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September 12, 2015

Jack Allen

Shilique Calhoun

Connor Cook

East Lansing, Michigan

Oregon -28
Michigan State -31

Q. For both the seniors, you weren't shy this week talking about how much last year's game stuck in your craw, so how much better does this feel now five minutes after the game?
JACK ALLEN: I'd say it's probably one of the best feelings in the world. I honestly was thinking about this on Thursday about what it would be like to walk off the field after this Saturday game with a win. Feels unbelievable.

CONNOR COOK: I'm right there with Jack. The loss last year sucked. You know, being able to have the half that we had last year, we went on an 18-0 run I think, and just laying an egg in the second half and that stuck with me during the whole year. It stuck with me during the season. It stuck with me watching them playing in the National Championship, and it was with me all through spring ball, through camp. It's one of the main reasons why we wanted to come back is to play Oregon again and beat them.

So I was thinking like Jack was during the week, just what it would feel like to walk off the field victorious and I was dreaming about it last night. Being able to live it out, it's kind of indescribable.

Q. Always making it interesting it seems, but this team showed a lot of maturity with being able to handle the punches and counter-punches. When it got close to the end of the game, the defense seemed to be on their heals. How important was it for you guys to -- what was being said on the sideline to make sure they didn't slip?
CONNOR COOK: Obviously hold on to the ball. You don't want to give the ball up. We needed to get first downs, and I think the last couple of drives we had were unacceptable. We need to hold on to the ball longer.

Credit, obviously the O-line played exceptional, keeping me protected, making big holes for the running backs. But credit to the defense. I mean, Oregon's offense, they put up 60 points last week. They are no slouch. And the way our defense pressured, Vernon Adams, the way we stopped the run, credit to them at the end. They finished the game. Thank God for our defense.

Q. I wanted to ask you, with so much offense happening in this game and so many plays they were running what does it say about this defense that when it came down to it at the end, you were guys able to make the plays.
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: We just want to put up or shut up. The offense is doing just a great job this year, making sure that they are moving the ball and scoring. We try to take it upon ourselves to make sure that we are doing what we need to do, also.

We want to be great in all phases, including special teams, so they did a great job. It puts pressure on us because we are always in competition; always in competition with me and Connor Quinn, or whether it's me and Jack Allen, or Joel Heath and Jack Allen, we are always in competition to see who can out-perform the other. We are confident in competition.

I think we did a great job today. A lot of things we need to clean up but I think we did a great job on a lot of phases of the game.

Q. Connor, you have won big games before, Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl come to mind. What does it mean to win a big non-conference game and where does this rank compared to the biggest games for you in your career?
CONNOR COOK: It's huge. I think we haven't had like the best statistic, whatever it is, for Game Day. Usually whenever we play on Game Day, usually we lose.

So being able to win on game day was great and playing on a big stage last year in Oregon and coming up short was bad. It's so good for the school, so good for the program, recruiting, all that stuff.

But I'd say a win over Oregon at home with the season opener, it was Game Day here, so early in the season, it feels like back in 2013 when we won the Rose Bowl and we won the Big 10 Championship game. So I would rank it right up there with those games, for sure.

Q. How much did -- inaudible -- help you guys --
CONNOR COOK: It was tremendous. I talked to the guys last night, and I said, you know, our main goal was to seize the moment. We've played in big-time moments. We've had the Cotton Bowl -- us collectively as seniors: We've had the Cotton Bowl, we've had the Rose Bowl, we've had the Big 10 Championship Game. We went to Oregon last year and came up short.

But we've had that experience. We've played in big time games, and that experience honestly helps. You experience certain feelings you've felt in prior games, but the feeling is beginning to feel familiar and you know how to cope with them. It helps out a lot for sure.

Q. Shilique, four fourth down stops. Can you talk about the focus and what was the key to making those plays?
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: It was discipline. The biggest thing with Coach is discipline. We understand what we need to do. We understand what they are going to do. They put us in the right place at the right time, so just it's all about being disciplined and sticking to your technique.

