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November 17, 2015

Connor Cook

Shilique Calhoun

Darien Harris

Jack Allen

East Lansing, Michigan

THE MODERATOR: We have Connor Cook, Jack Allen, Darien Harris and Shilique Calhoun. Any questions for those guys?

Q. Connor, I will ask you, you're the only Ohio guy up here, this has always been a very big game for you, obviously, your last chance to go in, obviously a huge game. What's going into your mind as you enter into Ohio Stadium for the last time?
CONNOR COOK: Yeah, pretty much just to leave it all out there. I have a lot of friends that I went to high school with that attended the university. They're gone now, they graduated. And also just growing up and going through the recruiting process, knowing guys from Ohio, playing with guys in All-Star games, guys that go to Ohio State, guys I've got a chance to know. Really it shows like how the Michigan people describe the Michigan game. This is kind of like that game for me.

With the guys that we have on our team from Michigan when we play the University of Michigan, so it's just going to be that much more fun and just provide that much more motivation for me to go out there and leave it all on the line.

Q. Shilique and Connor. Connor, both of you guys had an opportunity, we talked at the Big Ten Media Days about the games that got away, the Oregon and the Ohio State game. After getting over the hump of the first one, and Coach didn't want to talk about it as redemption so much, but how much of a challenge and an opportunity are you looking forward to, to completing that task of kind of getting the redemption, I guess, from last year?
CONNOR COOK: Yeah, you know, starting with Oregon, one of the main reasons Shilique and I came back is because we had some unfinished business. We want to compete for another conference championship, compete for another national championship, and it all started with facing Oregon week 2. And we got over the hump with that, and losing to Ohio State last year I think was a little bit more sickening than losing to Oregon last year, because they're in our division, our conference, and shuttered our hopes of going to play for the Big Ten Title game.

So we can avenge that loss from last year by taking care of business this weekend and being able to put ourselves in a situation to go on and play for that conference title. So, you know, this game this weekend is huge, this game is huge, and it's one of the main reasons why we came back.

SHILIQUE CALHOUN: I would definitely agree with Connor. This is a great opportunity for us, like he said a big reason why we came back here. Not only that but just to be out there with the guys, have another opportunity to play a big-time school in a big-time stadium, so I agree. I completely feel the same exact way. These are the opportunities that we really wanted and this is -- these are those games that we really wanted to compete in, so having the opportunity is great and not many people have the chance to go back and play a team that they've lost -- they had a loss to, so we're going to take full heed of it and keep moving forward.

Q. Jack, Coach Dantonio talked about winning up front being so important in these games, and last year that's probably one of the places they won the game. I know you guys have had a lot of injuries and running the ball has been a bit of a challenge. Do you think now with you guys being back together for a couple of games that that's something that can get better this week, and how much of it is a challenge against their defensive line?
JACK ALLEN: I would say it's going to be a huge challenge. They have a very impressive defensive front, but at the same time I think we're starting to click on the "O" line and we're coming together, and we've gone through a lot of adversity together, and this is just going to be another challenge for us, and we're excited about it.

Q. Any of you guys, I guess, couple guys on Saturday were saying they've been taking 20 minutes and peeking at Ohio State film throughout the year and thinking about this game ever since last year's loss. How soon or how often do you guys think about this game and start preparing for it over the course of the past year?
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: You prepare for each and every game going through the summer conditioning and spring ball and even through camp, you know, those are the times you prepare for the -- even if it's little bits and pieces you try to better prepare yourself for the year to come. I wouldn't say that they had our full attention at that moment because we had to focus, you know, on teams each and every week, but I would say that we would do something throughout the course of the year to better ourselves when we face each and every team, to be better prepared. I blew that question up just in case you're wondering.

Q. Darien, the narrative last year was that Ohio State's offense through the air was what took it to Michigan State, but frankly once they were able to run is when they were able to have some success. How key is it -- you talk about every week stopping the running game but especially with an attack like they have that's based off the run how key is it to stopping Zeke this week?
DARIEN HARRIS: It's big-time, both stopping Elliot and Barrett. They do a great job staying behind their blockers, staying tight to the gaps they are supposed to hit. So we got to be incredibly sound in that aspect on defense and I would definitely agree that last year when they were able to establish the run that's what the pass opened up. We had them in a lot of third down and 2, third down and 3, third down and short yardage situations and they were able to muscle it forward for the first down, whether it was with Barrett keeping the ball or handing it off to Ezekiel.

So they pride themselves on being able to pound the ball up front, and we pride ourselves on our front seven as well so, I'm expecting a really good battle on Saturday.

Q. Shilique, a question. After your decision last year, which, of course, was momentous for you and really for your team, can you take us through a little bit of the chronology of maybe at one point how close you were to going the other way? Can you give us a sense of the timeline there, where your thoughts and emotions seemed to take form and shape?
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: Kind of like I said last year, I had this in my -- I had an idea that I was coming back, you know, pretty much in the bowl game I knew this was an opportunity that not many people have the chance to have, so, you know -- and not only that but just being in the moment, you know, living in that moment, having an opportunity to be out there with so many great people and being in such a great atmosphere, I mean, it was pretty amazing.

I tapped my "D" tackle Joe, and I don't know if he was fully focused on what I was trying to tell him, but I knew at that moment that I was coming back, but I also wanted to weigh my options, because it is a great opportunity to make it into the NFL and not many people -- even fewer people have that opportunity, so I did weigh it out, but, you know, I knew this was the place that I wanted to be, and I wanted another opportunity to play against big-time teams and really showcase my talents and show what our team has, because I know our make up, and I know how great a players we have here, and I know how far we can go.

