Big Ten Championship Game Players Press Conference: Defense
Quotes from the Spartan defense on facing Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Dec. 4, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Several Michigan State defensive players, including senior linebacker Denicos Allen, senior linebacker Max Bullough, sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun, senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard, and senior safety Isaiah Lewis, met with the media on Tuesday to preview the upcoming matchup against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. In addition, junior punter Mike Sadler also answered questions from reporters.
Below is a complete transcript of Tuesday's press conference:
Senior Linebacker Denicos Allen
Q. You've said the last couple years I've talked to you at least that I've always been a fly under the radar guy, but I've got to wonder when you see the All Big Ten teams come out and you're second team, even with all the tackles and plays you've made, is there a little part of you that hurts or that bothers you, or is it just par for the course?
Denicos Allen: I mean, it kind of bothered me when I first saw it, but they made their decision. I can't do anything regarding that; (just) keep playing the game I've been playing, play the way I've been playing. I'm just going to go out Saturday and play my game. That's all I can do.
Q. You said it kind of bugged you. It seems like this team feeds off of things that bug them, which is good, like Ohio State is the touted team coming into the game, undefeated, BCS. Do you ever feel overlooked or unloved in the whole grand scheme of things?
Denicos Allen: I mean, kind of, but you know, we've been getting no respect lately. People have been talking about how tough our defense is, and they've been noticing how better our offense is getting. They really feel that we can compete with Ohio State. I hear people out there saying that we could win the Big Ten Championship...It's a lot of respect coming from last year, the underdog we were going into that game last year, and with us having the same team and them having the same team. You can see the more respect we have this year.
I don't feel like we're underdogs. I don't feel like we're overlooked. We're in the Big Ten Championship. There's no way you can overlook a team playing in the Big 10 Championship.
Q. Through your whole growth here at the program and to end it, two unbeaten teams, kid from Ohio, playing Ohio State, could you have scripted a final Big Ten challenge any better for yourself?
Denicos Allen: No, this is the best challenge I could ever ask for. Like you said, being an Ohio kid and not being accepted by Ohio State, you know, it was kind of tough because that's where all my family wanted me to go, my friends, everybody I grew up with wanted me to go to Ohio State. To tell them that they didn't want me kind of hurt them, kind of upset them. So it's personal to me. It's always been personal ever since 2010. I'm just going to go into this game and for another year show them why Michigan State got a better player.
Q. A lot of questions today about Ohio State last year versus this year. If you can think back to two years ago in Columbus, you of course made the play jumping over Jordan Hall. When you think about Braxton Miller and the offense as a whole, how different is it from two years ago when you guys played down there?
Denicos Allen: I would say they're a lot more stable this year. Two years ago Braxton Miller wasn't really - I would say a true quarterback. He was a good player but wasn't a true quarterback. Now he's more of a true quarterback. He can pass. He can also run still. But his decision making is better.
As a team they're more stable at each position. The running back position is pretty stable. As a team they're just a lot better, a lot mature with a lot more experience than two years ago.
Q. Two years ago can you think back to the aftermath of that loss, how you handled it, what you did that night and the next morning as you guys tried to recover from the loss to Wisconsin?
Denicos Allen: Two years ago against Wisconsin, it was rough, seeing the looks on the seniors' faces and seeing how hurt they were and how close we were to coming out with a Rose Bowl berth. It was just all those things runs through my mind this year. I'm pretty sure it runs through every other senior's mind, too.
Coming off the season last year, all the seniors promised ourselves that we weren't going to go through that feeling again. Going into this game we promised ourselves that we're not going to go through that feeling again. I'm pretty sure everybody is all jacked up and pretty confident going into this game. We talked to the underclassmen about what it's like to come up short and to lose a game like that, and I'm pretty sure they know the seriousness of this game and all the consequences if we win or lose. So there's good and bad consequences, and I'm pretty sure they're aware of them. Just going to go out and perform our best.
Q. You said you saw people crying you never thought you would see. Can you tell us who?
Denicos Allen: I don't want to name any names. I don't want to make them look soft. If they didn't tell you, then I'm not going to tell you.
Q. I know you guys have seen a lot of dual threat quarterbacks. As far as Ohio State's scheme, the run and Braxton, what teams would they be most comparable to? Are they pretty simple? Are they complex with what they do? And who would you compare them to from a scheme standpoint?
Denicos Allen: As far as a scheme standpoint I would have to compare them to maybe like a Nebraska team with a dominant running back and a quarterback that can make plays, as well. They have a lot of threats on their offense, so we can't just worry about the running game. I think that's what makes them so good. What makes us so good is that we're able to stop the running game while stopping the passes because we have dominant corners like Darqueze Dennard and Trae Waynes and they can play man all game, and we can just let it loose, the front seven, and that's what makes us so dominant. That's why I think this match up is perfect.
Q. Just to follow up on that, part of the reason Nebraska had a lot of success running the ball was Abdullah's ability to cut back. Hyde is a different type of runner and yet in some ways he's more dangerous, right?
Denicos Allen: I mean, we kind of like downhill runners, which I feel like Hyde is. Abdullah, he was a quick guy. He was a good running back and he had great eye control. He saw a hole on the backside and he would cut it back just like that. We'll see. We'll see what it's like. We've played a lot of downhill runners, so we're kind of used to it.
Q. Can you put into words what the Rose Bowl means to you?
Denicos Allen: I can't put it into words, but it means a lot. It's bigger than anything or anybody in this program. It's a part of history. If we go, we'll be a part of school history forever, not being there in forever. You know, to do it in this season with all the accomplishments we had this season, it'd be the perfect ending. It would be the perfect ending for a historical team.
