Rutgers University Football Media Conference
Saturday, September 16, 2017
CHRIS ASH: Go ahead and get started here. Obviously, it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to come in here after a game and talk about a victory, but really proud of our players. Really happy for them. They’ve worked extremely hard. I don’t care who we played, what the score was. Our players deserve and earned the right to feel good after a game on a Saturday.
It’s a really happy locker room. Got a chance to break a streak. Very resilient, gritty. Our brotherhood was tested this week after the loss last week, the medical issues we had on Sunday. But I think that speaks volumes to our locker room and our kids, that won’t quit mentality and just want to keep working to get better and be the best that they can be. Really happy for them.
Obviously, the game, we won it and did what we needed to do. Still things that we’ve got to work on and clean up. We had a chance to play a lot of players. I think you got a chance to see some of the younger players that we’ve been excited about, that we’ve got to continue to develop and get reps and, hopefully, will continue to give us a chance to win on Saturdays.
Again, just so happy for our players. We’ll put this one behind us to get moving. Get ready for Big Ten play. Obviously, we’ve got our first road game, and it’s going to be an exciting one. We’re going to enjoy this one for 24 hours.
Q. Chris, Johnathan Lewis’ performance stands out with all the touchdowns. Did you guys make a concerted effort to put him in situations where you knew he’d have success?
CHRIS ASH: No, I mean, that’s been the plan all along to put him in a game situation where he’d have success. These are the same plays he’s been working all through training camp. In this game, obviously, the situation of the game, the score of the game afforded us the opportunity to put him in, and he took advantage of it.
And it’s not just Johnathan, it was the offensive line. They blocked the plays well. We executed the calls that were made, and we were able to keep in there and keep him going. I’m happy for him. He’s been patient and been persistent in his preparation. He did a good job, when the opportunity presented itself, to go out and play more snaps than he has so far this year.
Q. Coach, this week you instituted a lot of 11 and 21 personnel. Was that something you guys instituted in your game plan this week?
CHRIS ASH: No, it’s what we’ve been doing. It’s been our offense. We didn’t make any changes. We didn’t adjust anything. We just had to go out — we had to get better. That’s what the focus of this week was. It’s the focus every week. It’s the focus every day just to get better.
I think this game honestly shows we’ve gotten better because I don’t know that we could have done that last year to be able to go out — it’s what you want to do, it’s what you expect to do as a coach in a game like this, but it’s another to actually go do it, and we were able to go do it.
We didn’t relax at halftime. That was obviously the concern, being up 34-0 at the half. What time of team would come out in the second half? I think we went out and still worked and played really hard and executed the calls and continued to get better.
Q. For Johnathan to score his first touchdown on a pass, especially on that play specifically, where is he now in the passing game?
CHRIS ASH: That’s called an RPO, obviously. That’s not a traditional play action pass or a drop-back pass. It’s a different style of passing. I think that’s what he brings to the table, to be able to be a running threat like he is. You know, when you study defenses and secondaries get bad eyes, you can sneak guys down the field like that. That’s a dangerous threat to have. Real excited being able to expand on that as we go forward.
He’s got a lot of work to do, but I think what you did see today is his ability to run the ball, and we did throw the ball with him today, and he’s gotten better at that and needs to continue to work on that. But I’m just really proud of him because he works really hard. He studies the game really hard. He’s gotten comfortable with the game plans for the first three weeks and was able to go in and execute the calls that we’ve had for him today.
Q. Coach, what did you think of the way that Kyle Bolin responded off of the Eastern Michigan game?
CHRIS ASH: It’s not just Kyle, it’s the whole offense. I was a little worried when we started the game, we didn’t start it off the way we really wanted. I think the opening drive we had to punt, which was disappointing. We had penalties in critical situations also that we didn’t like. But I think Kyle managed the game. He didn’t throw any interceptions in the game that I know of. So I’m pleased from that standpoint. Obviously, in the game in the first half, we tried to establish the run, and we were able to do that. So we didn’t ask Kyle to do a whole lot.
He’s like everyone else. We’ve just got to keep getting better. Like I mentioned about the team, he’s very resilient, and he’s a mature kid. He’s working really hard and preparing really hard. And he’ll keep getting better. But to sit here and say he had a great game, he didn’t really have to have one because we’re running the ball so well.
Q. Business as usual for Jerry? Did he make a big deal out of it?
CHRIS ASH: No, it’s been that way all week. There’s been no issues with Jerry. We had the setback last Sunday. He was in the office on Monday. Had the same normal weekly preparation that he’s had and will continue to have.
Q. We didn’t see that much of Janarion after the first quarter. Is that part of your plan to preserve him for Big Ten play, or is there something that kept him out of the gain?
CHRIS ASH: No, Janarion, in my opinion, he’s our best playmaker on offense. When you get the game under control like that, you want to be smart with those type of guys, and that’s really what it was.
Q. Is there anything that you saw from the freshmen, like (indiscernible) yards or need more playing time going forward?
CHRIS ASH: No. It means they have potential to help us if needed. I mean, they’re like anyone else. They’ve just got to keep grinding every single day to get better. It is good to get the game experience, though, because that’s a true measuring stick of where you’re at. I was really excited about Blackshear going out there and running the way he ran. He’s not a very big guy, but he ran hard. He’s physical. He’s obviously got great feet. He’s got good speed, where he’s got a chance to make some plays in the open field and take it down the field. But we want to use him to help us. I think we’ve got some good backs in front of him, but we will use him as he continues to grow and mature and improve in certain situations.
It’s not just him. Bo Melton had a really nice reception on a deep ball today. We need to get him continuing to improve and get going and hopefully add value like that to our offense too because that’s what’s been missing in the first couple of games.
Q. I know a game like this is going to get fans very excited about Johnathan. Assuming that Kyle is still your starting quarterback going forward?
CHRIS ASH: Yeah, Kyle’s good. It’s good to have Johnathan get out and take reps. It was great to see Gio get out there and do some things too. I feel really good about the depth at that position. We’ve just got to keep bringing it along.
Obviously, if we can’t play good football at the quarterback position, we’re going to struggle. We’ve got to get better there and at the offensive line.
But, again, just really happy for those players to be able to celebrate in that locker room and enjoy a Saturday night.
Q. Jonah Jackson, he didn’t start?
CHRIS ASH: Yeah, he’s suffered a — just a strained back last game. So he didn’t really practice much this week. We hope to have him back here this next week.
Q. The defensive performance, is there any significance to a shutout versus 3 or 6?
CHRIS ASH: Oh, absolutely, it’s a big deal. It’s an absolutely big deal. We talked about this game, the focus was on the ball. We needed to protect the football, which we didn’t. We had a fumble. Johnathan Lewis put it on the ground also. When he scores a touchdown, we need to be able to hand that ball to the official, and he didn’t.
But this game, the focus was about the ball. We needed to be able to protect it on the offense. We needed to take it back on defense. I feel decent that we did both of those things. Josh Hicks had the one fumble with poor ball security that we can’t have, and we’ve got to get that fixed.
But I thought the defense played well. I really did. Getting a shutout is hard to do. Everyone assumes that you can do it against this team or that team. It’s hard to do. There’s a lot of things that go into it. Proud of our guys to be able to get that done.