Oct. 5, 2010
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio held his weekly press conference Tuesday inside the Spartan Club at Spartan Stadium to preview the upcoming matchup against Michigan. In addition, Greg Jones, Aaron Bates, Eric Gordon, Kirk Cousins and Chris L. Rucker answered questions regarding the game.
The No. 17/16 Spartans (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) and No. 18/17 Wolverines (5-0, 1-0) will meet Saturday, Oct. 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET at Michigan Stadium. The game will be televised on ABC, with a reverse mirror on ESPN.
The following is a complete transcript from Tuesday's press conference:
THE MODERATOR: To recap last weekend and look forward to this Saturday's game in Ann Arbor, head coach Mark Dantonio.
COACH DANTONIO: Thanks. Can't keep me down Michigan week. It's good to be back again. Really just before I even get started, Michigan and the whole week, the way it is, a couple comments.
Last week, great win, great program win. I had an opportunity to talk to our players on Sunday night. That's exactly what I told them, whether it was offense, defense, special teams, it was an outstanding job by our entire program.
In commenting on that, I think it's important to recognize that it didn't just happen last Saturday, it started actually last December, February, when we had a little bit of problems, had some adversity, people started rallying around each other, whether it was older players, young players coming into the program still deciding to sign with us on an act of faith. Just an outstanding job in that area.
There's an extreme amount of talent. I had a lot of time this past Saturday to sit there and watch Big Ten games. A lot of talent in this conference. Everybody has talent. I think the thing we all have to recognize that when you come together as a football program, that's what makes it special. I think that's what's happening right now at Michigan State.
If you ever have a chance to hire anybody, whether you're a high school principal, coach, executive, in any way, this is what I told our football team, I think the first thing you do is hire the people that work for you, you look for dependable people, loyal people to the cause, not loyal to me, loyal to the cause. You look for people that want continuity. You look for people that are leaders and that lead. That's what we have. We have an outstanding staff. They displayed that this past weekend.
Our coordinators, Don Treadwell, did an outstanding job calling the (plays). Pat Narduzzi, outstanding job of calling the game. Ken Mannie and his staff. Jeff Monroe, Bob Knickerbocker, it takes an entire number of people whether on the equipment side, administration side, Mark Hollis, football side, to make a program work.
As I said last week when I was up here for a minute, you know, it's a program, it's a system in place, it's business as usual as (Treadwell) said last weekend. When you have that type of leadership at the staff level, it carries over to your players, then you start having your players lead. Our players did an outstanding job.
I've had six years I guess and three games or five games, depending on how you look at it, I'm sure there will be some asterisks there, as a head football coach. I can tell you last weekend was my best moment as a head football coach, as I sat there and watched that football game, saw how it ended, saw how our players played, how we hung in, kept playing. When one thing seemed to happen, we fought through that adversity and played through it.
That was the best moment in my head football coaching career and I want to thank everybody involved with that.
In addition, I also again want to thank Sparrow Hospital, all the nurses and staff that looked after me, especially that Saturday when they kept checking on me. In some ways it was a very, very special day for me, one that I'll never, ever forget.
With that over, it's Michigan week. I'm not going to miss Michigan week. I'm not going to miss it. Something special about this week, rivalry week. It's a very special rivalry for Michigan State University, one that so many Spartans hold dear. It's one that makes this entire state very excited this entire week.
With that being said, you know, both 5 0, that's exciting. But you really can throw the records right out the window as far as I'm concerned. Doesn't make any difference what the records are. This is a big game, big week. Michigan is playing very emotional.
When I watch them as a football team, they've got good players, extremely well coached football team. They've got a very special player in Denard Robinson running things. They get the ball in his hands a lot. As I said seconds ago, they're playing and winning close football games. They're playing with passion, they're playing with attitude. We've got to be able to match that down there.
