Oct. 30, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Senior captains Max Bullough, Darqueze Dennard and Blake Treadwell answered questions from the media on Tuesday inside the Huntington Club in Spartan Stadium regarding the upcoming matchup against Michigan.
The No. 24 Spartans (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) will play host to No. 23 Michigan (6-1, 2-1) Saturday, Nov. 2 in Spartan Stadium at 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on ABC.
The following is a transcript from Tuesday's press conference:
Senior linebacker Max Bullough
Q. It seems like with Denard Robinson he's a guy, you give him a crease, he could be gone. With Devin Gardner, maybe a little more physical, breaks tackles, but a little bit more of a guy who looks downfield. Is that accurate, and what else would you say are the differences between those two?
Max Bullough: Yeah, I think Denard got better as he got older, he was able to stay in the pocket a little bit longer. Obviously he liked to run the ball quite a bit, and Devin does the same. He's able to stay in the pocket and make some throws. Denard was more of a...kind of like a Keyshawn Johnson, shake and move you about and do all that kind of stuff to try to make you miss, but Devin is more of a downhill, more of a Taylor Martinez type guy. He's not going to do a bunch of shake and bake at the line, but once he gets moving you know he's hard to catch.
Q. Obviously you've been around this rivalry the better part of your life. What does it mean to you and what's your best memory of this rivalry over the years?
Max Bullough: My best memory is when TJ Duckett caught that pass here when I was a kid because I was right here, 5th or whatever row down on the 50 yard line watching, and I was right here at the game, and that was one of the craziest things ever. I don't remember going to many games when I was that young, but I remember that one for sure.
Q. Blake Treadwell was talking about the sick feeling he had coming out of the Big House last year after losing. I'm sure you felt the same way. What does that do to you as a senior now not to feel that way again in terms of your motivation for this game?
Max Bullough: Yeah, you're always sick coming off a loss. We had a lot of those feelings last year. It's a special emphasis when it's Michigan obviously because of the importance we put into that game and the work we put into that game, how much we look forward to it. It's a motivating factor. We've felt both sides of it. We know how great it feels to win and how awful it feels to lose it. So I think that just gives us that much more motivation because we want to have that good feeling and we sure as heck don't want to have that bad feeling. I mean, it just doubles our motivation.
Q. Can you talk about how Coach D has kind of stoked this rivalry with his comments five years ago about how long are we going to bow down to the University of Michigan and the winning four straight and the emphasis he's put on this rivalry and the effect that's had on you guys?
Max Bullough: I think rightfully so...In terms of embracing the rivalry, I think if you come to a school like Michigan State and you don't admit that Michigan is our rivalry, if you don't emphasize it or you don't point to it and obviously say we want to win that game maybe a little bit more than all the others, then you're lying to yourself and you're lying to your team. I agree with everything Coach has said and done. It makes us excited because that's how we feel, and everyone knows that. Everyone knows that we're excited to play this game, and so are they. You know, it just kind of lets the public know kind of what we feel in the locker room, and Coach D is not afraid to say that. I think that's just part of Coach D's personality.
Q. Even last year losing, it seemed like a physically equal game in the trenches and something that maybe wasn't there over time in previous decades. Do you sense that the Michigan players recognize that in terms of the gap, where the talent pool is or talent level between the two teams, that they recognize there's equality between the two programs and how difficult this match up is?
Max Bullough: I think if you ask the Michigan players that have played us the last four, five, six years they wouldn't even know what gap you're talking about, and I quite frankly don't, either. We're Michigan State, we've got good football players here, we always have. We don't take a backseat to anybody, Michigan or anything. We can play with the best. We've always had as good a talent as you can have.
Q. You talked a little bit about the TJ Duckett play. Do you remember how young you were when you first learned how big a rivalry game this was? What's your earliest real memory?
