Big Ten Notebook: Kill addresses the media


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Jerry Kill was sitting at a podium on Tuesday, smiling and cracking jokes.

“I kind of enjoyed it up there,” Kill said of watching his team from the coach’s booth during the last two games. “You’re in that box. You can’t hear anything. Somebody asked me what I did, I said I had a Diet Coke and smoked a cigarette.”

Laughter filled the press area before Kill added: “But that’s not true. I don’t smoke.”

The Minnesota head football coach spoke for the first time since he took a leave of absence earlier this month to work on better controlling his epilepsy. Kill suffered a seizure on the morning of Oct. 5, causing him to miss the Gopher’s 42-13 loss to Michigan later that day.

On Tuesday, Kill announced he would return to some of his duties on Saturday — just as he did when Minnesota upset Nebraska, 34-23, this past weekend. He will have access to both the offensive and defensive coaches up in the coach’s booth.

It’s still unknown when Kill will return to the sidelines and resume the full-time duties that come with being Minnesota’s head coach. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will continue to serve as the acting head coach.

But Kill, aware of the Gopher’s recent success, doesn’t plan to ruin anything the coaching staff has in place.

“We ain’t going to screw it up right now,” he said. “… I’ll be driving by February.”

O’Brien backs defensive coordinator, comments on Meyer’s tactics

It’s been 114 years since Penn State was beat as badly as it was on Oct. 26. Fourth-ranked Ohio State throttled the Nittany Lions, 64-13, causing two separate media-concocted topics to surface.

The first was that Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer ran up the score. College-football pundits pointed to a third-quarter challenge — one that overturned what was initially a first down for Penn State — as a reason Ohio State won by 51 points.

O’Brien dismissed the subject when broached about it during Tuesday’s Big Ten coaches’ teleconference, saying he didn’t have an issue with Meyer’s coaching strategy, challenge included.

What he did comment on, though, was the second topic. First-year Penn State defensive coordinator John Butler has been under fire this week after the lopsided-loss to Ohio State. O’Brien defended his coordinator later on Tuesday when he addressed the Penn State media.

“John Butler is our defensive coordinator, works his tail off. The kids respect him. He’s doing a hell of a job,” O’Brien said. “I don’t care what the scoreboard says or what the yardage says. This guy is our defensive coordinator. He’s my defensive coordinator. 

“… If anybody should take heat, it’s Bill O’Brien — not John Butler. I don’t know where that’s coming from but, hopefully, that will get squelched. That’s a bunch of crap that he’s taking heat.”

Michigan, Michigan State embrace rivalry week

Brady Hoke summed up an optimist’s view of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry week in his opening statement to the Michigan media on Monday.

“It’s always an exciting week — believe me — I think on both campuses, both schools, both programs,” the Michigan head football coach said. “The opportunity to play in a rivalry that has a lot at stake, obviously with both of us being in the same division. They are an awfully good football team.”

Michigan will enter Saturday’s game fresh from a bye week. Under Hoke, the Wolverines are 3-0 after byes, outscoring opponents 122-40 in the process.

Those stats bode well for this Michigan team, the subject to plenty of criticism during the first half of the season. This year’s Wolverines have been a sort of wildcard — one that involves quarterback Devin Gardner throwing 4 interceptions one game and wide receiver Jeremy Gallon garnering 369 receiving yards in another.

That Michigan is riding a roller-coaster-esque season doesn’t faze Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio, who said on Sunday evening that the two are still big threats to score on the top-ranked Michigan State defense.

“We’ll look at that aspect of it,” Dantonio said. “Gardner has shown the ability to take it upon himself to win a football game. He’s an outstanding player.”

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