Q. (Do you feel like this team will have a tough time keeping its emotions in check)
Denicos Allen: I mean, we're pretty good at handling anger. We're a pretty well disciplined team. Coach Dantonio, he doesn't tolerate that at all. Once you get out of line, he'll be quick to pull you out, and we all know that. There's going to be a lot of emotions flying with a bunch of Ohio guys being on Michigan State, but we're just going to take it under our pads, do it by hitting, making big plays and things like that. That's what we've been doing since I've been here. That's what we've done. That's what Coach Dantonio installs in you as a player.
Q. You mentioned earlier not being accepted by Ohio State, and forgive me, I wasn't here when you first came in and probably talked about that process, but how hard did you try to get them to recruit you? To what extent did it go, and did it even come close? Were there recruiting letters? Were there visits?
Denicos Allen: Yeah, there were some visits. I talked to the coaches every now and then. I went to a camp there once, and we kept in contact. I talked to the tight end coach...and he told me the process of how they did their recruiting, and they would pass your highlight to every coach and they would keep passing it if they wanted the player or just throw the highlight away if they didn't. He said my highlight made it to Tressel's desk and that was it. After I heard that, I kind of took my focus off Ohio State and looked for other options.
Q. Even then, was this a program that you'd grown up thinking you were going to play at? Did you have it set in your mind because you're a pretty goal oriented guy who seems to achieve everything you want. How big of a deal was that in your life?
Denicos Allen: Growing up it was a big deal, because like I said, being an Ohio kid, all my family and friends are Ohio State fans and would love if I went there. But as I got older in high school, I knew there were other options. I knew that my size would stop me from going certain places. I was a realist, too, so I knew that my chances of going somewhere huge was like slim.
But as my years went on in high school, I figured those chances were getting higher, and I figured Ohio State would kind of be more interested. But things work out for a reason, and I ended up here, and I don't regret making this decision at all. I kind of figured God didn't want me at Ohio State, he put me here for a reason. So here I am.
Q. Do you guys ever talk about that? Darqueze is another guy, Shilique - I wonder how much of a factor that is for this Michigan State team. It's almost like most guys here, this wasn't necessarily their first choice or they were passed over by many bigger schools in their own state. Does it ever get talked about?
Denicos Allen: Rarely. If we're in the locker room just hanging out or we're talking, we'll bring it up like how a lot of players on this team weren't big recruits, big five star, four star recruits, and we all came here, and we all play together and we play well together, and we're doing good together. We're playing like we're four or five star recruits out here, so that just speaks for the quality of players Coach D brings in, and him being able to see the athleticism, him not being afraid of taking risks. If he sees a player making plays no matter what size they are, he's going to take his chances with you. Credit to Coach Dantonio for being a great guy and a great coach.
Q. You talked about being put here for a reason. What was that reason? Why were you meant to be here?
Denicos Allen: To make a difference, man. To be a part of something legendary. I feel like if I went to Ohio State, I wouldn't have had the opportunities that I have here. It's just a lot. Being here taught me a lot about life, about becoming a man and more. I really think that was all a part of his plan.
Senior Linebacker Max Bullough
Q. If we could go to practice, how would practice look different this week than any other week if at all?
Max Bullough: You know, when I think of practice this week, I haven't done it yet, but it reminds me of similar to Michigan week. There's a different intensity about it, a different feel about it. There's a couple more fights or whatever it is, whatever you want to call it. It's just a different intensity about it, just a different feel about it, and it's hard to explain and put in words.
But there's that, and we're going to be live, I guess, on the quarterback, so that's going to be a little bit different than normal. But that's good. That's something that we've done in the past against other teams that have similar type of offenses and it's done well for us. We'll be live out there today.
Q. Can you go through what the week of preparation is going to be like from a timing standpoint? Obviously an 8:00 game is a little different than some of the other things, and you guys like to keep a rhythm. How do you prepare for that time change?
Max Bullough: In terms of the week of practice, it's pretty much the same. It's pretty much we do our normal 2:00 meetings, we're here until 6:00, 7:00, whatever it is. Really the only difference is walk throughs and meetings and stuff on Friday are sometimes pushed to Saturday during the day to kind of keep us busy and keep us from sitting around all day. So in terms of the timing of it all, we've been there before. We know what it's like. We've played 8:00 games numerous times each year except this year it seems like, but we'll just do our thing this week and we're ready to go.
Q. You probably have a better sense of what winning the league and going to the Rose Bowl would mean to the program than almost anyone on the team. Can you talk about that, and is that something you will address with the guys?
Max Bullough: It's everything. That's what we talk about. I keep getting asked this question, and it's what we talk about in winter conditioning, it's what we talk about in summer conditioning, in spring ball, in camp, all those things that you - in reality you don't want to do, all those hard things, all the stuff that makes college football - making those sacrifices, that's what makes college football hard, and that's kind of the goal and the vision and what you talk about every day in order to get through those things. We haven't been there in a long time, so it's kind of a neat thing for us to have the opportunity to make all those things we talk about every time we put our hand up, whatever it is, all those signs on the wall Coach D has, to make that a tangible feeling, to be able to feel that feeling and know what it's like, to be able to say I've done it, to say we brought Michigan State back to where we think it should be, I think that just creates, like I said, a tangible goal instead of just a dream or a vision that's out in front of you all the time.
Q. You've talked quite a bit already about the difference in Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde last year to this year. What about their offensive line and just their overall execution of that system? Do you see a very different offense when you look at them on film?
