoughts on Southeast Missouri State, and they've got a dual threat quarterback, just the problems he presents.
COACH HOPE: They have a very good quarterback. He rushed for about 1,000 yards last year. He's certainly one of their best players. He threw for about a little bit over 60 percent completion percentage. So he's a very efficient quarterback.
They have an excellent run game. They run just about every type of option play that you could have to prepare for, and they also have a very competent quarterback from a passing standpoint. He has his top receiver back from last year, who's about 6'6". They have two or three wide receivers that are over 6'3" or taller. So they have big receivers, a good passing quarterback, and he's an excellent runner as well.

Q. You're getting quite a bit out of your punting game, in particular from Cody Webster. Could you talk about how he's performed this year so far.
COACH HOPE: He's picked up where he left off at. I thought he was really punting the ball well last year, and he did well in camp but has really picked it up the last week and a half and really striking the ball well. He's done a great job with it.
I think he's one of the best at his positions, certainly in our league, and he's been a difference maker for our football team in a lot of ways. He and Carson Wiggs and the entire kicking team has really been an advantage for our football team.

Q. I think you've given up eight sacks this year. How much of those is attributed to maybe an inexperienced quarterback, how much to the line, and what kind of needs to be done to shore that up?
COACH HOPE: A significant part of it would probably go with having a young quarterback. Sometimes a young quarterback that may or may not check in or out of the right protections versus certain blitzes. People know you have a young quarterback, so they show him a lot of looks early. I don't know what percentage numerically where fault would lie.
It will be a big step for Caleb when he learns not to take a sack. I remember when I coached here before, coached the offensive line, and Drew Brees was here, and he was a great young promising quarterback. I know at one point in his career he learned not to take a sack, and immediately he became a quarterback. I know Caleb will learn that as well.

Q. Part of that is, what, game experience, and seeing more defenses and even more disguise defenses?
COACH HOPE: Well, just seeing it. He hasn't played very much. We sat down and looked at how Caleb played. He did very well. He did a lot of good things on Saturday. When he knew what was happening in front of him, he really did well. He sat in the pocket, and he threw the vertical game well Saturday, and he ran the ball very well. I think he had about 80 yards rushing.
We didn't have any turnovers. We didn't have any pre-snap penalties. So he took some big steps as far as managing the football team, and he was very accurate on his three-step. When he knew what to do and he was sure, he was very good.
On the other hand, he threw a couple of -- we call them quarterback picks. Defensive players didn't intercept the ball, but they sure should have. He threw a couple of quarterback picks, and there were a couple of sacks that he took that he should have thrown the ball away.
He'll learn his lesson some, you know, with on the job training, but we think he's doing very well. He's going to be an outstanding quarterback. He is much better than he was two weeks ago. He's one heck of a talent. I really like Caleb Terbush, and I think he's doing exceptionally well.
What I really like about him is he doesn't get rattled, and that's probably the most important quality in a quarterback. Even though there's some new things happening to him, and sometimes they don't always manufacture the best of plays. He's manufacturing a lot of outstanding plays for us. I think he's doing very well. But when something new happens to him, it's a learning experience, and he moves on to the next play and does very well.
I think he's really tough physically and mentally. I like everything about Caleb Terbush and think he's progressing very well.

Q. Hey, Coach Hope. Being a former player and coach in the Ohio Valley, I'm sure you have a lot of respect for the conference and take this game pretty seriously, don't you?
COACH HOPE: Absolutely. It's going to be fun. Coach used to be here, Coach Samuel used to be here at Purdue. He's very familiar with Boilermaker football, and they're a strong member in the Ohio Valley conference. We had some tough games against them. I coached against Coach Samuel when he was the head at Eastern Kentucky University. I know a lot about them and think they're a good opponent for us, and I'm glad they're coming.

Q. Is it tough to have these games where you have to convince your players, hey, this is a real serious game? Or you don't think that will be a problem for you guys?
COACH HOPE: Where we're at as a football team coming off a loss, I would think we'd want to play well this week. Two things we want to get done. We want to get better as a football team, and we want to win. That's two things we have to focus on. I know our guys will do that. We'll practice well, and we'll be ready to play, and we'll look forward for Saturday to get here.

