Sept. 24, 2011
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Postgame Press Conference (video)
COACH FICKELL: I think our number one thing going into this game was special units had to make plays. I mean, that was the top of the list.
And we gotta come out with a good feeling there, that we did a good job there making some plays and trying to use that as a weapon. I think the next thing we had that poise on defense. We had to tackle better. Obviously we can always get better, but I think we had some poise. We gave up a touchdown on a play. You would hope you could make a play there. But we didn't panic, we just kept under control. So we're excited there.
Offensively went in thinking we have to run the football. I know there's some different ways we have to run it. But people are going to make it difficult on you. But when you look at it we did a good job running the football.
And then the last thing, as I said, we had to play with some emotion. I think that's what we wanted, to get back home and get that feel of emotion, get those guys on the sideline, get the students into it. And I think that's what we saw out there today from the beginning of the game, really, to all the way to the end. We're excited about those things.
Q. Braxton's play today, and overall how big a lift did he give this program to turn it from the direction it was last week?
COACH FICKELL: This is a big team thing, and we know there's a lot of guys Jordan Hall
gave us some lifts. Defensively we got us some lifts. Sometimes it's obviously focused on the quarterback. But he gave us a lift, gave us some things we needed offensively as well as keeping plays alive and things.
But we're not going to throw everything at him right off the bat and say anything more than just it's still about the team.
Q. Did you expect to run him that much today?
COACH FICKELL: Probably not. But you know you wait and see how things really go. You've got some ideas of what's going to happen. And probably some more of those were, he made the decision to run a little quicker, maybe.
But we're going to figure out a way we can continue to get better. And obviously he's a big part of that.
Q. Jordan Hall was just a monster game for you guys, in the return game, run game. We saw a little touch of that in the game against Miami. But how good to get him rolling for all four quarters?
COACH FICKELL: We know our special units are going to be a big part of it. And obviously Jordan can do a lot of different things. He can be a weapon back there.
People have to be aware where he's at, kicking the ball to him, whether it's punts or kickoff returns. But we'll put guys out there that can help him make plays. I think that's one of the things, when you really look at this team, there's some guys playing on those special units that might be seniors, might be their role right now, maybe a third year guy battling to get some more reps, but they're taking it serious.
Q. You had to know that all the spotlight would be on Braxton. How much was the game plan designed to not put all the pressure on him, to make sure that everyone else did their job and lighten the load on him?
COACH FICKELL: It is. It's a lot of that. Just for his mentality, just for his psyche as well as the entire offense. But, ultimately, when it comes down to it, there's one guy that's got his ball on the hands every play besides the center and that's the quarterback. There's a lot of focus there.
Q. How did you think his poise was?
COACH FICKELL: I thought it was good. I think the great thing is sometimes you take a couple shots and to see how you respond and get hit in the back and take a couple of runs. And to see how he handles those things, a dropped pass, different things like that.
So I thought he did a great job. I thought all the guys on the sideline did a really good job. There's a lot of guys around him that have played a lot of football, they're going to help him out.
Q. Offensively it seems like you guys were using a lot of different personnel, a lot of different personnel groupings with three tight ends and different receivers in and out. Where do you think this game was sort of in the process of figuring out what this offense does well and evolving as an offense, how did you sort of go about trying to do that today?
COACH FICKELL: Well, we'll go and evaluate it. Again, the thing is we've got enough guys we think we've just got to figure out how they fit best and trying to get those best 11 on the field sometimes in different situations is tough.
Zach Boren is one heck of a football player, but you can't probably have him on the field every single snap just for his health and some different things you have to do. There's a lot of tailbacks you want to try to get out there as well.
So we're going to continue to try to figure out how to get those best 11.
Q. Looked like Christian Bryant got started at one of the safety spots today. What did you see in him and what prompted that, and just overall the defense in general, you focused on tackling, but what did you focus on especially about Colorado?
COACH FICKELL: We had to have poise. I think sometimes we put enough pressure on ourselves that we want to be perfect. And as you know that doesn't always happen. You gotta eventually make some plays and it's not just about getting so locked into being perfect.
Christian picked it up a little bit. We switched around, had some different personnel groups, tried to get the guys in the secondary on the field as much as possible.
So I don't know if it was actually he got the start. You might have that stat exactly, but
Q. Something about him the last several weeks?
COACH FICKELL: Christian's a confident guy and he brings a little something to the defense. But again it's the same thing as offense, we're still trying to figure out how to get the best 11 on the field. You can't always dictate that because of what they put in the football game at times. But we're going to try our best to get those best 11.
