We head into the Bucket Game needed a win for a couple of reasons. Obviously, the first one is to get the bucket back. The second is to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2012, the year that Danny Hope got fired.
This has been a year where we have succeeded expectations. Vegas said our over/under on wins was 2.5 before the season and we have doubled that. There were even games that we should have won, but they went right through our grasp.
But here we are, one win away from a bowl berth, a place that many saw so far away at the start of the year.
Here is what Jeff Brohm had to say with the upcoming match against the Hoosiers.
JEFF BROHM: Well, we're excited about this upcoming week. We definitely were happy with last week's game. It was a big win for us as a program, for our team, for our players, and put us in a position now to go compete in a very meaningful game against a very good football team who's playing well. They're well-coached, and the fact that it's a rivalry game makes it even more important, and I know our players are excited to play in a great atmosphere with a lot riding on the game, and we're looking forward to having a good week of practice and hopefully coming out ready to play.
Q. At the beginning of the year, did you envision this team would have a chance to go to a bowl game?
JEFF BROHM: Well, that was one of our goals, and we tried to be realistic. You know, I think that as I assessed the team when I got here, once again, I felt that we had some solid, experienced football players on the defensive side of the ball that throughout spring and summer and fall camp, they were dominant against the offense, and I felt very good that we had a chance to do some things on that side of the ball better than people thought.
Offensively I knew we'd be a work in progress, but you know, our guys have all worked hard. They've all bought in. I think our coaches have put in a lot of hard work in time to try to win every week, and it's about providing a great atmosphere where our guys can learn and improve and want to get better, but also bottom line trying to find a way to win. So we are excited to be at this point and playing a very meaningful game.
Q. How do you think you've been able to overcome as a play caller and a coordinator some of the limitations that you've had on offense this year, to be able to do enough at points to match that intensity and consistent play of the defense?
JEFF BROHM: Well, every year is different. I think you have to adjust to what you have, try to figure out what they do best, and find a way to get it done. And I think sometimes it's creating a little trickery and deception, other times it's maybe getting simpler, other times it's maybe just finding a one-on-one match-up and taking it.
I think with us, at times we've been able to run the ball. At times we've not had success passing. We've worked extremely hard on the passing game to at least get efficient at it and to be able to have some threat of throwing the football, and I do think our guys have gotten better. Is there still a ways to go? Yes, but you just need to figure out what you do well, what you can do, how long you can protect, what plays can you make, and you just try to adjust to it every week, and last week fortunately we were able to make some plays one-on-one that got us some big plays.
Q. When you had lost after the Nebraska game, as a coach you're obviously a competitor, and I think one of the questions coming into the season was how would you respond if there was adversity just because of your nature; how did you maintain kind of the course after that to get these guys back to a point where you have this really big chance in front of you on Saturday?
JEFF BROHM: Well, internally, I don't respond very well. I don't like to lose. It's not fun. It makes you angry. And really, you want some of that in your team. You want them to be angry at the fact that we're losing and find a way to dig deeper to win.
Once it happens, you have to just try to find a way to get positive and focus on the things you do well, improve on the things you don't, let your players know you still believe in them and that we're going to figure this thing out and figure out a way to get better. It's been a challenge every week. I knew it when I signed up for it, and the great thing about this football team is they want to win just as bad as anyone else, and they want to find a way to get it done.
So I think we all collectively have just tried to work hard to improve and hope that that gives us a chance to win, and we've been able to overcome a few things, and some things we haven't been as good at. But we're at least at a point now where we have a chance to play in a very meaningful game with a lot on the line.
Q. You've maybe had some predetermined thoughts, for lack of a better term, the last couple weeks in terms of you going into the game saying I don't think we're going to be able to run the ball, so you don't really run the ball. Why are your opponents not taking that same approach against your defense?
JEFF BROHM: Well, you know what, I think some teams like to do what they do, and they're not going to change a whole lot other than maybe a few adjustments, and I understand that to some degree. Without question, our defense I think is very good against the run and does everything in our power to stop it, and to me that's where defense starts, and then you've got to be better at 3rd down situations and situational football, and then defending the pass. We have a little ways to go there, but we've made some improvement this past week, even though Iowa is not a traditionally oriented team, even though they've had a little bit of success this year.
