Sept. 11, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell, linebacker Max Bullough and quarterback Andrew Maxwell recently talked about the upcoming matchup against No. 20 Notre Dame Saturday night at Spartan Stadium.
Below is a transcript from their teleconference.
Andrew Maxwell: The run game starts with us, it starts up front. It starts with having seven offensive linemen on our team that are starting football games for us and a lot of the guys have started for at least a full season.
So with the depth and the strength that we have there and the depth and the experience that we have at tailback that, really allows us to have good, efficient plays at first and second down and ideally keeps us out of third and long situations, or second and long situations, where we can really open up the passing game and we can have a lot more freedom there.
Q. The numbers came down a little bit last weekend (for Le'Veon Bell), but what was the team's reaction to that first big outing against Boise and the Heisman talk started immediately? What was your reaction to that game by him?
Andrew Maxwell: We knew that that was a game and those are numbers that Le'Veon has always been capable of putting up and that's something that we have seen and recognized from Le'Veon since the day he stepped on campus, at least I saw in him. Just the fact, the natural progression of the game, that's what it called for. We had to have a guy that would answer the call and carry the ball 44 times like Le'Veon did, and he's a guy who is going to be up to that challenge.
Physically he's got the body type to do it, he's big and he's durable and he's got that attitude that whatever it takes to win, he's going to do that for our team.
Q. Did you give him a hard time for all the Heisman talk after like week one?
Andrew Maxwell: No. We'll let that go on for a little bit longer before we start giving him a hard time.
Q. Andrew, just on the way your offense functions, what is the key part of it that a quarterback has to pick up that he has to understand that makes him functional within the offense?
Andrew Maxwell: You've got to understand what everybody's job is and what everybody's role is on a specific play. Because as a quarterback in this offense, you never have the same responsibility on any two plays in a row.
So from a fan's perspective, they might think, you know, a run play at quarterback just takes a snap, and turns around and hands it off, but it's so much more than that. It's knowing what the run play is called; knowing what defense you can't run the play into; what blitz is a problem; what front is a problem.
So as a quarterback in this offense, you always have got to be thinking and you always have to be processing information and realizing, are we in the best play we could possibly be in, is this going to work, and if not, getting us to a better play.
Q. And what happened last year with Notre Dame, how is that being put in a framework or motivation? That game seems so out of character for the way the rest of your season went. First of all, how did you guys survive that game and still turn out the way you did, and how do you put that into context this season?
Andrew Maxwell: Well, I think the way that we finished the season and continued the season after the game, talks a lot about the character and the resiliency that we had as a team last season. It would have been easy for us to kind of walk away from that game, not only did we lose the game, but we also lost two of our starting offensive linemen.
It would have been easy for morale to be low and for us to kind of have a poor week of preparation the next week and then just kind of hit a slump going into the rest of our season, but we rebounded and we finished the season very strong.
But that game was really out of character and we didn't feel like we played the tough physical brand of Michigan State football that we are accustomed to playing and we want to play every week. So that was something that really didn't sit well for us and that's not something we are accustomed to or used to, and that's not something that we want to be accused of come this Saturday night.
Q. More about Le'Veon, I guess if you were not watching him every week, but how would you describe him as a runner and what a defense is going to get from him this Saturday
Andrew Maxwell: Well, he's versatile. Not only does he have the size to run you over, but he also has the moves to make you miss in space and the speed to run around you. So as a defender, as a defense as a whole, that causes some problems when you have him in open field, how you're going to choose to try and go tackle him.
Q. Just curious as to what this first couple of weeks of the season has been like for you, obviously you kind of blew the doors open in that first game and got a lot of attention. How have things been and has it been a crazy first couple of weeks for you?
Le'Veon Bell: Things really haven't changed for me. I mean, just like on campus, a lot of guys are really noticing my face or whatever. But on the football and practice field and in the classroom, things haven't really changed. I'm keeping my head level and going out there and working hard playing football.
Q. When you say people notice you, was there kind of a big thing after the Boise game, was everyone your new best friend? How would you describe it?
