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October 13, 2015

Riley Bullough

Connor Cook

Donavon Clark

Darien Harris

East Lansing, Michigan

THE MODERATOR: Joining us on the podium is Riley Bullough, Connor Cook, Donavon Clark, and Darien Harris. They will entertain questions.

Q. To any of you, I guess, Riley, before we get to Michigan week, I would like to know about your crazy weekend at hotel and buses.
RILEY BULLOUGH: Like you said, it was crazy. We didn't know what was going to happen the entire time. We got to the airport, found out we couldn't take off, ended up hanging out there for a while, got back to the hotel pretty late, but then Sunday came, we got on the plane, eventually got out of there, took a while.

There was no rest this weekend for us, really, but we're feeling good now.

Q. Riley and Darien, I wonder what you see from Michigan's rushing attack and Jake Rudock. I know a couple of years ago you guys played against him. Does that help at all in this game?
DARIEN HARRIS: Definitely got back into old-fashioned ball, lining up in heavy sets, running the ball, power, a lot of power, power lot, things that you see in a lot of old school football, so they've definitely gotten back to that. As far as the quarterback situation, like you said, we played against him a few years ago. He's poised in the pocket, know knows what he's doing as a senior, as a fifth-year guy. He's got a real good command on the offense, and he's done a really good job or them.

RILEY BULLOUGH: Yeah, just goin' on that, believe it or not, they use their fullbacks a lot, they hand the ball off to them, so it's going to be a little bit different for us, but I think the big thing is just controlling the line of scrimmage. Our "D" line is going to play a huge role in this game, like they do every game, but this one more so because, like you said, getting heavy sets, they try to run the ball at you, so it's going to be important to control the point and just to play fast and play downhill.

Q. Riley, obviously your family has always been a Michigan State family, but being a kid from this state, what does this game mean you, personally?
RILEY BULLOUGH: You know, growing up, it's kinda crazy in this state, especially for my family. It's not you're a Michigan or Michigan State fan, you literally identify yourself as part of the blue and maize or the green and white. That's your identity, that's your everything. Some people don't really understand that that aren't from around here, but I certainly do. I think the guys on our team, you know, start to understand that as they play in this game.

So, you know, it's important, and I think we're going to lay it down on the line this week.

Q. Connor, I wanted to ask you about L.J. Scott. How has he grown more comfortable over the past couple of weeks and where is he at right now?
CONNOR COOK: L.J. is getting more and more confident each and every week, going ball the way back to Western, I remember, like the end of that game, handing him the ball to him trying to get the clock out, watching him break tackles and I was kinda shocked, like, wow, this kid is a freshman. And he's just going to continue to get better as the season goes on and each and every week moves forward.

But he's a good running back and he's smart, that's something that -- you know, usually freshman running backs take time to learn a playbook or don't know how to block or don't know who is accounted for, but L.J. puts in the time, he puts in the extra hours in the film room, Coach Warner gets him right being a running backs coach, but he understands the game, and that's what you want from a guy who is younger to understand what's going on, and that's what he does. I think he's going to continue to get better.

Q. Coach Dantonio said some of the freshmen ask him what to expect from this week and this rivalry; he said you kinda just gotta go through it first. What do you -- for any of you guys, but Connor, what do you say to some of the younger guys who haven't been through this game what the experience is like?
CONNOR COOK: You know, Coach usually says you don't have to say anything about it, as soon as you are out there for warm-ups, you kinda feel it. You know, the attitude, the emotion, there is just something in the air that you get, that you feel playing against Michigan, but it's very intense, you know, there is a lot of emotion, there is a lot of heart that goes into this game, and just starting out and going out there and feeling it, smelling the air, all that stuff, it kinda runs through your body, runs through your veins and you kinda just get -- get more pumped up than you would for any other opponent.

Q. (No microphone.)
DONAVON CLARK: I mean, it's a different feeling, like when you first are out there, man, like everybody -- as soon as you get out there. It's a different type of game.

Once you get out there for your first time, it's like a different atmosphere that you feel.

Q. Donavon, following up on that, you did get your first career start there and it was an injury situation you had to go in?

Q. How much have you changed as a player, and going back there not, getting a chance to go back there, what does it mean to you?
DONAVON CLARK: I remember that Thursday before we left on that Friday, Coach told me before the meeting started, he pulled me out and said, "Donavon, you're about to get your first start," and everything, so I was like a little nervous at first, but at the same time I did what I had to do and ever since then I've been able to just develop, you know, on and off the field.

