MSU Spartans
Rotating image
Michigan State 49, Western Michigan 14
 
 
 

 

 
 

Nov. 7, 2009

Recap |  Final Stats |  Notes |  Photo Gallery  |  AP Action Photos 

Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio

Opening Statement...
This is a good win for our program today, and I think our offense came out and played very well, as well as our defense. A lot of people talk about where your focus is going to be after two losses, but with our football team I think the message is always `come ready to play' - and that has been there since this coaching staff got here. I think if we come ready to play, are focused and keep our composure and are ready to work through problems. We've had a good week of practice and I think this win is indicative of that.

I am very happy for Ashton Leggett because he knew he was going to have an opportunity to play with Larry Caper out with a head injury. That just speaks of the quality running backs we have on this team, and I have said all along that the tailback has been a position of depth on this team and I think you saw that today. We had a big run on third-and-one and that really just sparked us as a total football team.

We played very well defensively in the first half, and I think Western had 31 yards on offense in the first half. Western is a good offensive football team, and Hiller is a very good quarterback who spreads it around and runs precise routes that are tied together conceptually. I thought Kirk Cousins played outstanding throughout the game, and was 22-of-25 with 350 yards.

We got our focus back for the most part, but came out a little flat in the third quarter. As a football coach that bothers you a little bit, but towards the end of the third quarter and into the fourth we got our focus back a little bit. A lot of guys had an opportunity to play today, and I also thought Nichol was impressive in the fourth quarter. Once again, great job by Ashton Leggett and by the defense as a whole. Wilson did not play today, nor did the two safeties, but they all could have played but we opted to hold then out when we went up 28-0. Larry Caper did not play, obviously, but was cleared to play. We just felt like holding him back was the best thing to do right now because he has not practiced much as of late.

On winning a lopsided game today...
What we were worried about is playing conference games back to back-to-back, and then you play a non-conference game. Western is a football team that has gotten it done the last two years - against Illinois last year, and Iowa the year before. They also really got it done the year before that against Purdue, so they play the role of the spoiler and that really got the attention of our guys. The fact that they are also a Michigan football team gets our guys attention as well, and where we were at before this game because we needed to win this game. We needed to be 5-5 in order to reach the next step in our goals. I think this win makes the statement that we were ready to play, and we played a lot of players.

On preparing for this game...
I think we found guys that wanted to play today. Some guys were a little bit sick, but they pushed through today. Some guys are a little bit dinged up, but they pushed through today as well. All week long we had good practices and again I will go back and you have to practice and prepare in order to play well. I just don't believe that you can get yourself ready a game on Saturday morning or for that matter on Saturday night. That preparation starts on Tuesday and Wednesday and build from there. That spark that you have is from your preparation, and that preparation creates a little bit of enthusiasm and anxiety which are good things.

On players waiting for their opportunities...
I think this is just an example of being patient and waiting for your time to come. You have to keep working, and I guess Coach Perles used to say, "keep working, keep your mouth shut, and good things will happen." You saw a guys with an opportunity because two weeks ago Ashton Leggett was on our scout team doing an outstanding job as a scout team tailback. As I said earlier, two weeks ago we were talking about something completely different with our football team and now we are at where we are. That is the same thing with Ashton. I think from what he did this week it will give him momentum to come into next week's game and certainly be a factor in that football game. That is a positive for Ashton Leggett, and I am very happy for him because it's challenging when you are behind in the depth chart and you want to play. It's patience, and in part your maturity level, of growing up.

On the play of the tight ends today...
Today the great thing that I saw was that all four tight ends caught the ball. Brian Linthicum made a couple of great catches and had that hurdle in there. Garrett Celek had a touchdown catch, Dion Sims I know had two catches, and then Charlie Gant had a couple of big catches on his corner routes. All those guys got the ball and the wide receivers were involved too. Mark Dell had an outstanding catch that set up the second touchdown, so guys went up and made plays on the ball even though we didn't play a perfect football game. I though the fact that we didn't turn the ball over was a big positive and we need to continue to erase turnovers. The way we played defensively and to force them to be 0-for-13 on third downs shows that you played pretty good defense. We did that by getting pressure on the quarterback and coming up with three sacks. When those things happen you are going to be able to succeed.

