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September 25, 2012

Jerry Kill

COACH KILL:  We still have a lot of work to do to be a good football team, but we're pleased where we're at, and now we've gotta take the next step up and continue to move forward.  So it's a big step going to Iowa City, going on the road it's always tough.  And that's where our preparation will start as we speak with our kids today.  So with that, take any questions.

Q.¬† What do you think the team's identity is now?¬† You've had four games, and September, you're trying to figure out.¬† Is it a defensive‑minded team?
COACH KILL:¬† I think it's a team ‑‑ I wouldn't say defensive‑minded or offensive‑minded.¬† I think it's a team.¬† I think we've played well as a team.
I think we held on to the ball.  I think we snapped it 76, 77 times on Saturday.  That's a good thing.  That we limit a team that's getting 90 to 100 snaps.  So I think it's been a good team effort.  It's been a workman's effort.  It's gone to business each week.  That's what I hope to see today, bring your lunch pail and go to work every single day.  That's who we're going to have to be.  Again I've preached all along we have no room for error.  But I felt Saturday, I won't deny that in the locker room that's more what I'm used to seeing, more physical football.  I thought we played more physical than we have since we have been here as a coaching staff.  No doubt about that, and I want to see more of that.

Q.  The turnovers you guys are creating, is that a product of just being faster on the defense or guys in the right spots more?
COACH KILL:  I always say that good players make better coaches.  And I think we have some players that are playing aggressively and making some plays.
You know, I talked about our young safeties have made some big plays, good push up front.  It's just been a good team effort.  And we've had some guys step up and make plays.  One of the biggest plays is when they made the onside kick and Derrick Wells recovers the onside kick with all those people running at him.  We've just had some players like that that have made plays and stepped up at critical times.

Q.  Could you talk a little bit about the injury situation and also Coach Ferentz in terms of how you know him and the respect you have for him?
COACH KILL:  As far as injury status, there's really not.  MarQueis, we met with the training staff today and he's working to get better, but I don't anticipate him playing.  Tommy Olson got banged up and he's a big question mark for this week.  And Shabazz is still, we're hoping we can get him back off the off week.  And I don't know.  He's jogging.  But those are the three that come to my mind.  Lamonte has been cleared to practice.  Joe Bjorklund's been cleared to practice.  So those things.  Andre, I think, gets to practice Wednesday or Thursday, so that's kind of where we're at there.
As far as my respect for Coach, you know, I think when I was at Southern Illinois I sent some coaches there, and you know, because throughout the country when you talk about people that run a great practice, he's always been known for running a tremendous practice.  And you know, when our guys came back, people said it's what you hear.  It's unbelievable.  The organization, the fundamentals, the technique that's coached at their school.  So that respect started a long time ago and has continued, and he's won a lot of football games.
And everybody goes, what's Iowa look like?  They look just like Iowa always looks like.  Big, strong, physical, come downhill, hit you in the mouth.  Play good defense.  Keeps the ball in front of them.  They mix it up on you, and they are who they are.  They're very good, and we go to Iowa City to play on their turf.  So we have our work cut out for us, but we're looking forward to the challenge.

Q.  What changes in the Big 10 and do you buy into the theory that the Big 10 is down this year?
COACH KILL:  I can't buy into anything.  I got a friend that coaches Louisiana Monroe.  They lost to Auburn.  They beat Arkansas.  Is that because they're from this conference?  I mean there's good football everywhere, in my opinion.  And I know that what I've tried to do is concentrate on us and seeing us try to get better to get us ready for the Big 10.  And the Big 10 is the Big 10.  You look at our schedule and you look at Michigan State and Michigan, Iowa, and Nebraska.  Those teams are still good football teams.  And we're building bricks to get to where they're at.
So for us, as I said all along is that, you know, we go to Iowa City, we play Iowa, we're not going to be able to miss two field goals.  We're not going to be able to have a touchdown pass called back or we're not going to win.  We have no room for error.  Our kids understand that.  That's the approach we've taken all year, and we've been able to get away with a few things, but as the year goes, you can't let that happen.
Now, with that being said, we've cut down on mental errors on defense and we're not near as many as we made a year ago.  Offensively, we've cut down, but we're still making more than we'd like to.  And we gotta get better on coverage teams.
Our kickoff coverage was awesome on Saturday.¬† I think we held them to 16, 17‑yard line.¬† That's good stuff.¬† Now we gotta get kickoff return straightened out.¬† We got two good kickoff returns, and we're starting at 17.¬† That isn't good.¬† We got a lot of work to get to that point.
I can't answer today because we haven't been to practice.  To this point our players have come to work every single day.  They've come to work every single day and done what we've asked them to do.  If they continue it do that, we have a chance to be in some football game and have a chance to win.  If they don't, the results aren't near as good.  You don't get as lucky.

Q.  Winning the turnover battle is such a critical part of the game.
COACH KILL:  It's critical.  I think if you took a study, and I did this four, fiveyears ago, I haven't done it in the last 45years.  If you take the study of people that won the Super Bowl, it's the team that turned the ball over less.  You look at college football, the teams that win most times are the ones that have the plus columns in the turnovers.  If they don't turn it over and they get them.  I don't think there's any question that turnovers are a big key.  We got four turnovers on Saturday and we had zero with a young quarterback.  So you do that, you got a chance to win.