Max Bullough: That's my earliest, going to that TJ Duckett thing, but I think I just kind of grew up as a kid I know my dad liked Michigan State and I'd go to school and other kids liked Michigan, and we'd start talking back and forth even when we were little, so I think that's kind of where you learn it is when you're a kid in middle school, guys are rooting for each of their teams, and in elementary school, I think that's kind of where it starts to grow, at least it did for me. Having that conflict between the two even when you're young.
Q. Your grandfather, what impact does he have on your feelings for this game?
Max Bullough: When I was a kid I always used to try to get that kind of stuff out of my grandpa, like grandpa, what's the difference between playing Michigan and he's always been very...he's always said the same thing, and he's always been very calm about it, and they all mean one. This is another game. We've got to go play and we want to win it, and it means the same thing as every other game does. And I always expected a different answer. I never knew what he was going to say, but obviously he wants to win this game as much or more than any other game, but I've never seen him really going on some big monolog or say anything about specifically Michigan over some other team.
Q. You talked about the importance of the rivalry. Has it entered into your mind just what it would be like not to win your senior year against Michigan, and do you look at this as a game that Michigan State should win?
Max Bullough: This year or all the time?
Q. This particular season with this defense.
Max Bullough: Yeah, we should win it. We should win every game we play, especially, yeah, we should win this game. If we do what we've been doing this whole year, if we play the way we know we can play, then we should win the game.
And think that I they're probably saying the same thing, and I think every team says that every week. That's not me saying anything that's locker board material or anything, but I think every team thinks they should win the game if they play the way they know they can play. I think we've set ourselves up and we're right where we want to be going into this game. We've set ourselves up in terms of our previous game to have this game mean something because it's the next game, it means something because it's the Michigan game, and it means something because it has a lot of impact on who will be playing in that championship game quite frankly.
Q. Taylor Lewan said yesterday that he kept a photo of Will Gholston on his phone for a year as motivation. I was wondering what you make of that and if you've ever done anything like that or kept anything around, maybe a negative story or anything like that.
Max Bullough: No, I can motivate myself. I don't need to use pictures or anything like that. I motivate myself and I get ready for the next week after the game. I know once you lose a game or once you win a game, you're on to the next week and you've got to win that game. So whatever they want to do or he wants to do is...I'm sure it worked for him and it made him play well. He's a great football player. I think everybody knows that. But no, I've never done anything like that. It's just kind of not how my mind works. I just do my thing.
Q. I know you guys do a lot of film study on your own during every week, but this week do guys get more into that? Do you find a little extra time? Do you find extra time to look at things?
Max Bullough: Yeah, I think when you go into a game like this, you just want to do those things. You're inclined to do a certain amount, but you want to do those things. You're sitting around, well, instead of watching TV I'll watch a little film because of how important it is. I don't think it's a huge deal or anything or something that everyone really talks about. I guess the coaches do say do a little more or whatever, but they say that for the championship game or something like that, too. But yeah, I definitely do it. I think other guys do, too.
Q. How much more? How many hours?
Max Bullough: I don't know. I don't know how many more hours. I watch it in spurts, 20 minutes, a half hour, hour at a time. I couldn't give you an exact number.
Q. Could you put into perspective what the Notre Dame loss did for this team, if anything? You mentioned the team being where it needs to be and positioned to win the Big Ten, knowing how well you can play. That Notre Dame loss, do you think that that could end up being a positive in any way as far as serving as a wake up call for some of the younger guys or helping Michigan State correct some of the things that maybe have helped you guys get more dialed in the last few games?
Max Bullough: You know, I think that's happened a few times. I don't really look at that game as being too positive for waking anybody up because we thought we should have won that game. It's not like we went into that game and came out and said, man, we got out physicaled, we got out toughed. We felt we should have won the game, and things just didn't go our way and we didn't make a play when we needed to. We'd like to be sitting here 8 0; we're 7 1, undefeated in the Big Ten. I think the whole first part of the season was a wake up call for the team, not specifically the Notre Dame game but the whole first part of the season was a little bit rocky, a little bit stormy to begin with. That kind of let everyone know that it's not easy.