We can sort of go from there. When you look at them offensively, you start with their quarterback. You look at their wide outs, (Junior) Hemingway, (Roy) Roundtree, (Michael) Shaw in the backfield. Their offensive line has experience. Their system that they have, they have experience in that system and they run it very well.
You look at defense, you look at (Mike) Martin and their linebackers, (Jonas) Mouton. Their secondary, even though they had some problems with it with injuries, I think they're coming back and getting better and better and better when you watch film.
Exciting football team to watch. It should be an exciting week, an exciting game to watch as usual.
Q. Are you going to be in the box to start on the field?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, basically how I moved when I came up here, I doubt if I can get out of many people's way. Right now looks like the press box. We'll make that assessment as we move forward.
I would say it's probably press box.
Q. How much are you going to be able to do this week? Will it be about what you did or plan to do last week?
COACH DANTONIO: It will be about (what I did last week). The one thing I have been able to do is watch a ton of film (laughter). Sort of been cooped up. I've watched film really Sunday and all day yesterday, Monday. I watched more film than I've usually been able to watch. That's a positive.
Again, what I've got to do, I've got to do things long term. I don't want to do anything that's going to set me back because then I just get behind the eight ball again.
I'll take my time and move back into this.
Q. You said twice, I'm not going to miss Michigan week. It doesn't say 'dummy' on your forehead. You have doctor's approval, they support you going to Ann Arbor?
COACH DANTONIO: Yes.
Q. And you feel up to that?
COACH DANTONIO: I feel up to that, yup. I feel good. I would have felt up to it last week, but things started happening fast, so I had to sit down.
Q. Why is Michigan week special to you? Going back to history, more than your last four years.
COACH DANTONIO: I look back and I still remember the first day we played them out here in '95. I remembered Derrick Mason's big catch. I remember Muhsin Muhammad's catch for the touchdown. I remember going down there, playing down there.
I think there's certain games (we) remember. I talked about this Notre Dame week. There's certain games on your calendar you play traditionally and you have a tendency to remember those games for the rest of your life. You count them up as you go. You tend to count those up.
I was involved in the Ohio State rivalry. The rivalry continued. What I brought from here really sort of just measured up down there.
Really, since 1995, which now it's 15 years of coaching, we played Michigan, other than those three years at Cincinnati, we've played Michigan. That's just a part of our lives, I guess.
Q. Mark, what will the defense have to do just to slow Robinson down? Who is going to mimic him in practice this week?
COACH DANTONIO: First of all, I think Tony Lippett will emulate him in practice. He was a spread type quarterback in high school. He's extremely quick. Good burst, those types of things. Denard is an outstanding player. You look at the film. They have the right defense, et cetera. He makes people miss. That's what we have to do, we have to swarm a lot of people to the point of attack, get a lot of people to the ball.
The one thing about playing him, if he makes a guy miss, he has the ability to go the distance. That's what you saw against Indiana, Notre Dame. That's what you see when you watch the film. Everything seems to be here, here, four, five plays in a row. They have some semblance of containment there, then boom, he throws the ball effectively. They've got good skill players around him, so it's not just him.
You know, it will be a challenge. But, again, we'll work at it. I promise you that.
Q. Since you've been here you've really improved the recruiting in the last few years. How important is this game specifically when you're out there recruiting, especially in Michigan?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, I think I mentioned this last year, too...We're not always recruiting the same guys. Certainly in the state of Michigan, there are certain players that can go either way.
But recruiting for this year is winding down a little bit for the biggest extent. I think what this makes a difference is those ninth grade guys, 10th grade guys, guys sitting on the fence a little bit, if there is such a thing of people sitting on the fence.
I think it's an important game, but I think it's more important for the people that are here currently and the people that are there currently and the fans. Then when you look at recruiting, I think a total program how you end up, bowls you're going to, how you end up at the end, probably has a lot to do with it as well.
Q. Mark, as much as you love this rivalry and appreciate it, would it have been harder for you to stay away than to be part of it this week? If it was any different week, would your recovery schedule have been any different? Does it change because of the opponent?
