Michigan State 31, Northwestern 17
 
 
 

 

 
 

Nov. 26, 2011

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Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio

Opening statement...
First of all, I'd like to congratulate our football team as being the Legends [Division] champion by themselves. I think that's what we worked for, we worked to stand alone at the top and we were able to do that today. Just a tremendous effort by our football team. We talk about maturity, we talk about focus, we talk about finishing everything that we do and this is a great example of that today. You wonder why I'm so excited, it is so much different. People talk about the 12th game and all this kind of stuff and how to play it, it is so much better when you do it this way. It means so much more to everybody. We will remember this for the rest of our lives, this game, and that's the kind of focus we put on this football game. We wanted to have momentum going into next week, we'll have that. There will be no looking back right now, we'll be able to push through and move on to the next thing.

Kirk Cousins breaking the (school passing touchdowns) record today, I think 62 touchdown passes, he also broke the record for most 200-yard games. Defense plays tremendously, big plays in the game, huge plays by Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham again and again and again. I guess the turning point in the game was 3-3, they're playing us tough, long drive and a big fumble caused and fumble recovery and then we go down the field on a 97-yard drive with Keshawn making a big catch and Le'Veon (Bell) getting in on the run. Ran the ball effectively, big touchdown after that on a punt return, you know what happened, we answered every time we needed to.

I thought (offensive coordinator Dan) Roushar did a great job calling the game as well as (defensive coordinator Pat) Narduzzi. I don't know how many sacks we had, but we got after the quarterback, limited the big play and that's what you have to do. P4RB; do you know what that stands for? Play for the Rose Bowl. That's where we're going. We'll take the next step, great challenge next week with whoever we play, but we're in the hunt.

On cornerback Tony Lippett's performance...
Tony played tremendously. I think it's his third game he's played full-time as the corner. He's a tremendous athlete, could have come up with a pick possibly, but tackled well, covered well. They had one big play on us, it was just a freshman error basically, but he's a great football player. He's going to be a great player here for another three years. (We have) a lot of guys like that. We have a relatively young team, but you've got to feel for the seniors right now and the things that they've been able to accomplish and the list goes on. Just so happy for them and so happy for everyone involved at Michigan State. Great support by everybody but our players got it done.

On if this year's record of 10-2 and the obstacles the team has overcome is sweeter than last year's record of 11-1...
Yeah, it is. It is because stats show that for every 10 teams that handle adversity like we did last year, only one team can handle success of those 10. Our football team, not only did they go 11-1 last year in the regular season, but we handled it and handled success and now we're 10-2 this year. So we've moved through it by being able to look at what we've done and then build on top of that and continue to play. I've talked a little bit about how the Packers are doing it and we had an opportunity to go up and visit them in the spring, but they just keep putting one foot in front of the other and do it very emphatically I guess, but they just get it done. I think this is a program statement, stacking 10-2 on top off an 11-1 season.

On the seniors making the big plays...
Experience means so much to our football team and to our players. So when you've got guys that have made catches before, have made throws before--that was a rocket, that last touchdown pass by (Kirk) Cousins to B.J. Cunningham. That was on a rope, with pressure in his face, and he stepped up and delivered. That was an NFL throw but that's him. He responded. Our guys, we have great leadership at the ground level and I continue to say that and maybe that's because we work at it so hard. Our seniors lead, our older players play with experience, they not only make plays, but they lead. You see how valuable Keshawn Martin and B.J. are, and Brian Linthicum made a big catch today, so guys were hurt and nicked up and somebody else played for them.

On the defense's performance against Northwestern...
Well, we're not trying to let them get the yardage but (Dan) Persa's a quality quarterback that can move around in the pocket. When we do have him covered, he can get out of problems. We did manage to sack him, especially I think in the second half, but he's got some good receivers. Without watching the game film, you know things are happening so rapidly at times, it's hard to recall everything, but they are very well tied together schematically, like I say every week and the same thing on defense. They do a great job, they work extremely hard, they'll be going to a bowl game. They were on a four-game win streak and I think they had a lot of momentum. But we wanted to play like big boys today and we came and played.