On motivating the team after two straight losses...
We switched things up this week and it's not that we are trying to be secretive, we just had guys banged up and we didn't want to talk about our injuries. There comes a time after you lose a couple of tight games I think it is in the best interest of our program to protect our players. The way you can protect them is by keeping them close together and not allowing too much outside influence on them. We want to make them accessible to you, but I though our captains could speak for us this past week. This upcoming week we will probably go status quo, however.

On Kirk Cousins' message to the team...
I thought he got himself ready to go, and that's tough sometimes to lead when you are a sophomore and are surrounded by older players. He's done on outstanding job with leading this team, and I though he played very well today. He was elected captain of this football team and I think our team will follow our captain's - whether it's Greg Jones, Kirk Cousins, Blair White or Ross Weaver.

On Kirk Cousins being in the zone today...
I didn't realize he was that successful until I saw his stats. I thought he played very well, and might have been sacked just one time. There was good protection up front and he has to continue to run the ball, which is a point of emphasis for him. The positive is that we had 600 yards of offense today, but we always have to go back and evaluate the things that worked and the things we have to go back and work on. There is no perfect game out there, but I think we have a deep satisfaction with getting the mokney off our back a little bit after the past two games. Credit Western Michigan because they came out and played well in the second half, which is tough when you are down and in that sort of environment. Give them credit because it was a great coaching job to get them ready in the second half.

Michigan State Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi

Opening comments...
The kids came out to play again today, like I think they have every Saturday. They played well and made plays when they needed to. They played great on the back end as far as coverage reads in the first half. The most disappointing thing is just that run we gave up, which is the longest one we've given up in the season. That's what I keep thinking about.

On areas of improvement...
A lot of guys got reps and I think that was a positive in the second half. Greg Jones didn't even start the second half. The improvement was in our coverage in the second half, as our guys got on them and the secondary did a good job.

On getting Trenton Robinson back...
It was good to have him back. He's been out a couple of weeks. It was great to have Davis-Clark back on the hash. Danny Fortener and Marcus Hyde were a little bit banged up, so we held them. Those two guys will be ready to go for next week, though.

On the team's injuries...
We're not banged up anymore. Last Tuesday we had six starters on defense that didn't practice. Ishmyl Johnson came up big today and played some significant football for us. Blake Treadwell started for us and has been great all year.

On holding Western Michigan to 31 yards in the first half...
It has nothing to do with adjustments, I can tell you that right now. We played our base defense out there today. It was just guys making plays. Maybe we're just a little bit better than them, I don't know. We'll have to play better next Saturday than we did today in order to win.

On getting the team ready for this week's game...
Let me just tell you one thing about our kids: they are resilient. I have never once seen these guys down where you couldn't get them back up. Our kids play and they play hard and they give us everything they've got every week. We don't always, as coaches or players, do everything right every week, but our kids come back and play. We've got two more games to go and we want to be 3-0 in November. Our kids are fired up and ready for Purdue.

Michigan State Offensive Coordinator Don Treadwell

Opening comments...
Offensively today, it was good to see more rushes than passing attempts. That's a positive thing. You talk about being balanced and we were able to do that today. Certainly number one, because we were able to run the ball, and then also Kirk Cousins was pretty darn sharp here today and I think he even had a couple of drops. He was 22-for-25, so if you have a guy playing that sharp at quarterback and you get a little movement up front and you're able to run the football, then good things are going to happen. That's not a surprise. When we're balanced and able to run and throw, for the most part that's when we've been the most productive.

A shout-out goes to our running back Ashton Leggett. I guess you can say that the stable is never bare of stallions and he came out today after a good week of practice. He was a man on a mission. One of the other highlights was that the tight ends stood out. They've been a big part of the passing game in the past and we were able to get the ball into their hands a little bit more and they were very productive with it, as well. All in all, it was a good performance. As a coach, as always, you want to come out that second half and make another statement, but we haven't been as good in the fourth quarter, so it was good to actually finish with some positive things. We'll take it as it came.