COACH DANTONIO: No, it doesn't change because of the Michigan game this week. You definitely want to be there for this. I want to be there for every one of them.
While we focus on and we put a great importance on the Michigan game, I think the focus every week is the same. We need to take every single game and make it a championship venue. You have to focus on one game at a time. They all count one in the end, so they say.
Q. Since you came to Michigan State to be a head coach, the momentum in this rivalry has shifted toward Michigan State's side. Can you think of any one defining moment that it's kind of came this way?
COACH DANTONIO: No, I'm not going to say that. I'm going to talk about being judged one game at a time. That's what's important because you're only as good as your last game. I recognize that fact.
Q. What have you seen from Don Treadwell in these two weeks on the sidelines? Do you feel this experience has helped him possibly move forward to be a head coach someday himself soon?
COACH DANTONIO: I think both Coach Treadwell and Narduzzi have done an outstanding job. Tread has been on the sidelines, he's been the guy in control on the sideline, then sort of schematically across the program. He's done an unbelievable job.
We have a lot of coaches in our program that are going to be head football coaches, no doubt about that in our mind. He's just one of them. He's been a friend for so many years, not just a friend but a very, very close friend.
You know, basically I could say this pretty much about our entire staff. I trust them explicitly as people. Certainly there's no exception there. He's done a tremendous job in running this program. I hope that that qualifies him to be a head football coach very soon.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Greg Jones.
Q. How do you game plan against Denard?
Greg Jones: From looking at film, he scrambles a lot. Obviously he makes a lot of plays. I think the best thing you can do is try to corner him, try to give him a tight space to run with and contain him, go after it when he tries to throw the ball.
Q. Greg, what do you make of the whole shoelace buzz around him, the Heisman hype surrounding him right now?
Greg Jones: It's a good thing for him. He's obviously earned that up to this point. I really don't think about it much more than that. He's earned that. Can't take that away from what he's done so far.
But that's not what we're thinking about. We're thinking about he's the guy with the ball, has the ball most of the time, got to try to stop him.
Q. Do you see yourself or any of the other linebackers doing any real spying on him or is that not really going to be effective against a player like Denard, that is that fast and quick?
Greg Jones: You got to try a few different things. If you stand there, he runs outside of you, that probably won't work either. Got to try a few different things. (We) haven't put in a game plan or anything yet at all.
Q. Happy birthday, by the way.
Greg Jones: Thanks. Appreciate it.
Q. Big week for you. How big is this game for you? You had some success against Michigan the past couple years.
Greg Jones: It's tremendous. It's so big. I remember my freshman year, I didn't understand what it was like to go against those guys. It's a tremendous game. I know it's going to be tremendous for our freshmen, their first time going to Michigan, the rest of the guys.
It's a big game. We can only talk about how big it is. What we have to do now is play the game.
Q. When you see Denard on tape, what do you think? What are you thinking when you see this guy every time 80 yards, 70 yards?
Greg Jones: Well, I mean, I don't think it's every time. It's kind of a bend, and the other team just breaks. Guys get tired of chasing. He just busts one out. Stride for stride, he's very, very fast, extremely fast.
Like I said, you got to be disciplined this week in order to try to stop him. It's the only way to do it.
Q. When you watch Denard, is one of the most surprising things, he carries 25 or 30 times a game? Does the fact he has so many opportunities maybe wear down another defense?
Greg Jones: Oh, definitely. I mean, looking at that, for a guy to carry the ball, usually when you go against a guy like that, you spread him around the edge, keep going. He cuts it back in traffic. I feel like anybody that does that, you're basically a running back. You're putting yourself at risk. When you're a quarterback, you usually don't want to do that. You get to the sideline, you slide.
Q. Is it interesting that perhaps he hasn't been injured for doing that?
Greg Jones: It is pretty interesting. Like I say, he's a tough guy for doing that. He gets back up, does it again. Pretty brave by him.
