Dec. 27, 2013
LOS ANGELES - Under sunny skies and temperatures near 80, seventh-year Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio sent his team through a 2-hour workout in shells on Thursday, Dec. 26 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., as the fourth-ranked Spartans (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten) resumed preparation for the Jan. 1, 2014, Rose Bowl against No. 5 Stanford (11-2, 7-2 Pac-12). Following the practice session, first- and second-team players spent 30 minutes in the weight room.
"It was a good, solid practice," Dantonio said. "These guys come to practice every day ready to go to work.
"It's a challenge to replicate the weather here in our indoor practice facility, so we'll spend six days training in this environment. There's no question conditioning will be a factor in next week's game."
"We spent today knocking the rust off after taking four days off," sophomore center Jack Allen (6-1, 297) said. "It's also time to refocus. It's important to pick up right where we left off in the Big Ten Championship Game. We have to build up to that over the next six days because you don't just show up on game day and expect that to happen."
Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook (6-4, 218) has compiled an 11-1 record in 12 career starts, including nine-straight wins to finish the regular season.
"Connor Cook definitely feels more comfortable in the pocket and in running our offense," Allen said. "He also has a great presence in the huddle. When needed, Connor doesn't hesitate sticking his head in there to quiet guys down and set things straight. As a team, we have tremendous confidence in him and expect him to have another good game next week."
Thursday marked Michigan State's first practice without senior tri-captain Max Bullough, who has been suspended for the remainder of the season due to a violation of team rules. Bullough had started 40 consecutive games at middle linebacker.
Fifth-year senior Kyler Elsworth (6-1, 225) and sophomore Darien Harris (6-0, 215) are listed behind Bullough on the depth chart at middle linebacker. In addition, sophomore Ed Davis (6-3, 230) also could see playing time at the position.
"Defensively, we're going to do what we do," Dantonio said. "Nothing changes with Max Bullough out of the lineup. Our depth at linebacker is certainly one of the strengths of our defense."
Michigan State is making its school-record seventh consecutive postseason bowl appearance, including its first-ever Bowl Championship Series berth. The Spartans are making their 24th postseason bowl appearance overall, including its first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1988. MSU has a 3-1 record in its four previous Rose Bowl appearances (defeated No. 5 UCLA, 28-20, in 1954; defeated No. 4 UCLA, 17-14, in 1956; lost to No. 5 UCLA, 14-12, in 1966; and defeated No. 16 USC, 20-17, in 1988).
"We've work so hard over the last seven years to get here (to the Rose Bowl)," Dantonio said. "Last year, we lost a lot of close games, but this season, we found those inches to change the outcome. We've won double-digit games for the third time in the last four years.
"This is our program's first BCS appearance, so it's important to handle success and shut out the distractions. We have to be focused and diligent in how we prepare for this game against Stanford. One thing for sure is that we must match Stanford's toughness."
The 100th Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO will be televised by ESPN, with kickoff set for 5 p.m. ET.