Q. You feel pretty good about your team 1-1 right now?
COACH HOPE: I wish we were 2-0.

Q. You feel like you'll have a pretty good season, though, I mean, if everything works well for you guys?
COACH HOPE: There's a lot of bright spots. We think we're going to be a very good football team still. We have a young quarterback, and he's really getting better. I think he's really going to do well this season.
And I like what we have potentially on the defensive side of the ball. I think we're in a position to take some big steps defensively here in the next couple of days. I like where we're at. I wish we were 2-0.

Q. What concerns you? I know SEMO didn't have a good game in their opener. They're breaking in a lot of players. What concerns you most about SEMO?
COACH HOPE: What concerns me most is how our team plays Saturday. We need to play well Saturday. I'm a lot more interested in getting our team ready to play.

Q. When you coached against Tony in the Ohio Valley, what was it that characterized his teams, I guess? What was it he brought to that program?
COACH HOPE: I think his team's always played hard and competed and wanted to win. They probably maximize on the potential that they had. The seasons that I was in Eastern Kentucky, they were like that the whole time that I was there. They were a competitive team in the conference the whole time I was the head coach there, even before Coach Samuel came there. They always had good players. They were big. They're a big, physical football team.

Q. You already talked about their offense. What kind of things do they do on defense?
COACH HOPE: Well, defensively, you know, they're similar to us in some ways where they come out, and they stem from a four-three defense. And they can shade the front either way. They put the shade strong or the shade weak. They play with two defensive tackles or two defensive ends.
They're similar to us from a coverage standpoint. They have a lot of defensive players that are back, guys that play well in their first game. They have a linebacker back that had double digits in tackles in their game last week against Southern Illinois, who's a very good football team.
They have fast players back in the secondary. They're much younger on offense. They only have three starters back on offense, but they have several starters back on defense.

Q. And with the bye week coming up right behind this game, do you try to get guys like Gabe, Robert Marve out there this weekend or kind of take it easy on them and figure two weeks off?
COACH HOPE: I don't know where Gabe will be at from an availability standpoint. Right now he's doubtful still. That could change. It's still early in the week. Robert Marve, I believe he'll be ready to go. I think he'll get more reps in practice, and he'll do well in and practice, and he'll be ready to go.

Q. When you get Robert back, do you look at it like 50-50 split between the quarterbacks, or do you look at it like maybe he gets one series a quarter, or you just kind of wait to see how game conditions are?
COACH HOPE: We'll make the decision when it gets close to game time based on what we think is best for our football team as far as getting in a rhythm. You know, we've had so many different players at the quarterback spot. I don't know how many different times in the last year and a half that we've had a quarterback start three games in a row. We're really excited to have a quarterback start his third game this Saturday.
We want to get Robert in the game and get Robert ready to play, and Robert can help us win. We don't have a statistical prediction on how we're going to play him right now. We haven't sat down and had that conversation. We're glad we have a guy that's starting for us, that's doing well, that looks promising, and we have another guy that's a good player that looks healthy and ready to go. We're in better shape right now than we were a couple of weeks ago, much better shape.

Q. What did you see out of Robert Maci on Saturday? Obviously, he came up with a couple of big plays for you.
COACH HOPE: He's a smart football player, and he's always been a great effort guy. He's older now. He's been in the program for a while now. He's bigger and stronger and more mature physically. I think that he holds up better on the line of scrimmage. He's always had a real knack for being able to find the football and make plays. That's what showed up on Saturday. He finds the football and was ready to make plays and was always giving a great effort.
He had pulled a hamstring prior to coming into camp. He didn't get a whole lot of -- or didn't get some of the practice time early in camp. He was one of our better special teams players the last couple of years. He was our top special teams player two years ago. So he's a wide open type of guy, and that's very important, to have wide open type of guys out there on the field.
We've opted not to use him on special teams because we need him at end. He's a third end, but he can go in as a starter. He's very productive. We were worried about using him on kickoff coverage, which he's very good at, and possibly pulling that hamstring early. We haven't used him hardly at all in special teams, and he's been playing more of the games at end and been making the plays. He's gotten better.