Q.¬† When you look at your team, you're 4‑0, the fan base is very excited about what's going on.¬† Where are you in your progression of building this program?¬† Do you feel you're ahead of where you thought you might be at this point?
COACH KILL:  Well, you know, I learned a lot about this about seven years ago.  You take one day at a time, and I think that's an old Willie Nelson song.  And I don't have a crystal ball.  I can't predict the future.  I'll tell you if Sid fired me today, which is possible, if I was fired today, I can tell you that the program is in better shape and so forth.  And that's no disrespect to anybody.  I'm just talking about where we're at.  I think we've moved it forward for the period of time we've been here, but with that being said we're nowhere close to where we need to be.  Nowhere close.
But we are making improvements.  I see the improvements on the inside more than I even do the outside.  I look at the strength factor and I think we're getting quicker.  I think our weight room has improved, our work ethic down there.  We've certainly improved in the classroom.  I think we're learning how to act and do some things, so I mean those things, those are the things that you win.  That's why you win.  It's the little things.
And so we've improved on that area, and when you do all those things and you work hard, you seem to get luckier or you make a play.  When you don't work as hard, you're not quite as lucky and the ball doesn't fall your way, and right now the ball's fallen our way a little bit and that's part of building a program.
I guess to make a long story short where we're at, you know, I think very similar to where we were at Southern Illinois.¬† I think we were 1‑10 the first year, and we weren't very good, and next year we got better and we won four games that year.¬† And I don't do so much with wins and losses, but I think we're certainly better than we were a year ago.¬† We'll find out how much better over the next eight weeks and how much they're going to improve.¬† If we stay the same, results won't be very good.¬† We've gotta continue to make progress.
And with young people from 17 to 22years old you never know where that mind is.  Plus, injuries have a lot to do with that.  I'm a little nervous right now.  We're playing hard, but we're beat up.  We're in there with a young quarterback and we moved Zach Mottla to center and now Tommy Olson is injured.  There's continuity involved in all that.  So that makes me a little bit nervous as we go into Big 10 play.

Q.  Could you do anything different in practice this week to prepare for the competitiveness or intensity of the conference play?
COACH KILL:  No.  We haven't done anything different for the last 30years of coaching.  I really hadn't changed a practice much since I coached at Webb City High School, believe it or not.  I think there's a couple that come watch us practice and say, well, coach, there's one thing about you you're consistent.  I won't say what they consistently told me I was, but they said I was consistent.  Brandon Jacobs told me I was consistent this week, and I can't tell you what he meant by that either.

Q.  Can you talk about the progression of the wide receivers?
COACH KILL:¬† Well, I think I like ‑‑ we've done some good things.¬† You know, I felt we dropped a couple, two or three balls that we shouldn't have dropped on Saturday that were critical, and I think we gotta get better blocking.¬† I think we gotta become more physical.¬† You become more physical at receiver, you get bigger plays and we had some runs in there that we could have busted out, and instead of being 10, 15‑yard runs could be 40‑yard runs.¬† So I challenged our receivers a little bit.¬† I said we're going to block better than we've been blocking.¬† So that'll be a focus.
And then we've gotta make sure we catch ‑‑ the third down and five, six, seven, ball may be a little bit off the spot.¬† You gotta be able to catch that ball.¬† That's what you play receiver for.¬† So we've gotta improve.¬† We've gotta continue.¬† Have we moved forward with that a little bit, yeah.¬† But we gotta get much better, and they were notified of that on Sunday.

Q.  Do you think you could get this kind of production from Kirkwood as long as he was healthy?
COACH KILL:¬† Well, you know, I guess I'd be lying ‑‑ I didn't really know.¬† We certainly need to know that.¬† But I think again, you'd have to talk ‑‑ the off season has improved a lot of people's confidence.¬† I mean he feels like he's stronger, he's healthier.¬† He's worked hard.¬† I think Coach Klein will tell you he's put in all kinds of extra time of stretching and doing all the little things it takes to stay healthy.¬† So I give him all the credit.¬† And I think his mindset is good and he's playing with some confidence.
The thing that Donnell did well on Saturday, talk about running the ball, he had, I believe, seven or eight cuts in the pass protection.  He did great job of pass protecting, and there's guys that struggle with that.  So he had a really, really good football game on Saturday, overall as a running back.  But I just think he's gained some confidence in himself, and he stayed healthy.
And when you get to feeling ‑‑ it's like anybody in here or any coach, when you feel good about yourself and you feel like you're doing some good things, you get better and you build some confidence, and before long you think you can do a lot of things that people didn't think you could do.¬† So I think he falls in that category.¬† I think as he plays better and he sees the production and gets the compliments when he comes in here on Sunday, and you put the film on and you go, boy, that's good, Donnell.¬† That's good when he's heard "that's not very good, Donnell."¬† I think he's gained some confidence, and we all get better when you have a better result, so to speak.

