Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell spoke with members of the media Monday morning on the MAC conference call, where he addressed his return to Rutgers and thoughts on Saturday’s game against the No. 15/18 Scarlet Knights.
On last week's win over Western Michigan -- "Very proud of my team after watching the film. I thought that they showed a lot of poise and character throughout the game. We got down in the third quarter and in times before they would panic a little bit. But they never panicked. They continued to play hard. We had guys stepping up on both sides of the ball and making some plays in the fourth quarter, which was great to see. I like how the team is playing, I like where our locker room is, and we just have to keep getting better.''
On returning to New Jersey and returning to Rutgers -- "It'll be fun for me. My family grew up about 45 minutes out from Rutgers. I actually coached there from 2001 through 2004 with coach Greg Schiano's first staff. So it's going to be fun to get back there. We're obviously playing a very tough opponent. They're ranked 15 and there are reasons for that. They play great defense and great special teams. It's going to be a formidable test for us this week, but we're excited to get out there.''
On how much of Greg Schiano's philosophy he has adopted as a head coach -- "Not much. I've spent some time around some other guys that we've worked with. Greg had some very good ideas and you take what you can use from him, and other things you don't take. But Greg was a good leader for us.''
On whether those losing years at Rutgers taught him about dealing with adversity as he went along -- "Absolutely. You learn from a different situation every single day, and if you're not learning then something is wrong. We struggled those first couple years. Right in my last year I started to feel like we started to figure out things a little bit. We didn't have it in the winning column so much but you could start to tell guys to get it a little bit. So I thought we were making some strides.''
On Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova -- "He's very efficient with the football and he looks like a great leader. He definitely has command of the offense so we're excited to play him.''
On always being cognizant of turnovers against the Rutgers defense -- "We preach to our guys every week: Take care of the football and go get the football as a defense. We realize that at every single level, pro on down, that's usually the No. 1 factor in winning football games. Our defense did a great job of coming up with all those turnovers. We didn't do a great job offensively. We had an exchange problem from center to quarterback, which was not good. And then we threw a bad interception. So I wasn't very pleased with those two, but very pleased with our defense.''
On how to get his players to handle winning without getting overly excited -- "I think that's key. We talk to our guys about 'You got to be 6-1 because worked at getting to 6-1. It's not because you woke up and it just magically happened. ... We need to continue to do the same things that got them to where they are right now.
"It's that time of the year where those seniors are counting down the days and it's becoming very sentimental for those guys. They understand the importance of these last five games that we're guaranteed. So they don't let those (underclassmen) out of line very much.''
On Rutgers' defense -- "They're very stout. They got a great front. They're constantly moving. The linebackers are making turnovers all over the field. They play a lot of man coverage and they play a lot of Tampa 2 coverage. But it's a very good reasons, and there's a lot of reasons why they're good. There are a lot of good players on there. We've been able to run the football pretty successfully throughout the first half of the season. But there will be some tough running going on Saturday so we'll have to figure out what to do.''
On Rutgers' offense -- "I think they play behind their defense a little bit. Sometimes they're a little bit conservative, which is not a bad thing. But they like to run the football. They're going to run power and there's zone stuff. I think that they want to be very efficient in the passing game, not turning the ball over. But they play behind their defense and they play behind their special teams.''