You know what, you try to make a game plan based on what that team does. We try to do it every week. Some teams believe in doing what they do, and they have success. There's nothing wrong with that. Others maybe adjust slightly, so I can't speak for everyone else, but this team we're going to face this week will present us some problems. They spread the field. They throw the football. They go with some tempo. And this will be much more of a challenge for our defense just because of their style of offense.
Q. You played different guards in the second half. I mean, obviously toward the end of the first half as well as the second half. Was that an injury issue or a performance issue on Saturday?
JEFF BROHM: Well, all of our offensive linemen have been working hard to improve, and I think they've done a good job. But no, it's due to performance. We want to get better at that position. We want to provide competition. We felt like we needed to mix it up at that point in time, and we did. The other guys stepped in and did a good job, and I think it's going to make us a better football team if we can play more. But certain games we haven't felt comfortable doing it. Others this past week we felt we needed to do it, and I think all of our linemen will respond and they will work hard, and they will give us the very best they can, which they have every week. Now, we don't have any complaints whatsoever about their effort, we've just got to continue to improve.
Q. Is Rob Simmons hurt?
JEFF BROHM: Yeah, he was injured this past week. I don't remember exactly what he had.
Q. Would he be able to play on Saturday?
JEFF BROHM: We'll see midway through the week where he's at.
Q. Ja'Whaun Bentley didn't play the last 15 or so snaps. Is he okay?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we're going to make sure to get him ready for the game. He's got some issues that he's going to have to deal with, but he's been limited at times throughout the season. During the week I'm sure we'll be very cautious what we do and make sure he's ready for game day.
Q. I'm curious if this season kind of reminds you a little bit of your first season at Western Kentucky when you had to kind of rally to get your team to a bowl game. Does it remind you at all of that year?
JEFF BROHM: Well, to a certain degree. I think at that point we were probably the opposite, we were scoring a lot of points and not quite as good on defense and found a way to get better. This year it's the opposite.
But the Big Ten is known for good defense. We've faced some good ones. We're going to face another really good one this week that has been very productive over the last two years in Coach Allen's system. They're an attacking style, and they don't give you easy completions. Really it's about getting better towards the end of the year, and that's what we try to do every year, and I think if you have the right attitude, your guys work hard, if you stick to it and don't allow the losses to get you too frustrated, improvement can be made, so it was great to finally see it on the field this past week. We've got a chance against a team that's a rival but playing very well right now. They're hot, and we can see if we can improve one more time.
Q. Being someone who's new to the rivalry, just how much have you heard about it or what signs have you had that this is something that means something to people in this state?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I'm from right across the river in the state just south of us, so I know quite a bit about the IU-Purdue rivalry. It's a big game. Every year there's a lot riding on it with pride, and there's a lot of history and tradition to this football game. The fact that it -- this year means something and the winner gets to advance and the loser stays home, that's really what football is all about, and that's why when you schedule a rivalry game the last week, hopefully there's something even more riding on it. This is a big game for our program, and I think our players and our fans will be excited about this challenge, and it'll be a great football team. Indiana is playing well. They're well-coached, and they will present us numerous problems.
Q. Are there any kind of recruiting implications of playing an in-state rival in the fact that they've won the last four?
JEFF BROHM: Well, every little thing matters, and recruiting I'm sure has gone well or at least halfway well for both teams, and we're all going to try to recruit the best players in state we can to make sure we get an opportunity to do that. But yeah, every little thing matters. To get this victory would be huge for us, but it'll be a great challenge.
Q. What about just they're now a team that's up in the top 25 in terms of defense in a number of categories. What stands out to you about their defense?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I've played against Coach Allen before, and this is his second year at Indiana. He's coached a lot of football. He's a very good defensive coach, is a good person, does things the right way. Got a chance to know him a little bit, and they're an attacking style defense. I think you can see the adjustments he's made between this year and last year, and they're going to press you. They're not going to give you easy completions. They're going to bring guys from the field, the boundary, up the middle, overload you, give you different fronts. The safeties are active playing the run, and they're going to challenge you to throw it deep.
You know, it'll present challenges for us. We've had numerous struggles against certain looks, and I think we've gotten slightly better, but we're still going to have to be physical and win some one-on-one battles understood to win the football game.
Q. I think they're one of the best teams in the country at forcing three-and-outs. What's the importance of getting that first 1st down to get drives started against the defense like that?