On the play of the tight ends...
When the reads were there for the guys because of them being basic to a degree, it allowed the tight ends to be involved. We've utilized silver almost sometimes more than regular, which is two tight ends for a long time anyhow. It's just been a matter of chance and a matter of timing where, all of a sudden, those guys can get their hands on the ball. The quarterbacks pretty much put it on the money there, as well.

On the play of Ashton Leggett...
Coach Enos works with all of them throughout the week and based on the numbers that you have, sometimes some guys will be brought up to the varsity field to get a little more than normal. Certainly he got a little more than normal this week in his preparation. It's a credit to him. He's had a positive mindset and he's hung in there, seeing some younger guys in there in front of him. He's continued to work hard, so it's a credit to his work ethic and we're very pleased with his performance.

On going with a bigger lineup in the red zone...
Our kids are resilient. They responded to Coach Dantonio's leadership. You've got a good group of seniors in there and I think they were just determined that we were going to go out and play a good game today.

On Leggett rushing for over 100 yards...
I think it's always a positive. We'll take it however it comes, and we'd take it even if it was a combined effort. Certainly to have a guy in there being able to break some long ones is always a shot in the arm for the offense.

On using Leggett's performance as motivation...
That's a great story there, no doubt about that. He had seen some of the younger guys getting the reps in the early part of the season, but he hung in there and did what we asked him to do when he wasn't playing with the varsity. He would go with the scout team against the defense at times and all they could talk about was what a great effort he was giving. So it's a tribute to him to hang in there and then to be rewarded on game day.

On what Leggett did in practice to earn his reps...
We were down to just three guys or so and we didn't rep Larry Caper as much, so therefore that gave him to get in there a little bit more than normal. When he got his reps, he caught our attention down there.

Western Michigan Head Coach Bill Cubit

Opening Statement...
I'm going to put it simply; they are better than us. Michigan State is more physical and the two roughing the passer calls against use didn't help either. I think we played a fantastic game, but our young players just didn't handle the venue very well. The game got away from us early and we never got into a good rhythm. I give our kids a lot of credit at half time, because they came back out there and played hard.

On what he said during halftime...
At halftime I just told them not to worry about the score and just go out there and play. There is a time where it is up to the players to tell themselves that they just have to play. There wasn't a lot of screaming in the locker room, we just needed to understand what we all had to do. It is all about preparation. The younger players think they are prepared for a game like this, but they don't understand what college football is all about, especially in this venue. We were taking our eyes off the ball and we were running our routes slowly, so my players think they are ready but they really aren't. If you have one or two freshmen, it doesn't show as much, but when you have as many freshmen as we do, they don't understand. However like I said before, we played much better in the second half. I thought we were competitive and got the score back up to 35-14, but then we let them run 70 yards and score another touchdown. I think my players just need to understand that when there is a ray of hope, we need to take advantage of it.

On being discouraged after the first half...
I am never discouraged. I hoped the game would get better, but as a coach you have to keep rooting your team on. You also have to keep working and try and find that magic button. You have to remember that these guys were playing in front of only one or two thousand people last week and today they played in front of 70,000. I just think that we weren't prepared to play in a Big Ten atmosphere.

On Michigan State's first 70 yard play...
We had a blitz on the first play, but we got stuck. One of our players peeked inside and MSU passed it outside, and we just lost it from there. If he had stayed outside, Michigan State may have got the first down, but I know they wouldn't have gotten the touchdown. That was just one of the little things that we didn't do right today.

On preparing to play against a Big Ten team...
It is hard because we don't have certain positions like MSU does, such as a fullback. So it is hard to simulate playing against a team that used different positions. But, it helped playing against Michigan and other teams that incorporate fullbacks. We don't usually practice against scout teams, we typically scrimmage first string against another first string or maybe second string. At this time of the year everyone is banged up and if you hit them hard all week at practice, you aren't going to have healthy players for Saturday. But I guess that is a risk you have to take.

