Post-Game Quotes: Jacksonville State
 
 
 

 

 
 
Aug. 29, 2014

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Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio

Opening Statement...
First off, I thought we made a statement. We wanted to make sure that we weren't flat coming out and I don't think we were, other than the first play of the game. We played very crisp. Connor (Cook) was very effective in the first half and then we pulled him after that. We moved the ball very, very effectively. We can probably run the ball a little bit better than we did, although I thought Nick Hill did some very nice things in there. No turnovers and very few penalties, we stopped them on fourth down and forced a few turnovers. Based on that, I think we came out and did what we needed to do. We played a dominant football game and we will now move on to the next one.

Thoughts on Connor Cook injury...
Oh no was my first thought. It looked pretty ugly, but he rebounded and went right back in the game. The thing about Connor is that he is resilient. He came back and played very effectively.

On the success his team had tonight...
It's only the first game. You have to play things out. We have a very big game next week, and I think everybody understands that. It is the first game. We got out of the box and were able to play a lot of different players and see what they were able to do, especially on the defensive end. We had some untested guys on that side of the ball, so we played our twos for most of the second half. We played a lot of people on defense. You are going to make mistakes when that happens, but that is how you get better. There is no substitute for game experience. We are going to move on. We have to get better as a football team, and that is what we are going to try and do every single football game.

On Jacksonville State's tempo...
They hit the first big pass play and then were three and out. The one series that they scored on, they gassed us. We have to get our guys out quicker when we see they are gassed. We had one guy get gassed on three straight plays when he was at the point of attack. That is going to happen and you learn from those things as a coach. You understand that those things happen and you move forward. Otherwise, I thought we were effective out there and got people on and off the field. We only had one or two penalties, so we played pretty well from an unforced errors standpoint and that is a huge positive.

On the number of freshman getting playing time...
That was an active decision. Those guys have earned the right to play and put themselves in that position. We felt that they deserved that opportunity. They are good football players and need game experience. This is the time to find out and let them play. They will improve with their opportunities to play. These guys can play at this level.

On the offense compared to last year's opener...
We have an identity at quarterback who is an established guy. We are established at wide out and tailback and have an identity at tight end. You sort of expect that to happen with what we have seen in the spring and fall camp. Our guys believe in each other and are making plays and you saw that.

On AJ Troup's play...
AJ responded with some big catches. He is a big body wide receiver who can go get the ball. Like I said, we are deep at the position and I think you see that.

On whether or not his team accomplished everything they wanted to...
You always want to play a perfect game. To me we weren't perfect. There were some things that I didn't want to see happen. There were some structure issues that need to get changed and we did do that, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Personally, I think we need to run the ball better. We protected the quarterback pretty well and Connor threw the ball very effectively. We had no turnovers and few penalties, so all-in-all, we did what we wanted to do. We had energy on the sideline and didn't come out flat.

Jacksonville State head coach John Grass

Opening Statement before taking quotes...
You can see why they [Michigan State] won the Rose Bowl last year. They're every bit as good as advertised, no doubt. Just a solid football team. They didn't play mistake free, but they played well. They're well coached, they've got great players and they make plays. They take advantage when you mess up.

I was proud of our kids how we finished the game, and we played hard every snap, I thought. We just dug ourselves a hole early and you can't do that against a football team like Michigan State. But like I said, they've got a football team that's going to make a run at the National Championship, I really believe that, and an opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl.

On allowing two deep touchdown passes early in the game...
The quarterback made a big play, and you see why [Connor] Cook is so good. He makes good decisions, doesn't turn the football over. And we feel like the first two they [Michigan State] got, we served them up to them, and gave those to them, not taking any credit away. But they second one was a busted coverage. We ran a corner blitz and the safety though the corner called it off and he came up too, and we just didn't cover. A total busted coverage.

With a football team like Michigan State, you just can't give them two easy ones like that. That's too big of a hole to dig yourself out of. And like I said, I thought our guys played hard. They just continued to fight.

On facing Michigan State's aggressive defense...
They're so aggressive defensively, and the way they play their safeties and the corner coverage, it's a nine-man box. If you look at our rushing stats, they're not great. They just crowd the box.

This is the best one [best defense] I've ever seen. They've got everything that you want. Their front seven is great, they've got two great cover corners, their safeties are very physical, they tackle well in space, they fly to the football, and they pressure you. They're just not going to let you run the football much. You've got to throw it, and I think that's what makes them very effective. They're very, very good in their coverage as well.

