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UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 9, 2012
COACH KILL: Working them pretty hard, giving them Friday and Saturday off. Coming back on Sunday, I thought they practiced well, and we got ahead a little bit on the game plan. So that's where we're at in our preparation, and we basically start the new week and move forward and move forward towards Northwestern. With that, I'll take any questions.
Q. How is MarQueis coming off the bye?
COACH KILL: Well, he didn't practice any during the bye week. We tried to move him around a little bit, but Sunday we did move him around. I pushed him a little bit, and I thought he responded okay. I think we'll know a little more today. He took some reps. We even did a little bit with team reps, but still has a little bit of a limp. If we were playing tomorrow, he wouldn't be ready to play, but we'll see how things progress.
I would say that we're cautiously optimistic that he can be available in some situations possibly.
Q. Can you talk about how they'll react after a tough loss like that?
COACH KILL: They'll react well. They do a great job in their program. I've known coach for a long time. About me? We're fine. We haven't changed anything. We were 3‑8 last year. We go to work every day and do the same thing, so we're no different. I think it's all about how people react. A lot of it is how your coaches react. We certainly weren't very happy about what happened two weeks ago, but you better have a short memory in coaching or you won't be in it very okay. So you move forward.
Q. The time off, was it good to have some time to deal with how things went down in Iowa or would you have been happier playing the next week and get it out of your system?
COACH KILL: I think where we're at with, again, with our football team and what we're doing is that we had five people, five people on our football team that played at Iowa City. So we have a young football team. We're taking day‑by‑day approaches with our team.
The only thing the bye week has done for us is that we're beat up pretty good going into the game at Iowa. And, you know, hopefully Tommy Olson's going to have an opportunity to practice today. How he'll do, I don't know. But at least we've got him back to where he's practicing.
Zach Mottla is now able to practice full speed, and he hasn't been able to do that. So we've got some people that have healed up a little bit, maybe not completely, but that was more important. The bye week gave us a chance to do that.
Then we could, as a coaching staff, we've got people on the road recruiting. But as a head coach, you can look over not one week, not one quarter, but we can look over the five games that we've played and seen what we need to do better and try to correct it in the off week. So that's what we did with practice time.
Q. Was there more of an emphasis on fundamentals last week and a little less on getting ready for Northwestern?
COACH KILL: I think we did both. But I think we spent much more time on fundamentals. I think in football, Northwestern I mean, we know what Northwestern's going to do. We know what Iowa's going to do and what Wisconsin's going to do. Sometimes we forget blocking and tackling and using your hands and playing with good technique and having leverage on the ball and those kind of things.
So I think fundamentally, when you‑‑ we're not where we need to be fundamentally as a program, because we're playing a lot of young players. The only way you can learn to be fundamentally good is to play games and go through practice. So we're still teaching offensive linemen to use their hands and do those kind of things. We're going to be doing that for a long time. We can't afford to forget the fundamentals.
We've been here for a year and a half, and I guess the best person to go out and listen to, if you went and listened to Coach Limegrover coach the offensive line, he's been saying the same thing since day one until the day we went yesterday.
But it's still repetition, and kids learning how to do it. So you always concentrate on fundamentals and certainly in the off week it gives you the opportunity to do that. Plus we have limited coaches. We don't have as many coaches because we have guys on the road recruiting.
Q. Can you talk about how well your two dominant defensive linemen were playing after you looked at the film of Iowa game, what did you see?
COACH KILL: I saw in the Iowa game on the defensive side of the ball, we had about ten or 11 plays in that game if you take them out, we're pretty happy. But it's like I said in football, there are seven or eight plays that can be a difference in the game.
We had ten, 11 plays on defense where maybe somebody didn't fit in the right gap, a linebacker didn't fit in the right gap, a safety didn't get where he needed to fit, that type of thing. So give them credit for their situation and what they executed. They outexecuted us on those 11 particular plays. And a couple of them, I don't know if it was that we were excited about playing, but we didn't have our eyes in the right place in the secondary. You know what I mean?
So from a defensive line standpoint, there was defensive football that's played with 11 players, and even when you're stopping the run or the pass, it takes all 11 players. If one player gets out of position and that's where that thing hits‑‑ I believe I got home whenever the fourth quarter of the New York Jets were playing, same thing. They couldn't do it. They're in the NFL and they're playing Houston, and Houston's running the outside zone play and they can't stop it. They can't stop it because they have a body on a body, and somebody didn't get fitted right. And six, four, eight, six, that's what happens.
