November 12, 2012
Every week, Purdue's coordinators talk about the game the day before, in this case a 27-24 win at Iowa.
Today, wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins fills in for offensive coordinator Gary Nord, who missed the Iowa game after severely injuring his back last week. The Sunday thoughts of Higgins, who called the offense vs. the Hawkeyes, and defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar below.
Wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins
Gold and Black: What was last week like? I would have to imagine a little different, right?
Higgins: "A little chaotic. The main thing was we all felt for Gary because we're concerned about his health and well being. His back is pretty jacked up, so that was our main focus of the week. Our thoughts and prayers are with him. Then, you just get ready and play the game."
Gold and Black: At what point last week, did you take over in the planning? How do you prepare when it happens midweek like that?
Higgins: "We really didn't know 'til Thursday mid-morning that Gary wasn't going to be able to travel and that we as a group were going to be responsible for calling the plays and that kind of business. So we just did what we've done in the past and continued the process really."
Gold and Black: Robert Marve said you're very organized, with plans for everything. Did you organization help, considering you had a short runway?
Higgins: "No question. The more you can plan when you have all your sensibilities together and you can remove the emotion from the game, the better off you can be in those critical situations in the game where emotion usually plays a big part. They always say the game plan you put together on Thursdays is much better than the game plan you come with with 15 seconds left in the game. It helps because if everybody knows what you're expected to do, then they can prepare for what they have to do. And it helps because we're all on the same page, because if a play comes in that's not exactly right, they'll know it because they know what we want to do in third-and-short, third-and-medium and third-and-long. And in the critical situations at 16 seconds left. We had go over 'Hey, if this is what happens in the last two minutes, these (plays) are going to be our go-to stuff.' So (the offense) had known that. We messed around a little bit with one (play), but for the most part they were what we thought we wanted to run."
Gold and Black: What changed from the operations point-of-view Saturday? As in, how did the play get from you to the sideline to Marve?
Higgins: "Gary would always tell Coach Nochta, and Coach Nochta would signal it in. So instead of Coach Nochta hearing it from Coach Nord, he heard it from me in the box, so really that process was all the same. Really, the kids did a good job of executing the personnel substitutions and changes because they knew we were a coach short, so we were coaching short-handed. They took ownership of the process and really stepped up."
Gold and Black: What did you like about Saturday's performance?
Higgins: "I liked the mentality we had. We were very balanced. When you can run for over 200 and pass for over 200, that's a quality day in the Big Ten. Iowa is a first-class defense. They're not a bunch of slouches and our offensive line played physical and our backs ran hard and we were able to convert third downs, and anytime you can do that, you give yourself more plays, you stay on the field, you control the clock, and it just helps the overall mentality."
Gold and Black: You looked more physical than you have previously, perhaps aside from the Ohio State game. Was it your plan to try to attack Iowa north and south with Akeem Shavers and Ralph Bolden?
Higgins: "We were hoping to establish the run game, but you never know what is going to be your go-to play or what players are going to work. We thought we had a good feel for what they were going to do and installed the game plan accordingly. We said 'OK, O-line, let's go.' And they were great. They stepped up and took ownership and said 'OK, we're going to move some people out.' The backs ran hard and broke some tackles; it was fun to watch."
Gold and Black: You had some alternative formations, including on your first touchdown, when Rob Henry lined up as an H-back and played the option.
Higgins: "We did some variations. That play has been in for a long time, but we just got in the right opportunity to run it. So we picked it up and ran it. Most of the stuff we ran has been in, sometimes it just fits, so you go with it."
Gold and Black: Bolden and Shavers were also on the field together for a few plays, which hadn't happened yet this season.
Higgins: "We had them scripted in for a couple plays together, just to give us a little variety and it seems we may go with it a little bit more. But who knows? Again, it's always a game type situation and it's health - because Ralph, his knee is three times repaired, so every time he steps on the field, you never know - and Akeem. You want to put your best players on the field, so if we can find a way to do that then we will."
Gold and Black: Was it nice to have O.J. Ross back?
Higgins: "It's always good, because then it limits the reps of Dolapo so he stays fresher and O.J. stays fresher. And the time that O.J. was away, it really helped Dolapo grow. So now you've got two very functional receivers out there that can play and work off one another."
Gold and Black: You talked about third downs, you were good on everything from third-and-short to third-and-long. Were you able to keep Iowa off-balance?
Higgins: "I don't know. I know that the package that we put in would be beneficial to us. And again, the kids knew what we were going to run, and that always helps. Maybe our execution was better than their defending it. There's a bunch of variables that
who knows? But the kids executed the plan that we installed and good things happened."
Gold and Black: On the last drive, you probably needed 30-plus yards. For the time you had, you got good execution and a little improvisation from Marve. How did it go?
Higgins: "We figured we needed about 40 yards and we ended up getting 37. So we said 'OK, we don't need to get it all in one shot. We've got 16 seconds, so that's going to give us three plays basically, with time enough with the timeout to have the field goal team to come on.' What we talked about with Robert was 'If you can see 15 to 20 yards, take it.' Because we said 'Hey, they're going to be playing off, because they really don't think we're going to be able to move it that far. So they're probably going to rush four, drop a bunch of people. So if it opens up, take it.' And he did. And then the next play, we said 'OK, we need to get to a minimum of the 30-yard line,' so we gave (Robert) a couple options and the first option he didn't like and the second option came open and he stuck it right on the money. Antavian made a nice catch and so be it."
Gold and Black: How do you prepare moving forward, if Nord isn't here?
