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December 1, 2015

Jack Allen

Darien Harris

Connor Cook

Shilique Calhoun

East Lansing, Michigan

THE MODERATOR: We have Jack Allen, Shilique Calhoun, Connor Cook and Darien Harris. Questions?

Q. Connor and Shilique, you both played in that 2013 big championship game. You know what victory tastes like in a game like this, so just heading back to Lucas Oil, obviously a different team, different team for you guys, but how good does it feel to be heading back knowing you can do this because you've done it before?
CONNOR COOK: Feels great. You know, looking back at all the wins we've had here, as a unit, I think that victory over Ohio State in 2013 was one of the sweetest ones, just being able to win your conference is such a fulfilling feeling. So having another opportunity to go back there and do the same thing, we're really fired up about it, and we're just super anxious to get back.

SHILIQUE CALHOUN: Kind of going off of what Connor was saying, I was kinda talking to a couple of the seniors the other day and just explaining our ratio for the Big Ten Championship and making it there has been three out of five years, and that's pretty amazing, you know, for this team, seeing where it's grown and how far we've taken it, and what we have been a part of.

It is an amazing feeling but it would be a lot better if we win, so that's the focal point.

Q. Darien, after the 2013 game, you were not yet if a starting role and everything else. You talked about wanting that -- waiting for that day. What does it feel like for you now that you are going there. You are the man, you are the starter. It's a different mind-set for you?
DARIEN HARRIS: Yeah, for sure, 2013 was kinda relief duty, kinda coming in when Taiwan needed a breather, and now I'm the one, the man in that role now, so gotta go in with a different mind-set, gotta go in knowing I'm one of the leaders on this team, along with the rest of the seniors, and just understand that my play on the field affects a lot more of the outcome of the game, a lot more than it did in 2013.

Q. Jack, were you down at the 2011 game? Did you travel down with the team?

Q. What were your first memories of Lucas Oil and playing in that environment and the same from 2013, too?
JACK ALLEN: Going from 2011 to 2013 I would say the guys that had traveled were kinda more used to it, but when we first got there, I've never really been in a stadium like at that, and it's something I've never really seen before but it's a surreal experience.

Q. Anything about the stadium stand out in your memory?
JACK ALLEN: I remember everybody was taking pictures next to Peyton Manning's locker; I remember that. I was two lockers away, so no big deal. (Laughter.)

Q. Connor, when you look at Iowa on film, does Desmond King stand out, and how would you compare him to some of the other great corner backs you've gone against?
CONNOR COOK: Yeah, he leads the Big Ten in interceptions, and he's a good player. Looking at him, he's got some good size, he's got speed, everything you want in a corner back. If there is anything that I would compare him to -- from guys that we've played, I think he's like Likely from Maryland, but he's just bigger. Likely is kind of smaller, has the speed, can break on balls, can break on practices, can break it up, you know, anytime he really wants to, and I see that in King, but King just has the size. Likely is 5-8 or 5-9, King is around 6-1, 6-2, so he's a relatively bigger corner, but it's just something -- we have great receivers so we are looking forward to the match-up, and I would say for sure looking at their defense, Iowa's defense, I think their secondary is for sure their strong point, their strong suit.

Q. Shilique, in talking to you after the game on the field, trying to elicit some excitement out of you, you were like, "Yeah, we have a lot of things to get better at," that was the first thing out of your mouth. After the watching the film on Sunday and going over things, how close is this team to being where you want it to be?
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: It really comes down to the inches, so -- and when you evaluate the film you understand that those inches can come on any given play, you know, with a little more effort or a little better technique. So you just see how close we are to success and the biggest thing is to make sure that we still have the mind-set that we're chasing it. We want to obtain success, and we haven't arrived, and I think that this team has always felt that way, that we still have a lot to do here, but, yeah, you watch film and you just see that we're making our way. Each and every week, we're fighting and we're scratching to keep coming up the charts and keep being a productive team.

Q. Jack and Shilique, for all the big-time games you guys have played in, the big-pressure games it seems like you play loose in those games. What does your head coach, Dantonio do, and thinking of the touchdown that Jack scored and stuff like that, that keeps you guys lose and entertained?
JACK ALLEN: I would say like the night before the game he does a good job of keeping everybody relaxed. We have a team movie and you kinda get to do your own thing a little bit but at the same time you're focus and had going through meetings and stuff like that. On game day I think he tries to keep it loose, but sometimes that's hard when you're the head guy, but I think he does a good job of it.

SHILIQUE CALHOUN: Jack is like a personal masseuse, so he goes around to everybody's room and gives them massage and gets us ready for the game and that -- he only does it before big games so, thanks, man!