Max Bullough: I think any time you have a new coaching staff like Coach Urban Meyer and his staff came in there last year, you're going to have some difficulties, you're going to have some things that are hard. You're going to have some things that guys might not necessarily agree with what's going on or they don't like playing the new type of offense; all that's gone. If there was any of that last year, even though they went undefeated, it's gone now. Those guys know how to play the offense. They understand it; they're confident in it, whether that's Braxton or Carlos or their whole offensive line, whatever it is. The biggest thing I see is they're just confident. They've bought into what the system is. They know it's worked in the past. You see that. And they're confident they can do it, and whenever you're confident in something and you know it's going to work, you trust the guy next to you, you're going to be better. That's why their defense has been so good the last couple years.
Q. Do you see a different pace than last year?
Max Bullough: You know, going back to it, I think they're just more comfortable being able to change pace at certain times. They're not a very extremely fast (paced) offense. They like to have some fast balls here and there in some key situations, but they really do what they do. They like to see what the defense is in and use the coach's help to figure out what to do.
Q. You're a team that plays with an edge, plays with a chip, whatever you want to call it. Does all the talk about Ohio State, BCS, 24 0, Urban Meyer, do you guys feel a little bit overlooked? Does that fuel anything for you guys heading into this game?
Max Bullough: You know, I don't really care if we're overlooked to be honest with you. I think we've been overlooked, underrated, all this stuff in football, basketball, for years. From my perspective, I'm a Michigan State football player, so I'm going to think that way.
I'm just worried about what we - we win this game and we're going to be talking about Michigan State is going to the Rose Bowl the right way, not the back door, they're the Big Ten champs outright.
That's what we're worried about. We're worried about going there and being 12 1 like Coach D said, and worrying about things we can control. We can't control who talks about what, who says this or that, where Ohio State goes if they win or lose. There's only so many things we can control, and right now it's Tuesday's practice. On Saturday it'll be the energy and the aggressiveness and the way that we execute plays.
Q. Do you not even want to hear about the back door Rose Bowl possibility?
Max Bullough: No. To me I don't even want to talk about it. I want to go to Indianapolis and win the game and go to the Rose Bowl the right way. To me the Big Ten Championship - the Rose Bowl is the goal because to get there usually you have to win the Big Ten Championship. That's what it is to me personally. The Rose Bowl in my mind isn't the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is the Rose Bowl because you won the Big Ten. That's how I look at it.
Q. Can you address what kind of a swagger Coach D has put in this program from standing up to Mike Hart and Michigan five years ago to when you were 4 1 he said if we're 11 1 we'll be top 10, to this week it's why not us?
Max Bullough: When you talk about swagger, to me swagger and confidence go hand in hand, and that's something that - that's how we feel internally because of Coach D, because he's brought players that are like that in here. He's instilled that in us every single day in team meetings. I'm very similar to Coach D in that aspect. Every time he comes up here and says something like that, it gives me chills. I'm similar in that way.
You look at a football coach and he comes here every day and he does all the film and all the work, and for Michigan State, and that's what he's worried about. That's what our coaches are worried about, that's what our players are worried about, so it's hard to take a backseat sometimes when it comes to things that are going on outside that aren't really in our control and we're doing all the right things. So I think that's where some of that edginess out of Coach D comes from because we're doing all the right things.
Q. Do you like that as a player?
Max Bullough: Oh, I love it. I love it. Maybe even too much sometimes, but I love it. You know, I think, like I said, the swagger and confidence are the same thing to me, and we're definitely a confident football team right now, and that's the way we play.
Q. Kind of building off of that, 40 wins I think in your four years here, three 11 win seasons. How much do you think the perception of this program has changed during your time to where it is right now?
Max Bullough: I hope a lot. I don't think it's changed as much as I think it's changed in my head, listening to some of the stuff that's still said about us. But it's definitely changed. It's definitely taken on - people look at Michigan State differently today than when I walked in here and when Coach D walked in here. There's just a different way about it, and it's similar to the way it was back when we were winning a bunch of games in the '60s and stuff like that. I think you come to play Michigan State now, I can't speak to when I wasn't here, I can't speak for 10 years ago when I was a kid watching, but I think if you come to play Michigan State now, if nothing else you're coming for a fight. You're playing a football game that's going to be a fight, going to be a battle. We're not going to quit. We've got some of the best players in the country on this football team, and we're excited to be a part of that.
Q. Coach was saying if you guys win you're 12 1, why not us in terms of the national picture. Is that how you guys feel, that you should be recognized right there, one of the top two or three teams in the country?
Max Bullough: Well, he also said that there's some things that have to happen, some other teams have - when you look at Auburn they've had an outstanding season, too, just beating Alabama. There's a lot of other teams that have done their part, too. In terms of getting to this game, yeah, absolutely if we win that game we should be talked about. Not saying we should be in the National Championship if something doesn't happen, I'm saying we should be talked about among all those groups. If we come out and win this Saturday, then why not. Why not talk about us? What have we not done that takes us out of that argument? We've won just as many games.
You talk about who we've played, what we play, we play in the Big Ten Conference. Let's not forget that. You can talk about the SEC, whatever, ACC, whatever you want. We play in the Big Ten Conference with elite football players that go to the NFL every year, some of the best coaches in the country, and we play some of the best offenses in the country. We just make them look bad sometimes, so they might not think they're that great. That's the reality behind it. You know?
Q. Every year when you guys play Iowa, you say it's a smash mouth game, intense. How would you characterize this game and the way it's gone the past couple years and sort of how these two teams feel about one another?
Max Bullough: Very similar. When you think about Ohio State, you think - first thing that comes to my mind is physical. No matter who the coaches, no matter what offense they're running, no matter what they're doing, they're going to be a physical football team. They have big guys on the offensive line. They take pride in being able to be a physical football team.
