These thoughts are belated as always, of course, but it's a Football Friday and I've got to do something to keep myself from going crazy over lunch hour.
First up, comments from Coach Kelly. Lots of quality tidbits here.
On how the team is looking at this point in the season...
I mean, we're in the first quarter of our season, first chapter of the book. I think it's a little frustrating to read right now, but I'd stick with the book. I think it's going to be a good read.
I second that opinion. We've had some tough losses, but we're not a bad team.
On how the players are faring sitting at 1-2...
This team is getting better each week. They're frustrated right now that they haven't got it over the finish line, so to speak, but I like our kids and the way they're competing and practicing and doing the things that we're asking them to do.
Just keep pluggin', guys. Instant gratification is swell, but it takes time and intense pressure to produce (for example) a diamond.
On an impressive defensive stat that I totally overlooked...
Minus 6 yards rushing in the fourth quarter on the road against a team that wants to impose their will on you rushing the football. Those are good signs.
On the defense's toughness...
Look, I'm not a big numbers guy, and I don't get wrapped up in it, but I watch them. And what I liked about our defense that will carry the day is they played tough when tough was required, and that's what we've been preaching. Be tough gentlemen. Gentlemen off the field, be tough when tough is required, and our defense played tough when they needed to play tough.
Although you may be thinking, "But what about all those flagrant mistakes? Those huge runs we gave up against Michigan and MSU?" (Unless you already listened to this press conference, in which case you already know Coach Kelly's comments.)
So, on improving the defense...
And look, this is not an excuse. We've got to make those plays. But you ask me why you see there's light at the end of the tunnel, it's those things we know that we can correct. If I was standing there before going, we've got no chance to stop the run, that's a different feeling. I feel like the way we performed on the road in the fourth quarter against a team that was going to run the ball gives us some real good things to look for.
Shifting gears here, I also appreciated the comments about the team's attitude after the loss.
Look, you can't fake losing, okay. You can't fake hurt after a game. So when I looked through the locker room, I could tell who the phonies are, and I know the guys that it really hurts. [...] This group, it hurts.
Well, damn straight it better hurt.
On bouncing back after a loss...
Q. Getting back to all the close losses this team has had the last couple years, you hear people say that a team needs to learn how to win a close game. Do you believe in that at all or is that just a bunch of talk?
COACH KELLY: No, not this group. I've had teams that didn't know how to win. You could just tell. That's not this group. They need to play cleaner. They've got to do some things during the game that obviously puts them in a position to close out games. No, this team does not have that sense, from me, if you will, that they don't know how to win. They know how to win. They have to play cleaner, and championship teams do.
Which seems to be backed up by the mentality of the players....
Q. When you look at your stats, you set a bunch of records for a first time starting quarterback on the road in terms of touchdowns and yards. As I look at you right now, you don't really care about that because you didn't get the win.
Dayne Crist: That's dead on, yup.
Q. Talk about that mentality that you must have as a quarterback, that's the only part that really matters is getting the victory in the end.
Dayne Crist: That's the only stat, like you say, at the end of the day that matters to me, honestly, is wins. If we're not winning, nothing else is important. We obviously have a lot of work to do to correct that and make sure we're getting the win on Saturday.
Also, just to close...absolutely love Dayne Crist's attitude about road games. I know I maligned him a bit for appearing out-of-focus this week on the road, but you gotta respect this attitude.
Throughout my entire career, in high school and in some of the limited action I had in college so far, personally I just love playing on the road. I think that's a pretty special environment. I mean, granted, I love playing in front of your home fans, but there's something pretty cool about going into a place where everyone hates you, everyone is screaming at you, is against you. All you really have is the guys you traveled with. I think that's an exciting opportunity. Some people would say that's overwhelming, but I really enjoy that.