Q. Darien, how similar is what Michigan does offensively to what Stanford did in the Rose Bowl? Is it pretty much the same stuff?
DARIEN HARRIS: Yeah it's similar, and we've looked back at that year and looked at some Stanford film to see how we played against them, but it's similar to what they do. Obviously Coach Harbaugh coming from Stanford, he's brought a lot of what he did there to Michigan, but they are similar to what they do, like I said, old-fashioned football, lining it up, trying to run it down your throat, like Riley said, using fullbacks, which you don't see in this day and age, so it's similar. And we were successful obviously against Stanford, so we are going to go back, look at that film, see what we did in those games and try to apply it to this week.

Q. Connor, the receivers this week made some plays for you and some guys that you haven't always had to turn to. How important was that week in terms of moving forward your confidence in this group especially when you don't have a full complement in front of you?
CONNOR COOK: Looking back the last couple of weeks we were run heavy, the weather allowed for that to happen against Purdue, and then Central Michigan we wanted to reestablish the run game that we didn't have against Air Force, so the last couple of weeks were run heavy, didn't throw it a whole lot, and then finally for us to open up the pass game against Rutgers and heading into a game like this, this magnitude against Michigan, you know, we needed that. For Burb to come out and have another 150 yards through the air, R.J. Shelton coming up big in the last drive, Macgarrett Kings scoring his first touchdown, Paul Lang, who had some very, very clutch catches later in the game against Rutgers, we need that had, especially for going into a game like this, so that was crucial.

You know, like I've said all along, the whole season I think we're going to continue to get better, and guys are going to keep emerging and keep making plays as the season moves on.

Q. Connor, the first thing somebody says about Michigan's successes especially the last few games is their defense. Jim Harbaugh, the first thing asked about your team yesterday mentions you and your record, your successful here how much personal pride do you take in taking on a defense that's been so successful, that hasn't allowed a point in three games?
CONNOR COOK: You know, it's stuff like that -- that's why -- the reason why the reason you come to Michigan State to play against opponents like this, to play against teams like Ohio State, who is ranked No. 1 to play in big-time bowl games and when you're a quarterback and you're 6-0, and you are going up against one of your rival teams, you know, playing in their stadium, it's going to be a hostile environment, for how well they've played so far this season, you want to be in a situation like that. You want to brace it, and it's things you look forward to. I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait to go out there and play against them. You know, for them to pitch three straight shut-outs, that's hard to do in college football, doesn't matter who you are, doesn't matter who you are playing. To shut out the opponent, that's hard to do, and they have a great defense.

So me as a quarterback, us as an offense, and us as a team, we're looking forward to going into there and playing against a defense like that, because you want to play against the best, and you want to play against the top-ranked teams, top-ranked defenses. It's going to be a challenge but we're looking forward to it.

Q. Connor and Donavon, when you look at their defense does it remind use of the against you practice against year-round?
CONNOR COOK: A little bit. You look at their defense from top to bottom, they're very talented, they have a great front seven, you know, big, fast, defensive linemen who pressure the quarterback, get in the backfield and make tackles for losses, and they do a little bit more man coverage than they did last year, with the new "D" coordinator from Florida. Last year they did a lot of cover two and stuff, two man, more zone, more zone coverage than man, and looking at the film this year they do a lot more man, a lot more man coverage, cover one, and they lock the guys up on the back end.

So their linebackers, similar to the ones they had last year, they got three returning guys, and they're active, they run from sideline-to-sideline make tackles, fly to the ball but, you know, it's -- it's why we come to a school like this. We look forward to it, and we're just going to strive for greatness each and every week and just put our best foot forward.

DONAVON CLARK: All of the film I've watched so far, I mean, I would say this is the best defense that they've had so far. They play very hard, they are very technique sound in what they. It just shows how much better we have to be as an offense.

Q. You guys have won six of the last seven against them, you guys are undefeated, but it seems like they're getting all the hype right now, all the talk is surrounding them. What do you think of that, and does that play right into your hand? Do you guys feed off of that?
DONAVON CLARK: I mean, I would say, I mean, like it happens every year, they get talked about a lot, but I mean, that doesn't really matter. We have to make sure we go out there and play our game.

Q. This is one of the few Big Ten stadiums you haven't had a win in, largely because you haven't played there the last two years, but how nice would it be to kind of add this to the list of Big Ten road stadiums you've won in?
DARIEN HARRIS: I think it would be really beneficial, especially the senior class, if you look back at 2012 that's the only time that we have a class that's gotten to play there, play at the big house and we weren't able to come out victorious, so definitely big for us, big for this team. We know it's going to be great environment there, 112,000 or how many they're going to be able to squeeze in there, so it would be big for us and for this program to come out with a win.