His comparison of the 2014 MSU Spartans vs. what he saw on tape from the 2013 team...
I think they're probably better. They lost the one really good corner [Darqueze Dennard], and the guy they got in there now, he's not as good but with game experience, I think he will be. The safety is as good as anybody. I think it was a good idea moving #34 [Taiwan Jones] inside. It's a natural position for him. I think he was a little out of position last year. I think they have a more athletic team out there now. Their D front is just as good or better. Just comparing what I've seen on the field tonight and all the tapes we broke down from last year, I they're a better defense.

And they have almost everyone back offensively. I thought their offense would be very good. I think Cook makes good decisions and puts them in good plays. Definitely they're every bit as good.

Michigan State Co-Offensive Coordinator Dave Warner

On the play of QB Connor Cook...
Statistically, he played very, very well for us. He did pretty much what we expected. I think they made some mistakes defensively with their blitzes and left some guys open and Connor was on top of that in recognizing it and taking advantage. He hit the one big touchdown pass to (Tony) Lippett scrambling around, which is something he's done well over and over again. I thought he did a good job. Obviously, the big plays resulted, but he also did a good job for the most part managing the football game and with his decision making in the passing game.

On the performance of the WR unit...
I said over and over again and going through camp that our receiving corps was practicing very, very well. We were able to go eight, nine, 10 deep if need be. I can say we weren't surprised by any of their performances. (AJ) Troup making a great catch and a lot of guys providing some big plays for us. They all played well. From a coaching perspective, that was expected.

On AJ Troup...
Awesome. He's a guy that's had numerous knee surgeries. He walked on here. 14 months ago at this time, he was in a position to help us offensively then he got hurt in the summer and had to go through rehab all over again. He had a good summer once again. He's been in our top two-deep since the summer. We knew what he could do last year before he got hurt and he had a very good camp. We're just happy for him and want him to continue to grow as a receiver and we think he can help us down the road.

On the MSU run game vs. the JSU defense...
We believed coming in that they were going to overload the box. They did that plus they also brought some free safety blitzes just to get an extra guy in the box. That's what we see pretty much week in and week out, so that was no surprise. That was part of it. We just have to do a better job of executing up front from an offensive line standpoint.

On the overall performance of the offense...
Very pleased, especially in the first half. We came out a little bit flat in the second half and didn't perform up to our expectations, but we obviously provided some fireworks early on. That's a good feeling. That's what people expected from us and that's what we expected of our offense. I think we picked up where we left off last year. It's going to keep getting harder and harder, but we're very pleased with where we're at right now.

On his trust level with Connor Cook...
He's always been a little bit of a gunslinger. But, I think he's gotten to the point right now where he knows when to let things fly and when not to for the most part; not that he's not going to make mistakes because everybody does, but our confidence level is high with him right now. Not only is he going to make plays, but he's going to make the good decisions and stay out of bad plays because that's a big part of playing quarterback as well.

Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi

Opening statement...
Overall I am happy. We got a lot of guys playing defensively. We haven't had that in two or three years. It seems we open up in a tight game. So we get guys in who you don't know about, who had the opportunity to get into the game confidence, me. At corner, at linebacker with Chris Frey. I think we probably played about six freshmen defensively. So just getting guys on the field, seeing how they react in a game situation. Like I said, not being able to do that in the past. So there will be a great tape evaluation for our guys.

On cornerback Darian Hicks...
I think Darian played pretty well. I think he gave up a little skinny post later in the game. It was a technique thing; I know exactly what he does. Seeing him practice and before the scrimmage. Technique wise like to do. The problem is I will have to see the tape. I was happy where Darian was, it was his first game really. I think he played about 13 plays last season, just when we gave Darqueze (Dennard) or Trae Waynes a break. He got to play in a real game so it was good for him, good for. Maybe it is kind of like the bowl game of Trae Waynes really was his coming out party. For Darian he needed a real boost of confidence and he got to do it in the game. I think Jacksonville State had some pretty good skilled receivers too. So I don't think we played against some slow guys.

On the performance of linebacker Taiwan Jones...
You know what I think he showed pretty solid. I know he missed one thing that he probably could have got in the second quarter or so. Overall he was very solid I think. I will see the tape but I guess I would give him a B right now. Maybe he gets an A when I watch the tape, maybe he gets a C, but it wasn't a D. I think he played pretty good.