That's the beauty of zone blocking. If you can get everybody added up, somebody's got to win at point of attack or you have to get an extra safety in the box, and that safety has to be able to make the play. So they have trouble in the NFL doing that, and we had a little bit of trouble eight or nine plays into the game, which was something that certainly we fitted pretty good throughout the first four games.
Then once we got fitted and did what we needed to do, playing on defense, we played very well in the second half. And part of that had to do with the offense not being on the field also, I might add. That's what you call team work.
The more of the offense is on the field, the less the defense has to play too. We've been playing pretty good as a team for four games. For one half we didn't play real good as a team.
Second half I think we had the ball 20 minutes or something like that. So a better job in the second half. But, again, we've got to move forward from that.
Q. Can you talk about 13 different guys that caught passes here, but only one has ten catches so far. Do you feel like you're still searching for reliable receivers or are you happy with the corps of receivers you've got?
COACH KILL: I think, again, we've got a young football team. They're all pretty much young players. But a lot of teams that throw the ball throw to eight or nine receivers. I don't think you worry about it. You worry about it if you're dropping balls. We didn't catch two or three critical balls in the game, but we had caught them the first four weeks.
But who they go to‑‑ again, this is a team, I can't emphasize, this is a team sport. So who catches them and who is open, as long as we throw to the right guy and catch it, that's all that matters at the end of the day. So that's what our concern is.
Q. How does having such a young corps, how does that show up on the field? What do you see that you attribute to? You're still young and still learning?
COACH KILL: I think as a whole football team, not just receivers, I think our whole football team is. The only way you can learn and mature is you've got to play games. We haven't played, and a lot of those guys haven't played in many games. So you have to learn. Sometimes you learn tough lessons and so forth. But, again, I think as a whole football team, I think we've done some good things. We've made a few mistakes, but you're going to do that when you're young. You teach them from the film and you move on.
But I'd say from the receiving corps and what we did a year ago and where we're at, we're a lot farther along than we were a year ago. Farther as a whole football team in general. But we're still learning because again, we're playing a lot of young players. I mean, like I said, when you only have five or six guys go to Iowa City and you're going, we haven't played there in two years, you're saying where's all that middle ground at? Well, we don't have any.
We're playing young players. We've accepted that, and they're playing. They're playing hard. They want to please. We come up after the game. We don't win the game, and we've got guys up here watching film after they took the flight, and the bus ride, they want to know. We're not asking them. They want to see. They want to see what went wrong and what could be better. So to me that's a good sign.
Q. What do you see in Northwestern?
COACH KILL: What do I see in Northwestern? I mean, they've only lost one football game, and there are a lot of people going to Happy Valley not going to be happy when they leave, because it's hard to win on the road.
But they're the same football team that's given us problems, and from an offensive standpoint, they're going to spread out the defense and they're going to play two quarterbacks, and they're going to move one all around to make you have a bad mismatch. They're going to play fast. They had 21 points a year ago before we even blinked. They're going to go.
Now we're a little bit better equipped for that because we played our first three opponents. We're similar to that. They're a fast pace, spread you out football team. Try to get new space.
Defensively, they do a great job of making adjustments. They base out of the underfront. They zone blitz you. They don't zone blitz you all the time, but their D‑coordinator does a great job of taking away what you do best. Then when you start hitting them with something, they have a counteraction to it. So they're very well coached on the defensive side of the ball.
Probably the biggest thing is they find a way to get turnovers and make big plays. From the punt return game, I worry about their punt returner. He's taken it to the house two or three times this year already. They seem to when people go down in the red zone, they're always getting the tipped ball, they're always getting the interception, causing the fumble.
You have to beat Northwestern. They're not going to beat themselves. We turn the ball over four times and we won't win. We're going to have to play a football game with more turnovers and we'll have to give up big plays. If we can do that, we'll have an opportunity.
But we can't afford to give Northwestern anything. If you give them something, they're going to score and do something with it. So you've got to play good, solid football against them, and that's how they've been winning.