Q. You guys have rushed for nearly 200 yards a game, but you have given up some. Where do you think the offensive line is as far as your expectation for them at this point?
COACH HOPE: I think, based on how we had to reshuffle the offensive line, not having Kenny available, we got to do some things different, and we had to make some decisions. We had to try to look at the future a little bit and decide this is probably where we're going to be at personnel-wise and shift things around early enough in camp for us to be ready to play in the games.
I think the offensive line has played well in the first two games, the first game in particular because they brought blitzes and there was so much pressure and so much movement. That was good for a first time out. I like the skill level on our offensive line. I think we're a very, very athletic offensive line, and we run very well, and they practice very good. So I think we have talent, and we have some experience.
We're new again on the right side, and those guys are doing a good job, and they're very talented and playing really hard, but we're new. Mondek is new to guard, and Kitchens is new to offense and playing in the games on offense. So they're experiencing some new type things, but I believe Justin Kitchens played winning football both games. When we came home and looked at what his performance grade was at, I believe he played winning football both games.
My point is I like where we're at, but we can get even better. We're very new on that right side. That right side potentially from a talent standpoint is great. That right tackle and right guard both have ran a 40 in 5.0 flat or better, and they're great guys who keep getting better and better. And they're going to get better through the course of the season.
I like where our offensive line is at too. I like where we're at. I think we can keep getting better. I think their offensive line, they kind of reflect really where our team is at. Every team is different, and I think this is a football team that's going to keep getting better and better and better and be a very good football team. I see really good potential on our football team.
I'm disappointed that we lost last weekend. We made a lot of mistakes. Credit to the opponent, they played well, and they had some good players. But we aided to their effort in some ways and helped them manufacture some really big plays that didn't need to be that big of plays.
We can get some things corrected on the defensive side of the ball and continue to mature at the quarterback position and all the other positions on our football team, and I think we're going to develop into a really good football team this year. So we're encouraged and really disappointed we didn't win that game. That's a game we should have played well enough to win, and we didn't. We're disappointed in that. But we know why, and we think we can make progress in those areas and really move on as a football team.

Q. Just from the defensive point of view, what things do you feel like you need to clean up? Are you doing things schematically wrong, or is it a personnel issue, a little bit of everything?
COACH HOPE: I don't think it's a personnel issue. I like what we have out there on the field. Obviously, we don't have Ryan out there anymore, so you don't have the exact same thing coming off the edge from a pressure standpoint, but we've been able to manufacture some pass rush with our ends, and I think we have excellent potential to manufacture pass rush with our defensive tackles.
I think Kawann Short is a very good pass rusher, particularly for an inside guy. Usually your outside guys are the premiere pass rushers. I think Kawann Short is an excellent passer from the inside. He has really good feet and really good hands. We're getting better rushing the passer from our defensive line. We still have to get better pressure on the quarterbacks.
We made a lot of mistakes. We have certain schemes that fit within our defensive system and some things that we try against certain type of offensive looks, and we came out of that game realizing there are some things we're better doing for our defense and some things we're not. So we learned some things about our football team, and we'll grow and develop as a result of our performance on Saturday.

Q. One thing I imagine you're going to shore up is the middle of the field. It seems like you're giving up some passing yards in the middle.
COACH HOPE: We're giving a lot of passing yards up in the middle. That's what I'm talking about. We weren't in the right spots. We had some assignment errors. A pass they might have completed and had a gain on turned into one that went down the field. That can't happen. We only missed eight tackles Saturday. Hard to believe when you see people running up and down the field at times. When we missed one or we weren't in the right place, it was for something big.
We're going to play better defense. I think now just knowing a little bit about what we think we can do well with this defensive unit that fits within the system we already have. We tried some games in the first couple of games and through the spring and through the course of camp, and I think we have a great -- or a much better handle on what it is that we're going to be really good at on the defensive side of the ball.

Q. Just one more. You just mentioned Kenny. Is there anything new you can tell us about his status, or is it just status quo with him at this point?
COACH HOPE: It's status quo, but he's doing the right things on a lot more consistent basis, and that's encouraging.

Q. Has Robert Marve been cleared to play?
COACH HOPE: Yes, absolutely.

Q. So the goal this week is to get him as many more reps as you can in practice?
COACH HOPE: Sure. Get him ready to go. He hasn't had enough. He's done well when he's gotten some. The good thing is he'd get some reps and he couldn't get again. He doesn't have any more days like that now. This is the first time that's happened for a sustained period of time since he injured himself a year ago.
We've always been optimistic he was going to come back and be ready to go, but even more so now. There's a lot better signs now.