Thoughts on the freshmen performances today...
We were planning on playing both of those guys. Craig Evans, Malik (McDowell) both played, (Montez) Sweat played, I think he had a sack too; it's what it seemed like up there. But we had planned on playing those guys. Monte (Nicholson) is so between the fourth and fifth safety right now. I think he can come up pretty quick. Like I said I am just happy to get guys out there. He was a guy who played safety for a couple of days, and then he moved to corner, and then moved back to safety. If he had probably played safety all year he probably would have been in the two-deep, but we are happy where he was. You get a feel for guys for about a half an hour before the game. He had a big smile on his face. On opening kickoff I think he made that hit, I said watch Monte he is going to go out and make a play and he did. He is a football player.

Senior running back Nick Hill

On if this represents the type of offense to be expected this year...
I think it is. I think we have a lot of great playmakers across the board. We have a lot of great depth at the running back position with Jeremy (Langford), myself, Delton (Williams) and obviously Gerald Holmes. He did a great job in the game and I'm very proud of him.

We had receivers making plays. Tony Lippett had those two big touchdowns back-to-back. AJ Troup, I was extremely happy for him getting in there and making his first touchdown on his first touch, I think, in his college career. I was very exited for him.

I think our offensive line does a great job blocking. Our quarterbacks make great decision, whoever is in and our running backs run the ball hard. I think that this is a very explosive offense and that's going to carry over to Oregon and the games after that.

On staying even following today's win...
I think that there were a lot of mistakes out there that we made, more in the second half than in the first. I think you have to evaluate everything to be more sound in the next game than they were in this game, because Oregon is a very tough team. I think we take the good and the bad to come back next week with a great game plan to execute.

On confidence leading into next week...
Our confidence is very high. We're ranked in the Top 10 and we're going against a team that's ranked in the Top 10. I think that starting fast and big and scoring a lot of points offensively is very comforting to the players and the coaches. Last year, they weren't sure who was going to be the guy at running back, quarterback... Once you're able to establish the offense we did tonight, it's going to carry over into each game. The play-calling is that much better, so it's an easier job on the coaches. I think having a game like this will definitely help us.

Junior linebacker Darien Harris

On the linebacker group...
I thought we played really well. I thought we really gelled together. Taiwan (Jones) did a good job patrolling the middle. Ed (Davis) and myself each had a sack. I thought we did really well. When the other guys came in, I thought Jon (Reschke), Riley (Bullough), Mylan (Hicks) and Chris Frey as well did a great job, especially Mylan rotating at the starting position with me. I thought he did a great job out there. Jon knew exactly what he was doing when he got in, as did Riley. I think it went really well.

On learning he would start...
They told me yesterday. I was just really happy to get the opportunity to get my first start at Michigan State. That's something I've been looking forward to, so I was just happy for the opportunity.

On this being considered a statement game...
Coach (Dantonio) definitely emphasized the fact that we needed to come out and prove that we belong in the Top 10 in the nation and to show that we had no drop out from last year. I think we came out and made a statement in this game. The offense did a great job moving the ball, putting points on the board. The defense did a great job stopping the run first and foremost.

On the contrast from last year's season opener... It's great. We have a great offense. They did a great job this fall camp with establishing themselves and trying a lot of new things to really open it up. I'm glad that we had that. It definitely makes us that much better as a team. Connor (Cook) is a great quarterback, as good as it gets. The receiving corps is deep, we can rotate six, seven guys in there to get the job done. I was really impressed with our offense.

Senior Linebacker Taiwan Jones

On their defensive performance...
We started off really fast in the first half, both on defense and offense. We came out a little too comfortable in the second half. They scored on one of their first drives. That was something we addressed and corrected. Overall I feel like we played really well. On how he thought his first game went leading the defense...
I feel like it went really well. Surprisingly I didn't feel any pressure. I felt pretty comfortable; I think that comes from me studying all fall camp with the defense.

I feel like I can get the guys lined up and in the right spot. When we have a bad play I feel like I can be that guy to calm everyone down and get them to keep playing.

Sophomore Linebacker Riley Bullough

On how playing Jacksonville State prepares the team for their game next week at Oregon
It definitely prepares us. Jacksonville State has some great athletes and I think we did a great job against them. Oregon is going to be much of the same thing. It's going to be a tough week of practice but we'll be ready.