That's a credit to the rest of the defense, they did a great job of coming out and being determined and understanding that we need to get stops. On the fourth down, even though it was third and out, three-and-out and that's a goal for us, we need to stop them. As long as they had the ball and they had they had the wrong end (ph) of possession, we had to do anything in our power to stop them and we did a great job today.

Q. For Connor and Jack, Dantonio went fourth and one, fourth and sixth, what about those decisions? Was there any lobbying that going on, and what does it say about him?
JACK ALLEN: I think it's just, I mean, Coach D, he likes to roll the dice. We wanted to run on fourth down -- in the Cotton Bowl, kind of had to. But you know, we are just thankful, because we didn't go for it on fourth down. Punter, kick or throw (ph) whatever, I mean, that's a huge game changer for us to convert on that fourth down. That was huge.

Just goes to show that Coach D likes to roll the dice and he likes to put the ball in his playmaker's hands. It's great that he has confidence in us to do that, because we have confidence in ourselves, and we feel like any time he calls my number or Burbridge's number, Josiah Price, whoever it is, we are going to come up big.

CONNOR COOK: For the fourth and one, I would say that was an obvious call because up front I felt like we were getting a big push every play. Our O-line is relentless and we weren't going to not get it.

Q. For any of you guys, the last couple years, you've dropped the early game and had to work yourself back into the picture. How does this set up the season different getting the big win at the beginning of the year?
CONNOR COOK: Just shows the progress that we've made as a team that we are not losing those big games at the beginning of the year anymore, and now this is the second stepping stone of the 12 games we've got to win this year. It's just showing the progress of this program and the steps that we are taking; that we are going in the right direction.

Q. Shilique, a lot of youth on your defense and you're seeing some of those young dogs growing up. Would you talk about the pride you have in some of those young players, please?
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: Guys like Malik McDowell, Demetrius Cooper, Craig Evans, just great guys. Guys that are definitely putting the work in in practice; and gaining our trust in practice, allowing us to understand that they are going to do what they need to do any time that their number is called.

But I mean, it's amazing to see them grow up. I even saw Cooper coaching one of the young guys and he was pretty pissed about him having an MA like in practice. I was like, man, it's crazy, I'm old now.

It's amazing to see how they progress, to see how they get older. And they take initiative. They go out on that field and they take a life-or-death situation in a sense. They want to make plays and they want to do whatever they can for the defense and provide for team. It's amazing to see them grow up and I look forward to a couple more games with those guys, a lot more memories, though.

Q. On the fourth and sixth, what did you see on that, the Burbridge play and how big do you feel that play was?
CONNOR COOK: Yeah, it was just a hitch. It was actually the same play we ran in the Cotton Bowl believe it or not. Different formation, same play.

At first I was just going to take the hitch but the corner was bailing and giving me free access to just like a five-yard hitch. But then right at the last second, I think I crushed (ph) a throw the ball to RJ running the hitch and the corner came up, and there was just a lot of open holes for Burbridge running down the sideline. I trusted him, put the ball out there for him to make a play and it was just a huge momentum swing, scoring on the next play, three-and-out on the inside zone with RJ. I think when you look at the game, I think that was a major turning point for sure.

Q. Jack or Connor, when you feel like it's kind of your game and yet they get the ball on the 48 with plenty of time left and you can't do a darned thing about it, it's out of your control; how gut-wrenching is that when you feel like it might be slipping away?
JACK ALLEN: It's a little nerve-wracking but at the same time, an offense we have confidence in our defense and we play them every day and we know what they have got. We believed in them the whole time and we knew that they would stop them and they did.

CONNOR COOK: Yeah, I say it just stinks being a quarterback, because I think right before we were in the situation, there was a wide open corner out that I missed; and if I hit that corner out, the drive keeps moving on, and our defense isn't out on the field. I'm just sitting on the sideline pissed at myself knowing that I could have kept the drive alive.

