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October 22, 2012

Brady Hoke

COACH HOKE:¬† Had a good practice last night.¬† Good energy.¬† We got an opponent that's an awfully good football team.¬† When you look at they won 18 out of 20 at home this year.¬† Taylor Martinez is playing his best football.¬† If you look defensively ‑‑ or offensively ‑‑ they're leading the league in scoring.
Very good football team.  And they're physical up front.  Defensively you look at tackles for a loss and you look at negative plays that they create.  They're leading in sacks.  I think they're leading in TFLs.  Very physical group.
Playing in Lincoln is a neat place to play, because of their tradition and their passion that they have as a fan base about Nebraska football, and it's really a neat place to play.
And it will be loud.  We'll have to play our best football that we've played this year.

Q.  Brady, where do you think Taylor Martinez has made the biggest strides this year?  Does he look that much different than coming from last year's game?
COACH HOKE:¬† I know his percentages and all that are up from throwing the ball.¬† He's taking care of the ball pretty well.¬† I think it's 14‑4 in touchdowns, interceptions, has no interceptions at home.
I think that's part of it.  I think he was kind of banged up a year ago in and out with an ankle.  I think he's been pretty healthy.  Mark, I just think it's maturity and maturing in the offense.  And I think he's surrounded by a physical group up front that we gotta contend with.

Q.  Brady, because it's a division game, because this team is also at the top of the standings with you guys how much added significance does this particular game take on for you guys?
COACH HOKE:  I think they'll all do, to be honest with you.  I think we looked at it during the bye week that every game's a championship game.  And this falls into that category.  And so it is significant because it's in our division.  But they all are.  Every week.

Q.  Raymon Taylor, any word on him for this weekend?
COACH HOKE:  I think he'll be fine.  I really do.

Q.  Do you expect him to play this weekend?

Q.  You had a number of players come out afterwards and say this was a great game to win against Michigan State but it was not the end, but means to the end, is that how you want them thinking right now?
COACH HOKE:  I think when you think that way you're thinking honestly.  Great rivalry, all that kind of stuff, is important.  Winning that game's important.  Multiple reasons why, but it's who's next mentality.  Who do you play next, because as you know November and October is when you win championships.

Q.  Talk about their running backs.  Even when one goes down seems to be they have another one to step up, what do you know about those two guys?
COACH HOKE:  Burkhead is a guy who is very physical.  Smart football player, very instinctive.  I think he's as good a back as we have in this league, and Medulla is a little different.  Little bit difference when you look at running style, but I think they're both, which was a compliment, what they're doing offensively and their offensive line, personnel.

Q.¬† Just two for you.¬† Matt Wile kicked a 48‑yarder, where would you feel comfortable if you needed to put him out there? ¬†Beyond 50, 55?
COACH HOKE:¬† Well, I think wind is always going to make the difference.¬† He's a 51‑ 52‑yard kicker, I think, watching him.¬† That would have some consistency with it.

Q.  Question on Brendan Gibbons.  Can you just tell us how far he's come from when you first stepped in?  Came off 2010 season where he had gotten benched.  Obviously there was a lot of talk that the field goal kicking wasn't what it needed to be.  To be two years later where he's 10 of 12 this year and just seems so confident, can you just talk about how far he's come along?
COACH HOKE:  Well, you know, obviously I can't tell you from before.  But he works at it.  I mean, he works at it.  He has a lot of pride.  And how he works at it, he's got a lot of support.  I think Dan Ferrigno's done a great job with him because he specifically is with those guys.
I think that's part of it.¬† And I think confidence‑‑ I think the best thing we ever did was go up to the stadium twice a week because the different wins that you get, it's a little different.¬† And so taking those guys up there during camp and all that, and now they go up once a week now to kick in that environment.¬† I think that helps, too.

Q.  You've only given up 23 points total in three Big Ten games.  How will Nebraska test this defense in ways it hasn't seen so far?
COACH HOKE:¬† I think their front will be‑‑ two ways:¬† I think their front, number one, because I think they're physical, they're big.¬† They have the ability to combination block and move people off the ball.¬† I think the dual threat with Martinez running some of the spreads, some of the same stuff I mean that we run.¬† But I think that is part of it.
And the play action game for them has been, excuse me, pretty good.