Q. A lot of former players that have spoken to various media outlets have talked about how this has to be the season for Michigan State to go to the Rose Bowl with this particular defense. Does that type of pressure, is that a good pressure? Is it motivating for you to hear the former players talk like that, or can you see any negative in that? Are you glad to hear them saying this has to be the season with this specific defense that you anchor?
Max Bullough: Oh, I'm pumped to hear them say that. I feel the same way. I mean, next year when I'm gone I'm going to be saying the same thing and the year after that and the year after that and the year after that because I want to do it every year. Bring the pressure on. I love the pressure.
I think this team plays well under pressure. I think this defense specifically has always responded well under pressure. We talk about pressure being a good thing, stress being a bad thing. And that's just, add one more thing on there, I think. Pressure puts a little bit of a chip on a team's shoulders, and I think that's how we play the best.
Q. I'm curious if Traverse City was a Michigan State town or a Michigan town or divided down the middle like most?
Max Bullough: Divided down the middle, yeah.
Q. I doubt you need much more motivation or anything this week, but when there's people around the country that say the defense, you guys put up great numbers but you haven't played a great offense, does that give you any extra fire going into this, considering Michigan is perceived to be the strongest offense that you guy have played? Do you worry about that, or do you really want to prove people wrong?
Max Bullough: Well, let's really look at what you're asking here. We played Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, who's one of the best offensive coaches in college football, did pretty well; Iowa, coming off two, three weeks of 300, 400 yards of rushing in each of those games, did pretty well; played Illinois last week, who's had 400 yards of offense every week with Scheelhaase and Coach Cubit and that new offense who played a top 10 defense in Wisconsin; Cincinnati, put up 30, 40 points in those games. I think we've proven ourselves no matter what anybody says in terms of who we've played, and we can only control play who we've played and done what we've done, and we're proud of what we've done. So I don't think we have anything to prove to anybody else except ourselves, and we've been tested. We've seen good offenses. Whether they have the best record or not, we've seen and played and dominated quite frankly good offenses this year.
Q. Brady Hoke said yesterday he thought Michigan State might have six pros on this defense. How does that happen if the opponent has higher ranked recruiting classes every year and supposedly better talent? What happens here to turn you guys not you but a lot of the guys in as two and three stars into All America candidates or pro players?
Max Bullough: Well, I think it's tough. The whole high school recruiting process to me is getting - not ridiculous, but getting crazy. They're recruiting kids younger and younger, and the rankings, the four star, five star, and top 10 linebackers, top 10 quarterbacks, all that stuff is so subjective to me, first of all, and a lot of it is determinant upon which schools they visit and who offers first and all that.
When you're talking to me about those things, I don't think the rankings and all that stuff necessarily mean a whole bunch just because it's a subjective thing from so many different outlets, and a lot of it is people that aren't even coaches or play college football. You talk about that, but in terms of guys coming here, we don't have any players really, maybe a couple coming in, but once you're here for a year or so, you don't really have that four star, five star recruit mindset. You're part of a team, and you can't have that mindset because we go through so much together, you get broken down. You don't want to be on your own.
I think guys just come here, work hard, and are team oriented, like they are at other schools, not saying they're not. Those guys have great players. But I think guys just come here, and with the coaches and Coach Mannie involved in that, they're able to create great players.
Senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard
Q. How much have you seen Jeremy Gallon in the past, and just talk about him as a receiver.
Darqueze Dennard: I've been seeing him since 2011 when we played them. He's a small guy. He's not that big, but he's a quick guy. He's fast, runs good routes, gets in and out, as well. He's a good receiver.
Q. Since the Notre Dame game, I know you remember there was a couple pass interference penalties in that game, but since then I think you've only had three in the last four games. What's changed for you and Trey out there on the corners?