Le'Veon Bell: I mean, more guys are just talking to me and telling me, you know, great job, didn't really know them. It was a great feeling. You know, just things were a little different on campus.
Q. What do you do to kind of insulate yourself from all that talk, from all the hype swirling around you after a game like that? What do you personally do to shut the world out, shut the noise out?
Le'Veon Bell: Just keep away from ESPN a lot. Not really watching it, especially when colleges are on. I'll watch the NFL or whatever. But not listening to the hype and listening to all the noise and everything, keeping my head level and making sure I go out there and keep working and doing everything I can do in games.
Q. How did you handle the demand in the first game the way the game kind of dictated that your number was going to be called so much? How did you handle the physical punishment, and what did you take away from that?
Le'Veon Bell: I was able to do that, just the hard work I put in in game conditioning, lifting weights, keep my body ready for a game like this. I didn't expect to be touching the ball as many times as I did. But the fact that I was in good enough shape and lifting a lot allowed my body to continue through the game. I just want to keep working hard.
Q. What was that next morning like? How did you stand up?
Le'Veon Bell: I was sore. But I was just as sore as I will be in any game. I didn't feel like too sore or more sore than any other game. In the game, I didn't feel like I even got the ball that many times. I really didn't even feel it. That's the great thing about Coach Mannie, he helped get my body together and make sure I'm conditioned for the game.
Q. When someone told you, how did you find out you had 44 carries? Did you look at the box score or someone tell you or what?
Le'Veon Bell: Yeah, I was getting interviewed after the game and they had told me I had 44 carries and I'm like, wow, I didn't even realize I had the ball that many times. But I was fine and my body was great.
Q. How critical do you guys consider your run game when you consider that you also have a first time starting quarterback in there? How much do you guys realize, we can make life easier on this guy if we handle our business?
Le'Veon Bell: We always wanted to run the ball. Now we have the all star lineup to do it and these guys are experienced up front, we want to get back to running the football and help get pressure off of Maxwell and when teams start to crowd and box, really stop that run game, we have guys on the outside that can get open and make throws for him. We just want to be a balanced offense and help everybody on offense.
Q. Did anyone give you a hard time or just kind of bust your butt a little bit about all of that Heisman talk? Did you get any Heisman coasters in your locker?
Le'Veon Bell: My teammates could be funny about it a little bit but it's all jokes and games and everything. They know they are going to do whatever for me to help me succeed for them, and I just want to continue to get better and work hard and do whatever it takes for this team to win games.
Q. What did they say to you? Anything that you can remember that was kind of funny?
Le'Veon Bell: They had been calling me "Big Time" now, or I'm too cool for them. They were just be joking. Those are my brothers, you can joke with your brothers in the locker room and whatever, but on the field we are down for each other at all times.
Q. The Irish get Cierre Wood back this week, curious what you see about prioritizing the run; I know they passed a lot last week, but is the run your first priority as a defense? And what, if anything, do you know about Wood and what he might add back into the mix?
Max Bullough: First of all, starting with Cierre Wood, he's a great football player. We've learned that from watching him last year in various games that we were able to break down, and even that we've seen.
For us as a defense, we always try to stop the run first. That's No. 1 on the totem pole, on the poster, on everything, that's what we try to focus on. If you can make a team be one dimensional you're going to be successful and in order to do that you have to stop the run. That's where our focus will be. And obviously the passing game, it comes after that.
Q. Notre Dame has started Everett Golson but they are willing to bring in Tommy Rees, a completely different quarterback. How does a defense prepare for something like that, because they are very different styles when they are in there.
Max Bullough: I think that's just about having guys during the week that can imitate each position and each quarterback and what they bring to the game. I think we go against a lot of versatile quarterbacks, like a Denard Robinson who can get out of the pocket and make things happen, and that may be similar to how Golson is. I haven't had a chance to watch an extreme amount of their film yet.
But obviously we played against Tommy Rees last year, so we know what we can do and what his strengths are. It's about having the ability to watch each player and know what they can do. That offense is set up for each of those guys to do something different when they are in there. So it's just knowing what they are going to do and being able to handle that information.
