Post-Game Quotes: Wisconsin
 
 
 

 

 
 

Oct. 23, 2011

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Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio

Opening statement...
"Wow. That is all about I can say. Our guys worked extremely hard. I felt they kept playing throughout the game and they came back from 14-zip. We found ourselves ahead by halftime, by whatever it was, 23-14 or whatever. But at the end of that game, I don't know. Where do you go from there, really. I'm very proud of our football team. Zero penalties in this game. We played the game very well. We played composed. We made plays. (Kirk) Cousins, again, had a great game. He was on the money. B.J. Cunningham makes big plays as well. You know, two points on the touchdown. Keshawn (Martin) gets involved. I thought (Brian) Linthicum played very well. I thought Le'Veon Bell ran the ball very effectively. What a great catch by Keith (Nichol) at the end of the game. We had a big punt block. We said that special teams were going to be very important in this football game. We get a field goal block which gave us three off the board. Then we got a punt block at the end. Our guys did a nice job getting three and out there, using our timeouts and coming up with the block for the touchdowns. We had a huge play at the end of both halves that resulted in touchdowns obviously with just seconds left or no time on the clock. Where do you go from there? We go to Nebraska. 6-1, that's 24 hour rule rolling. It's an exciting time."

On whether during the final review, if the coaches from upstairs were telling him that it was in or were they preparing for overtime...
"Well, I kept saying `hey, guys keep our focus. Get yourself ready to go into overtime.' I kept talking to Coach Narduzzi and saying it over to our offensive guys too; but the guys upstairs kept saying `he's in. He's in'. But he's right on the goal line. I think his body went in or maybe his feet were on the line. I don't know because I didn't see it. The ball came off of Cunningham's face mask. I guess you guys have seen it. Nichol makes the catch. Great play. That is why you play until the end of the game. You just keep playing. It's a play that everybody practices. Everybody practices that play. The last play, throw it up, tip it around in the end zone. You never know when it's going to come to fruition. By the grace of God it did."

On how often he is successful when they run that play in practice...
"Usually, when nobody's covering us, we're pretty good. We work it against nobody covering us because we don't want defensive backs going up on the last two plays of Thursday's practices injuring somebody, or getting an ankle [injury]. So we usually practice it on air, which means no defenders there and we tip it around and come up with it. It's the first time I think that I've been involved in one of these in thirty years of coaching when at the end of the game, with no time left that you win the game. That usually just doesn't happen."

On how he got his team together after they were down 14-0...
"It was 14-zip and we hadn't stopped the run. We gave up the ball on the first play of scrimmage. They got in. I think our guys started playing at little bit better. We figured out what they do. The longer a team goes, you figure out what they do throughout the game. The safety that we came up with really propelled us forward. Then they drove down and we blocked the field goal, I believe. Then after that, it was B.J. that got the touchdown on a fourth down call, and he breaks it. Then we are back with Keshawn on a reverse I think. I can't remember all of these. And then the big punt block. The punt block is a huge play. Again, it's something we work on in practice. We thought we could maybe get one. It was a great job by Mike Tressel, our special teams coordinator, organizing that. We have to change up something every week. But we got it done. It was a big block. Kyler Elsworth gets the block. I'm even sure who scooped it at this point."

On a team that clearly believes it can win, and how he develops his program...
"We keep talking about talking to each other. Keep talking to each other. Keep talking to each other on Friday and Saturday. Keep talking to each other. If you talk to five guys, you are going to get back five times. If you talk to 100 guys, you are going to get back 100-fold. That's what we do. We encourage each other. We have great chemistry on this football team. Our players really, truly love each other. We have great leadership on the ground level. We have been under attack, I feel, a little bit this week. Football is a game of emotion. I said that in my statement. We responded. I thought we responded in the right way. We took care of business. We talked about having a perfect storm tonight. Honestly, we said we are going to have a perfect storm. In other words, we are going to have zero penalties. It's amazing because we had zero penalties today."

On what it says about this team mentally to manage the ups and downs...
"It means that we have a program. We keep talking about that; we are trying to build a program. It's sort of like when you become a head coach or an assistant coach some place. You're never finished. There is always something more that you can improve on. That's what we do as a program. We critique what we've done. We've won 17 out of our last 20 games. We are just going to keep competing, and good things can happen for us. We have things we have to fix from this game, but credit Wisconsin. They have a good football team too. Their quarterback is a very, very good player. Extremely good. Same with their tailbacks."