JEFF BROHM: Well, everything is important for us, and we've gone full circle on attacking to conservative to trying to attack, and I think we're going to have to be smart to go for the win, be somewhat aggressive, and make sure that we're not trying to be too calculated. I think sometimes we're not good enough to be calculated. We've got to be somewhat aggressive, and this team will not give us easy opportunities. We'll have to earn every one of them.
Q. In terms of injuries, you said you were very concerned about Sindelar last week. Are you the same level of concern, more concerned, less concerned going into this week?JEFF BROHM: Well, I was glad he made it through the game. We'll make sure we're cautious with him this week and get him in the game healthy.
Q. With the running back depth, I think at the beginning of the season we were asking you questions how are you ever going to find enough carries for five different running backs. Now you have two that are down for the year. Does that just kind of underscore the importance of having depth at that position in particular?
JEFF BROHM: Well, you're exactly right. I think depth at every position is important. I knew at the running back position the best teams I've been on we've had at least three to five guys that can play for us, and all of them are going to have to play throughout the course of the season, and without question having multiple guys has helped us be able to plug other guys in and get them ready to play and keep certain guys healthy. Unfortunately we've had two serious injuries that sometimes happen, but they'll be back for next year, and these other guys need to carry the load.
Q. Purdue has not had recent success in this series. I'm sure that will be talked about with the players. Will you participate in those talks with the players, or because you're new do you not care so much about what's happened here recently?
JEFF BROHM: We'll use any type of motivation we can with our guys. I think at this point, this is a position you cherish being in, and our guys are looking forward to this opportunity. I know both teams, like I said, there's a lot riding on this football game. We'll make sure they're going to come ready to play and be jacked up to play in this one. Our guys are extremely excited to have this opportunity. We knew our backs were against the wall, and to be able to come out of Iowa with a victory was a great confidence booster. But we're going to have to work hard this week, stay to the grind, continue to improve, and while we played better, the ball did bounce our way at times, and we've got to make sure that we're able to overcome anything this upcoming week.
Q. Is there a place in the new facility that the bucket is supposed to sit?
JEFF BROHM: You know what, I don't know that answer.
Q. Sometimes when a new coach comes in there's upperclassman push-back with changes. You have a small senior class that will play its last game here. How did they maybe embrace you and what have they meant here in this season?
JEFF BROHM: Well, in my opinion, I try to be upper class friendly, meaning I try to be a player coach, and I understand where they're at and the position they're in. I'm very appreciative of all the hard work they've put in and the ability to still stick with it and have a great attitude and work hard to win. It's a credit to them.
I think for us, some of our seniors are without question our better players, and they've done a great job for us. We're trying to talk about and elevate the play of the others so that we play up to their level. We try to help them go out on winning terms and have some fun doing it. So everything that we've done we've tried to support those guys that have been here and put in the hard work, and we've given numerous seniors opportunities, guys that have played, guys that maybe haven't played, because we're into playing the very best guys and helping our team win, and I think our guys have understood that we're here for them and just to help them have success, and they've been great to this point.
Q. Has that group of a dozen seniors already sort of cemented its legacy, or do they need to win one here to sort of set the tone for the program that you expect going forward?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we would like to finish this season. I think it was a great win for us, something they'll remember for a long time, but we need to finish the season the right way. That's what our goal was when we set out. I know that's what our seniors want to do and our team wants to attempt to do. This is an important game for us, and we need to be all in and figure out a way to get it done.
Q. What's your senior day schedule, game day schedule?
JEFF BROHM: I don't know it off the top of my head. We've got it down on paper, so I'll know more of that exactly later in the week.
Q. I'd imagine you saw that Anthony Mahoungou was named co-offensive player of the week in the Big Ten. Just what can you say about his performance and what he was able to do on Saturday?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I feel great for him. Like I've said before, he works extremely hard. He puts in all the time he can and effort to be a very good, productive football player. He's had some ups and downs this year, but he was forced into more action than maybe he thought he was going to get. We called his number a few times. He responded. Even as I told him, we called a play and he was able to at least fight his way and get pass interference, and that was a big plus, to just set the tone like, yeah, I'm going to be physical and you're not going to hold me and I'm going to get off of this press coverage, and even though we didn't complete the ball, you saw him fighting to get off and we got the flag.