And secondly is emotions. A lot of people don't understand how many people from Ohio we have on our football team. When that emotion was the highest, it was two years ago when we went to Ohio State. I think being in the home state and doing all that stuff, that was unbelievable. That was just as much emotion I can say as when we play Michigan here, just because we had so many guys. So many of our key players, our leaders that were affected by the game for whatever reason. I don't really care to go into it. I don't really know anyways, I just liked them having energy.
But like I said, it's physical and it's an emotional game, and that's what I always expect when we play Ohio State. They're one of the dominant programs in the country.
Q. What do you remember about the mood like in the locker room and on the field after the 2011 loss, the Wisconsin game? I think it was Denicos saying that he saw people cry that he never thought he would see cry and that was kind of a telling quote. Do you plan on talking to the younger guys that weren't with you about the experience and what it was like, about how big the moment is?
Max Bullough: I think they understand the moment. It kind of goes being unsaid going against a team like Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game. College Gameday is going to be there. There's implications all across the BCS on who wins that game. So I think that goes without being said, and I think if they don't know that yet, they'll know today at practice. We can be 15 weeks in and we're tackling Damion Terry, who's a pretty good quarterback, they'll understand that.
And Denicos said exactly what I was saying when I heard you guys ask him that question; there was people crying that I never thought I'd see cry. It was just unbelievable.
And to me, I was a sophomore, so I didn't - to me it wasn't the end of the road. To me it was we'll be back here next year. Let's just win next year or the next year.
So to see the way those players reacted, I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen a game affect so many people - I've lost to Michigan before, and I don't know if I've ever seen a single game affect the amount of players that it did, so negatively. Even for a week after that game, usually you get over the game after a couple days at the most, even for a week I remember guys like Kirk Cousins were still down, still hurting about it. We were able to come back and play well against Georgia and kind of salvage that feeling a little bit.
Q. How about that night?
Max Bullough: Well, really the only thing I really remember after the game is just talking to Isaiah. He's my classmate, my teammate, one of my good buddies, and really I think he kind of thought it was all on him after the game. We were back in Indianapolis, playing in his hometown, and he gets that penalty. So I think he really took that hard, at least right away, right after the game. I remember talking to him, I remember saying whatever I said. I don't really remember what I said. I just remember going up to him and feeling obligated to talk to him, feeling obligated to make him understand that it was absolutely in no way his fault we lost the game. Coach D trusted him as a young football player. It was Coach D's call to go and block the punt. He blocks that punt, Isaiah is a hero and Coach D is the best coach ever. So the fact that he had that trust, whichever way it went, that just describes the type of player Isaiah is, and now we know that.
Q. There's a valid perception out there that this is a conference that strongly favors Ohio State for some of their actions in the past; letting suspended players play in the Sugar Bowl and not suspending the guy for the actions Saturday. Is there a concern with this team that you're not only facing - you not only have to beat the Buckeyes but you've got to beat the conference, as well, because it means so much for this league to get Ohio State into the BCS title game?
Max Bullough: First of all, I'm excited that no one is suspended. I hope no one does get suspended. I want to play their best. I think if we were in that same situation they'd say the same. I think you always want to play the best. Like I said, we want to put ourselves in the biggest games against the best players against the best offense against the best defense, so that's something I'm looking forward to.
And like I said, it goes back to things I can't control. I can't control who likes who, who wants what, who votes for who, who's voted All Big Ten, who's voted this, I can't control that. I just can't. I can control what I do today at practice, I can control what I say to my team or what my actions are during the weekend and on Saturday, and it's been good enough 11 times this year, so I'm counting on it being good enough again.
Q. You talked about how negative that feeling was two years ago, and you couldn't imagine what you saw afterward. Can you imagine the same thing only the exact opposite, the positive? Can you imagine how positive that will be?
Max Bullough: You know, probably not. I probably can't imagine it. On the flipside I've been a part of some pretty cool wins, too, whether it's a last second win or a win over a big opponent or whatever it is. Those have been feelings that have been unbelievable. That's also why you play the game, to have the game come down to the end and you make a play and they don't make a play. That's definitely a feeling I haven't felt.
We won the Big Ten Championship in 2010 but it was split, so for me I don't take away anything from that team at all. We won the Big Ten Championship for the first time in a long time, and that's the hardest thing to do, I think, is to get back after a while. But it's - I think I've experienced a certain level of joy after things like the rocket play in the Notre Dame game. I'm hoping this one is one level bigger.
Sophomore Defensive End Shilique Calhoun
Q. Could you talk about Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde.
Shilique Calhoun: They're two very versatile people. As you know, Braxton Miller is a very agile quarterback. He's like no other. He makes plays with his feet and his hands, he can throw the ball and he can run it just as good.
Hyde, I guess you guys saw last night, he was the running back of the Big Ten, and it's just due because he's a great running back. He comes downhill, he comes hard because he's fast, he's a fast guy and a big guy at that. Biggest thing is we're going into that game just like any other game. You've got to stop those two guys.
Stopping the running back has always been one of our goals that we try to hit going into every game, so that's going to be a very big part of that game, and also trying to stop Braxton Miller from creating plays out of nothing.
Q. Is this type of offense the most difficult to defend against from a D lineman's perspective with all the option and wanting to get on the outside and misdirection and all the things that they do and having to stay disciplined? Is this the toughest type of system for a guy in your position to play against?
Shilique Calhoun: You kind of just laid it out for me, so yeah, it's pretty rough. Seeing that you have basically two running backs in the backfield, both of those guys are athletes, so the biggest thing is you have to be disciplined. That's something that we go over every day. We try to construct ourselves and so on.
We will definitely have to be disciplined against this team, but it's not going to take away from the way we play. We're an aggressive, fast playing, hard hitting defense, and that's the way we're going to continue to play.
Q. Lineman of the year and 11 1, a Big Ten Championship Game and maybe a Rose Bowl. You're only a sophomore, not all this good stuff is supposed to happen this quick. How does this make you feel?