Darqueze Dennard: I think what's changed is just knowing the refs, how they're going to call the games. Pretty much a student of the game, Trae (Waynes) and I both have been watching film seeing what we can do better, being less hands on with the receivers, and basically just being less physical, but if we can play physical and the refs let us play physical, that's what we're going to do. It just all depends on the refs. Now we switched our games up, we can play to cater to the refs, which is a great thing that Trae and I can do.
Q. Being from out of state and maybe coming into this game with not much of an idea of this rivalry game, was there a welcome to the rivalry moment for you during your previous three years when you said, wow, this thing is real?
Darqueze Dennard: I'd say my first rivalry moment was probably that week my freshman year, my true freshman year (2010), practicing to the game. Everybody just had detailed focus and everybody was just slotting in throughout practice and just going down the road to play the guys at their stadium my freshman year, I played in the game, and just playing in the game I just realized how big the rivalry was.
Q. You're a guy who's known for maybe doing a lot of talking on the field. Is there a lot of that, a lot more of that during this particular game?
Darqueze Dennard: Yeah, I mean, of course it's going to be a lot of talking both sides of the ball. It's a rivalry game. Everybody knows that we don't like each other pretty much. That's what good teams do, we battle back and forth, we're just going to have a little fun, we're going to talk back, and that's all in the game.
Q. Do you see yourself as the favorites? Do you allow yourself to see yourselves as the favorites, even looking at the past few weeks the way you've played and Michigan has played?
Darqueze Dennard: Pretty much me personally, I try to get my teammates and the rest of the team to not really worry about the favorites. Don't be worried about the favorites, just control what we can control and play the games and just do what we've been doing the past couple weeks. I think we've been playing great as a whole, offense, defense and special teams, and just don't read into the media, just buy into keep doing what we've been doing, because hey, it's been working for us, so just keep doing what we've been doing.
Q. So do you see yourselves as the favorites?
Darqueze Dennard: No, we like to be the underdogs, and I think that just makes us play even harder.
Q. Max Bullough obviously has several generations of Michigan State Spartans in his family. Do you notice him taking this rivalry a little more personally when it comes up every year?
Darqueze Dennard: Yeah, I see him taking it more personal. I feel like Max is my brother so I take it just as personal as he does, and how personally he takes it is he's my brother, so I'm pretty much playing with him. So that's how the rest of the team looks at it, and that's how we're going to be.
Q. How does a guy (Jeremy Gallon) get 369 receiving yards in a game?
Darqueze Dennard: I guess he's got to get a lot of balls. He got a lot of balls thrown his way. He made a couple of great catches and runs as he catches, and he's a great player.
Q. A little bit more on Devin (Garnder), what is the difference between Devin and Denard Robinson?
Darqueze Dennard: I think the difference is Devin Gardner is a bigger guy, and he's more a pro-type quarterback, as well. He can run, and he throws I'd say he throws a better ball than Denard, and he's a longer guy. He reads more coverage. Basically he's a student of the game. I tip my hat off to him. You can tell watching film, being in the film room, he watches what's going on, he tries to read the defense, and he does a good job of that.
Q. Watching film, too, with Funchess this year, he's splitting out more, what kind of a difference does that make for a defense?
Darqueze Dennard: Personally I don't think it's a difference. Trae and I have been on the outside. We know what we can do. We know our capabilities. We've played against big receivers. He's just a bigger body, just like a bigger receiver which we have played. He's probably more stronger than other receivers, and he's a lot slower than the other receivers, as well. So I mean, we've just got to cater our game towards him, see how he starts off in the beginning, just make adjustments throughout the game.
Q. Brady Hoke yesterday was talking about how there's in his opinion five or six NFL players on this defense. These games, is that when NFL players sort of make the difference do you think?