Q. Just wanted to ask you about your family's history and this rivalry between your grandfathers and uncles playing on either sides; what is the atmosphere when Michigan State played at Notre Dame?
Max Bullough: It was fun. It was just something that we always looked forward to. I went to a lot of them, whatever place they were at, that was usually one of the games that I made it to. When I was a kid, I just watched it, liked to have fun and enjoyed being there in the game day experience. As I grew older, like I said throughout my recruitment, Michigan State is my school and my place. That's just where I stand.
Q. Did your uncle ever try to put pressure on you for Notre Dame?
Max Bullough: No. All of my family was very supportive and really made it clear that it was my decision to do what I wanted to do and what I thought was best for me. Obviously I'm sure he would have liked it if I would have went there and went to his alma mater. But I chose Michigan State and he's supported me ever since.
Q. Do you ever have fun rivalry stuff between all of the different uncles when those two teams play?
Max Bullough: No, not really. We don't really talk about it that much. You know, we just know the implications of it and how big of a game it is for both schools. So there's never really any talking; just watch the game.
Q. Since you guys saw Tommy Rees last year, did that make it easier to know what's coming if he suddenly appears in the game in some situation where you might not expect it?
Max Bullough: You know, it does and it doesn't. Obviously we didn't end up on the winning end of the stick last year. So we obviously didn't handle him the way we would have liked.
But yeah, having that game film and the ability to look back to see what they were able to do against us and their game plan was, I think that helps us prepare for him specifically; and also having a guy like Golson coming in, we can see what he's done the last few weeks, and adjust.
Q. The game last year seemed so out of character for what happened the rest of the year. How do you guys view that? Is it something that sticks in the back of your mind going into this year or is it ancient history or what?
Max Bullough: No, I think especially when it comes to Notre Dame week, you start thinking about the game and obviously you see the film from last year, and so you watch a lot of it. It was a disappointing week for us.
We didn't think we played up to our standards. Obviously Notre Dame played a phenomenal game, obviously take no credit away from them. But we didn't think we played as physical and as together as we would have liked and we look forward to playing better and having a better experience against Notre Dame this year.
Q. As a guy who goes against Le'Veon in practice every day, what kind of back is he? As a guy who exploded on the scene here with 200 yards in the first week, what does he bring when he's carrying the ball back there?
Max Bullough: I mean, you can see, he can do a little bit of everything. He's a quick twist guy that can make you miss and stiff arm you and he can pick up the blitz and pass for you; he can do a little bit of everything and he's really good at all of it.
I think that's what makes a guy like Le'Veon dangerous. I say it all the time: He's the hardest back that I have to go against. Not discrediting anyone else that we play, but I think he's phenomenal football player and a hard guy to pinpoint what exactly is his game, because he does so many things so well.
Q. Do you guys give him a hard time with all of the Heisman hubbub that came up for him hitting 200 yards against Boise State?
Max Bullough: We have always known how good of a player he is and how successful he can be, and I've always thought that he would be able to be in contention for that at some point in his career here.
And now that that came up, I think it's just we are all supportive of him knowing that it's not really fun and games, talking about I guess...we are really focused on the team and he is, as well. You don't hear him talking about it or saying anything about it. He's a guy that's focused on the team and winning is what matters, to him and the rest of us.
Q. With Notre Dame losing Michael Floyd to graduation, how different is this offense to prepare for, because they don't have that one shining light as much; they spread it around a bit more now.
Max Bullough: Yeah, I think that makes you focus more on playing complete defense together, disciplined. I think that you have a guy like Michael Floyd, he's obviously a game changer. He can go up over anyone and make plays whenever you needed so that was something we had to focus all week.
Now going into this game, obviously they have tremendous players at Notre Dame but they do, they spread it out a little bit, they share the wealth. And to be able to stop a team that has talent all over the place, that's just about everyone being prepared and everyone knowing their job and being disciplined enough to stick to it.
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