Shilique Calhoun: It's great, man. It's wonderful having this opportunity to be highlighted as someone who's been basically working hard. I guess it's hard work that we've been doing throughout all season, through the season, is finally paying off for us. I'm happy that not only myself but my team can get recognition. It's good that people are starting to understand that we are working hard here at Michigan State. We've been doing it for years, and it's good to finally know that they're seeing it now, they're understanding it, and they're giving us praise, saying, hey, listen, you guys did a good job. But I try not to look at that right now, I just try to focus on the next game because it's another big opponent that we have to face coming into Saturday. I thank them very much, but I have to stay focused on the task at hand.
Q. How do you explain your big play ability? Do you play with that in mind, to make not just a regular play but a big play, a sack, a touchdown, whatever? Do you play angry in that regard? How do you explain it, your big play ability?
Shilique Calhoun: Well, basically we have like a hit chart on basically things we want to do each game. We want to create turnovers, we want to make big plays, and we want to be relentless. Those are some of the things on our hit chart. When we go out there as individuals, I think we each go out there thinking, we want to make the big play, we want to make the next big play, we want to make the next big hit, and it just so happens that it works out in my favor. I think the guys put me in the right place, my coaches put me in the right place to make those plays.
I have my brothers behind me who are filling the other gaps so there's no other choice but for me to make the play, and if I don't then they will. I would say that it's just the luck of the draw for me, but obviously I definitely go out there, I play hard and obviously I try to play hard every snap so no opportunity is let up. I don't want to have something pass me by and then wish that maybe I would have ran him down from the backside or I would have went a little faster off the ball or I would have saved a little energy on certain plays.
I try to make sure when I go out there I give it my all, and I'll come out and let the next guy go in because I know he's going to work just as hard.
Shilique Calhoun: We go live basically every week. They don't want at any point to be like we should have did this in practice, we should have did that. It's full go. Those guys are getting hit, those guys are going down. They're taking bruises, everything. But they're also creating plays. They're giving us the outside look that we don't have, like, okay, he has to play Braxton or he has to play Carlos Hyde.
We go as live as we can without trying to physically like hurt these people and make sure that they're able to still be able to play. But obviously, I mean, it's a tough practice. Our practices are always tough, though. Having Coach Narduzzi as our defensive coordinator there's no time where you get to just relax and everything is a walk through because even on perfect Thursday we're still hitting.
Q. I know you have some periods live, but Michigan week was more live, right, because of the Devin Gardner and I believe this week according to Narduzzi it's going to be more periods live?
Shilique Calhoun: Yeah, it'll be a couple more periods that are live. I would say for a D lineman everything is live. We're in the trenches, so I don't know when we're live and when we're not live. You might have to ask a couple DBs and wideouts about that one. But I would say for us every period, every snap is live, and it's full go. It's full go for us. He may feel some different type of way, like I said, towards the DBs or maybe the linebackers, but we don't get no relief time in the trenches. It's rough every second in there.
Q. Damion Terry tweeted, we're going live this week, please pray for me.
Shilique Calhoun: (Laughing.) He's a funny guy. He's going to make things happen. I'm pretty sure he'll make plays out there, too. He's not going to make it easy on us, I know that for sure. And I thank him for that because we don't need anything easy. We want it to be as hard and as challenging as it could be, so it can be more like a game situation.
Q. I was just looking at your recruiting profile. You were the 344th ranked player in the country, a three star guy. Seems to be a theme with this team, obviously Darqueze another guy. What was that like during recruiting and what was the connection to Michigan State? How much of a motivator is that still that a lot of you guys were overlooked greatly by a lot of programs?
Shilique Calhoun: First I just want to say that the coaching staff did a wonderful job of recruiting guys. It wasn't always about how many stars you had. I think it was more about toughness and heart. I feel like they recruited the right guys that would click together, guys that would create a bond.
What brought me here to Michigan State was family. It was more like a brother atmosphere, a family atmosphere, everyone was connected, everyone was together. Still to this day people ask me, you still like it here, you still I love it. I love being here, and I feel like I hope my kids come here. When I graduate and I have kids, I hope my kids are able to come here and feel the same way I do.
But obviously it's definitely that family bond that we have on the field and off the field, just seeing the guys when I walk around, I'm just walking around town, and I see them, and I give the wave. It's just a connection you feel between each other, and it's like no other.
Q. Is there an extra energy when you know you're playing against four and five star players of the year from states - Ohio State is supposed to beat you. On paper this is a game you're supposed to lose.
Shilique Calhoun: I mean, that's what it says. We don't go into games thinking that we're supposed to lose. We go into every game feeling that we should win and we're going to give it our all and make it so that we can win.
Going against four and five star guys, I don't really look at the stat sheet. That's not something I look up. I just look at how they play. I want to beat this person, not his ranking or who he used to be, who he maybe used to be, like he's a four star guy. That's not it at all. It's like how can I complete my assignments to the best of my ability. It's not really about where they're ranked or how many stars they have because my dad always told me it doesn't really matter, hard work beats talent. That's what I focus on going into practice and that's what I focus on throughout the years I've been playing football.
Q. Why do you think you were not higher ranked, and what do you think Dantonio or the coaching staff saw in you?
Shilique Calhoun: I think the guys that were ranking me didn't like me (laughing). I don't know. No, I'm just joking. Honestly, I don't know. I'm not sure exactly. I was in that kind of town. There weren't too many athletes that came out of where I'm from. I was just blessed to have the opportunity to come out. I'm not sure exactly why I wasn't ranked higher. I couldn't tell you what was going through their minds.