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema

Opening statement...
"I would first like to give credit to Michigan State and Coach Dantonio. Obviously they did a nice job and it was a very hard-fought game. Obviously you don't want to see it end the way it did for us, but I'm excited about the way our guys responded in the second half and especially in the fourth quarter. We needed all three phases for us to win today and it just didn't happen at times. Every group had their moment, and to see the look in these guys eyes after the game and to realize I've never been a part of something like that, but we need to take it and move forward. I think our kids will respond appropriately and battle back and be sad for quite a bit, but we have another opportunity against Ohio State next week."

On calling time outs at the end of the game...
"We wanted to get the ball back. We were right there on a punt return that we thought had a chance to break, and possibly a punt block. If we got the ball back with less than 30 seconds, then we were going to go with the block so we wouldn't have to use the last time out there to stop the clock. Obviously, they converted and had the opportunity at the end. We were going for the win."

On the last play of the game...
"I never even saw the play. They didn't show it and I wasn't watching. I was talking to our captains; I grabbed Bradie (Ewing) and Russell (Wilson). We were playing victory defense so I slipped over to the offense. I think the guy that caught the ball ran out of bounds but he wasn't the first to touch it, so that makes it a legal catch."

On his personnel on the last play of the game...
"It was kind of a MASH unit there at the safety position in that formation. We put three safeties back and Dezmen (Southward) was down and (Jared) Abbrederis had ran that before. We knew we had a time out, so we were just trying to get everybody lined up and in the right position."

On how his team will respond to a loss like this...
"I'm around these kids every day. Going back to January when we started working, I know these kids are tremendous characters with great attitudes and energy. This will sting and they will carry this memory with them for the rest of their life - and it's going to be difficult. But as coaches, we have to pick up the pieces and move forward and correct the mistakes we made today."

On the performance of Montee Ball...
"Montee is a tremendous character. I haven't seen any stats or what his numbers were but he was running very hard. I thought the second half, in particular, he was really running with some juice and breaking some tackles. He got dinged in the first half, but at halftime he came up to us and told me he was all right. He got cleared for the second half and played well."

Michigan State Senior Wide Receiver Keith Nichol

On his game-winning touchdown catch...
"I swear I thought I got the ball across...I knew once they went to review it that it was going to be a touchdown. Incredible game, incredible effort by both sides. Incredible moment, really."

On winning the game...
"I just felt like we really overcame so much adversity at the beginning; I think they had 14 points and we only had one offensive play in the first quarter. To fight through that the way we did with the blocked punt, making plays by Keshawn [Martin] and B.J. [Cunningham]. It was a collective effort and I really felt like the Spartans deserved to win that game, and I'm glad to know that it came down to that moment and that we were able to capitalize on that moment."

On how he knew that he was in the end zone on the final play...
"I could just feel that I went across the line for a second with the ball on my up-field shoulder. There was just no way that I felt like I could have been denied on that one, and I just knew it in my gut."

On what it took mentally to come back from being 14 down in the first quarter...
"I think just calming down. Wisconsin came out firing and ready to go, they were coached up well and ready for us. We really just said that we need to take a step back, we were all amped up and had the adrenaline pumping, things weren't going our way there at the beginning. We stepped back and said, hey we can do this."

On the last play...
"It worked just the way you practice it; it was amazing the way it worked out. But players like Keshawn and B.J., what they did tonight was incredible. The offensive line stepped up, Le'Veon Bell had a great game, Kirk did a great job managing the game. Defense stepped up and made big plays when they needed to. Huge effort by the entire team, and it's crazy how it just came down to one play, and that's probably how the game will be remembered."

Michigan State Senior Wide Receiver Keshawn Martin

On catching two touchdown passes in each of the last two games...
"First couple games of the season I wasn't really that healthy. Michigan, that's when I felt really good, that's the best I've felt all year. Just being able to answer like that; two touchdowns in back-to-back games, that's amazing. But I just try to go out there and make plays."

On being happy for Keith Nichol's game winning catch...
"If anybody was in that position I would be happy for them. Keith, that's my man. Seeing him go from quarterback to receiver, and the jumps he's made as a receiver is just so amazing. I'm just so happy for him, I'm happy for BJ [Cunningham], Kirk [Cousins], everybody. I'm just excited."

Michigan State Senior Quarterback Kirk Cousins

On the final play...
"We work on it every Thursday, and with the athletes we have at receiver with B.J. Cunningham, Keith Nichol and Keshawn Martin, and our tight ends and all those guys, we knew we had a chance. There's always a chance. We work on it every Thursday, we work on it over and over and over. We call it our Rocket Series. We executed it, the ball bounced our way, obviously there's a little bit of luck that plays into it, but we executed it. We just kept believing. The way we came back from a 14-0 deficit was really the mark of a mature football team. It went back and forth, a classic Big Ten football game. I said to [Wisconsin Quarterback] Russell Wilson after the game, first of all you're a class act and second of all I think you guys will be there in December and I hope to be there with you. We'll keep battling."