Q. Greg, overall you talked about how big this game is. But your feeling for a team like Michigan, you've been around for such a long time, is it a hate, just a strong dislike?
Greg Jones: You know, it's more to want to win. Anytime we play Michigan, doesn't really matter what the record is. Last year we were 1 3, whatever, we were losing. That was a game we needed. So, I mean, it really doesn't matter what our records are or how much we hate or anything like that, we really just want to win the game.
Q. Coach D's first year, he made Michigan a priority. He came in here and said, `How long are we going to bow down to Michigan, made fun of Mike Hart?' Players say they like that about him. What effect did that have on this program?
Greg Jones: I think it had a tremendous effect. Especially...I was in that (2007) game. It was a hard one, especially because we were up in that game. To lose, obviously we felt we should have won that game.
Right now we've been winning the last two, going in very confident. I mean, it's always around where we're at in the locker room, just talking about it. It's a big game on the schedule all the time. We never really look too far ahead in the series, but now we're focused on it.
Q. Do players embrace (Dantonio) standing up to Michigan?
Greg Jones: Definitely. We think we should stand up, too. We're not going to bow down either. We embrace that. That was one of thing I was attracted to being recruited by him, the demeanor he had on the focus to win.
Q. Greg, you're a prideful young man. A lot of people talk about Denard nationally. Do you take that as a personal thing?
Greg Jones: No. It's how we're going to stop him and the rest of his team. I haven't looked in the mirror and asked. I've asked the teammates what they're thinking, what they see on film, I've asked the coaches. This is a team game, you got to play him that way. It's not just going to be me stopping him, it's going to be a lot of guys.
Q. You talked about how Denard cuts back to the middle. Is this a game where you have to be even more disciplined to stay in your lanes, not reach and not grab, just stay so he doesn't have more of a chance to break a long one?
Greg Jones: Yeah, I think so, too. Especially you got to be smart. You got to make sure he gets down to the ground, because he does kind of wiggle out of there and make plays. You definitely have to be a little more disciplined.
It's kind of hard. You want to go with your instincts sometimes, but you can pay if they're not right. There's a lot of trust involved with that, too. There's no guessing to be involved, you got to trust your teammates this week.
Q. Can you talk about the contrast from playing Wisconsin and that offense against Michigan and a completely different offense, how you adjust so quickly for that?
Greg Jones: I don't know. We get to play a little bit more loose, I guess you can say. You got to bring your heart, but it's a tougher demeanor that you have to focus on.
With this, I feel like against Michigan, you have to be a little bit more smarter how you pursue the quarterback or whoever has the ball. Playing Wisconsin, there were definitely lanes where the running back was going.
Against a team like Michigan, you have to be a little bit smarter. Like I said before, just trust that the person next to you is going to do his job and play with responsibility.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Greg. We'll hear from senior punter Aaron Bates. Questions for Aaron.
Q. Aaron, obviously special teams in a big game can be very critical. How do you embrace this rivalry and look back over your time here, how it's developed for you?
Aaron Bates: Well, it's always a game you're going to remember. I can tell you pretty much every punt I've had, most of the plays that have occurred over the last three years. It's something you're always going to remember. You want to go out on top your last one.
Q. Coach D was out of the hospital yesterday. Did he meet with you after on Monday? What has he said about the importance of him coming back for Michigan week?
Aaron Bates: Well, I didn't talk to him yesterday. We talked to him Sunday as a team. He talked to us over the phone. He's just telling us he's going to be all right, to get focused. He was so proud of us on Saturday. He's looking forward to a great week this week. I'm sure he'll be pumped up as he always is.
Q. If you had to punt the ball to Keshawn Martin, how would you handle that?
Aaron Bates: I do that in practice every day. When you punt to Keshawn, it's a tough thing. You try to hang it up as high as you can, get him as close to the sidelines as you can. Those are the two things you try to do.