Q. Just what things are you seeing out of him in practice?
COACH HOPE: He's throwing the ball really well. He's accurate and has a lot of zip on it. When he takes off and run, he still runs really fast, which is a good sign. He's fast. I think he's getting the ball out of his hand in a hurry.
He still needs a lot more practice at getting the signals, calling the plays, saying the plays, and making sure he knows where everybody is at on the field. You get better by doing the reps in practice and get better with the players around you. Not just seeing it on film, practice reps and game reps.
He looks better to me, the physical part looks better to me. He still has to get a better grasp on what we're calling, why we're calling it, and how we're going to get it done, as does Caleb, Sean, and all the rest of them.

Q. With Gabe Holmes being out last game and probably this game, what kind of luxury has it been to have a guy like Crosby Wright to lean on in that position?
COACH HOPE: I'm not surprised but really proud of the way he's stepped up. He's a good football player. He's always been a good football player. He came to us via a walk-on, and I don't believe he had had a real extensive high school career. Didn't know much about him, but he's always gone out there and gotten after it and fit up on people good in the blocking game.
He's been a smart guy and a guy that didn't take very many times -- when you showed him how to do something, he could turn right around and emulate you almost to the letter in a lot of ways. So he's very, very easy to coach. I go down and work with the tight ends a lot and Coach Smith a lot, particularly in the blocking part of it, early in the camp and early in the practices, and I've always been impressed with how well he picks it up and how quick he gets it.

Q. With the number of running backs that you have at your disposal, the distribution of the carries, are they right where you want them, or should guys like Ralph and Akeem be getting a little bit more?
COACH HOPE: I'd like for Ralph and Akeem to get it more. The more plays we have out there, the more times they can touch it. Looking back on it, we'd certainly want Ralph to get the ball more than 10 times, 11 times a game. I think we called -- you guys know better than I do -- 50-something runs last Saturday, and Ralph was in there for a lot of them.
Sometimes our run game is just tagged on with a complementary pass route based on certain looks. So sometimes we've got Ralph out there, and we'd love to get him the ball. And sometimes we're able to look out there and see some other opportunities, and we check to something else and pass it. That's what we're about.
So it's not that we don't want to get him the ball. We sit down every week, and we list the top play makers on our offensive football team, and we figure how many plays we'll get in the game and how many times we want those guys carrying the football or touching the football, if we had our druthers, and Ralph is always there right at the top somewhere. Yes, we want to get him the ball more, and we have more than one good running back, and that's good. We're going to need them.
I think we've become a good running football team and a more physical football team. We can do two things this week. We can get better as a football team, and we can win. That's what we need to focus on. Right now we're not as good as we can be with passing the football. We can be, though. We've got a big, tall, strong-arm quarterback and a big offensive line. It looks like we're going to have real potential there.
We feel like we're kind of in the same place a couple years ago when Joey Elliott was first getting on the field and he threw for, I don't know, 700, 800 yards at the beginning of the season, and he threw for 3,000 at the end. Things started really happening for him, and the light came on. He was able to really play his position to its potential, and we feel like this can happen with this offense, with the line that we have and the receivers that we have and the strong running game we have right now.
We think we can do that. We've got to get better as a pass offense, and we've got to get a lot better with pass defense. We've got to be a lot more sure. We were sure in camp pass defense-wise. We were better with our back half for the most part, but we haven't done as well with that end of games for different reasons. We've got to get better in those two areas for sure.

Q. Talking about getting the ball more to Ralph. He's a play maker. You typically try to get the ball in your play makers' hands. Where does Edison rank on this list?
COACH HOPE: He's right up there with our top guys. He's a really good football player. He'll play in the receiver position. If you don't throw the ball 50 or 60 times a game, it's hard to get double digit touches, not that it won't happen.
When we were here before, when Brees was here, we probably weren't as strong running game-wise as we are now. We had Drew here, and we threw the ball a whole lot. A lot more guys would get double digits of receptions. Right now we're not passing the football 50, 60 times a game right now.
In the future, if we have to in order to win, I bet we're going to be good enough to do that. I really think we are. I don't think we're that far off. Right now that's not what we're doing. We're trying to be balanced in our attack right now. Having a good strong running game will sometimes take the pressure off the development of a young quarterback. That's what we're trying to do with this football game.