Q. How important was the bye week in adjusting to having Max as a starting quarterback for the team?
COACH KILL: What's that now?
Q. Adjusting to having Max?
COACH KILL: Really, we practice Philip. We practice Max, and then Sunday we practice MarQueis, and we haven't adjusted anything.
Q. The Iowa game you said that the young receiving corps and Max just had a little communication problem with some of the things that happened as far as mistakes. How was the bye week able to help ease out some of those mistakes?
COACH KILL: We just hope we'll find out if they eased out or whatever. Like I said, I don't know what else I can tell you. Went out, worked on fundamentals. That's part of fundamentals. I don't know what else I can tell you. We try to work it out. We have a young team, and we keep working. Whether it's Max or whoever is playing quarterback, that's just things when you're a young football team.
I imagine the Jets are asking the same thing, what they need to get worked out. It's coaching. You keep coaching them, and go out to work and keep working on it. And sooner he or later, things are good.
We've communicated pretty well most of the year. I think we're getting better and as things progress we'll continue to move forward.
Q. If MarQueis weren't available for some situation, would you give up a series here and there?
COACH KILL: I really can't comment on any quarterbacks or anything like that until I know. So I don't know. I mean, you asked me, I told you. He's moving around. He's running around a little bit. He's still running a little bit with a limp. We'll practice today and see. You can't put a plan together unless you know the plan will be able to perform on Saturday.
So we'll take the approach if MarQueis is ready to play, how much he'll be able to play. He hadn't done anything for three weeks. The timing of throwing an out‑route. So until we go through a series of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday practices, I can't tell you how that's going to work.
Again, I wish I had a crystal ball, I'd sleep a lot better, but I don't have a crystal ball.
Q. I know you can't tell, but would there be a benefit to playing both guys if you had to?
COACH KILL: Well, I think I'm not going to sit here and tell you what we're going to do, because it's a situation where, again, you have a kid that hasn't played in three weeks, hasn't run for three weeks. We ask them to do a lot. I don't know what his stamina's going to be.
I pushed it a little on Sunday, and I'll push it again today to see where he's at. If he's full‑tilt and ready to go, that's good for our football team. If he's not full‑tilt and ready to go and we need to use him and Max and he can benefit us to help us and feel good about it, he's the one that's got to feel good. You're talking about a knee injury, a high‑ankle sprain and all those kind of things. I think he'll let us know what he feels he can do within the offensive structure that we're in.
Q. With Northwestern you're preparing for two quarterbacks. You said you used two quarterbacks in the past, so you kind of know how they do things a little bit?
COACH KILL: I think that you just watch the film. That's why you do all the film. Watching our guys do all the work, and you try to pick up as many tendencies as you can when one is playing and when the other one is not, trying to make sure that you know you have an idea is there some subtle differences in between the two and which one does what. You perform your game plan around that. But.
There is no question that you've got to do and you've got to have a good plan for both kids.
Q. You had guys in here watching film right after you got back. Is that usual?
COACH KILL: Probably not. Not here. Not since I've been here. I can't speak for the past, but good teams, as you get better. I mean, kids want to do better. I can tell you, this group of kids, it's not the question that they don't want to do well. They want to do well, and they want to perform. They don't want to let anybody down, so they're working at it.
They've done everything. It was tough being around me Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, but they want to do well. So if you've got want to, you've got a chance.
I think they understand where they're at. I think they understand where we're trying to get to. They understand it's not going to be easy, and they know there are going to be setbacks and people that question and so forth. I mean, I think they're prepared. Where they're at right now, they understand. They understand this is a big game. In the Big Ten or anywhere, it's hard to win on the road.
When you play at home, you've got to take care of home field. I've always said that. It's an important game because we're on our home field. We need to take care of business when you're at home.
Q. Have you ever seen a team that's willing to move their quarterback to another position as Northwestern does?
COACH KILL: I think probably you've seen that more in the last four years. We played against that before. I think they do it probably more effectively than some of the other people have done it, because I don't think it's easy to figure out which it was, so to speak with the offensive coordinator. But they seem to be able to do it and do it well.
You're seeing a lot of trends in college football that are unique, a lot of different ways to move the ball and different trends. The way it is now, they're not even setting to change the ball snap. So football has changed a whole bunch. With the effectiveness of what they're doing, you may see more.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports