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November 5, 2018

Chris Ash

Piscataway, New Jersey

HEAD COACH CHRIS ASH: How you guys doing? Good. Everybody good? Good.

Okay. Welcome. Appreciate you guys coming. We'll just do a quick recap of the Wisconsin game and then talk about Michigan for a few seconds and open it up to questions.

Just getting back into Wisconsin. Talked about it Saturday after the game. Just really proud of the effort that our players put forth. There was a lot of improvements that we made, continued to make, coming out of that game, after watching it, still not clean enough and consistent enough to be able to win a game against that type of opponent, but some improvements that we can take from that game and build on as we move forward.

It was really kind of a tail of two halves for both sides of the ball. First half offensively, we struggled.

Defensively I thought we played fairly clean, fairly well, after an opening drive up for a touchdown, and then flipped at half-time offense finally got some things going in the second half and defensively we gave up a few big runs there in the second half that hurt us that we've got to get taken care of.

But some things good offensively. We didn't turn the ball over again, which is very, very important. We're improving in that area. The quarterback didn't get sacked. They pressured him, hit him a couple times and we didn't officially give up a sack. We're a little better on third down than what we have been and when we finally got into the red zone, we finally got a couple touchdowns there on Saturday.

Defensively, a couple big interceptions there in the first half by Saquan Hampton. Outstanding plays, much needed plays there in that game.

I just thought overall, defensively in the first half we had some huge stops. They blocked the field goal, got some momentum. We stopped them. Some other opportunities there to keep points off the board with their offense.

Special teams-wise, a little disappointed in what we did on a couple plays. The kick out of bounds to start the game, the blocked field goal, had a protection error there. Just weren't as clean as we have been and that was disappointing, especially a blocked field goal because we had been pretty solid, pretty clean if that phase of it and we didn't get it done there and took three points potentially off the board.

But I think our kickoff coverage team continued to cover well and our punt, with our net punt out of that game, continued to be a strength for us, so I was happy with that and Adam continues to get better and build some confidence.

Looking ahead to Michigan, you know, it's a very good football team. Right now they are playing with a lot of confidence. Probably playing as good as any team in the country. The years I've coached against Michigan, it's probably one of the best teams they have had. The way they are playing on both sides of the ball.

So it's going to be a tremendous challenge and great opportunity for us to continue to try to improve against a great opponent here on Saturday.

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

Q. Do you use the underdog; the fact that your team is a big underdog going into this; the fact that you can actually play spoiler and maybe derailing Michigan's National Championship quest?
HEAD COACH CHRIS ASH: No. Honestly we just talk about how we can improve. The focus continues to be on us and there's things that we just have to continue to improve on. It's where we're at and that's what we talk about and that's what we work towards trying to get done.

Q. After the game Blackshear had last week, any thought to making him a full-time slot receiver?
HEAD COACH CHRIS ASH: The consideration is putting him in position to get the ball as much as we can, whether that's at running back or whether that's at slot receiver. That's really ideally what we'd like to be able to do with him. That's why we recruited him because he's that type of athlete where he can do both.

And as we continue to improve at running back with Isaiah and Jonathan Hilliman is back healthy, that might give us an opportunity to do that but we just need to be able to move him around and get him the ball in a lot of different ways.

Q. Do you look at this game as a chance to kind of assess where you're at? I think Ohio State was ranked fourth when you played testimony back in September, and now this team is ranked fourth in the country, as well. Do you put any stock into that, that you're playing this calibre of team again?
HEAD COACH CHRIS ASH: Our focus, it's about us trying to play cleaner and getting better. That's what it's about. Michigan is a great football team. They have got a lot of great players. They are playing at a very high level.

Right now, our focus is going out and improving the things we need to coming out of the Wisconsin game to get ready for another great team. That's it.

Q. The last time Michigan was in here, the score was what it was. In hindsight, do you think it's out of line for a head coach to keep scoring the way they did once the game is decided?
HEAD COACH CHRIS ASH: I don't think they did anything out of line. You know, our job is to stop somebody and that's what we've got to do. You guys can go back and reflect and look at what's happened in the past last time they were here. It is what it is. You know, nobody did anything out of line. It's our job to play better, and that's what we need to do this Saturday.

Q. Did you see a difference in your team after the bye week, having a week off to rest? Was there a difference in the way they came out?
HEAD COACH CHRIS ASH: Not necessarily. We kicked the opening kick out of bounds. That's not how we wanted to start the game. Defensively, we gave them a touchdown in the opening drive. That's not how we want to start the game.

Thankfully we settled down and we ended up playing some pretty good snaps in the first half but that's not how we want to start the game. That had nothing to do with the bye week or not a bye week. We just didn't start the game the way we needed to.

Q. From a numbers perspective, could be an historic Michigan defense. What do you see when you look at them on film? How impressive is Michigan's defense?
HEAD COACH CHRIS ASH: It starts, got a bunch of good players. They have guys that have been playing for a while, also. It's a talented group. It's a veteran group. They have been playing together for quite some time. They play fast. They are physical. They don't make a lot of mistakes. They capitalize on offensive mistakes and usually make you pay if you do that.

They are an impressive group to watch.

Q. How big of a difference does Shea Patterson make to that offense, maybe from years past? It seems that's been the missing piece for them in recent seasons and he's progressed in this season.
HEAD COACH CHRIS ASH: He's a good player. He brings a different dynamic to their offense with his ability to run. I think they are improved in a lot of areas, not just the quarterback position.

Ed Warner has done a nice job with their offensive line. They are playing well on the O-Line and they have great skill players on the outside. Peoples-Jones is a great receiver. Higdon is a great running back. When you put all those together, good offensive line, good quarterback play and good skill players on the outside, you get good results, and that's why they are scoring the points that they have been able to score.

Q. We're like a day away from the anniversary from the birthplace of college football. Do you use that in recruiting? Do recruits care, November 6, 1869, is it something you talk about with recruits, or even the players on the team?
HEAD COACH CHRIS ASH: Honestly, no. In this day and age, I don't know that the high school student athlete really understands the significance of that to be honest with you.

Q. What about players on the team?
HEAD COACH CHRIS ASH: You know, kind of the same thing. We'll mention it to them. It's kind of cool that we're here. But our focus is on trying to play Michigan right now.

Q. How concerned are you about time of possession? The last two weeks, it's been tilted towards the other team. And I think Michigan is fourth in the country. Do you think that's an issue for your defense that they are on the field so much, especially in these tight games that have gone the other way the last two games?
HEAD COACH CHRIS ASH: I'm more concerned about points about, scoring points on offense and about keeping points on the board on defense.

Time of possession is great if you're scoring points, and you know, we need to do a better job of holding on to the ball and scoring points on offense and if that translates to more time of possession, great.

Defensively, we need to do a better job of getting off the field on third down. We're on the field for the length of time that we are because we've struggled to get off the field on third down. It all starts with our first and second down ability to stop the run. You know, go back and I look at our third down, we're in a lot of third and one to five and those are manageable third downs for an offense and we have struggled in those situations and it keeps us on the field longer than what we need to be and we'd want to be.

But time of possession, that's important to some people. To me it's about points.

Q. I think you gave the start to Willington Previlon at defensive tackle. Is that a change going forward?
HEAD COACH CHRIS ASH: I think he played a good game. He did a really good job. He's big. He's got good size. He's got good length and Wisconsin was big. I thought it was a good matchup for him, and I think he did a great job. The good thing is there's competition inside there, and he's creating that because he's getting better, and that's exactly what we need. So what we'll do the next week is determined based on how they practice.

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