On Brandon West's record-breaking kick return...
I think Western has set a lot of records so far, but this one is really exciting. I'm sure Brandon will be out there thanking a lot of his teammates for helping him with this accomplishment. We are really proud of him and our team.

Michigan State Sophomore Running Back Ashton Leggett

On what kept him going through the season...
God. My family is really faithful, we pray every day and keeping that faith in God and it will bring me through.

On his feelings of not being in the starting rotation at the beginning of the season...
I was a little surprised, but the coaches have to make decisions that they feel best fit the team and at that moment, that wasn't me. I had to stay faithful and wait my turn.

On how the coaches made sure he knew he still had a place on the team...
All the time, just keep working hard, keeping chipping away at it. I really had to work on my pass protection and I had a little "fumble-itis". I just had to work on those things, protect the ball and pick up pass protection.

On rumors that he was considering transferring...
Not really considering, I was disappointed because as a player, you always feel like you can go out and help the team. Like I said, coaches have to make the decision and it wasn't about transferring, it was more that I was disappointed in myself that I wasn't able to be out there.

On his first carry for 70 yards...
That was a great feeling, being able to do that on your first carry. But I know just like everybody knows, that you aren't going to get that every time. It was a great block by the line, and I just had to make them look good.

On celebrating the win with the tradition of singing the fight song...
It felt really good. I came to Michigan State knowing the tradition and knowing how die hard the fans are. Just being able to get out there and celebrate the win, that was a great feeling.

Michigan State Junior Linebacker Greg Jones

On how the defense got back on track after two losses ...
I think it was great for us, especially those in the back. We did what we could do up front.

On how it feels to celebrate after two losses...
It was good, but you know, we have to get ready for next week, its another tough one coming up.

On how Coach Dantonio wanted them to be "irritable" this week...
I wouldn't say irritable, I only came out to play. I wouldn't say irritable, speaking personally.

On how the defense did...
We stayed focused, we just kept saying not to let up and stay focused.

On how important this win was...
It was very important, the offense came out great this week. The defense has to support them, and that's what we do every game.

Michigan State Redshirt Sophomore Tight End Brian Linthicum
On the play where he jumped over a player...
Well, it was a vertical route and they brought some sort of blitz so we worked on just slipping that and Kirk put it right on me. I've been thinking about it ever since the Iowa game when the guy slip tucked me on the sidelines. I was going to jump no matter what, even if they guy played straight up, thankfully he played low on me. It would have been nice if I could have run a little after, but it was pretty exciting just to do it.

On the offense...
I feel like the offense is coming together real well. The passing game has been great and it has been on target. Like I said, the play I ran was a hot route, so he had me go right up the middle, over all our receivers are starting to come together and make catches. You know the tight ends, two of the guys had touch downs. The offense is expanding.

On sophomore quarterback, Kirk Cousins, going 22-for-25...
It makes me feel comfortable. Kirk has a great command for the huddle, everybody is with him from the beginning and I just know that it makes me feel comfortable to do my job when I know that he's going to put the ball there.

On Cousins showing more command...
All week Kirk has shown more command. We all had a chip on our shoulder, and Kirk has been saying all week `I'm going Saturday, if you want to come with me get on my back'. And he was saying that before the game, during the game I think it played out exactly as it should have.

On what Cousins shows as a leader...
It's amazing to have a sophomore captain that is a first year starter with all of the pressure on him. He's got a great character, and he has led this team like he was asked to do and you couldn't ask anymore of him.

Michigan State Sophomore Quarterback Kirk Cousins

On the win...
It feels great, I said earlier this week anytime you lose, anytime you win it's the best and right now we're feeling good. We have a three game season basically to finish here to be in a bowl game and we won the first one, we have two to go.

On him saying "I'm going, if you want to hop on my back you can"...
My feeling was any time a team is playing well you sort of have that extra motivation, everybody is clicking and you've got an extra drive. Coming off of two loses, I felt like I had that and I said to the guys if you don't have it then you can hop on my back. As a captain that's your job.