On Keith Nichol's game-winning touchdown catch...
"I don't think you could write a better story. He's very special, he works so hard and he's so selfless and it's never been about him. And for him to be the guy that caught that pass to win the game was very, very special. He used all that strength he has to power his way into the end zone. He's a special player and he deserves all the success he gets, and I hope there's more coming."

On what he saw during the final play...
"Ultimately you're trying to put it in the end zone and give your guys a chance, but also buy time for them to get down there. The design of the protection was so that I could buy some time, tried to buy as much as I could and felt like I needed to let it go...Lucky bounce and it came out way. But again, you don't get that opportunity unless you have the character and maturity that I think we as a team have. We certainly showed that tonight."

Michigan State Senior Wide Receiver B.J. Cunningham

On the Hail Mary...
"It bounced right off my facemask, if I don't catch it and it bounces, that's how we practice it, somebody has to be in front to scoop it and if it gets tipped back, someone has to be in the back. It hit off my facemask, Keith (Nichol) snagged it. It felt great man."

On the thought process while the ball is in the air...
"Usually the first person to go up always doesn't come down with it. That is why it is practiced. Someone has to be in front, waiting to see if it gets tipped to scoop it before it hits the ground. Keith (Nichol) did exactly what he needed to do and was in the right place at the right time."

On having to wait for the officials review and the celebration...
"I lost my helmet. I jumped on Keith's back and when I was in the locker room someone picked it up for me. It just feels great. He made a great play and I was happy for him."

On the night game atmosphere...
"I tip my hat off to the fans; they were the 12th man out there. It wouldn't have been the same without them; they just had it rocking the whole time. I felt the energy; it was live out there. It was great."

Michigan State Junior Defensive Tackle Jerel Worthy

On the flow of the game...
"We just try to go out there and make plays. Russell Wilson made some plays down the stretch with his legs, being a good mobile quarterback that he is. We just tried to capitalize and keep the emotion high and stay positive."

On the defensive effort...
"When the defense is on, it's on. Everybody is out there playing with confidence; we have a lot of faith in everybody. Throughout the week you just kind of build. And knowing the person next to you knows what they are doing, their assignments and their jobs, you just have to go out there and execute. Early on in the game they were moving the ball effectively and they were doing what ever they wanted. As a defense you kind of have to say enough is enough. We tightened down, we were able to make some big plays down the stretch, get some pressure on Russell Wilson and have him throw it up and just be effective."

On the team not committing a penalty...
"Just playing with control. Understand and never letting your emotions in a big game get the best of you. Try to keep it within the whistle. Our motto this week was `in between the whistles.' Just understand that the defensive line or linebackers, when you are playing in the box, you've got another opportunity. You never want to get too overwhelmed with one play and never let it get the best of you."

Michigan State Senior Guard Joel Foreman

On the moment when it was ruled Keith Nichol was short of the end zone...
It is so close, yet so far away. Obviously, like I said earlier, it is good to see one of those go our way this time. I ran up to Dion (Sims), and asked him, `Did he get in?' and he said `yeah.' It is an amazing football play. It will obviously go down as one of my top plays that I have been apart of here at Michigan State and it will go down as one of the top plays at Michigan State in general. It is just a testament to us to keep on fighting. We practice the tip drill all the time. It is kid of funny that it is the last thing we do on Thursday's, which is our last practice day. Last thing we do is do that and do the tip drill in the end zone. You hope that is going to workout, and it hardly ever does, but today it went our way.

On the atmosphere...
I think it just adds to the legacy of night games...Night games are full of passion and emotion that is just how it is. It is playing under the lights; it's college football at its best. To be able to go there and be successful, and play a great team and win, is a great thing for us, and something we are really proud of.

Wisconsin Senior Quarterback Russell Wilson

On his team's resilience ...
I think the main part was our ability to come back, our ability to score, and our defense's ability to stop them. I think the main thing is that we have to forget about it. We'll watch the film, see the positives we can get from that, and then go from there.

On the team's high character ...
I definitely believe what Coach says about our high character and our work ethic. Every single person on this team puts in 100 percent effort every day, in terms of the weight room and all that other stuff. Our ability to fight back and our ability to believe will come back again.

His thoughts when they were down two touchdowns ...
(I thought) we could still come back. We practice that kind of stuff in practice, in terms of being behind; we had to just keep fighting. We couldn't have any penalties or anything stupid like that. We just had to keep believing that our guys would make some big time plays.