Darqueze Dennard: Yeah, I think so. At the end of the day, we've got a lot of great players on our defense, and there's a lot of guys that step their game up even more come Saturday. It's a big time game and it's a rivalry game. Everybody knows what's on the line because it's November, and everybody knows winning in November, that means you could be a champion. I think that the big players make big plays throughout these games, and a lot of guys are going to step up this week.
Q. When you see a quarterback turn the ball over as much as Gardner has this year, are you guys salivating? Are you seeing opportunity?
Darqueze Dennard: I know the no fly zone, but we're kind of happy. He throws the ball a lot. He has a lot of faith in his receivers, and we've got a lot of opportunities to make plays on the ball back there. I know me and the rest of the guys in the secondary and the defense, we're just ready to make plays.
Q. If one team has five or six future NFL players and the other one has a lot of higher ranked recruits, does that say more about recruiting rankings or about the development you guys have had since you've been here?
Darqueze Dennard: I'll just say development, the coaches. I think all our coaches do a great job with coaching us and preparing us for the games and knowing what to do with us, preparing us for this game, and I think it just goes down to coaching.
Q. You talked about, and Blake also talked about the increased level of intensity during the rivalry week. It's hard for me to picture Pat Narduzzi being more intense, but does he have a Michigan level? Does he turn it up, because he's pretty intense every week?
Darqueze Dennard: Yeah, he turns it up. He turns it up probably times two. He's really hyped for this game, and everybody knows he's a passionate guy, which we all love. When he shows how passionate he is about the game, it just brings more passion to us and makes us want to play even harder for him. Just seeing him going - I know how he's going to be Saturday before the game, and it's just going to make us even more hyped.
Q. I've seen Isaiah tweet about the no fly zone, as well. When did that start and who was the creator of that secondary nickname?
Darqueze Dennard: That started actually in the spring. I actually didn't participate in the spring game, but I did a lot of film study, and a lot of those games that we lost last year pretty much fell down on us. In the spring I didn't participate, but I pretty much talked to my guys every day and went into the meeting room, and I said, hey, at the end of the day, this year is all going to come down to us because everybody knows what our front seven is going to do with Max Bullough and Denicos and all those guys up front. They're going to stop the run, and it's just going to end up on us making plays in the back end.
I think we did a great job so far this year. We've got a lot more plays left to be made, so that's how the no fly zone came in. Just basically me just telling them they can't pass on us. That's the way we're going to win games, just locking them down.
Q. Is it possible to be too fired up for a game like this, and how do you fight that?
Darqueze Dennard: I don't think it's possible to be too fired up. I mean, football is a very emotional game, and when you have a lot of emotions, that can also help the team, and that can give them a great advantage of momentum and just them being excited, everybody being excited and ready to go. I think you can't be too fired up for this game.
Senior offensive guard Blake Treadwell
Q. Obviously this is your last shot at Michigan. Just I guess kind of talk about your emotions heading into this week.
Blake Treadwell: My emotions are very high. But I mean, every senior it's going to be very high because we only have two more games in Spartan Stadium to play. I know the time clock is ticking for me, so I want to enjoy every game I can, especially these two games knowing it'll be my last two times in Spartan Stadium.
Q. A couple of Michigan players talked about being bullied, there's been some talk about being out toughed. As an offensive lineman when they say you about you guys as an offensive line, is that a compliment?
Blake Treadwell: I'll say the main thing, as an offensive line here at Michigan State, we want to be known for playing physical football. Football is a physical game as we all know, so that's what we strive to be, physical, and that's all I'll say about that.
Q. Can you think back to the offensive line last year heading into this game versus the way you guys are constructed and playing now? That was your first game back at Michigan last year?
Blake Treadwell: Yeah, it was one of the games I was actually 100 percent healthy, starting to get fully healthy. I played at little bit at Indiana last year, but I was still coming back. I wasn't nearly where I was compared to when we played Michigan.