Q. Connor, undefeated, No. 7 in the country and a one-touchdown underdog. Does that put a chip on this team's shoulder at all?
CONNOR COOK: Really doesn't take much to have a chip on our shoulder. Pretty much everything that we do, you know, dating back to when we were all freshmen here, we've always had a chip on our shoulder. Doesn't matter if we're the favorite, if we're the underdog, if, you know, we're favored by three touchdowns or we're underestimated by 3 touchdowns, doesn't matter. We're going to go into each and every game with the underdog mentality, that we're going on out there and prove to everyone why we deserve the respect that we deserve, and we're just going to go out there and fight from start to finish.

Q. Donavon, how have you guys adjusted to all the changes made in the offensive line, and also have you taken any reps this week at left tackle, and do you think it's a possibility that you might line up on the other side of the ball?
DONAVON CLARK: Every since camp we started rotating guys from left to right and so on and so forth, but we ask our guys to step up, like Benny McGowan and David Beedle, they have really done a good job over the past two weeks, and so has Brandon Clemons. I'm having -- I haven't played any left tackle yet this year, but we will see what happens.

Q. Connor, you were talking about reasons you come to play for Michigan State and playing against the best and talking about how well Michigan and Ohio State are playing. I know rivalry games, you can throw the records out and anybody can beat anybody, but are these games better when both teams are playing well entering them? You've got an undefeated team and Michigan is back to playing well. Is there just something extra?
CONNOR COOK: For sure. You know, anytime -- doesn't matter if it is a rivalry game or what, but even going back to when we faced Oregon, they're a top-ranked team, they were undefeated at the time, we were undefeated. When you play against a team like this in an environment like Spartan Stadium with Game Day there, people elevate their game. Everyone raises their playing level, and you start making plays that you usually wouldn't make in just a normal game. There are things that happen, things that occur in a game like this, of this magnitude, for how well they're playing, for how well we're playing.

We're undefeated, they have one loss, Game Day is there. There are just things that happen in a game like that where it wouldn't usually happen in a regular game, so obviously there is more hype, more energy, the crowd is more into it, and guys start to, you know, unveil, you know, talent that they usually wouldn't unveil in certain situations, and guys -- certain guys rise to the occasion and more guys can emerge and stuff like that in situations like this.

Q. Connor, you haven't played there yet as a starting quarterback at Michigan. Can you kinda -- I guess what are you going through mentally this week to try and prepare for that and how much have some of those other environments you've played in got you ready for this?
CONNOR COOK: Right, I'm expecting a very loud, hostile environment. Things -- there is no such thing as a perfect football game, and things are going to go wrong, and I'm just trying to get focused right now as the week goes on and trying to picture myself making plays, visualizing myself making plays, and not being too high and not being too low and just staying level headed.

In an environment like that as soon as Michigan makes one big play, the stadium is going to erupt, but we've just got to continue to fight forward and fight to the end.

Me, right now it's obviously early we have pretty much almost a whole week until we play them, couple more days, but I'm just trying to get mentally focused right now and visualize myself making plays and obviously playing, you know, in stadiums like Iowa, in stadiums like Nebraska, playing at the Rose Bowl and playing at Ohio State at Indianapolis when 75, 80 of the people there were rooting for Ohio State, so we've played in loud environments before, playing at Oregon, so obviously playing in those type of venues will have me ready for a venue like this.

Q. For Connor and Darien, anyone else, your head coach makes no bones about how big this rivalry is to him personally and to you guys, personally. Do you already see signs this week -- I know it's been different, the travel difficulties and everything else, but do you already see signs in him how different this week is?
DARIEN HARRIS: I think you're always going to see signs in him and the rest of our coaching staff when this week comes up. We had our normal Tuesday lift this morning and it took about 35, 40 minutes to even start moving some weight, because Coach Mannie had to give his spiel that he gives every year for this game, and that's how it's going to be for the rest of our coaches. They're fired up for this, ready to go. We came in, you know, Monday morning to watch film from the Rutgers game, and Coach Tressel was saying how he hasn't slept since the night before, because he had been up watching film. So you're always going to get a different vibe when this week comes up, and when we hit that practice field today, it's just going to be something different out there.

CONNOR COOK: Couldn't have said it better.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.

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