But I think Coach Dantonio saw something in me, and he heard from word of mouth from his other coaches that I was a pretty good player, and I think that he ran with it. He understood that his coaching, the coaching staff that's under him wasn't going to lie to him and they were going to find certain players, and I feel like he understood that they saw something in me, so he was willing to take a chance, and I guess he saw something in me, also.
Q. Besides Michigan State, who else was in the running that you were looking at?
Shilique Calhoun: Pittsburgh, Nebraska, a couple Big Ten teams. Not too many. But this was my primary place that I wanted to be. I mean, I liked it here, like I said, went for my first visit, and ever since I came here every other school was compared to here. This was top notch. This was the level. I would say that it was a lot of - there was a couple other schools recruiting me, but this was my primary focus. I knew where I wanted to be.
Q. That hard work beats talent, can that be the motto for this program?
Shilique Calhoun: Of course, I think so. I mean, you can see from our practices, you can see from our D coordinator that we're going to work hard. I would definitely say those could be words that describe this program, definitely. Offensively and defensively we're going to go out there and work hard and give it our all. Coach Dantonio says win, lose or draw, as long as you give it your all, I'm happy with that; I accept that; there's nothing wrong with that, because I know that you gave it your all on every play and there was no letdown. You played your hardest and you played your heart out. And it just so happened that this year we gave that extra work and we were working really hard, and it's paying off for us. I think for the guys to come, they'll understand that's our motto and they'll understand that they have to live up to that, too.
Q. There is a chance you guys could get to the Rose Bowl win or lose. That scenario is out there. What do you think of that scenario? Can you even do you almost wish it didn't even exist, or how do you view that?
Shilique Calhoun: We don't expect to lose. I mean, we don't go into any game looking forward to losing. When I hear that, I just kind of let it go. I don't focus on that at all. We go into this game wanting to win. We want to beat every team that's ahead of us, and Ohio State is just another team that's standing in our way from reaching our goal, no matter if we win or lose. We want to win the Big Ten Championship. For that aspect, I'm not really focused on that because they're still in our way. If we lose that game, we still lost the Big Ten Championship, and we don't want to do that. That's something that we're not - we're focused on winning.
Senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard
Q. As you watch Ohio State now, especially Miller and Hyde, how different are they from the team you played last year?
Darqueze Dennard: Different in a lot of ways. You can see Braxton has grown as a quarterback, as well, throughout this year, and from the last time we played him, grown as a quarterback, as well. But just seeing him go through his reads, seeing him being there being patient in the pocket and delivering a couple passes he couldn't throw last year, he's been doing a great job of that, and Hyde has been running the ball as good as anybody in the nation right now. He's a bigger back. He is physical, and offensively he shows a little burst of speed, and he's got shiftiness back there, as well. Those guys have grown tremendously since the last time we played them.
Q. What was your reaction to your awards that you won and the rest of the defenders, the first team All Big Ten selections and defensive back of the year for you, and for guys that played in that last Big Ten championship game in 2011, what do you recall of the feeling afterwards and how much has that loss given you to want to get back there?
Darqueze Dennard: It's a blessing just to be even mentioned with those guys, other guys in the Big Ten, and then being the one nominated to be the best defensive back in the Big Ten is an honor, is a privilege, but I give the honor to God. And I was watching it yesterday, a lot of guys I was watching at the training table, everybody was pretty excited. I think a couple guys got a little left off, should have been in some different spots, but that's how the ball rolls sometimes. But I think everybody is excited and was glad to be mentioned as part of the elite group of the Big Ten.
Also coming from two years ago, from when we lost, it was hard for all of us. We really wanted to - it really came down to the last drive of one play you could say to lose the game, and it really drove us throughout this off season and the year before, just knowing that it really motivated everybody to get back to Indy. It drove us this year, it drove us last year, as well, but this year was special because I know for me and the rest of the seniors, this is our last opportunity to go back to Indianapolis and play in that game. I think that loss really motivated us in the last two years.
Q. Each time you get up here in any press conference and talk about being honored to be considered the best defensive back or the best defensive player in the country with the Nagurski, is there a part of you that can't believe this is happening? If you reflect back to when you came to Michigan State, what were your goals at that time? How did you see your career playing out versus how it's actually playing out?
Darqueze Dennard: When I first got here I didn't really expect to be the player I am today. I really was hoping and dreaming that I could one day be one of the top players in the nation and one of the top players in the Big Ten, of course, and hoping to go on and play in the NFL.
But when I first got here I was really trying to focus on trying to be the best backup or be the best special teams contributor I could be at the time. It's just an honor and just a blessing and really shows that hard work and prayer and belief actually works.
Q. When you look around you at other players on the Michigan State football team, how many other guys are kind of like you? Michigan State doesn't always get the best players out of the surrounding states. It seems like there's a lot of guys like you that maybe never were really expected to do a whole lot, and do you think that's something that this team feeds off of and has fueled you guys?
Darqueze Dennard: I definitely do. All the guys on the team, we probably weren't the highest recruited person out of the country, we weren't the top this person or that person, but about this team and about the coaches and what they do with the coaching they do and grooming us as men as well as players, they do a great job of that.
Everybody when they come here usually there's a story behind them. Like Coach D always says, everybody has their own story. I think every player here has their own story and every player here has a chip on their shoulder, and that's what makes us better than anybody around us and that's what makes us play harder than anybody.
So I think just being low balled you could say, under recruited throughout the process and not getting recognition, it all drives us to be better.
Q. After the Irish loss in which you guys were subjected to a couple questionable pass interference calls, it seemed like the officiating allowed your corners, the corners here, to play more physical and aggressive. Is there a concern that that might change coming into this game because it's Ohio State with the stakes involved, for them more so than you guys?