On Saturday when it's windy and bad weather, it's pretty tough to do. He's dangerous back there.
Q. Are you practicing any special plays we should know about for this week, any new fake field goals?
Aaron Bates: Not that I know. We haven't had practice yet, so we'll see today, I guess (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Aaron. Up next we have Eric Gordon. Questions for Eric.
Q. Eric, being a fifth year senior, how big is this game for you personally?
Eric Gordon: You know, it's always a big game. You know, obviously, they're a big rival, have a Paul Bunyan trophy that we play for. One of the things that Coach D has always tried to do for this program is get recognition. We got recognition by beating Notre Dame three times since Coach D has been here. That's something we want to do against Michigan too.
Q. Have you played anyone in your time here that you think can prepare you for what you're going to face with Denard?
Eric Gordon: Definitely played a lot of great players, a lot of fast players. Denard Robinson, he's quick on his feet, will also hurt you with his arm. He's definitely a special player for them. I can't quite think of someone exactly who can really fit into his kind of playing style. But it's definitely going to be fun trying to stop him.
Q. Eric, Coach Dantonio has obviously put a big emphasis on the Michigan rivalry, has been a big part of it. How much does that bleed down to you guys and how important is it for him to be around this week?
Eric Gordon: For one, it's going to be real important for him to be around. He's been in this rivalry I don't know how many years from being back here in the '90s, coming back in 2007. I know for him it's a huge game. It does go down to us. He gets us hyped up. He stresses how important this rivalry is for us.
We're all going to be ready. We're all excited. We've been putting a lot of time in already individually, teammates, watching extra film, whatnot. We're real excited. I know Coach D is.
Q. Obviously, this isn't as big a deal for you being a senior. Because this is your first real road game of the season, is this something you talk to the younger guys about, put more of an emphasis on in practice, simulate crowd noise?
Eric Gordon: Yeah, definitely. Defensively I don't think the crowd noise is going to be as important. Our offense will probably have to work on that a little more. Just playing away, especially, the FAU game was more Michigan State fans, so that wasn't really too much of an away game for us. The Big House is 110,000 people in there. Most of them are all against us. That's something we got to teach the freshmen, the guys that haven't played in that kind of atmosphere before, to be prepared for it. It's a little different. But I think we'll definitely have practices in that today, tomorrow, and Thursday.
Q. As a linebacker, can you talk about how you approach, you see somebody like Denard coming through the hole, are you going to be back on your heels or is it important to be aggressive? How do you make sure he doesn't get to the third level?
Eric Gordon: Our defense is all about getting downhill and taking a shot. We still got to play our game. We got to play our defense, get downhill and take shots. Can't really be on our heels or he's going to get us with his arm. Just got to keep playing.
Q. How do you weigh that against making sure he doesn't make a 75 yard run?
Eric Gordon: One of the things we got to do, we got to play sound football, like we played against Wisconsin. One of our main goals was the front seven, always filling our gaps and making nowhere to run.
I think that's just what we got to do with him, too. He's fast. He can get off the edge and whatnot. That's going to be something that the corners and the safeties are going to have to be able to fly down and help us with outside support.
Q. With all the hype surrounding him, how excited are you to play him and to be the first defense to maybe slow him down? Got to be drooling over that, don't you?
Eric Gordon: Oh, yeah. Like I said, he's a great player. It's always fun to play a player that has all this hype. He deserves all the hype, obviously, with his rushing yards, passing yards. It gives us a great opportunity to kind of show our Spartan defense, what we're about, that we can compete with anyone.
Q. It's been three years since Mike Hart made his famous "little brother" comment. Is that something you are still using for motivation or is that in the past?
Eric Gordon: For me, it's kind of the past. That was back in my freshman year when that all came out. There's been way more stuff that has gone on since that. I'm sure it will get brought up quite a bit this week. It will be motivating. But we just got to do our thing. We got to worry about ourselves, focus on how we're going to stop them.