Q.  Kind of following on that, you said last week there were some things defensively you want to see maybe in the secondary.  After watching the game again and kind of getting a better feel, how do you feel like that played out to what you were looking for?
COACH HOKE:¬† Well, I thought the first half and the‑‑ the first drive in the second half I thought we played a little looser.¬† But that was a drive where I didn't think as a defense we played as well.¬† Combination 11 guys playing together.
And I thought J.T. and Ray both went out there and played confident, got some shots down the field.  Little beat on one or two of them.  But I thought those two upheld playing corner pretty well.

Q.  And after the game you said that one of the things defensively you felt like you needed to get better at was having the corners play closer to the ball?
COACH HOKE:  Play tighter.

Q.¬† Play tighter.¬† On Saturday, was one of them playing so far back scheme‑related because you had nine in the box?
COACH HOKE:  Yeah, it depends, what form personnel Michigan State had and calls you go through.  We had both safeties, they're in 22 and 12 a lot, both close, not playing true quarters.  But close.  And then playing some man stuff with them, which helped out versus the run.

Q.  Like you mentioned, should be a difficult atmosphere on Saturday, another prime time game.  Is that still a challenge for this team, or they play in the field at this point already so they're sort of used to it?
COACH HOKE:¬† I think they're used to playing at night.¬† I don't think that's‑‑ I don't perceive that being a problem.¬† I think going to south bend already and the blueprint for what we'll do, walk throughs, meetings, eat, all that kind of stuff will be pretty much what they're used to.
I think crowd‑wise, it should be what they're used to.¬† But they're pretty emphatic.

Q.  Earlier for some of the night games you said it was a bit like babysitting for the freshmen.  They had to get used to that.  Are you done with that, no more babysitting for those guys?
COACH HOKE:¬† Shoot.¬† I have to babysit myself sometimes.¬† I think they understand how we want to go through our business in a business‑like fashion.

Q.  Denard has zero interceptions in the second half, obviously that's good.  But he's also got no touchdowns, rushing or passing in the fourth quarter.  How would you interpret that?  Is he being more conservative?
COACH HOKE:  I think you've always got to look at the calls, what you're doing.  I mean, that's always part of it.  How many opportunities is he going to have.

Q.  How are you calling it differently or how is Al calling it differently in the second half?
COACH HOKE:  He obviously is putting the ball in other people's hands.

Q.  And secondly put Denard out there on the kickoff to open the second half.  How long has that been in the works, and what was the intent behind that?
COACH HOKE:  Maybe returning kickoff.

Q.  Obviously the defense still has room to go in your mind but can you talk about how far they have come since the start this year and seems like they are improving?
COACH HOKE:  Well, let's wait until a year's over.  I mean, that's when you're going to know.

Q.¬† More details‑‑ do a better job audibling, sometimes he doesn't recognize the audible.¬† How much control does he have in terms of audible, only for pass play or running plays?
COACH HOKE:¬† He's got‑‑ there's usually probably 50 percent of the time where he has the ability when it comes to run pass or run‑run or whatever it is.¬† What technique do you want to run to 1‑5 side, 3‑6 side, what do you want to do.
Pass game‑wise, he always will have a view of him and Elliott work together.¬† From a quarterback, center, identifying the Mike linebacker and all those things.¬† So he can do that.

Q.  Getting back to, at what point do you make that decision because obviously that's maybe one more dangerous place for football as well, injuries concerned.  He wasn't on the back line.  He was kind of in that second tier.
COACH HOKE:  Could be concerned he'd walk down the street and fall off the curb.  I mean really?

Q.  Natural instinct after Brendan makes the field goal for the (inaudible)?

Q.  Is that kind of a teaching moment?
COACH HOKE:  It was a teaching moment, believe me.  Yeah, yesterday it was what we started off with, because Matt Wile, his squib kick was as good a squib kick as you could get.
But if that kick, because it's hard to control, hits a front line guy and they recover it and we're kicking from the 20 and they get it at the, hits a guy, he gets down, two seconds left, they can kick a field goal, right?  That's the problem.
And so, yeah, there's no doubt.  You love the enthusiasm for the game of football and they've worked hard since last January.  And that all goes to it.  But that could have been very costly.  Could have been one of the dumb penalties.