Darqueze Dennard: I really don't think Trae (Waynes) and I will change our way of playing. I think we can't go in there with that mindset. We've got to go in there with the mindset to just play our style of football, which is physical, and the Big Ten has obviously been letting us play, and it's been great for us as a defense, as well.
I think Trae and I both will come in with the same mindset like we've been playing for the last couple of weeks after the Notre Dame game, and we're just going to have to see how the officiating goes and go off of that.
Q. But you think you should still be allowed to play as physical as you've been allowed to play over the last couple games?
Darqueze Dennard: Yeah, I definitely do. I don't think we should change.
Q. A little bit about Isaiah Lewis and the contributions he's made in the secondary.
Darqueze Dennard: After the championship game Isaiah was hurt. I'm a great friend of Isaiah. We always hang around with each other, and talking to him after that game, he was like, this is never going to happen again. Throughout these past two years he's been busting his tail and doing everything he was asked to do, doing anything coach has been telling him to do, and also he's been stepping up as a leader, as well. He basically monitors and tutors all the young guys below him and helps the guys throughout the team, just talking to them and basically being a big brother and also being you could say a captain, as well. He's grown since that game, been mature. He handles stuff way better. I also think he's a better player, as well. He improved a lot since then.
Q. I noticed the song you guys play, the artist is from Atlanta, so I suspect you had something to do with that. Do you take credit for that, or who is the one that decided that would be the song?
Darqueze Dennard: I think the team decided. I kind of pushed it towards the team probably this summer, telling guys to listen to him. But I can't take credit for that. I think the team just made the choice about the song and everybody just rolled with it.
Q. Did it just kind of evolve into what it's become, or was that the plan right from the beginning, that you guys would get a coach to dance with the team after victories?
Darqueze Dennard: I think it just evolved. At first it just started everybody just being excited and celebrating after a victory, and then a couple games down the road, you see coaches involved, you see all types of players involved. You can find kids, some kids come in and dance, as well. It's just a fun experience. It's just a celebration after a win, which we all know wins are hard to come by.
Q. Are you the best dancer?
Darqueze Dennard: I don't think so. I think there's a lot of guys that can dance. I think Travis (Jackson) has got me by a long shot. I think he's the best dancer on the team. He's got a lot of rhythm.
Q. With all the talk about Ohio State and their unbeaten streak and national title possibilities, Braxton Miller, do you guys going into this game feeling a little bit overlooked or unloved?
Darqueze Dennard: It doesn't matter to us. Me personally, I love being the underdog. Count me out. It just makes me play even harder. I think the team feels the same way. You ain't got to show us no love, but at the end of the day we've got to play our game. We're going to play our game, we're going to play our style of football, and we're going to see who's the best team. It really don't matter all the love they give throughout the week. It doesn't matter. Just come out, and whoever plays the best game on Saturday.
Senior safety Isaiah Lewis
Q. Just from what you've seen on film with the Buckeyes, with a quarterback like Braxton that can buy time in the pocket, how often are they able to get big chunks of yardage through the air with receivers improvising and find a way to get open?
Isaiah Lewis: Yeah, they do a pretty good job of getting open down there. They pretty much know what he's going to do. They know he's going to make plays with his feet. His receivers know that he'll get the ball downfield. He'll make plays. He'll get yards with his feet. They're ready for him to throw the ball at any time. They know what kind of player he is. I feel like we have to be ready for that, too.
Q. How does that make things more difficult for you, knowing that there's a chance that play is going to be extended with what he can do with his legs?
Isaiah Lewis: Yeah, as a DB it's kind of hard to cover a man, stay with somebody throughout a whole play, especially when the play is extended. It makes it that much more difficult for you. So you just have to know that your D line is going to have your back, they're going to put pressure on you, make you throw a bad pass or something. Try to stay with your receiver for a little bit longer, just know you've got to cover your man for that much more longer.
Q. I know we talk about safeties and coverage all the time, but you come downhill an awful lot, almost as much as a linebacker if you're not in the box. Can you talk about the match up with Hyde, how important it is to get to him early?
Isaiah Lewis: I mean, yeah, he's a big back. We're in the Big Ten, and I'm used to tackling big guys. Not being a very big guy myself, I'm ready for the competition. I've played against him before, so it's going to be a competition. It's going to be big collisions out there, but it's something I'm ready for. I've been experiencing it my whole four years here, so what's going to be different now? It's going to be a hard fought game.
Q. As much as we've seen you in the pass game, you've been pretty effective in the run game, as well, the big collisions.
Isaiah Lewis: Yeah, most definitely. That's one of the things you love about playing safety back there, the big hits, going down, making big plays, getting the TFLs, making the crowd go, ooh, like the big roar from the crowd when you make a big hit back there. It's one of the things you love hearing. Playing safety, it's one of the things you love.
Q. How special is this for you to play right there in your hometown in a game of this magnitude?
Isaiah Lewis: It's special, man, like y'all don't even know. It's crazy for me because two years ago, like y'all know, it was a bad experience for me, bad ending for the game. Just to get back in my hometown in front of people that I know, it's going to be fun for me. It's going to be the experience of a lifetime to come down there, and this year we're going to win that game, go out there and win. Just make sure it's not the same story as last time.
Q. Is that a painful memory for you still? Isaiah Lewis: Yeah, you know, I try not to think about it much. But yeah, if I do happen to think about it, yeah, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I want to get back and win on that field, you know, get back, win that game, get to the Rose Bowl, and that's our main goal. It's not about me. I feel like it's not about me. I feel like it's about the team, getting the team to the Rose Bowl and winning that game.
