Dec. 28, 2013
LOS ANGELES - Under sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s, seventh-year Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio sent his team through a 2-hour workout in full pads on Saturday, Dec. 28 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., as the fourth-ranked Spartans (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten) continued 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.
"The players have had great energy and good focus through the first three practices," Dantonio said. "All of the practices have been up-tempo and the execution has been crisp so far.
"We've been pleased with the approach our players have taken every day. The players have come to practice ready to work, and they're getting plenty of rest. We're gradually building toward next Wednesday.
"When we arrived in Southern California, it was important that we become acclimated to the climate. So we have five practices to make that adjustment. We've really pushed the team hard the last three days. Ultimately, this game will be decided by fundamentals: catching the ball, running the ball, blocking and tackling. Our team will have to play with great attention to detail and execute.
"We've been most impressed with the set up and overall operation by the Rose Bowl staff," Dantonio continued. "This bowl is first class in every aspect."
Consensus All-American and Jim Thorpe Award winner Darqueze Dennard (CB, 5-11, 197, Sr.) also has been impressed by his teammates' businesslike approach in practice.
"The first three practices have gone well," Dennard said. "The communication has been good, and guys like Kyler Elsworth and Darien Harris are stepping into their expanded roles. We're all excited about the opportunity to play Stanford in the Rose Bowl. The guys came here ready to work. The energy, effort and attention to detail have been there every practice thus far.
"The weather got to us a little bit on Thursday, but the guys bounced back and responded well yesterday and again today. The energy level has been building a little throughout the week."
Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook (6-4, 218), a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, has completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,423 yards, 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Cook, who has compiled an 11-1 record in 12 career starts, doesn't believe the offense will be negatively impacted by the 24-day layoff between the Big Ten Championship Game and the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl Game.
"It really hasn't been difficult to get the timing back after the layoff (since the Dec. 7 Big Ten Championship Game)," Cook said. "Offensively, we really haven't lost a step. The receivers, tight ends and running backs are all making plays in practice.
"The bottom line is we're anxious to play. The Rose Bowl is the last game of the season, and we're focusing on every single detail as we prepare for Stanford. We know that we must match Stanford's toughness and focus on execution and ball security. A lot of guys are ready to strap on the headgear and play today, but it's important that we build toward game day."
Following Saturday's practice, Michigan State's student-athletes attended an event at the Hollywood Improv, while the coaching staff, football support staff and administration had a tour and dinner at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
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).
The 100th Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO will be televised by ESPN, with coverage beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET.