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November 25, 2017

Chris Ash

Piscataway, New Jersey

Michigan State - 40, Rutgers - 7

COACH ASH: First, just want to take the opportunity to thank our seniors. Obviously an emotional locker room when you end the season, whether it's on a good note or a bad note and it makes it worse finishing on a bad note but we have a great group of individuals that were in that senior class and they have done a lot to help move the needle forward with this program.

Did a lot of good things. They really demonstrated a lot of the winning habits and behaviors and really showed some of the younger players that will be coming back how to do business. So can't thank them enough. Just disappointed that we didn't finish the season the right way. Not just tonight but the last three games, for these seniors.

Obviously we have a lot of work to do. In my opinion, we made a lot of strides here this year, but obviously not enough. That's part of the rebuild. Each year, you've got to keep improving in certain areas and keep moving forward. Obviously here in the last three games, you know, we ran out of gas and just didn't have the depth that we needed to to overcome some injuries, and just the amount of reps that certain individuals had because of the depth.

But you know, that's where it's at, but I'm really, really happy about some of the things we did, and we'll have a tremendous off-season.

Very excited to get started with our off-season program. We've got a lot of freshmen that played and we've got a lot of coming back on both sides of the ball and on special teams, and really looking forward to getting the chance to work with them and develop them and continue to build the program and move it forward.

So with that, I'll go ahead and open for questions.

Q. What did you see in the first quarter that made you go to Lewis, and if you're going to go to him that early, why didn't you just start him?
COACH ASH: We were hoping Gio could do something. We weren't doing what we needed to do on offense and that was the plan all along.

Gio was our starting quarterback and you know, we wanted to give him an opportunity to see if we could get some positive things going offensively, and it wasn't happening. So we made the decision early in the week that that is something that we would probably do. But Senior Night, and we want to be able to put out the guys that gave us the best chance, that we felt gave us the best chance to win.

Based on Gio's performance in practice, he did that. It wasn't going necessarily the way we wanted offensively. We really started bad as a football team, and you know, we were able to overcome it and be in the game at half-time, and obviously second half wasn't good. That's really what it was about, when we're looking at Gio and Johnathan.

Q. How do you think Johnathan played?
COACH ASH: I don't know until I watch the film. Obviously there WAS some throws that were off the mark. And he's a true freshman; it was the most snaps he's gotten in a game this year. There were some things that he did probably well and there's probably a lot of things he's got to improve on. That's part of a true freshman going in there and getting his opportunity to play.

But it's like anything else, it's easy to critique the quarterback. But it's more about critiquing the pieces of the puzzle around him, looking at how the O-Line played: Were they able to put pressure on them, were they able to get open on the outside, were we running the right routes. There's a lot that goes int o it. So we'll evaluate it like we always do and you know, make the necessary adjustments and develop the players in the off-season.

Q. You talked about making strides overall, but offensively, the team is about the same as it was last year in most statistical categories. What do you see as the?
COACH ASH: It all starts up front. We've got to continue to improve up front and it starts with the quarterback, too, that's the second part of it. You've have to be good up front and you have to be good at the quarterback position.

We knew that offensively here this year, we were going to have to stay healthy at the skill position. We lost a lot and we're playing a lot of true freshmen at the wide receiver position, but you've got to get it fixed up front and we got better up front but still, we've got a long way to go.

We've got to get the quarterback position fixed, and I think we've got the people to do it. But we've got to develop it in the off-season. That's really where it starts, with those two positions. If you have an O-Line that's playing well and you have a quarterback that can play well, usually have a chance to have success.

Right now we've got a lot of work to do at the quarterback position. We've got a lot of work to do at all positives. It's not just that. You asked the question about the offense and that's really where it starts.

Q. You rotated in some linebackers like the last game, guys like Fogg and Brendan. What did you see from them?
COACH ASH: I see tremendous potential. Tyshon Fogg in the last few weeks has really shown up and made some physical plays, some athletic plays and very excited about his future here.

You know, Brendan DeVera got in there and got some reps the last couple weeks. He's done some really good things. Rashawn Battle has not necessarily gotten reps from scrimmage, but he's really improved and as a red-shirt freshman, I'm excited about what he can bring to the table.

You know, Olakunle, he's done air lot of good things in special teams. He's gotten a few reps out there at linebacker this year but I still am really excited about him. I think the overall linebacking group with the guys that are coming back that played this year and the improvements they made from last year and this year and the influx of those kids and the development they will make here in the off-season, I'm really excited about that group for the future.

Q. What happened in the fourth quarter on the sideline, Julius Turner?
COACH ASH: He got thrown out for unsportsmanlike. That's not the behavior we're going to have on this football team. I'm not going to tolerate that. Don't like how he handled himself out on the field. It's real simple. We have a standard and they are going to live up to that standard or they won't be out there. I'm not going to tolerate that.

Q. Did he go after him or something with Jimmy?
COACH ASH: No, everything's fine with Jimmy. It was a Julius Turner deal.

Q. The time of possession in this game --
COACH ASH: That was ugly.

Q. Just a product of teams knowing that you're going to run the ball at this point?
COACH ASH: That's a product of bad football. You know, that's what it is. We couldn't get off the field on third down, and we couldn't get first downs on offense. I hate to put this that bluntly, but there's no other way to sugarcoat it. We didn't get off the field on third down. We were really bad on third down tonight on both sides of the ball and when you do that, the time of possession usually gets out of hand.

You look at the stats, we couldn't run the ball. They could run the ball. I thought defensively we were doing a pretty good job of stopping the run at least the first half. The second half it got kind of out of hand but that's what happens with the time of possession.

Q. Overall do you feel like you've done enough this year to sell recruits, and what's the message you tell them about where this program is going?
COACH ASH: The message is crystal clear: The same as when we got here. We came here with a vision of what we wanted the program to look like. We came here with a plan to try to reach that.

Like I told you guys in the opening press conference right here in this room, this was going to take awhile. It wasn't something that was going to be fixed overnight. I've told everybody that. Continue to tell recruits that. But we need to continue to make steady progress, I think from year one to year two, we did do that. We made progress. We won more games in the Big Ten, and we've got to do the same thing next year. We've got to keep doing that.

We've got to keep developing the players that are here, keep bringing good players like we did in this last class, and I really like the guys we have committed for this next class and keep building depth and a competitive roster.

Q. How quickly will you look to get on the road in recruiting?
COACH ASH: We'll be will tomorrow. We'll be on the road tomorrow.

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