Q. Is that why you're trying to get Antavian involved in the running game even though you have the depth at running back?
COACH HOPE: He's just a really good football player, and we like the ball in his hands. In high school, he was exceptional. He played halfback. I know Coach Nord was at Florida Atlantic, and he was recruiting him as a running back. He probably still thinks he's a running back in his mind. We got him out from Florida Atlantic and got him here at Purdue.

Q. The first week he caught a touchdown pass and said it was an out route, he ran the out route and kind of changed his route. I think last week there was a similar kind of play where maybe he just settled in the zone or whatever it was. In terms of his development of understanding the position better, what have you seen over the past couple years with that?
COACH HOPE: First off, he's a lot more physical. He's always been fast and has always had courage, but he's bigger and stronger and older now. He's become a more physical player, and he's not the biggest, strongest blocker, but he has a lot more fight about him now, and he goes up there and fits up on them and does a lot better job in the blocking part of it.
He's always, I think, the last year has turned into a more physical runner. The work at the running back position, even though we don't do it a whole lot, we still do it in practice, and we've done it in scrimmages, and he's had to finish some runs out of the backfield. That's a different animal back there. Your running back has to be tough. I like our running backs. We have tough running backs. That's a good thing.
He's worked back there with the running backs some, and that's helped him be a more physical ball carrier. I think he's become a more physical blocker and a more physical runner with the football. He finishes his runs more. He's become a lot more detailed in his routes. He wasn't always as detailed as he needed to be. And he's become a lot more accountable off the field as well, as far as class and taking care of business. So he's grown up a lot.
I think Antavian's done very well, very proud of him. Good player too. Fun to be around. Fun to coach.

Q. After the week you guys had that comeback victory, you talked about growing up and maturing. I guess this is a different type of adversity when you're coming off a game that you think you should have won. What have you seen from the team so far this year in terms of how you hope they can respond to a game like this?
COACH HOPE: Well, you have to make sure that you recognize why it is that you weren't successful and go out there and do something about it. One of the things we talk about -- and I'm not -- is preparing all the way to game time. So if you go into a game and you make mistakes, did you understand exactly what it was you were supposed to do, and did we really get the teaching part of it done? If the player didn't learn it, the teacher didn't teach it.
So we went into the game with some things we thought we had a handle on, and we didn't execute as well. So you look at how that happened, and you make sure it doesn't happen again. I would think that would be a good sign for our football team this week to make sure they're preparing all the way up until game time, studying their handouts extra, their tip sheets extra as you go into the latter part of the week, and coaches making sure they understand all of the little details.
It doesn't take much to be off in order for a big play to happen -- for you or against you.

Q. You mentioned a little bit already. Just some of the improvements you did make from week one to week two. We talked about those last week that those are maybe going to be the biggest strides you make. What did you like?
COACH HOPE: The two -- I don't know if they're the biggest things, but offensively we went out there and didn't make the same mistakes we made the week before. We didn't have pre-snap penalties. Guys didn't line up wrong. We didn't miss as many signals. We didn't have any turnovers offensively. That's huge. That doesn't happen all the time in the games, to come out there with no turnovers. I thought those were all really good signs for our football team.
And I saw our quarterback do some things in the game this past Saturday against the blitz -- it wasn't 100 percent, but I thought he made some real progress this week against the pressure and took advantage of it some and really made a difference in the football game. I think offensively we took a lot of steps in a lot of ways.
I thought defensively we played more physically across the front than we did in the first game. I thought our defensive line was more reckless and more physical. I don't think we're playing to the level that we can yet at this point in time. I think we can get a lot better. I thought our defensive front, even though we didn't sack the quarterback as much as we would like to, I thought we disrupted the front and changed up the pace a little bit as far as the pocket goes, and we did better across the line of scrimmage this week.
That was the two areas we'd earmarked to get better at from game one to game two, and we did in those two areas. Some other things popped up, but we got better in those two areas.

Q. Coach, just for the sake of clarification, is it safe to say that, barring a setback, that Robert Marve will play some on Saturday?
COACH HOPE: It's safe to play he'll play Saturday. I thought he'd play this past Saturday, but things were tight. Again, just trying to keep a touch of continuity out there at the quarterback spot. If we were ahead in the game, it might be a little bit easier situation to put him in. The score was changing, the lead was changing throughout the course of the game.
Again, we think Caleb is playing pretty good. He's still making some developmental mistakes, but we think he's playing awfully well and gives us the best chance to win right now.