On his accuracy in the game...
The ball was coming off my hands pretty well. Actually, early, a couple of throws I made weren't coming off my hands very well, but definitely as the game wore on I felt very good about the way I was throwing the ball. But again, the quarterback is simply a reflection of the team. The offensive line was protecting very well, the tailbacks were picking up the blitzes, they were running well and creating plays when they weren't there, and the running back and receivers were catching the ball and making plays.

On his confidence over the season...
We've faced a lot of adversity, and the past few weeks we've had some tough losses. We're finding out who we are as men, and who we are as people and how we go about our business when our backs are up against a wall. And again, not once do I believe this team has stopped fighting, we have played hard in some tough times and we've never given up. I think that reflects the attitude of the head coach and the way we're going about our business. We haven't had the wins, but we're playing well.

On the frustration of the season...
This is probably the toughest season I've ever gone through, on any football team I've ever played on. Just as far as all of the bad breaks, tough losses especially with all of the preparation and work that we've put in and higher expectations then what we've had. It is what it is, we're learning from it, we're becoming better football players, and better people.

On the importance of this win...
A wins a win, we want to win them all and like I said we need three wins here down the stretch and we've got our first one. No one else is going to turn this ship around except for the people in this room, the players and the coaches are the people who really know what is going on and it's those people that can turn it back around.

On sophomore running back Ashton Leggett...
I can't say enough about Ashton, he came in the same year as I did. We played each other in high school. We've gotten to know each other early when we first came here. He's just a great kid, great smile, great player and obviously didn't get an opportunity early in the season. I just told him to just keep working and obviously today was a good day for him.

Michigan State Senior Defensive End Trevor Anderson

On the play of the defense today and how they were able to pressure (WMU qaurterback) Tim Hiller...
We had a designed plan on how we were going to attack him. We realized he was getting the ball off pretty fast - around three seconds. So, we timed up our rush during practice and said we had to get to him in under three seconds. We did a good job of that today.

On the WMU offensive being similar to a spread offense...
We knew that coming into today, they were at about a 60% passing team and that they would run the ball more to set up the pass. They really only had that one big run on us and that was at the start of the second half. That was disheartening, but we won the game.

On how important it was to not only win the game but win the game convincingly...
A lot of people think that playing a non-conference game this late in the season isn't a big game, but we paid attention to history. They had a history of knocking teams off in the Big Ten that had chances to get to bowl games. We just said it wasn't going to be us and decided this week that we were taking this game as seriously as we can.

On whether it feels like it has been a long time since they won...
Any loss is hard. Especially the last two losses; the Iowa and Minnesota games. It kind of weighed us down a bit. We got a little bit of a burden off our shoulders and we're back even and looking forward to Purdue next week.

Michigan State Sophomore Wide Receiver B.J. Cunningham

On Kirk Cousins' leadership...
He is just a leader out there. He knows what he has to do. As long as we catch it for him and block and the line is doing what they are supposed to do - everything is just going to fall into place. Off the field, he'll give people rides that don't have one, he's just an all around good guy. That falls into his leadership. He just has all the characteristics of a leader, to me.

On the play of running back Ashton Leggett...
It's just so great that he never gave up. Since we signed our letters of intent, we've been close. I've just been rooting for him and egging him on to keep his head up and we told him his chance would come. Finally it came and he took advantage of his opportunity. I knew he had it in him the whole time.

Michigan State Junior Wide Receiver Mark Dell

On whether quarterback Kirk Cousins gives off any vibes of frustration...
Not really. I don't think Kirk shows that he is ever really frustrated. He is very poised and he doesn't let a lot of things shake him up and that is what I like about him. He is a competitor and he plays for that play - one play at a time. He doesn't dwell on the past either and that is what I like about him.

On getting the tight ends involved today along with the receivers...
As long as everybody just stays healthy, the sky is the limit for all of us.

On taking the confidence from today's win into next week's game at Purdue...
We just need to continue the same things we did this week. Just staying motivated, staying hungry and taking it one game at a time and not looking ahead.

On the importance of getting out to an early lead...
It's a great thing. Playing from behind can be difficult because the other team is making plays and it's hard. To jump out early like we did today was a good feeling. In the end, getting so many younger guys in was a good thing too.