Q. How nasty does it get down on the field when these two teams meet? Something you don't want little children to hear. Trash talking, psychological stuff going on?
Eric Gordon: That's what happens in a lot of games. This game there might be a little more. But Coach D has always taught us to stay away from that, always talk with our pads. That's what we're going to try to do this week. It could get a little nasty, but that's football. That's how it happens, so we'll see.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Eric. Questions now for Kirk Cousins.
Q. Kirk, under Coach D, you've knocked off a lot of notches in certain things in the program. Now there hasn't been a Michigan State team that's beaten Michigan three times in a row in 43 years. Is that just a number to you or is that another notch?
Kirk Cousins: It's just a number. I just want to win this year. We beat them last year, basically start focusing on the next time you can beat them right afterwards. We have our chance on Saturday. We need to get it done.
Q. With all the talk about Denard, Denard, Denard, how much of a challenge do you take this upon you and how big of a spotlight is this, because everybody is watching him, for you to kind of shine?
Kirk Cousins: It's Michigan State versus Michigan. We win the football game, I did my job. We lose the football game, I didn't do my job. Denard is a great player. He's had a great season so far. I just want to beat him.
Q. How big of a lift is it to Coach D in the stadium for this one?
Kirk Cousins: It's going to be a huge lift. He is the one that made this rivalry so important. We draw a great amount of inspiration and excitement from him every time we come and play these guys. I can remember just being recruited and the intensity that he showed referring to this rivalry. It's been non stop ever since I got here. We really like to have him around this week, the sidelines during the game, and we're hoping that can be the case.
Q. You mentioned about how he would talk about this rivalry when you were being recruited. As a kid that grew up in Michigan, what do you remember about this rivalry in high school?
Kirk Cousins: I grew up outside Chicago, sort of viewed this rivalry from a distance. When I was in seventh grade in 2001, my family moved to Holland. That was my first taste of the rivalry up close and personal. Jeff Smoker completed the pass to T.J. Duckett to win the game. Got a pretty up close and personal account of what that rivalry is all about.
When you go to school the next day, you got teachers and classmates talking about it when you're in middle and high school, you really understand the importance of the game.
There's going to be a lot of classrooms that following Monday talking about the game. We want to be talking about the Spartans in a positive way.
Q. There's a lot of talk that Michigan's defense is its weakness, give up a lot of big plays. What do you see in Michigan's defense, what dangers do they present and what do you have to look out for?
Kirk Cousins: I watched a tremendous amount of film on them yesterday. From what I see, they have a lot of talent, a lot of guys back from last year's defense. They have two linebackers who have played a lot of football for them in No. 8 and No. 45. I see a fair amount of play makers across the field for them. Their nose guard is a very good player.
We'll have a great challenge. That's why we have to have a great week of practice.
Q. Did the Wisconsin game do anything for you from a confidence standpoint?
Kirk Cousins: I think anytime you can win, you get the snowball rolling with a momentum. Football is a game of emotion and momentum. When you have it, good things can happen. Coming off a win like this past Saturday, we resume momentum and that makes a big difference moving forward.
But I think the biggest thing about this past Saturday's game is the way our defense was able to contain such a great offensive line and the running game. There's going to be a fair amount of guys that are going to play in the NFL. Our defense controlling said a lot. We're looking for that same type of (effort).
One game isn't going to change my confidence, completely wreck it, make me overconfident or give me a ton of confidence. Obviously we made some plays when we had to. I said it all along, as a quarterback I'm completely dependent on everyone else. People say that last drive we put together, almost eight minutes, was engineered by me. We ran the ball basically the whole drive. As far as what I did, I don't think there was a whole lot there. We had a couple third down conversions, which was more a screen, more on running backs and wide receivers than it was me. That game was a whole team effort. We're going to need a whole team effort each Saturday if we're going to end up having a special year.