Q. Coach D didn't make it about you when that happened. Did that support mean something to you?
Isaiah Lewis: Most definitely, yeah. Him and my teammates, the whole staff around here, I know they have my back. I know they're not going to leave me hanging, any tough times I have, I know they're not going to just leave me hanging out there. He's always been there for me. He's always been there for me whenever adversity has set in. Going back to this year when I had surgery, I was out for a few games or whatever, he had my back then. My teammates had my back, and they knew I was going to come back strong. They had my back the whole way.
Q. Just to follow up, did that play into the circumstance, change you in any way, change your perception of football or life or anything? Was it that big of a deal to you personally?
Isaiah Lewis: It was kind of hurtful like that whole year after that. You're talking about two years ago? Yeah. Yeah, kind of hurtful. I tried not to think about it for so long, I tried not to let it affect me going into the next year. I tried to forget about it before my junior year came up the next year. But yeah, it kind of lets you think about it for a little bit, just makes you think for a little bit, but at the same time you do have to let those things go so it doesn't affect you in your future.
Q. You talked about your D line, forcing them into bad throws and everything. How much has the improvement of the D line getting pressure and sacks and all that this year helped you guys become a better defense compared to last year?
Isaiah Lewis: I feel like our D line, they're more experienced, quicker. You know, they're fast on their feet, and they know what to do and they're more experienced up there. Getting pressure on the quarterback definitely helps the secondary to make plays when it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback and throwing bad passes. You do have to have a good secondary to get back there, and I feel like we do a good job of taking advantage of the plays when the D line puts pressure on the quarterback, throws a bad pass, I feel like our secondary does a good job of getting interceptions and getting turnovers.
Linebackers, as well, when they blitz they're almost as good as like the D linemen, getting pressure on the quarterback, forcing him to throw bad passes to allow us to make plays.
Q. How do you balance the magnitude of this game with it is a big game but you don't want to treat it too much where you psych yourself out a little bit? How do you balance that?
Isaiah Lewis: You just go into the week practicing, like Coach D said, treat this like another game coming up, don't try to force it. Don't try to force it, don't try to do too much extra stuff and do something you never done throughout the whole year, because we've been successful throughout this year, and if we keep on just like continuing to do what you've been doing, you will continue to be successful. Don't try to force anything, like I said, don't try to force anything, don't change nothing up, because we've been good, so we'll continue to be good if we keep doing those same things.
Q. In preparing for this game, the scout team obviously plays a pretty big role and we heard some guys Saturday mention Damion Terry and how comparable he was to Devin Gardner. As far as his running skills, has that really made a difference? Does he present a good Braxton Miller in practice?
Isaiah Lewis: Most definitely. There's been times he broke me down in practice. He shook me a couple of times, and I don't think it's easy to do that. So he does a good job back there.
Yeah, he might be comparable to him. I'm not going to say he's Braxton Miller, he's not Braxton Miller, but going back to playing on scout team, he gives the defense a good look back there as far as his running ability and his passing.
Junior punter Mike Sadler
Q. Coach Dantonio was talking about Ohio State's special teams, that they've blocked some kicks. How aggressive are they with their return game, block game? Any type of special challenge?
Mike Sadler: They've always been good. I think that's just a trait of Urban Meyer teams, a strong special teams, even going back to his days at Florida. Last year they did block a punt on us, so that's something we have to focus on this week is having good blocking schemes. We have to do a good job of hitting the ball high and towards the sidelines so they're not going to get any return yards. In big games like this, special teams tend to make the difference, so we have to be sure that we're on our game.
Q. We asked Fou about this. Coach was saying why not us if we finish 12 1 certain scenarios fall out, certain teams lose, that Michigan State should be in the title talk. Is there a certain part of that you guys agree with in the sense that you had a close loss to Notre Dame and how far this team come?
Mike Sadler: We certainly have come a long way, but right now we're focusing on beating Ohio State and letting the cards fall. There's only so much we can control and we just want to beat Ohio State and let the rest take care of itself.
Q. It's really hard to make an impact as a punter. I didn't even know what you looked like until you introduced yourself. But you've had an impactful year and career between all the fakes and the punts. How significant, how proud are you of the impact you've had on this program, being a punter?
Mike Sadler: Well, it's really cool to be able to have such a significant impact as a punter. I think that I have been very effective throughout my career so far. The stats might not always prove it. That's why don't really see me winning any of these awards. But when it comes down to being effective, I definitely think I'm one of the better punters in the country. Whether it's just downing punts inside the 20 or hitting them far when I need to, I just like to think that I can really help out the offense and the defense when I'm called on.
Q. This is a little bit off the topic, but I'm guessing you probably saw the Auburn Alabama play by now. Just as a holder in that field goal scenario, is that a nightmare situation, and how do you guys, I guess, as a team prepare for the possibility of something like that?
Mike Sadler: Yeah, that's a tough position to be in. I like to think Geiger would just make the kick and not have to worry about it, but that is something that we've practiced. We do that maybe once a week, once every two weeks or something just to kind of get the feel for it, spread out the field, make sure everybody is in their lanes and just make sure that doesn't happen.
Most teams won't practice that, but I think after Saturday a lot more teams are going to be practicing it.
Q. Can you go back to a couple years ago, the aftermath of that game? What did you do? What do you remember about how you guys dealt with that in the next few hours?
Mike Sadler: I think that was one of the hardest games to swallow that I've ever been a part of. I think we were about a minute and a half away from having the roses clenched in our teeth and it just kind of all got ripped out from us on one play. Definitely a tough pill to swallow, but we're lucky that we get a second chance in it, and we're going to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Q. What do you remember about that night?
Mike Sadler: Just a tough night. Just couldn't fall asleep, and you're just playing through all the different scenarios, the what ifs, what if we make that tackle, what if I hit a better punt, if we make a field goal, all that kind of stuff. This year we want to be sure to not have any what ifs after the game.
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