Q. You talked about how offensively your primary goal was to run the football. What were your passing goals, given how things went last week through the year?
COACH FICKELL: Obviously the whole goal of an offense is to be balanced. I think that's the number one most important thing. To me you don't want to lead the nation in rushing, because if you lead the nation in rushing you probably can't throw the football. If you lead the nation in passing, you probably don't run the football too well. So we've got to continue to figure out how we can be a little bit more balanced in everything we do.
Q. Is Braxton Miller now your quarterback? Because obviously he played throughout, until the very end there. Number two, Devin Smith, just talk about him today, and clearly he seems like he's getting playing time very early now?
COACH FICKELL: Braxton's our quarterback. We're going to continue to compete in practice and probably try and figure out what it is he does best and what he can handle and have obviously some things that the other guys can handle as well.
So you still have to have a plan in case something happens. So we're going to continue to move obviously the whole entire offense forward. Devin Smith, all those young receivers, all those guys are young. Obviously it was nice to see him and Braxton connect a couple times there.
Make some nice catches. I kept hearing from upstairs that that was a catch over there on the other side, but seems like the officials didn't quite think so. But the guys up in the box kept telling me: It's a catch. It's a catch.
Q. Did you think of challenging that?
COACH FICKELL: We called a timeout. That's what talking with the official, that's probably to save your true challenge, probably sometimes the best thing to do is to call a timeout and give them another couple minutes to look at it.
Q. Braxton had 14 carries at the half. Did you think that was too many with the hits he took especially the one where, I don't know whether he was trying to hurdle or not, but he was pretty much knocked down?
COACH FICKELL: We are going to have to figure out some self preservation. But things start to happen. We tried not to stare too much at stats, obviously as you go back to evaluate and look back at it, we'll take a peek at those things.
But sometimes we're more interested in those stats that probably don't come up on that sheet and how they handle it, how their poise is. But what else you know we've got to be smart.
Q. Talk about that kickoff return real quick, what did you see, et cetera.
JORDAN HALL: I mean, I ran up the middle. I seen the lane to the right, hit the lane. Kind of mad I didn't finish it off, but we scored on the drive.
Q. This is two weeks in a row where you really had it going, last week in Miami you weren't able to finish it out because of the cramping and stuff you were dealing in the second half. How good did it feel to put in four quarters to get it done and get better and pick up yards?
JORDAN HALL: It definitely felt good to be out there the whole game because last week felt like I let my team down because I couldn't play in the second half. So it definitely felt good.
Q. Are you going to get any ribbing about not finishing that kickoff, and also talk about what your special teams did and the fact they didn't even kick to you on punt?
JORDAN HALL: I mean ask that again.
Q. Is anybody give you any ribbing maybe in the film room about not finishing off the kickoff, and the fact they're not punting to you, does that show you you're doing pretty well?
JORDAN HALL: They already said what they had to say on the sidelines. So I ain't worried about it. What was the second question?
Q. About the punt, they're not punting to you guys, just kicking it out of bounds, off to the side.
JORDAN HALL: Coach says we want to use special teams as a weapon. I think if they have to kick it out of bounds there's a chance they could mis hit it and have good field position for an offensive drive.
Q. With Braxton making his first start today, did you see anything differently from him before the game, maybe, and what was he like as the game went on in the huddle?
JORDAN HALL: Braxton did a good job. He was calm. He's going to be special. You see how he makes people miss when the blocking breaks down, and he had some good passes that were missed. But we're just going to continue to get better and work on that.
Q. Will it be tough for Boom to get his job back, and when they all return, will you all feed off each other and how important that will be?
JORDAN HALL: Yes, we're just going to feed off each other and just make the defense have to, I mean, account for all of us. I think when he gets back, it will definitely spark the offense even more.
Q. You're in your third year, just talking about going into the Big Ten, how tough that's going to be starting next week, the first really three games are all quality opponents, Michigan State, Nebraska, Illinois, you're going right into the thick of it, just what that challenge will be for you guys?
JORDAN HALL: It's definitely going to be a challenge. We're going to use this game to see what we can learn from and get better. Because we've got to get better every game if we want to compete in the Big Ten.
Q. You guys used a lot of different players on offense, a lot of different formations, do you feel like this offense is still trying to figure out what it does best, or do you feel like you have a good idea what this offense does best?