Michigan State Quarterback Kirk Cousins

On expectations coming into the season...
We had a very challenging schedule and we felt like it was as tough as anybody's in the conference so the fact that we could win 10 and only really lose one [conference] game... to [potentially] be the only Big Ten team with one loss this season says a lot about what we can accomplish here.

On becoming Michigan State's all-time leader in passing touchdowns...
I think it goes to show the stability we have in this program. It means a great deal more to the guys around me than to me, I think. We all care so much about one another. None of those touchdowns I threw by myself--I passed to someone, I had an offensive lineman protecting me. Any individual records are a testament to the team and the more records we can pile up shows how special the team has been.

On being one win from the Rose Bowl and the week ahead...
We said in the locker room just now that the coming week is the most important week of our careers and because of all we've accomplished up to this point, we've put ourselves in that position. We're 60 minutes from the Rose Bowl and that's what we talked about last year, that's what we talked about this year at the start of the season. We're so close, and Wisconsin and Penn State are great teams. Whoever we play, it's going to be a battle. With a great week of preparation and a great game on Saturday, we can be there.

Michigan State Wide Receiver B.J. Cunningham

On reaching 10 wins in two straight seasons...
Nobody's ever done it at Michigan State and to have two back-to-back double-digit seasons means a lot. We've been talking all week about how we want to win this game, get that 10th win, slingshot to the championship game and keep rolling.

On being one win from the Rose Bowl and the week ahead...
Winning this game is a blessing in itself and we've practiced for this game all summer. It's an accomplishment, though we're not there yet--we've got a lot to do. We have to keep moving and keep playing hard.

Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald
Opening Statement...
Credit goes to Michigan State on a well-played game today. We didn't do the little things today and that hurt us. If the punt was closer to the boundary, taking care of the ball in the red zone, the protection and communication issues. All those little things add up to success and unfortunately, momentary failure.

We've got a long way to go as far as a program to get ourselves to Indianapolis, but I don't think we're that far away. I don't think we're that far away at all. That's probably what's most disappointing right now. For how close we are and for us not to coach our guys well enough to get to that point is incredibly disappointing. We will coach our tails off in the next month. Those young guys that have been out there are going to come back out to practice their butts off. We're going to grind them up. When we find out who we're going to play, we're going to come up with a great game plan to send these seniors off as winners.

A lot of the seniors made great plays. I'm bitterly disappointed that they didn't walk off that field as winners. I take that responsibility as a coach and we're going to work our tails off to get that fixed.

I appreciate our fan support all year, especially our students who stuck around during the holiday break. I'm looking forward to finding out where we're going to play and showing off our great football program.

On Jordan Mabin's injury and its effect on the defense...
I don't think it was about the chemistry. I was disappointed for Jordan, at Ryan Field, and not being able to play out the game. We had plenty of opportunities for other guys to make plays and we didn't make enough of them. We didn't punch the ball out. When we were supposed to be inside leverage, we were outside. Again, it's the little things that add up to big things.

On Keshawn Martin's 57-yard punt return for a touchdown...
We can analyze it and scrutinize it all we want. We had a gunner out-blocked. We had two gunners get blocked by the ball. We had four guys inside at the point of attack; our contain guy gets beat and away he goes. When you miss one tackle, he can go. We gave up three yards all year on punt return. So I guess we gave up 60 yards for the year and 57 of them really hurt.

On the season as a whole...
It's important to keep fighting and believing in what you believe in. You look at these games we ended up on the short end of this year and it's the little things. It's motivating. Contrary to the popular belief, I promise you we don't have a pity party.

We'll look at what we did schematically and what we can do differently. We look at fundamentals and technique and what we ask the guys to do on as specific plays. I look at passion and I thought we came out today ready to play. We create a plan, we execute and then we review it and correct it.

On Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins...
He's had a great career. All those balls he threw, we could have been successful on and that's a credit to him and those two receivers [Martin and Cunningham]. They made the plays today.

On a postgame message to the senior class...
We'll have those guys and their families over to the house tonight, but I won't console them. I'm not a consoler, that's not my nature. I can't stand it. It drives me crazy when we don't win and it drives me up the wall. I expect to win and I expect to win everything we do. To not do that six times this year is disappointing. We have a chance for a winning season and a chance to win a bowl game. We'll do everything we can to send these seniors off the right way.