So that stuck in my head that, hey, this guy is ready to play, and then we kind of called his number, and from there he took it and ran with it, and obviously the passes were great. But he works hard. He gives us everything he has. He's got some length to him, and he played a very, very good football game for us.
Q. Schedule change a little bit this week with Thanksgiving. Do you also let -- talk about that, and do you also let players if they live close go home for a couple hours? What's your plans there?
JEFF BROHM: Yeah, we're pretty open in that aspect. We'll practice early on Wednesday and have a Thanksgiving lunch/dinner for all the players and families, coaches' families and all that, and they'll get off at a reasonable time. We'll come in Thursday and practice early and have a lunch after that, as well. They'll have some free time to go home and won't report back until Friday late morning, early afternoon when we get started, probably late morning, and yes, they'll have some time to see their family if they're around and make sure that they enjoy the holiday.
Q. With that said, what are you thankful for this year on Thanksgiving?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think I'm thankful for a lot of things, just like everyone, but the opportunity to be here, coach a great group of guys, to face challenges and try to figure out a way to get it done is always fun to a certain degree. The fact that I've got a good group of guys, great group of coaches, great fans that want the team to have success and have done a great job supporting us, we're very thankful for that, and really just like anybody, the families of your football team and your personal families are important, and you want them all to be healthy and enjoy the experiences you have and have fun with it.
Q. Indiana obviously played a very complete game against Rutgers this past week. Was there one thing you were most impressed with in that game for Indiana?
JEFF BROHM: Well, it was a dominant performance. It's a team we lost to, and they beat them 41-0. It was a sound football game where Rutgers could do nothing offensively against them, and Indiana's offense went right through them. The elements weren't great, and they still scored 41 points. They're peaking at the right time. They play very sound. They've got some good football players that have experience. The team, they're hot, and our team is going to have to be ready for the challenge and be a big game, and we're going to have to do a lot of things right in order to win. We've done the small things lately that have given us a chance, so we're going to have to continue to do that and win the turnover battle and all those things will be important for us to try to pull this one out.
Q. I know you've gone without T.J. McCollum a few times this season. What element does he add when he's in there for you guys?
JEFF BROHM: He's a productive football player. He's got great football savvy. He plays downhill. He's played a lot of football. He can tackle, and he understands the game. His experience in there is huge for us when you put him in there with Ja'Whaun Bentley, Markus Bailey and Danny E and all those guys. Those guys understand it. They get it that he knows the package, and he's a very productive player.
Q. Indiana, they absolutely torched Rutgers, up the middle of the field specifically. I think almost all of their passing yards were between the hashes. Is it encouraging in a way for you to see that and say, hey, we have got such an experienced group of linebackers there to kind of hold it down in the middle?
JEFF BROHM: Well, obviously I feel great about our defense. Indiana did a great job of winning one-on-one battles in the passing game across the middle of the field, got open, completed the balls. They ran the ball effectively. Everything they did pretty much worked in that football game.
You know, like I said, they're going to spread the field more. We're going to have to be better in pass coverage. We're going to have to maybe make them run more than they want and defend the pass better because I think our guys have done a good job of loading the box and not giving away easy yards in the running game. But this team, quarterback has experience, the receivers are very good, the running back runs hard. Their offensive line is very good, and it'll be a challenge.
Q. Specifically the safeties, how important will it be for them to play assignment sound football?
JEFF BROHM: Well, our guys have gotten better. Jacob Thieneman has been solid all year. We ask him to do a lot. He's the quarterback of the secondary, and then the other guys are getting better, Navon Mosley had one of his better games this past week. We got in Smiley a little bit and he was productive for us at times. Da'Wan Hunte played outstanding on the corner; Josh played a better game. So those guys are going to have to be in the right position, get our hands on guys. We were more physical this past game getting our hands on guys, which is very important. You can't allow them space to run. That's big for an offense when you have room to run your routes and get open. But when you're getting your hands on them and you disrupt that, it allows the defensive line, linebackers that much more time to get in and get sacks, and that's why we were able to get sacks, not just because of the rush but because our secondary was more physical and not giving up the easy completions.