On the importance of the running game today...
Coach D always stresses the importance of the running game. You have to establish a running game in order to have a good passing game. We showed that today and they really couldn't key in too much on our receivers because our running backs were having such a good day. It makes it difficult to defend us.

Western Michigan Senior Quarterback Tim Hiller

On the first half...
I think they came out with a sense of urgency and we did not match that and that cost us. We never could get into a rhythm offensively and that really hurt us. But we didn't match their intensity and sense of urgency .

On why the offense wasn't working against Michigan State...
I wish I had an answer for you. It's hard, it takes all 11 guys on offense and defense to all have that sense of urgency and we just didn't have that.

On not seeming to be able to get in a rhythm with his receivers...
You hit on it, that's all my fault. I didn't play very well today and I take responsibility for that. We just have to get in a rhythm, sustain drives, stay ahead of the sticks and convert on third downs.

On not running the ball in the first half and then getting the big rushing play to start the second half...
In the second half we just wanted to find a rhythm and obviously we're more successful if we can run the ball effectively. Early on they were bringing an extra guy in the box, playing man coverage and daring us to beat them but we couldn't take advantage of that.

On if Michigan State did anything that surprised them...
It's about what we expected. I mean, this is a Big Ten football team - they're really good, we knew that coming in. Defensively, their middle linebacker (Greg Jones) is heckuva player. The secondary is very athletic. We knew that we had to play well and we weren't able to get it done.

On having trouble on converting on third downs...
I don't know what our percentage was, but it probably wasn't very good. When you're in third-and-long situations it makes it a lot more difficult than when you are in third and four or less, but that goes back to getting yards on first downs and running the ball well.

On how this circumstance was different from their victories over Big Ten opponents Iowa and Illinois the past two seasons...
I don't think the situation was any different. We had an opportunity to go out, hold nothing back and let it all out there. We had nothing to lose. In the past we all had that attitude and got it done and that didn't happen today, but I think that we're going to get better. We have two games left and I think we're going to finish strong.

Western Michigan Senior Running Back Brandon West
On not getting the ball in the first half...
Glenis Thompson had a really good week of practice and I just started off practices bad this whole week but I just stuck in there and waited my turn.

On if he said he wanted to ball more during halftime...
No. I have confidence in Glenis. I know he can go out there and get the job done just as well as I can. We have confidence in each other.

On whether what they saw from MSU was expected...
Yes it was. Going into it we knew they were a real good team. Like Tim said, their middle linebacker Greg Jones is a pretty good linebacker and so is the rest of their defense. That's a good team that came out physical and beat us physically and mentally.

On getting the NCAA kick return yardage record...
It's good to get the record but I want to get the record with a win. Like I said I just go out there and try to play hard. I don't really care about records as of right now. It's a good compliment, but I care most about getting wins.

On what the team will need to do in their last two games...
We have to come out fighting and try to get these next two. This was a down week but this game is done now. We have to come out stronger next week.

Western Michigan Senior Linebacker Mitch Zajac
On being home (Zajac is from DeWitt)...
It was exciting - we have a lot of guy who are from around here. We tried not to let it bother us or get to our heads too much, but it was exciting because we had a lot of friends and family here. As far as that goes, it was pretty exciting.

On the late hits in the first half...
We had it. We stopped them on third down and if we don't make those penalties we get off the field and give our offense a chance to go and score. In my situation, I was too late, that's all it was. We have to be smarter and play with better fundamentals and not really shoot ourselves in the foot, because we came out in the second half and did the exact same thing but we didn't have the penalties and held them to some three and outs.

On the Michigan State long touchdown run during the first defensive series...
We let up some big plays on defense last week and we said "listen guys, if we give up the big play and they score, we come back next time and stop them that time". They're a good team and they're going to score so whether they drive on us or score in one play we would move on.

On matching up with Michigan State's tight ends...
Their entire offense is very talented. Their offensive line is very big and very athletic and their tight ends are just as big as their linemen and even more athletic. We tried to get reroutes on them and banging them up a little bit when they tired to release free. We just didn't get it done.

 

 

SHOP NOW

at the official
Online Store