Q. I guess that leads to my next question. You know, obviously, Marve came in here with a lot of hype, but yet you're committed to a two-quarterback system even with Marve healthy. Has Caleb earned that status with his play the first two weeks?
COACH HOPE: I think he has in some ways, but the type of two-quarterback system in my mind has changed in some ways. A year ago I thought that, if Robert Marve was our starting quarterback and Rob Henry was No. 2, we'd have to have both those guys on the field somehow. Rob Henry was too good to have him on the bench. Maybe we could put him at quarterback some and do some things with Robert in different positions. Have Robert behind the center some and do some things with Rob. I liked that idea.
When we were going to get them both back this year, I thought that was going to be a good thing is getting them both on the field. If you want to get a quarterback ready, getting him on the field is the way to get him ready, doesn't have to be the quarterback spot. We had a dual quarterback package that wasn't going to be featured but something that was going to be good for our football team to help develop the quarterbacks and get our best players on the field and help us win too.
Now you've got Rob Henry out of it, who's the best runner out of the bunch, one of the best runners on our football team, and you have Robert Marve back. He's coming back off of an injury. So the type of dual quarterback system that you want to employ right now may not be the same as what we were thinking about in the past.
Now I really want to play two quarterbacks because we have to have a No. 2 ready. If we have a No. 1 get injured and the No. 2 isn't ready, that negates your chances of winning. And the best way to get the quarterback ready is in practice, getting reps in practice but also getting reps in the game. So now playing two quarterbacks is the way to have two quarterbacks ready. It's a different philosophical approach right now.
I want to play Robert Marve. He can play. We want to get him ready to play, and we want to play him. Absolutely.

Q. Akeem Shavers, he's getting about equal carries with Bolden. What's he done, considering Bolden is established, what's Akeem done to get as many carries as these guys?
COACH HOPE: The carries, again, sometimes we have plays called as a run or a pass option on the play. Sometimes what the defense lines up on can dictate how many times a running back actually gets the ball. Again, at times we spread them out, and we're a passing football team. So we can do that.
Why Akeem has more carries than Ralph doesn't have anything to do with a preference as much as it does with chance. We have played both of those guys a lot, and it has worked out that Akeem has gotten more carries than Ralph, I believe in the last game. I don't think it happened in the first game. I think Ralph probably had a lot more carries in the first game.
But it happened that way more so by chance than it has by thinking that we had to get Akeem more than Ralph. We wanted to get Ralph the ball more and Akeem the ball more somehow. They're good players. They're both really good runners, and Akeem's fast and tough and strong. Ralph is an outstanding football player. Ralph's a very, very good blocker. He's one of our better blocking running backs, even though he's not big.
So we want both those guys in there, and we'll probably do that now too.

Q. My last thing is are you surprised so far this season, in terms of your personnel, or anyone that's taken a particularly big leap here in the first couple of weeks?
COACH HOPE: I've been really pleased with Justin Kitchens. For a guy that hasn't played on offense through college, to move over there halfway through scene and grade out probably in the 70s, which is wing football, high 70s in his first two games is really impressive.
For Caleb Terbush to come in and, where we're at as an offensive football team, to come out and pass it for a couple hundred yards. We can pass it a lot more. We're not turning it over easy. He's running the offense. Caleb Terbush, I'm tickled with.
I think Kawann Short is much better than he was last year. Took a big step from game one to game two. He can be a dominant player, and he can be a real difference-maker for our football team if he continues to improve. He can be a really, really special player.
I think a lot of our guys are doing really well. Our specialists are really kicking the ball well right now.

Q. In a two-game stretch of your career, have you ever been on the end of blocking a winning field goal and the following week having your field goal blocked and get beat?
COACH HOPE: I don't think so. You think I'd remember if I did, but I move on pretty quick in this profession. It was unbelievable it happened that way. Unbelievable really.