Q. I think Indiana has had 12 sacks in the last two weeks; how important is it going to be to protect Elijah?
JEFF BROHM: Well, it's vitally important. They have a ton of sacks this year. They're very good at it. They bring guys from all over. They try to isolate your offensive line and make them block you one-on-one instead of getting two guys on one. We're going to have to do a good job of that and do a good job of doing things where we get it out quickly, but yet when teams are pressing you and challenging you, it's hard to get it out quickly all the time. So they present problems for us, and we're going to have to make plays when it's there, we're going to have to figure out ways to move the chains and see if we can get a big play here or there. That's going to be the key for us because this team is very good and they're aggressive.
Q. A lot of people have been talking maybe sell-out. Regardless sell-out or not, what do you see Ross-Ade being like Saturday and what do you expect to see from the home base?
JEFF BROHM: I think it'll be a great atmosphere. The fans have been great to this point. They're into it. They've been loud when they're there. They've helped be the 12th man to spur us to success, and I think everyone will be into it, players, fans, and it's a game where there's a lot riding on it, so I think the stadium will be a lot of fun, and our players hopefully will respond.
Q. How do you plan to deal with Cobbs, and where does he rank in the kind of receivers you've seen this year in the Big Ten?
JEFF BROHM: Well, he's good. He's very productive. He's strong. He's made plays throughout his career. We're going to have to know where he is, and we're going to have to challenge him at times. I think the teams that have found a way to be physical and not give him space have been a little bit better, but yet he's good enough to win one-on-one, as well, so we've got to be smart in picking our spots when we do that and when we maybe somewhat double cover him and he's just a productive guy that you can tell their quarterback looks to see if he's one-on-one and looks to see if he's one-on-one and the coverage is off because he'll throw it to him every single play.
Q. Sparks okay?JEFF BROHM: Sparks is nicked up. We'll try to get him ready for the game.
Q. No more specific on nicked up?JEFF BROHM: Yeah, I'd better not.
Q. Nicked up means a lot of things nowadays. Speaking of nicked up, how did Richie get hurt in practice? Was it a non-contact or contact situation?
JEFF BROHM: It was in practice, inside run, and he -- on the turf, it may have been some contact with it, as well, but one of those deals.
Q. As you were playing high school, college, pro, what was your favorite rivalry that you got jacked up for?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I liked all the rivalries, the Big Ten rivalries, Michigan-Ohio State, Purdue-Indiana was close to me, Kentucky-Louisville was always a good one, Oklahoma-Texas, UCLA-USC. Really I'm a sports fan, so every sport was different. Any time in my opinion when it's an intrastate rivalry it makes it that much better because your fans are into it. There's half the people cheering here, half the people cheering there. It's pretty balanced, and there's just a lot of pride riding on it. These games are a lot of fun to play in.
Q. Just for you personally, though, is there a rivalry that comes to mind that you played in that can't get out of your memory?
JEFF BROHM: You know what, no, not really. I think way back when I played -- we didn't play Kentucky, so that would have been a big rivalry for us. When I was at Louisville, maybe Louisville and Memphis was a big rivalry back then. But as a player, I was with the 49ers, the 49ers-Dallas was a big game. Not really.
Q. Back to your team for a second, you talked earlier about being on the attack and having to play smart this week offensively, but just how your team responded to being more aggressive and being on the attack early in that game on Saturday. Did you feel like that benefitted them and set up maybe the rest of the game?
JEFF BROHM: Well, it does. You know, I think our quarterback plays better when we're aggressive and throwing the football, and he gets in a rhythm better. We were able to make some plays one-on-one. We were able to mix in the run a little bit better, maybe not as much, but a little more effective in spots just to get a little bit of yardage here and there. We knew we weren't going to gain a ton of yards on the ground in this football game we didn't feel like, and we made some plays. We made some one-on-one plays that we hadn't made as much before that sparked us to some points and really helped get us a lead. Really that's the most important thing we're trying to do is find a way to get a lead early to gain some confidence, to allow yourself to be able to do a little bit more, and in my opinion that's the way we've got to play, but you've got to be smart. Sometimes if you're too aggressive you can get burnt and it can cost you.
Q. Was the intentional grounding call the right call?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we haven't got that one back. I don't see how it was. In my opinion, we had Anthony right over on the left sideline standing right where the ball was at, so to me that equates to not a grounding. Now, as far as being in and out of the pocket, he said because we'd handed the ball off and pitched it back, then that didn't apply, which I was fine with. I wasn't arguing that. I was arguing that we had a receiver, and on film he's definitely right by where the ball was thrown, but I haven't got a full say back from the head of the Big Ten.