JACK ALLEN: No problem. (Laughter.) It's just my hands and wrists.

Q. For Jack and Darien, Jack first: Going into the Ohio State game, and following that game, you talked about how you were largely counted out. Now this week, Michigan State is the favorite in this game. How do you make sure -- you guys know what you do with the disrespect for -- how do you make sure you don't disrespect an undefeated team going in?
JACK ALLEN: I think on the senior leaders on this team we need to instill in the young guys that if we work hard all week and prepare how we're supposed to and play hard for 60 minutes, we can accomplish our goals that we started talking about back in January after the Cotton Bowl. And going through winter conditioning and spring ball and summer workouts, this is what we have been talking about ever since then. If we show up and do our job and compete, we can achieve our goals.

DARIEN HARRIS: Definitely agree. I mean, I think anybody on the team would be a fool to go in and take an undefeated team lightly. They're 12-0 for a reason. They have done a great job this season in all facets of the game and obviously they have been really successful, and at the end of the day both teams are playing for a shot to go to the playoffs, so I'm expecting a hard-fought battle. I don't think anybody on this team would take it lightly, and you've got to know how to play as the underdog and as a favorite.

We don't really care what we are in each game. There is going to be people that think we will win and there's going to be people that think we will lose, but what only matters is the guys in our team room, the guys that will be playing the game, and at the end of the day everybody's got to understand what's on the line.

Q. Darien, from a linebacker's standpoint when you go against a defense that is like your offense, trying to be balanced and get as much pass and run as you can, split that, is there a different or do you have to change your keys when you know you have responsibilities in both pass and run support? How much difference is it when you play a balanced team versus someone that's got more run or pass?
DARIEN HARRIS: I think you have to be a lot more disciplined in what you do. You can't guess, as you can do with a team that's heavy run or heavy pass. I think what helps us out is Iowa's offense is modeled and vice versa a lot, you know, based on ours, so going against our offense, day in and day out, going against our offense in the spring and in fall camp I think helps us a lot, and the fact that Iowa hasn't really changed, you know, since Coach D. has been the head coach here.

So we've got a lot of film on Iowa, and vice versa, and you've just got to go in there with the mind-set it's going to be a hard-nosed, smash-mouth kind of game of football. They do a great job with zone blocking, their line is extremely solid, and they have a rotation of running backs, and they're all capable and able at what they do, and they can throw the ball down the field as well, so you've got to be disciplined in what you do, especially defensively, and go in knowing it's going to be a really hard-fought, hard-nosed game of football.

Q. For Jack and Darien, both, you as seniors have been there, you know it's a different atmosphere, but because you have that experience you guys have young guys that you play with. What will you say to them to prepare them for a new type of experience like Lucas Oil in this atmosphere?
DARIEN HARRIS: Kinda the same thing we've told them all year, the same thing we told them when we went to the "big house" or Columbus or Nebraska; it's a big game but live in the moment, enjoy the moment, and play loose out there. They will be able to warm up obviously in the stadium, have our walk-through the day before, and I'm sure it will be a new experience for them, just like it was for guys, you know, especially like Jack and Shilique and Connor that started in 2013, but we had great leaders then, and we have great leaders now just to let them know it's another game, just enjoy the opportunity and he embrace the moment.

JACK ALLEN: For me I would say stay loose, enjoy the game. It's something we have been working on and a lot of the guys have been doing since they were 5 or 6 years old. It's football, and it is what it is, but the biggest thing is just go out and do your job and beat the guy in front of you and win those individual battles.

Q. Connor, Ohio State week, as good as you were preparing or trying to get healthy to play, what was the process like for you of helping the other two guys in the event they were going to have to play which they did?
CONNOR COOK: Be another set of eyes, be another coach out there, and every time they would come off to the sideline we would talk about what they saw, I would give my opinion, say what I saw, and we just all talked about the play and the series that just went down on the field.

The best thing I can do, like I just said, is just be a big cheerleader, a guy who has another set of eyes looking at the defense, trying to help out the other guys when they would walk off. But that's the only thing I can really do.

Q. (No microphone.)
CONNOR COOK: Not really. Tyler O'Connor, he's a smart guy, been in the system for a while, he is knows how to break down film, same thing with Damian, we all watch film together, leading up before meetings, then during meetings obviously we're all in the same room watching the tape, and then we all get together and watch tape with our offensive coordinator as well, so they do a great job during the week of preparing.

It's all on their shoulders, but I was just out there, I think, if anything I was just out in practice me trying to help them, encourage them, tell them about the reprogressions and what to expect defensively from Ohio State.