Q. You beat Michigan two years in a row. They have struggling the last couple years. Do you feel you are gaining control of this state recruiting wise, otherwise because of the success against them?
Kirk Cousins: Anytime you beat them, it helps. Anytime you can win that in state rivalry, you can help recruiting. Just like when we won that Notre Dame game, that's a big recruiting bonus. Each game is sort of a separate deal in itself. We have to go into Ann Arbor and get the job done.
It's just another opportunity to line up against them and to try to get a win.
Q. How much do you think the program has grown up in the eyes of a lot of folks over the last two weeks, and what this team has had to face, adversity, not once, but twice, with your head coach? You seemed to have come together as a team. How much do you think this program has grown up for a lot of people?
Kirk Cousins: Yeah, I've learned that football is a game of adversity and mental toughness, being able to overcome adversity. I played basketball and baseball. Football is truly a game of getting knocked down and getting back up just because of the physicality of it. We've done that the past few weeks. I think it shows the character of this team, the leadership on this team.
We're going to have to continue to do that. There's going to be some moments on Saturday where things don't go our way. We're going to have to be able to bounce back. At times, people said traditionally the Spartans haven't had the mental toughness to be able to bounce back from adversity. I think we showed it this past Saturday and are going to have to show it this Saturday.
Q. What have you proven over the past two weeks?
Kirk Cousins: We proved the past five weeks. Every Saturday is another chance to prove it. I don't think you ever arrived, I don't think you can announce yourself as being this or being that. We just see every Saturday as another opportunity, another challenge. This Saturday is going to be exactly that. I believe the first five weeks we've answered that call.
Q. (What's it going to be like), sort of being out of your comfort zone for the first time this year, against your biggest rival, the loudest crowd you've ever gone against.
Kirk Cousins: Yeah, it will be a great atmosphere, great challenge. It will be exciting. It's what you dream of. It's why you come to Michigan State, to play in a game like this. Not something we shy away from. We've gone to Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin, we played some tough games, Notre Dame. This will be similar to all those games. We'll be piping the noise in all week to make sure or offense is ready for that. A lot of emotion early. After the first five minutes, it becomes another football game and we set up the line and execute.
Q. How does this campus change for you during Michigan week?
Kirk Cousins: Well, last night I was at the building, it was late at night. Just the janitors were really there. Janitors always stop by. We talked a little bit. He said, `Boy, I can really feel the excitement and energy around this building picking up each week you win another game. It picks up the intensity and energy around here.' For one of the late night janitors to comment on that, you can tell this is a special week. I think you'll feel that from the student body, too.
We just try to feed off that. Coach Dantonio from January on emphasizes the importance of this game. We're taught the importance of this game all year round.
Q. What did you see from Don Treadwell in the past couple weeks?
Kirk Cousins: What I saw first and foremost was a great attention to what Coach D would want to have done. He was very understanding of the fact that Coach Dantonio was going to get what he would preach normally when he was here. There wasn't a desire to suddenly deviate from what Coach Dantonio would want. Coach Treadwell was focused on doing it Coach Dantonio's way. From the way the practices were structured, pregame rituals, things like that, that was all the way Coach Dantonio would want it. I think that helped make it more of a seamless transition when Coach D wasn't there.
Even on the walk we make, Coach Dantonio is usually in the front. Coach Dantonio told the captains he wanted us in the front, he (Treadwell) didn't want to be in the front, because he's not trying to replace Coach Dantonio, just trying to fill in in his absence. I think that's made a very easy transition and very respectful that Coach Dantonio would get what he wants.
Q. (Have you seen) more emotion from him (Treadwell)?
Kirk Cousins: He was very similar to the man he normally is. I think a few more things were asked of him in the past couple weeks than he normally would have as an offensive coordinator. He's stayed the same as he basically has always been. Different having him on the sidelines the first couple times. Usually he's up in the press box. Having him face to face I think was a good thing for our offense. Also it's a good thing to have him up there to see everything develop. That was probably the biggest difference I felt.