Higgins: "Well we'll always prepared with him whether he's here or not. We'll send some stuff to him and get his input. Gary is the offensive coordinator, so we'll use that. But we'll go on the premise that the three of us, the offensive staff as it is - Coach Jackson, Coach Clark, Coach Nochta, Coach Grow and myself - we're going to sit down and put the game plan together."
Defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar
Gold and Black: What was the difference Saturday?
Tibesar: "I think our guys played hard and played with a lot of heart. You look at the tape and see that we just won more of the one-on-one matchups than Iowa did. Whether it was the contested catches and throws. We had some big pass break-ups down in there, whether it was the blocking schemes and a guy gets one-on-one with a blocker and he's able to beat him and get pressure on the quarterback. Or he's able to come off a one-on-one block and made a tackle in the backfield. Usually that's what the game is about: it boils down to a one-on-one matchup and we won more (Saturday) than we have in the past few weeks."
Gold and Black: You talked last week a lot about confidence. Did the early success vs. Iowa help sustain the play for the whole game?
Tibesar: "We had some early success against Penn State, as well, but it's sustaining that, sustaining that confidence and not waiting for something bad to happen. We were able to do that. When adversity does strike - and inevitably it does in every single football game for both teams - we were able to work our way through it and not get negative about it or get down about it. We were able to fight through some of the adversity that we had and sustain some of the success we had early in the game."
Gold and Black: How much better did you perform in the front 4? You looked healthier and more active.
Tibesar: "We were more disruptive up front. The plan we had last week to try to minimize practice reps while at the same time get them walk-thru reps and those types of things to try to get them ready (worked). As a coach, by no stretch were they perfect up front, there's still stuff we need to work on, but our front was able to cause more havoc than they have in the past few games. And that's where it all starts. The game, since it was first invented, all starts in the trenches. Against their offensive line, we were able to cause more disruption and be in the backfield more. In a game, if you have 10 or more tackles for loss, you've got a chance to play well on defense."
Gold and Black: In the last couple weeks, it appears your blitzing more from the corners. Is that working well?
Tibesar: "Usually, in general, players like to play more aggressive and we're trying to create more things defensively by making things happen, instead of waiting for the guys to go and make plays. And certainly, if the game plan calls for it, we're willing to bring pressure. Iowa is a little more simple than some of the other teams we face on offense and there's not as many adjustments and stuff like that, so you feel a little more comfortable bringing a lot of pressure against them."
Gold and Black: On Iowa's second-to-last drive, they had a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line, but you held the Hawkeyes to only a game-tying field goal. What went well on the hold?
Tibesar: "It was unfortunate that they were able to drive it down that far. But they got a first-and-goal at the six, defensively you've just got to have the mentality that we've got to win three plays in a row. Whether we're on the six-yard line, 20-yard line or 50-yard line, you've got to win three plays in a row. We were able to do that and stop some runs, then they had the sprint out and Taylor Richards made a heck of a play. It was kind of the same kind of route that Ohio State scored their touchdown on, on a sprint out, the guy had to go down to his shoelaces and we got a finger on it and he couldn't make the catch. It was a big play in the game for us, to get that incompletion right there."
Gold and Black: And earlier you mentioned one-on-one wins. One of those was on the fourth-and-three on Iowa's last drive, when Taylor Richards made the stop on an open-field tackle.
Tibesar: "He had a couple (like that). You're talking about a 260-pound tight end who catches the ball in the flat and literally if he falls forward he gets the first down. Taylor hits him and is able to get him down immediately, and he's probably giving up at least 50 to 75 pounds on that guy. To be perfectly honest, probably 75 pounds to that guy and he made a nice, clean open-field tackle, which is great to see. Because a week earlier against Penn State, he was in a similar situation and wasn't able to make that tackle. And he made a couple of them just like that (Saturday) in the game and showed me that he's learning and growing as a player on how to get a guy like that down on the ground, which is what we're asking him to do. That was a really critical stop for our football team."
Gold and Black: You tackled much better this week.
Tibesar: "We did really well on the tailback and for the most part on their receivers. We had one on their sideline that we missed the tackle on the hitch route. The disappointing ones were when the quarterback got out of the pocket a couple times and we weren't able to get him down when we wanted to. But we did tackle much better than we had the week before."
Gold and Black: Is Frankie Williams struggling with the hitch-and-goes, or pump fakes? He got called for the pass interference, although it looked to me like it should have been holding.
Tibesar: "If you look at the film, from the way I understand pass interference, the contact occurred before the ball was in the air and there was no grabbing. Therefore, by rule, the way I understand, it can not be pass interference because the ball was no in the air. The worse case is holding, if he's holding on to the receiver. But it was a contact play with no hold - that's what the official said - but he said the ball was in the air. And it obviously, if you watch the film, wasn't, so it's a legal play. That's the way I understand it."
Gold and Black: How did you stop Iowa's play-action?
Tibesar: "It helps when you stop the run, because then your safeties aren't biting so hard on the play-action and they don't feel like they have to be the guy out there to stop the run and we did better up front by having the front guys stop the run. And we got some pressure. But there were some times when they had time and they threw the ball down the field and our guys were able to stand up in coverage and win those one-on-one matchups and that's the key. If you win those one-on-one matchups up there it becomes frustrating for the offense."
Gold and Black: So how do you stay consistent now?
Tibesar: "It's always a challenge to be consistent. You have the same team but your opponent's not the same every week either. Different opponents present different challenges. Hopefully we can sustain a high level of defense again this week."
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