Q. Darien, you talked a little bit last week about having that comfort level with the guys behind you and that you have played with a lot, and it looks like you're going to go with a more experienced starting group back there with Cox back at safety and Darien back in. Is that key for a game like this, having experienced guys like that, that you maybe feel that you have that communication with?
DARIEN HARRIS: Yeah, I definitely think that's key, but I also think it's important to roll with the guys that have been playing well, and the combination we saw at the end of the game last week, they were really successful out there, and they played extremely well.

But I think everybody in the back end played extremely well last week, and, you know, we challenged them as a defense to come out and just play with confidence, play loose, you know, have fun out there, don't think too much and make plays, and they were able to do that, and it was comforting for us as an entire team to see how they've been able to bounce back, despite everything that's been said about them. So I was extremely proud of everybody that was able to get on the field last week in the secondary and play, and we're still going to need a rotation this week, and we need a rotation every week. You know, Ohio State likes to run a lot of deep patterns and throw deep balls up there, so when you got corners that have to cover 40, 50 yard route then run back, you're going to need subs at all times, and the fact that guys were able to step up last week and make a ton of plays, grabbing a ton of interceptions, you know, last week with Arjen and Montae it was really good to see, and I think it's going to spill in a positive way for us this week.

Q. Connor, based on some of the close games you guys have played and the way Ohio State is seemingly getting it rolling, looking at the point spread it's 13 points, and also based on your injury situation, whatever it is or isn't, not too many people seem to be giving you a guys a shot in this game. Do you like that, not like it? Fair, unfair?
CONNOR COOK: You know, same story, different week. You know, no one really gives us the kind of respect that we deserve that we think we need. Just another reason why we've said it thousands and thousands of times, it seems like, the chip on your shoulder. Provides more motivation to us. My shoulder is good, I'm going to be ready to go so there is no issue with that. I mean, I say just like I said, same story, different week.

People not giving us the respect, we like being in the situation we're in. We like being the underdog, because you know, majority of time, we come out on top. So we're going to embrace it, and we will be ready to go, that's for sure.

Q. You have a big smile on your face in hearing that question and the answer, you've gotten so accustomed to this, to hearing that same story?
DARIEN HARRIS: I just think he answered it very well.

Q. Jack, let's go to you: Are you insulted to be a 13-point underdog in this game?
JACK ALLEN: I don't know. We're used to it around here. Nothing new. So exactly what Connor said, really, there is nothing that's changed. Every big game that we're in we're always expected to lose, and feel like we surprise a lot of people and make a lot of people look foolish.

Q. I'm wondering if you kinda like that role?
JACK ALLEN: I do. I don't know, being the underdog is always fun, and usually when I watch sports or watch any sport-related activity, I always root for the underdog, for somebody to -- nobody is expecting them to win.

Q. Connor, have you thrown much since Saturday? Obviously you're not going to have any contact this week. Will your shoulder be up for this?
CONNOR COOK: Just, just gotta take it day by day, go out there and see how it feels and go from there.

Q. Just to follow-up, Connor, you mentioned people not giving you guys respect. I think a lot of that is tied to your shoulder, whatever is there. Do you get that? If you were 100% completely healthy, maybe it would be a different story, Dubai that?
CONNOR COOK: I really could care less about that question or that whole thing. We're a 13-point underdog any way you cut it, so that's that.

Q. Along those lines being the underdog, you guys are 5-1 in your last however many games, six, I guess, the math would be, against Top-10 teams. Why is that? Is it because you feed off that? What is it about you guys? Obviously everybody gets up for big games, but why have you guys been able to come out on top, almost every time?
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: I would say it's a combination of coaching and players doing their jobs. You know, we go out there, compete, at a high level, we do the best that we can each and every game, and that's all Coach asks of us, and I think with that being said, that's produced, you know, winning games for us because we understand that. We're going to keep competing until there is no more time left on the clock and offensively and defensively and even on the special teams we compete we compete day in and day out, and it's not only in games we do that in practice, also, so it puts us in a great situation where we can have a better outcome, and our team can be better successful.

Q. Coach called you guys -- young people resilient, after the Nebraska game, that you guys bounce back maybe better than the coaches do. But did that loss help you refocus your goals and regalvanize when you have something taken away, and you still have everything in your favor if you go out and do what you do?
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: I think it puts everything in perspective, and you understand that the game of football is win or lose, and it can happen any given day, but our goals are still ahead of us; we understand that. And we understand that if we keep competing at a high level and we keep winning, things will come out in our favor, and one loss won't make or break a season. So the biggest thing is, like I said, being resilient and bouncing back and understanding that there is still more football to be played, and if things roll our way, we will be in a great situation. We are not going to let one loss kill our season, and just have us go out the rest of the games and just say, let's just lose; it's over now!

So I think we have that mind-set to where we understand if we keep playing and do what we're supposed to be doing, then things will pan out in a way that is in our favor.

Q. Darien, or any of you, what's the Horse Shoe like to play in? Do you kind of like snake pits to go into, to play in?
DARIEN HARRIS: I've actually never been there. You know, we went our redshirt year, so I believe Shilique traveled there, and Joe who is in the house today, traveled there as well as an Ohio guy. But one thing I do know, is we played in every Big Ten stadium, played in extremely tough environments, and now that the younger guys have been to a place like Nebraska and been to a place like Michigan and played in the big house and know how it is in an environment like that, I don't think there is anything that they can't take and they can't compete in and play to a high level in.

So it just comes to a matter of this will be a new experience for all of us. We take the challenge as more fun times for us and we're already looking forward to it.

Q. (No microphone.)
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: I haven't played there, either. No, I didn't travel to that game.

DARIEN HARRIS: My bad, bro.

CONNOR COOK: I think Taiwan Jones might have gotten in on that one. He was the only one in our class who played there.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.

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