Q. How much better and healthier is this offensive line now than it was a year ago?
Blake Treadwell: I'd say if anything, thank God, nobody has had major injuries, so everybody has been healthy. And as well last year compared to this year, a lot more guys have played. I remember Coach D brought up the stat of how many snaps I think our eight man rotation has, and it's very astounding to me how many guys have had minutes to play. So I think this year compared to last year, we're a lot more gelled together as a unit. Everybody knows what they're doing, as well as I keep preaching every week, the competition is as high as it's ever been, and guys want to play and guys are just chomping at the bit.
Q. Do you feel like you guys are more important in a game like this?
Blake Treadwell: I think if anything as offensive linemen you always want to get better, you always want to keep improving. Last year there was a lot of inconsistency on the offensive line, I'll agree, so this year we've definitely worked hard each week just trying to improve, so each week we're just going to try to improve, get better and better.
Q. I don't know what your feeling was about this rivalry before you were a Spartan, but take us to the first time you dressed for a Michigan game, probably didn't even play. What was different about it and what did you notice that first time about this rivalry?
Blake Treadwell: Well, my freshman year, actually that was my first game I actually played because I was going to get red shirted, so it was a really big deal for me. I remember five years ago I think it was. It's amazing how time has flown. Five years ago, it was my first game, they said they were going to take my red shirt off and I was going to play. So I think I had about 12 to 14 snaps in that game. I was nervous as anybody could be as a freshmen going out there. The fans were very hyped. I was very nervous as a player, but I also wanted to show I could play. I put so much work into the off season. I remember it was very rewarding to play in that game.
Q. Did you notice anything about the environment?
Blake Treadwell: Not really because if people forgot, my dad coached here back in the 2000s, so I remember being a kid coming to Michigan State watching Jeff Smoker last second touchdown pass to TJ Duckett, so I've been a part of this for a while.
Q. Can you just talk about being on the other end of it last season? I think there was a play, a 4th and 1 from about the 2 or 3, time winding down and Coach Dantonio elected to kick a field goal rather than go for it. Does that moment stand out in your mind as an offensive line the way Le'Veon Bell is capable of running it, and how bitter of a pill was it and how much has it driven you in this off season?
Blake Treadwell: Last year was a very tough year for this whole team. I still remember there were so many games, if we only did this, only did that, so if anything I definitely carried all those memories from last year to this year. That's what drives me this year to keep moving, keep pushing forward and never take anything back because you just never know what could happen in a football game. We learned a lot from our experiences from last year, and that's why this year you see more finishing, taking the ball and controlling the ball a lot more.
Q. What memory do you take out of walking out of the Big House last year?
Blake Treadwell: Probably one of the worst feelings I've felt. You know, playing for Michigan State, that's one of the first times we've lost, me being here, and I'll tell you what, the locker room and stuff I'll never forget. I can't explain the feeling. Especially seeing our seniors' faces last year of how much it hurt them. I can't even explain how it felt last year.
Q. I think you're the only offensive player that's being made available so I'm going to ask you about Michigan's defensive scheme. Can you talk about what Michigan does as far as defensively that maybe makes them different than some other teams you've seen so far?
Blake Treadwell: I've watched a lot of film already. Their front four are athletic guys that can move guys around. Very athletic defensive line. I more watch defensive line and linebackers, but I'll say they're very athletic up front and they make big plays as you can see in certain games.
Q. How much more confidence do you guys have in Connor after a performance like last week, to see him grow? How much more do you have now than when this year started?
Blake Treadwell: I always had confidence in Connor, it was just a matter of him showing what he can do. I know in the Purdue game he took a little step back. Last week I was looking very forward to him showing what he can do for his football team, and he showed what he can do against Illinois. One thing about Connor is if he might make a mistake he will totally forget about it and move to the next play. That's one of the things I like about him. As an offensive line we have faith in whoever is quarterback. Connor Cook has shown some resiliency this year, and we can continue to look forward to this next game.
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