On his switch back to defense after playing offense last year...
Well, it was my first time playing defense in a game for this team, so it took some time getting used to, but I adjusted throughout the game and I'll keep learning. I thought I communicated well with the linebackers and the d-line so that part was good.

On whether he thought they accomplished their goals this game as a team...
We always have something to prove, and even though we took care of business tonight, there are still people who will doubt us. We're fine with that though, we're just going to keep working hard and get results.

Junior Wide Receiver AJ Troup

On whether he ever thought his first catch was going to be a highlight reel touchdown pass
That's how I dreamed it would be, but to be honest I didn't know if I was going to have a catch tonight or not. It was very special how it unfolded though. To have my first catch be a touchdown definitely shows that all my hard work and rehabbing paid off.

On finally being able to compete in a game after being subject to injury the past season
It was just a great feeling. So many emotions running through my head when I was out there. I was relieved and happy to be able to contribute to this team.

Being injured just makes you appreciate everything that much more. I appreciate the grind. I already came in with a chip on my shoulder being a walk on and dealing with injuries. It's a long season but right now it's great to be able to help my team win.

Senior running back Jeremy Langford

On his injury...
I just twisted my ankle. I was just upset because I wanted to be in there, I feel like I didn't have enough series at the time. I feel like I could have went back in but I was just playing it safe I guess. It just kind of rolled a little bit.

On the offense's performance today compared to last season's opener...
I know we came in confident. We got a lot of seniors back and a lot of experience back and it showed today on the field.

On if MSU tried to pass the ball more...
Jacksonville State did a good job of trying to slow us down. They put a lot of people in the box and we took advantage of that. Our receivers went over the top and were catching the ball. We scored a lot of points and that's all that matters right now, we'll get the running game eventually.

Sophomore cornerback Darian Hicks

On his interception...
I was just looking at the ball in the air trying to time when I should jump so I could beat him to the ball in the air and that's what happened. I got the interception.

On his first play of the game...
Not going to lie, I had some butterflies in there but after the play was over I was like, okay, I'm good now.

On what he can use from this game to prepare for Oregon...
They tried doing no-huddle fast paced. We know that Oregon is much faster than they are so we're going to go at the tape, look at it, and adjust to it. We're going to be playing a faster team so we've got to get used to it.

Junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun

On how he felt the game went...
Pretty good. I felt like we had a very good game today, still feel like there are things we need to tie up but so far good first game.

On his sack...
He definitely made me work a little bit harder for it, but I think that's what made it just that much sweeter being able to get the sack.

On how he felt Taiwan Jones played...
Very good actually. Taiwan got us lined up, he was prepared. It just shows that he stepped it up in that leadership role. He was taking it head on instead of backing back and letting other people leave.

On how Jacksonville State's offense prepared MSU for the Oregon game...
Very good. I think that the coaches also help us prepare. They throw two huddles at us at times just to make sure that we're prepared for that fast tempo game this weekend. I was happy, it was pretty tiring out there but we were happy to get after it and our substitutions were great today. We were swapping guys out and everybody was trying to make a play.

Junior quarterback Connor Cook

On his knee after the hard hit...

I walked off the field and it felt alright. I got it checked out on the sidelines and then they put me back in. Yeah, I was a little dinged, but nothing too serious. I'm good.

Were you at all worried that it [knee] was worse than it was...

Not really. There was just so much adrenaline going in the first series of the game. The game was just going so fast. Initially, I got up and I walked a little bit and the trainers told me to take a knee or sit down. Yeah, it was frightening, I hadn't really gotten hit like that in a while. It's been almost a year, but I'm doing alright. I'm good.

On the importance of the success of tonight's game...

It's great, especially as an offense. We want to have a high confidence coming out of week one or going into a big game. It was nice to come out and play the way that we did. There were guys making plays all over the field. Tony [Lippett] and [AJ] Troop. Nick Hill was making big plays. Jeremy Langford along with guys in the tight end spots. Playing the way that we did and making the plays that we made, especially the way that the defense played, is obviously a big confidence booster for all of us when you're heading into a big time game in a big time environment against a big time opponent.

On today's offense compared to where the offense finished last season...