Q.¬† Obviously not scoring any touchdowns, an ideal, what does it say about this team being able to win despite‑‑
COACH HOKE:  I think the last three plays the offense had the ball.  Especially when they had to go and spike it with nine seconds left.  It was gratifying to see them execute.
And as a coach.¬† And them being able to‑‑ how much time was on the clock?

Q.¬† 12seconds‑‑
COACH HOKE:  When we got the ball back.

Q.  About a minute.
COACH HOKE:¬† A little more than a minute.¬† Was it even?¬† It was‑‑ they did a nice job of operating and communicating and being in the right formations and those things.¬† So that to me is what you like to see out of your football team.

Q.  And not taking a sack?
COACH HOKE:  Right.  You go and you're learning.

Q.  Is there an issue with the (inaudible)?
COACH HOKE:  We're trying to figure that out.  We haven't heard from them yet.

Q.  The Big Ten?
COACH HOKE:  We want know what Bill Carollo thinks.  He's the guy in charge of the officials.

Q.  Did you realize it in real time?
COACH HOKE:  You knew something was wrong.  But you get one explanation from a guy on the sideline.  You have to trust that explanation and move forward.  Now, were they right, I'm not sure.

Q.¬† I assume as you're planning out that drive as you're going‑‑
COACH HOKE:  I think we had.  We had one timeout left I think.  At that point, I think.  Time always important no doubt.  Longer routes and throw it down the field more, maybe.

Q.  (Question off microphone)?
COACH HOKE:¬† I think the worst thing we probably did was have it in and that was my fault for not doing it, is when they punted, we should have had two returners back.¬† And we do that at times especially with rugby punters and those guys, because that ball rolled for maybe 12 to 14 yards and field position‑wise, that can hurt you.

Q.  Back to the drive, when they fake the punt, were you surprised by that call based on how they were lined up in the spread position?
COACH HOKE:¬† Surprised by it.¬† Probably.¬† It was a good call.¬† It was a dag‑on good call.¬† Anytime it works, it's good.¬† But because of how we were schematic on that one side, you know, and we were going with middle returns.
So you're forcing everybody out.  So you really don't get a chance to have eyes on.

Q.  Were you aware that you could, that they could run kind of a spread punt?
COACH HOKE:  Oh, yeah, they've done it before.  Going up the middle.

Q.¬† And what's your opinion of the spread punt formation versus the condition‑‑
COACH HOKE:  We don't use it.

Q.  Is there a rationale for that?
COACH HOKE:  I think I'm more comfortable in what we use.  That's the rationale.

Q.¬† With Raymon, you said Raymon will be back this week most likely.¬† How important is it‑‑ obviously you have confidence in Courtney Avery and other guys you bring in, how important is it this time of year when you're going for a Big Ten title to have, to not have those kind of injuries and have that chemistry that's in the back, the defensive line or linebacker?
COACH HOKE:  All injuries you want to try and stay away from, obviously.  But I think there's a continuity.  I do think that Courtney came in there and did a heck of a job.  And so it's nice to have that depth.  But it would be nice to have everybody healthy and have that depth.

Q.¬† You have pressure on the interception that Maxwell threw.¬† Can you talk about not just him but how some of youngest guys on the defense are‑‑
COACH HOKE:¬† I think up front you look at O Jo and Andre, both making some headway, making some progress.¬† Jarrod Wilson in the back end and Joe has been‑‑ Bolden's been special teams a lot, but we have a lot of confidence in him.¬† Same of big for James Ross.

Q.  I think it was Greg Madison last week who said he was pleased with the secondary so far but haven't really tested it vertically all that much.  They were, they said there was a lot of open throws and incompletion, but are you happy with what you saw back there?
COACH HOKE:  I thought J.T. had pretty good position.  Most of it, why on the one where he got hurt, they called interference on.  But you look from a positioning standpoint, he was in pretty good shape.

Q.  Obviously a lot of plays won that game.  Could you talk about Thomas Gordon's knockdown in the end zone on their last field goal drive and two stops up front?
COACH HOKE:¬† That was I think a 17‑play drive.

Q.  18.
COACH HOKE:  18 plays, after the fake punt.  That was critical.  It was critical for us to hold them to a field goal.  It was critical that Thomas played with his eyes and did a nice job on his fundamentals and keys.