Q.  Do you have to rely less on the rivalry aspect of an Iowa game this year because it seems like more of an even matchup on the field?
COACH KILL:¬† I think we talk from the day we come into two‑a‑day camp we talk about the rival games, every one of them.¬† We go back through history.¬† We talk about, you know, I think that's why our program is getting better because of all the people that have played in it that have come back and talked to our team.¬† So I don't think we've let up on any of that.¬† That's part of college football.
And I know they haven't.  And so I mean I think that's rival games are great.  It's important in recruiting.  It's important in the history of football.  And so you know, we don't approach anything differently, but we certainly talk about we're going to play a huge game.  It's important to the state and so forth, and they do the same thing.  And that's why they call it a rivalry.  So I mean we're not going to sit here and say that it's not because it is.  I mean it's darn important to our fans.  It's darn important to our players.  And you know, it's the next game on our schedule.
And we go to Iowa City.¬† We played at home the last two games.¬† So I don't think our approach ‑‑ I think we've done a good job of educating the new players in our program of how important it is.¬† But our lettermen and stuff, they've made it very clear how important it is.¬† Believe me.¬† From the day I've walked in this door, our lettermen and people that have played through our history have visited with our kids about how important it is.¬† So they'll certainly ‑‑ that focus has been set way back during two‑a‑day camp.

Q.  Were you familiar at all with the rivalry before you came here, and what have you learned about that particular aspect of this rivalry during your time at Minnesota?
COACH KILL:  I think that anybody that loves college football, you know, studies the history of football.  And you hear about all the things.  Was I totally focused on it, no, because I wasn't here.  But knowing about it, yes, and the history.
And then again, I think as young people in the game, and certainly where we're at at Minnesota, we have to go back to our history, which is very rich here at the University of Minnesota, and we have to learn from our history to build our program and move it forward.
So it's important, and it's important to our fans.  It's been important for a long time.  It's important for our state as well as it is for Iowa.  And so I think that it helps us understand who we are and where we need to go.

Q.¬† Did you have any of those trophy‑type games at Southern Illinois?
COACH KILL:¬† No.¬† We had some huge rivalries, but we didn't have ‑‑ and not many people do.¬† But we didn't ‑‑ Western Illinois was a big rivalry.¬† But it's different.¬† This is BCS.¬† It's different.

Q.  A lot has been made about how well Derrick Wells has played safety.  How about the other safeties?
COACH KILL:¬† They played well.¬† Cedric Thompson has played well and made a tremendous play in the very first play of the game.¬† And Brock Vereen has played outstanding.¬† I mean you're taking ‑‑ you know, you're taking two corners and moved them to safety and they both put on ‑‑ I don't know how much, you'd have to ask Brock.¬† But they've both put on weight.¬† They've got bigger and stronger.¬† They're smart.¬† They run fast.¬† They make plays.¬† They make you look good.¬† So that's been ‑‑ you know, sometimes you make good moves in coaching.¬† Sometimes you don't.¬† Those were good moves moving them to safety and how we recruited.¬† I mean we got lucky, I guess, but it's proved out to be pretty good because they're doing well, and plus we got two young safeties in there that haven't seen a lot of time.¬† They're playing a ton on special teams, but they're pretty good, too.¬† Our future ‑‑ that's the good thing about our program right now.¬† We only have about maybe ten seniors that are playing.¬† We're very young.¬† And so I think our future is good, if we can continue to keep the core of what we're trying to teach intact.

Q.  Brock was a guy that started periodically for you last year, wasn't in the starting lineup at the beginning of the year.  I think he moves in after Zach going to center.  How do you think he's responded?
COACH KILL:  I think he's played well.  He's done some good things.  He really has.  You know, I think that I was pleased with what he's done so far and very important to what we're doing.  You know, we're very young, and that whole thing across the board, we're young, young, young.  And he's stepped up and done a nice job for us.

Q.  How happy are you with the officials replacements?
COACH KILL:¬† You know, I can't ‑‑ I didn't get to see it, but I heard, because Coach Poore, Mike McCarthy used to live in his basement when he was coaching at Kansas so there was a relationship.¬† And I was told by our staff this morning that he said at the very beginning he would have no comment on the officials.¬† So I really can't have any comment.¬† That's what I'm told in the Big 10.¬† So I guess I'll have the same answer he does.

Q.  The use of Mike Henry going to much more of a power running game, is that specific to Syracuse or is that just getting ready for the more physical nature of Big 10 games?
COACH KILL:¬† I think we've used different combinations of personnel groupings.¬† We felt with what we wanted to do again Syracuse to give us an advantage that Michael being in the game gave us some matchups that we needed and utilized Kirkland maybe a little bit more.¬† And he played very well, by the way.¬† He played great.¬† Yes, Mike Henry had a great game.¬† And so that was a huge plus for us, you know.¬† And I think that's some of the flexibility we have in our offense of where we can spread you out, but we can also ‑‑ we're hoping we can come downhill.¬† We were able to do that against Syracuse, and we still have to prove that as we can go through our schedule if we can do some of those things.¬† But if we can, it certainly will help us from an offensive standpoint.

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