I think that's hard to say with only playing one game so far. I think we've progressively gotten better from the other year's spring ball and fall camp. We're all very happy about how we performed tonight. We're not going to settle for it. Obviously, we'll stride for greatness - trying to get one more yard, more passing yards, more rushing yards and continue to get better as an offense so we can be one of the elite offenses in the country. We're going to go back, we're going to watch film and we're going to get this down to see where we're at. We'll continue to get better each and every week.

Senior wide receiver Tony Lippett

On the offensive improvements since last year...

Like I have been saying, we've been putting in a lot of work. We come out there and just work with each other. He knows where I like to catch the ball and I know where he likes to throw the ball. We study the defense and everything, so we just try to build our chemistry together as the season goes on. We'll keep improving in our game.

On AJ Troop's catch...

I haven't talked to him yet. I was proud of [AJ] Troop. He has been one of the ones grinding since he got injured last year. He's been grinding all year to get it back. His first catch was a touchdown. I was surprised he [Troop] didn't have any tears in his eyes. He has come a long way since his ALC injury. A lot of people wouldn't have thought he'd overcome that obstacle. In his mind, he new he'd overcome it.

On Connor Cook's improvement since the Rose Bowl...

He knows every position well. He knows the checks and he knows the calls. I'm not saying that he didn't know that at the Rose Bowl, but he's better at it. The chemistry is way better. He's put in a lot of work in the film room as well. He knows the ins and outs of this offense.

Senior safety Kurtis Drummond

On replacing six starters on the defense...

We're making a statement overall as a team. Going into our first game I think everyone was excited to get back out there. I'm sure there are things that we could correct and learn from. We didn't play a perfect game by any means, but I'd say we played a pretty solid game all around as a defense.

On Darien Harris' progression throughout the game...

I would say it was mostly about the jitters coming out. Today was about him getting confidence. I know it was the same for a lot of us out there, even myself. Getting back into game mode and flying around again. Darien [Harris] had a great game. He played great for us.

On how the offense's progression in the past year effects the defense...

It gives us more confidence. When you have an explosive offense like that, it's bad news for any team we're playing. First, to go up against an offense like that, it just makes us better each week. We're definitely privileged to go against guys like that. Seeing them come out there quick and early like that, it gives us more confidence and allows us to play more at ease.

Jacksonville State senior quarterback Ben Endress

On third 10-tackle performance...

I have been studying film all week, every day. Knowing what they are going to run. Though we didn't necessarily play our best game tonight - just being aggressive and attacking.

On if its dispiriting to give up big plays...

Big plays really hurt a defense mentally. We just have to bounce back next week and work all week on not giving up those big plays.

Thoughts on not investing too much into this game...

MSU is one of the best teams in the country without a doubt. In football, you have to have a short memory and learn from your mistakes. Go out at it next weekend take on your next opponent.

Jacksonville State sophomore quarterback Eli Jenkins

On running the ball...

It was rough running the ball - they are great up front. Their linebackers flow to the ball well. It was just a struggle running the ball. We knew that it was going to be a struggle. We knew we were going to have to throw the ball to even have a chance to win. But we are just going to have to move on, because like you said the running game just didn't work today.

On any positives from the game...

We are going to bounce back and just get some new guys playing and some experience for them. You can look at it many ways but I just feel like that it was a great opportunity to show our talents.

Jacksonville State junior wide receiver Markis Merrill

On his touchdown...

We had a smash called. I ran a six by three hitch route I brought it in and sat there as he hit me on the rollout. I just cut it up field and my will brought me to the end zone.

Jacksonville State senior quarterback Max Shortell

On coming back to play in the Big Ten...
It's always exciting coming back and playing in an awesome environment like this one, especially against a tough defense. It's a challenge for us. It was just exciting to get back on the field in Big Ten play.

Take us through the first drive...
We just tried to go hurry up offense, and take what the defense gave us, and we just dinked our way down the field.

On if he came out with confidence...
Yeah, our game plan was solid, it's just executing it was the problem throughout the game. The first part of that second half we were clicking on all cylinders there.

Describe how the team felt coming into the game...
We felt confident, we just hoped to stay in it, be in the game in the fourth quarter and see what happens. When [Michigan State's defense] jumped us, jumped on us early, that's tough, you know, giving up big plays early is tough. It knocked our spirits out, but we have to learn to bounce back from that, and put points on the board regardless.

On how much playing time he thought he would get...
I didn't really know what to anticipate. Eli got the start, and I was just waiting for my time, hoping I could get in there as soon as I could.