Q.  How much of every game's a championship game focus is coming from you or are you finding that the players are the ones promoting this and buying into it?
COACH HOKE:  I don't like the word "buying in." I don't like that.  I think the guys understand what reality is.

Q.  And I mean are you finding like the Kovacs of the world and Denard in the locker room, because they're all saying it and they all seem genuine about it?

Q.  So are these the ones in the locker room kind of reminding these guys?

Q.¬† And the follow‑up to that, given that there are only two Big Ten teams in your division with one loss, and you have none, does Nebraska almost count two in that sense in the championship game?
COACH HOKE:  Oh, I don't know.  I know it's an important game.  They know that.

Q.  Is that something that you think of every coach or coaching every game?
COACH HOKE:  Pretty much everywhere.  Once you get in league play.  Because it is.

Q.  How would you evaluate the offensive line?
COACH HOKE:¬† I thought they were solid.¬† Taylor and Patrick‑‑ Patrick really played well.¬† And him and Taylor‑‑ I think we were solid.¬† We weren't as good as we need to be this week.

Q.  (Inaudible) all right?  Looked like he was limping around a little bit at times?
COACH HOKE:  When doesn't he limp?

Q.  Why is he always limping?
COACH HOKE:  Some guys got a walk like that.  It could be style.

Q.  You like that style?
COACH HOKE:  As long as he's not limping when he's kick sliding.

Q.  Talked about Nebraska's offense, what about defense, what numbers and names pop out at you when you look at defense?
COACH HOKE:  Them as a group, you've got to take them as they are.  The black shirts and the pride that they have as 11 playing together.  I mean, negative plays and those kind of things, those get you off schedule.  I mean, when you get off schedule, you usually have a problem offensively.
And the tackles for loss, I think that‑‑ I've always been one who loves Nebraska's defense through the years.¬† And I think Bo being a guy who really understands defense, I think they do a great job.

Q.¬† Against Illinois you used a lot of backs earlier in the game.¬† (Inaudible) is that just formation from what you saw in the game or‑‑
COACH HOKE:  Some of it's play calls.  Some of it's who protects best, who runs routes best, who runs certain plays best, and then we kind of got in a rhythm with Fitz and then Smitty.

Q.  Were you concerned at all at this point with (inaudible) production?

Q.  Should Denard have given him the ball on some of those (inaudible)?
COACH HOKE:  May have been one or two that he kept.  But that decision is a quick decision sometimes.  And I think it's always harder earlier, because you're trying to digest what they're doing to make sure you're right in what they're doing.

Q.  They knocked down a lot of passes at the line of scrimmage this week.  Was it something they were doing specifically or was it your offense line and Denard has to do a better job?
COACH HOKE:  I think it's hard for a quarterback to do a better job.  I mean, that's tough duty.  Maybe a little too much penetration where you get a little closer.  Some of it Denard's not a 6'4" quarterback.  That's part of it.

Q.  The Denard kickoff thing, did he come to you?  Where did this idea come from?  And was he all for it, obviously, or did he have to go twist his arm a little bit?
COACH HOKE:  I never twist his arm.

Q.¬† Because he might get a boo boo.¬† But I mean‑‑
COACH HOKE:  Could.  Depends on how hard you twist.

Q.  When did this plan hatch?
COACH HOKE:  It's just a good plan.

Q.¬† He's just‑‑
COACH HOKE:  It's just a good plan.

Q.  It's a good plan?

Q.  Talk about your freshmen wide receivers and what you're seeing from them.
COACH HOKE:  I think Darboh obviously is playing a lot on kicking games.  I think he's doing a good job on those teams.  JU's redshirting but he's doing a tremendous job.

Q.  What do you like about them as receivers?
COACH HOKE:  I think both kids are tough.  I think they're both kids who are big.  I think they have similar but unique abilities in how they play.  Both have good hands.  Both good instinctive kids.

Q.¬† How much Dileo's day was he being the guy that Michigan State maybe wasn't looking for as much in your offense, and how much‑‑ is it Dileo progressing and being able to feel it and get open?
COACH HOKE:  You want to give him credit.  And then I would say by design a little bit where he lined up, it was advantageous.

Q.  What do you remember about your last game there in Nebraska 2007?
COACH HOKE:¬† Got beat 41‑40.¬† Dropped the ball on the 5‑yard line.

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