But like Jack said, we have all the confidence in the world in our defense to know that when it's crunch time, they are going to go through.

Q. You guys have been waiting for Aaron Burbridge to have these last two games for a couple seasons. Can you assess what he's giving you so far this year?
CONNOR COOK: Yeah, he pays attention to the little minor details and real run precise routes every time consistently. He's got great hands. And he'll go out and make a play, he'll make 50, 60 catches. He's fast, smart, knows how to run the right routes for certain types of coverage and certain types leverage with the DBs, and he just does what you ask.

Q. Talk about what Madre and LJ did, especially late, the touchdown, seems like it had had an extra burst to it.
CONNOR COOK: Yeah, when I handed the ball to LJ and saw him break those tackles and kick into an extra gear, kind of reminded me of Le'Veon back when he was a freshman. I was at the Notre Dame game when they won in overtime, and just watching the runs that Le'Veon broke -- LJ reminded me of Le'Veon during that game.

Just having running backs like that, I know they are young, but they just continue to get better, that's the good thing. But when it gets to the lack of experience that him and Madre both have and the way they run, they are playing like veterans, especially on a big time stage like this. You're a true freshman, you're 18 years old and you're playing in front of 76,000 people, seventh-ranked team in the country on Game Day, second week of the season. So LJ is a great player and he's smart and I think he's just going to continue to get better.

Q. Shilique, all three of you probably had the best perspective, you've understood that your team progress throughout the 12-game season, you always seem to get better towards the end. With a win like this under your belt, you probably haven't thought about it yet, but you made some mistakes and whatnot. Do you see that and think about, wow, if we clean this up, we can be a much better team than we were tonight?
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: Definitely. We understand that there's going to be big plays in the game and sometimes that's uncontrollable, but we need to manage the easy (ph), and just -- just weather the storm.

We know that things are not always going to go our way and sometimes our it's fault. Now more so we watch film and we'll get it corrected and I like how we started fast this year. We started a lot faster than we did years prior. Just shows we are going in the right direction and doing it at the right pace.

Now it's time to clean up things. Like I said, there's a lot of thing we still need to clean up. But like you said, once we get it all together, that train, it just keeps going. It was slow at first but once we get it going, it's going to be unstoppable.

Q. Last year's game, Mariota out of a few sacks -- how gratifying --
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: He's not Mariota, so it wasn't the same. But at the same time, it was special. I think our defense wants to get sacks, want to get TSLs (ph), get turnovers. So being able to create for the defense especially, especially when you can make a big play and change the outcome of games, like I said, everybody did a great job offensively, defensively, and we just need to keep going. We need to keep pushing forward and don't get too high and don't get too low at the same time.

Q. For the three of you, whether it was striping the stadium, getting there early or staying late or being wowed, can you comment on the incredible crowd?
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: I'll start. Spartan Nation is incredible. I love that they are out there in tenfolds (ph) and they honestly bring us life. I know a lot of programs say that, but we look to them when it's tough times and we look to them when we're having a great time.

I think our fans make the program, also. They are part of this team, and they bring the height -- when we need that lift up and they raise their hands and they are cheering and they are loud, it just gets us pumped up in the sense that no one else can do; not something your parent or coach can do. They bring a different type of dynamic to the game having them cheering for you. So having them stay for the whole game was special and I just want to thank them.

Q. Connor, obviously some big moments. How much more can this offense do, when we look at you statistically, we've seen you have a lot bigger games. Where do you think the offense is at and how much is left as far as how much better it can get?
CONNOR COOK: We are right where we want to be, and I think we are running the ball effectively. Oregon did a good job of stopping the run mid-game; we kind of finished a little bit stronger later on.

But I think we are running the ball great and I think the O-line has done a great job opening up holes for the running backs and keeping me protected and receivers are catching the ball and making big time plays.

I think I can be a little more accurate at times and be better with my read progression. It's only week two and we are going to get better week-by-week and just continue to reach higher.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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