Q. How does something like that, that roller coaster ride through a two-game stretch like that, how does it impact kids? How does it impact your team?
COACH HOPE: That's a fair question. I hope that we take it and use it to make us better. You know, if you sit there -- I told them, hey, I'm really proud that we came back. We executed. We went out there on defense. I don't believe they scored at all in the fourth quarter, and our defense went out there and played the best they played so far for the most part in the fourth quarter.
We got ourselves down the field and got ourselves in position to win the game. We lined it up, and we looked like a really good football team out there that knew how to win again. Even though I'd like to have won by a larger margin, I'd have been just as happy to make that field goal and our team show you they could do it again. That was really something special there. Didn't work out for us.
Just make damn sure we take care of the other things that were glaring throughout the course of the game that kept us from having it boil down to a field goal at the end and someone getting a hand up there, man, and taking away a good win for our football team. Let's get focused on those other things.
And I think this football team will do that. I think they'll take a look at why it is we weren't more successful, and we have good enough players and good enough people that we'll get it done. I don't have any doubt about that.
It's going to be a developmental thing. This is a football team that's getting better. I've been around them before. And they're going to continue getting better, and they're going to be a really good football team.

Q. How much do you address that during the week in terms of the O-line play on that football? Is that something you work on every day, show them the game tape? How do you work on that going forward?
COACH HOPE: You work on that every day. One of the hardest things in practice is to tell them it's live in practice, is to get the defensive guys to come at you live. That's like teeing off on a golf ball in some ways. Sometimes it's hard to get your defensive guys to really go all out against their own teammates. We have to go harder in the live part of the PAT field goal practice to make sure we hold up. We've got to test the waters a little bit more in practice.
We're going to do a little more of it, but we're not going to go out there and try to penetrate with a battering ram. We'll go out there and try field goals and work a little faster and harder to make sure we're tested with the No. 1 defense. We've been excellent at it in practice, but now there's more heightened awareness.

Q. Danny, when you returned here, do you remember your first impression when you met and dealt with Dennis Kelly? Is that impression now today the same, or has it changed? If so, how?
COACH HOPE: No, I really liked Dennis in the recruiting process. He was one of Coach Tiller's last recruits. He's a South Side Chicago guy, and you can't get enough of those guys around here. They're tough guys. Played in that catholic league up there at Marion Catholic up there, a really tough guy.
He didn't know how big he was going to get. He was very tall, and he was a basketball player. He couldn't tell if his frame was going to allow him to be big enough early enough to be a three-year starter for you, how long it was going to take to get him on the field. He originally was going to come here as a gray shirt where he enrolled in school midyear and had 5 1/2 years.
He was out there in the spring, Coach Tiller's last year, and we had some guys on the line coming off surgery. It was thin from a numbers and standpoint type of ways. I told Coach Tiller we ought to bring him in at fall camp. We needed the numbers just for practice.
When he came in in fall camp, he got a lot bigger than when I saw him in January and February. So when I saw him, he was 270 pounds. He was about 240 pounds when I first met him. He kept getting bigger and bigger.
About halfway through his freshman year, we really needed help on the offensive line. I coached the offensive line for a long time, and that offensive line struggled that year. We needed help on it. Kenny Plue struggled for us as a true freshman that year, and I remember telling Dennis Kelly we're going to take the redshirt off and start playing him because I was sure he'd be the starter next year at left tackle and that would make him a better player next year. He needed to trust me on this.
We put him out there and burned his redshirt, and he played very, very well. I believe he'll be a guy who will play on Sunday in an offensive line. He's had a great career here. It's unfolded just like we talked about other than he had to play a lot sooner and we'd have to burn a redshirt year on him. Think how big he'd be if he had another year. Really large and getting bigger by the day.

Q. Danny, in no way am I comparing him to Matt Light, a guy that you coached, and obviously Matt is having a terrific NFL career. But what I am asking, do you see any similar characteristics to the way he approaches the game that you saw in Matt?
COACH HOPE: They're both tough guys and guys you want to have your back. They're guys, when it all breaks out, man, you want them on your side. He's the perfect guy to be up there protecting the quarterback.
Athletically, they're a lot different. Dennis is a lot bigger than Matt. Matt struggled to be big. Matt is faster than Dennis. They're both very good players, but they're similar people-wise as far as they like the physicality part of the game. They're tough, hard-nosed gladiators, and they take a lot of pride in that. They're just perfect for an offensive line from a personality standpoint. Both those guys were.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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