Q. One for Shilique and one for Connor. Shilique, the Heisman Trophy vote is still wide open. Have you heard any of the "Jack Allen for Heisman" hype?
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: I've been trying to get him out there. I'm on his campaign. We're making our way, gotta get him a couple more touches, but obviously you see what he can do with the ball when it's in his hands, so, you know, vote for Allen.

Q. Connor, don't answer why but I was looking at the 2013 Notre Dame game last night, and I'm wondering if you've reflected on your life and the magic carpet ride you've been on since that day in South Bend?
CONNOR COOK: Not really, I try and take it day by day and obviously when you do think back and the long road that we have here, not just me but us together as a whole unit, going back from 2013 we've won a lot of games and we've played in a lot of big-time games, and we've had a lot of great moments, but I think just looking back, you're just thankful and just glad to be in the position that we're in, you know, being able to play for another conference title and an opportunity to go to the college football playoff.

Q. Connor and Jack, what have you guys seen from Gerald Holmes in the last few weeks, obviously going from 3 to 1 in the depth chart and really becoming the main guy in that running game right now?
CONNOR COOK: Yeah, I just see a lot of confidence with him. Earlier in the year you're a young back, trying to learn protections, you're trying to learn, you know, you gotta know where to lineup in certain formations, if you're going to go out in a pass route, you've got to know when the line changes protections, if I change protection you gotta know who you have to block in certain circumstances like that, and then you've just got to try and develop confidence. The main thing I have seen with him, the over the last couple of week, he's just so comfortable in his role, and the other major thing is just the way he runs. He runs so aggressively, and he never stops his feet.

I remember watching the Ohio State game, and he took Joey Bosa for a ride. You look at Gerald, Gerald is a relatively taller back, but he's not super thick. And for a guy with his size to take a guy like Joey Bosa for a ride, it goes to show he never stops his feet, and when he never stops his feet, he can drag along big-time players, a guy like Joey Bosa, who is, you know, close to 300-pounds, just to get some extra yards after the carry.

JACK ALLEN: I would say we don't have that one back pretty much all seen that got all the reps, so all these guys are splitting time and trying to learn, and sometimes it's hard when you're not in there all the time to, like, learn and pay attention all the time, and that's kinda the same with "O" linemen you're not in there it's kinda hard to pay attention, but with him I would say all the running backs have just been constantly trying to learn more and more, and after plays he will come up to me or Connor or somebody on the offense and be like, hey, what happened on this, or why did we check to this, and consistently trying to get better day in and day out, and even when he makes mistakes, he keeps come back and keeps running hard, and that's what you want in a young back.

Q. Darien, last time you guys were in this game, the Rose Bowl was kind of the prize at the end, this year knowing it's probably the playoff, does that change the motivation, knowing that the national title is on the line?
DARIEN HARRIS: Not really. First and foremost we wanted to be East Champions, and we were able to get that done, and the second stage is being Big Ten Champions, and we are just taking it one game at a time, but we do know there is a higher goal to reach, which is going to the playoffs, but in 2013 the highest goal for us to reach was the Rose Bowl, save the National Championships, so that was the main goal, and that was a huge goal, and we were extremely excited when we got that opportunity.

And now we know with playoff lingering and the opportunity to go there, the motivation is going to be the same as 2013. We are going to be just as hungry, just as those seniors were, especially for us guys sitting up here, knowing that each game is coming down to our last game wearing the green and white, so knowing that the playoffs is right there for us, obviously gives us motivation, just like it did with the Rose Bowl, and we're really looking forward to the opportunity.

Q. Connor, this question is for you. You had a chance to meet Miranda McCoy after the game against Ohio State. Can you talk about what that meant for you, and the big picture, you also wore a "Chad Tough" sticker during that game. Can you talk about how the off-the-field -- how you have an impact off the field as well as on?
CONNOR COOK: Talking about Miranda, first of all she was an Ohio State fan, and just by watching me play she started rooting for the Spartans, which is crazy to think that just by playing a sport you can have an impact on someone's life like herself. She was paralyzed in a car accident in high school, and she kinda reached out to me, would tweet me every once in a while, and I followed her back and she would message me sometimes and wish me good luck before games, and to finally meet her after the Ohio State game was awesome. She got to meet my mom and dad and sister, and they shared a moment before the game just getting to know her and her family.

It's just crazy to think I go out there -- I play a sport that thousands of other people play, and to just impact a girl's life like that, and for her to find joy in watching me play and be inspired just by me playing a game is kinda mind blowing to me. So being able to meet her and develop a relationship, and take our relationship another step farther with getting to know her and the way that her life is, it just means so much that I can impact someone like that. It makes me feel really good.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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