Q. You mentioned the walk, how the captains led the way. What else did the captains do during the last couple weeks that helped fill that gap with Dantonio gone?
Kirk Cousins: Well, really there wasn't a whole lot of a gap to be filled. Like I say, Coach Treadwell just needed to step in and fill that when he needed to. If somebody is to speak in front of the team, when that needed to be done, a captain would do that...Friday night in the hotel, team meetings, that kind of thing, players just kind of stepped up and said what needed to be said.
Nothing dramatic. Again, people just fill in and get the job done the way they need to do it.
Q. With Michigan having a quick strike attack, a lot of people are talking about how MSU needs to really control the ground game, control the ball. Are you really focusing on that or do you still keep focused on a balanced attack? Can you talk about how important it is not to turn the ball over and give them additional chances to score.
Kirk Cousins: It's a similar approach to Wisconsin. We need to control the time of possession, keep the ball out of their hands, need not to turn the ball over. We sat there at halftime with three turnovers. What we did do is run the football. It's going to be very similar this week. We need to run the football, be able to control the football and need to not turn the ball over. We need to create turnovers on our defense.
I think that's pretty standard in any game you go into. Obviously, with the team we're playing, it's going to be very important to do that.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Kirk. We'll hear from Chris L. Rucker. Questions for Chris.
Q. What is the challenge with Denard being such a lethal runner and also being able to pull up and hit shots down field? How challenge is that this week?
Chris L. Rucker: It's going to be a big challenge because he can make plays with his feet. (He) causes problems with his scrambling. I think it's going to be big with the whole entire defense being able to contain him, basically trying to keep the ball out of his hands as much as we can.
Q. Anybody you've played in the years you've been here that compare to him?
Chris L. Rucker: Not really anybody that I can think of that has the same skills that he has, the ability to run the ball and throw the ball at the same time. I can't really recall anybody. It's going to be a good challenge for the defense.
Q. Any team that you've played in the past where you're taking a similar approach just to replicate what you have to do against Michigan?
Chris L. Rucker: I'd probably say nobody. They have a certain style of offense they play. They have good personnel for the style of offense they play. I don't think we really have seen anybody that plays the kind of style they do. It's going to be new for us.
Q. What do you think it would do for the perception of the two programs if you were to beat Michigan for a third straight year? Do you think that would be a big shift in the perceptions?
Chris L. Rucker: I think it would be big for the program. At the same time it's a rivalry game. These two teams, they play a lot of games. I feel like the rivalry is always going to be big, no matter what...We're just trying to get this win this year and just keep it going.
Q. As you mentioned, this is obviously a rivalry. The fact you're both 5-0, vying for a championship, does that make it even a little more important this year than in past years?
Chris L. Rucker: I mean, not really. It swings it up a little bit. At the same time, this game, it's a big game. Always a big game on the schedule. You're always fired up for it no matter what. With us being both undefeated, it makes it a little sweeter. At the same time it's Michigan/Michigan State. Big rivalry. It's going to be a good game no matter what.
Q. If you can talk about your experiences playing in this game, specifically the interception in overtime last year.
Chris L. Rucker: Playing against Michigan, it's always a great game, great atmosphere. Everybody is always on the edge. Last year it was a great game. Came down to the end, went into overtime. Last (Spartan defensive) play, (they) had the ball, we were in man. (Danny) Fortener got the ball up in the air. I turn and saw it. I dove for it. Came down with it. I think that was a real big play for us, really helped us win this game.
Q. Everybody is talking about Denard. Obviously he's the subject. Can you talk a little bit about their receivers, what you've seen from them, what you know about them.
Chris L. Rucker: They got a pretty good receiving corps. They have guys that can make big plays, make plays in space, make big catches. I think it's going to be a good challenge for the secondary. I feel like if we all play together, play like we've been playing this entire season, we'll do a pretty good job.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Chris.
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