JORDAN HALL: I think we run the ball good. Carlos did a good job running the ball. Braxton did a good job running the ball. We just have to get better at everything. That's basically it.
Q. How close are you guys to sort of being as good as you can be as an offense? Are you getting there or do you have a ways to go?
JORDAN HALL: I don't think we're never going to be at the I think you can always get better. I think we're just going to have to keep working and practicing and use it on the field on Saturdays.
Q. How did Braxton handle himself in the huddle? And just talk about his play, and maybe just lifting this whole program from last week's disappointment to a win?
JORDAN HALL: Like I said before, he was calm in the pocket. He controlled the huddle. And you don't usually see that with a young quarterback. I just told him like this is your huddle so take over. He did a good job of that.
Q. If you can kind of take me through this game. It seemed like you got more and more confident and comfortable as the game went on, were you a little jittery off the top making your first start, and how did it start to become more comfortable with you once you got into that second and third quarter?
BRAXTON MILLER: Well, the guys kept talking to me to be out there, be comfortable, do what I do. And I was excited to play.
And I know we had to get a "W". So I just had to do what I had to do, run the ball. And the offensive line did a really good job, receivers and running backs.
Q. Was it fast early, or did you notice any of that?
BRAXTON MILLER: Everybody was ready to get out there, excited. At first it was fast but things started slowing down for me.
Q. How did you sleep last night? What were your jitters before the game if you had any?
BRAXTON MILLER: I slept pretty good. I really had no jitters at all.
Q. Braxton, can you talk about the on field relationship you seem to be developing with Devin Smith? Is that something that you've seen develop in practice? And can you just talk a little bit about your relationship with him on the field?
BRAXTON MILLER: Comfortable in practice in the things we do, we take time out to throw the ball to each other and the other receivers, so I guess we're getting a connection on the field. And just keep working harder for the next game.
Q. How many of those plays were called runs, how many did you just take off and kind of want to do your thing? Looked like you got some good licks towards the end of the game, how are you feeling?
BRAXTON MILLER: This is the defense they run. And as they run the defense, holes open up. And nobody's open I'm going to take off get the yards because that's what my team needs. And do what I have to do to get the first down and stuff like that.
Q. How are you?
BRAXTON MILLER: I'm good.
Q. You had a rough first drive, 3 and out with a rough snap. What did the coaching staff say to you after that drive to keep your head in the game and get you back in the groove?
BRAXTON MILLER: They just said things happen; you gotta be prepared for it. And just on the second drive we just moved the ball more and things like that.
Q. First half, were you trying to hurdle that guy when you got hit and knocked upside down, and also about the late hit in the third quarter, looked like it shook you up for a moment?
BRAXTON MILLER: Yeah, my head hit the surface pretty hard, but I'm cool now. Everything's all right.
Q. Were you trying to hurdle him?
BRAXTON MILLER: I mean, I don't know. I don't know, I guess.
Q. That's two games in a row, your first series out there at home, Mike Brewster kind of skids it to you on the snap, both last time you fell on it, this time you were able to pick it up and kind of make something happen. Did you have a little conversation with Mike about maybe getting that thing up a little bit on those first/third down series in the game?
BRAXTON MILLER: Throughout the game with the ball, people get a lot of sweat on themselves, and the ball's got slippery and things happen. You know, it's all good.
Q. How exactly did you find out this week that you were going to be the starter? What day was it? Who told you? What was your immediate reaction when you found out you'd start today?
BRAXTON MILLER: We just work hard through practice. And they just made the decisions that they had to make through the coaching staff. So it had to be good enough for the team and whatever they had to do.
Q. How did it feel when you heard the words that you were going to be the starter, pretty exciting for a young guy?
BRAXTON MILLER: It just meant I had to work harder and get in the film room and study the other opponent.
Q. What did you learn today from playing the whole game?
BRAXTON MILLER: Just play fast and things come a lot easier.
Q. I'm wondering like at halftime or anything, anybody like coaches or anybody say anything they were worried you were running too much or get out of bounds or they thought you were taking some undue punishment?
BRAXTON MILLER: No. Not really. Like when I got hit, when I flipped up in the air, they said just slide next time. That's going to be in the back of my mind.
Q. Can you rate your play, grade yourself? How much of your potential did we see realized today?
BRAXTON MILLER: That's up to the coaches. So we go back and see the film, see how I did. So it's up to the coaches.
Q. You're going to wait on the film?
BRAXTON MILLER: Yeah, I'm going to wait on the film.