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December 1, 2015

Riley Bullough

Joel Heath

Jack Conklin

Aaron Burbridge

East Lansing, Michigan

THE MODERATOR: We have Riley Bullough, Aaron Burbridge, Jack Conklin and Joel Heath. Questions for the guys?

Q. For Riley and then Joel. Your Coach mentioned in his press conference that this game was being to be equal parts X's and O's but who wants it more and who has that desire. For you guys who have seen so much success here at MSU, how do you get down to that balance of playing a very complete football game but also just having that hunger, knowing that the playoff is on the line?
RILEY BULLOUGH: Yeah, especially against a team like Iowa, they're not going to go out there and trick you too much, they're kinda going to lineup and do what they do. So in that kind of game it's really who wants it more, who is going to play more intense, more physical, and I feel like on our team we're the most physical team, we're the toughest team out there, so I think we really like this match-up. We're excited to play. We know Iowa is a great team, but, you know, like I said, we're just excited to play and get after it Saturday night.

JOEL HEATH: Same concept what Riley said. I think it's important that both teams come with that physical mind-set when playing this game. I think the front seven is going to be the most important asset to the game, so whoever wins on both sides physically is going to be the most dominant team and come out with the win.

Q. Riley and Joel, what do they do in the running game? Seems like they were able to bust a lot of long ones this year?
RILEY BULLOUGH: Yeah, you know, watching film on them, it's pretty simple run schemes, inside/outside zone. What they do, they just keep pounding you, kinda like how our offense does. Against a team like that, you've got to stay disciplined, you've got to do your job, you've got to stay in your gap every play, because that's where they hurt people. I feel they kinda lull the other team to sleep and catch them in the wrong gaps and that's when they gush them for those explosive gains. So we've got to be disciplined. It's something we preach each and every day in practice. I feel like, for the most part, we have done a great job of that on defense so far this year so, I'm pretty confident on our end.

Q. Aaron, throughout the entire season and especially in that game against Penn State, you've taken your game to a whole other level this year. What has that been like and explain to me and kind of walk me through the double spin around move that you made in the last play?
AARON BURBRIDGE: It feels good, being able to make plays for my team and help this offense get going every week, but on that particular play, I just caught the ball, spinned -- my body did it on its own, it wasn't me, but that's it.

Q. Aaron, you faced Jordan Lewis this year, Will Likely, and now you've got Desmond King, where does he rank in that group and what challenges does he present?
AARON BURBRIDGE: He's one of the best corners in this conference. I look forward to the match-up this weekend. He's a good player, I'm a good player, we'll go at it this weekend.

Q. Jack, right after the game, talking to some of the guys, everyone kinda pointed to, like, yeah it was a great win, but there's a lot of things we can get better at. How close is this team to playing at that level that you want to play at?
JACK CONKLIN: I think it's all coming together, as you've seen the last few games. Offensively you're seeing everybody healthy again; we have the entire offensive line back, and that's huge for the run game. You've seen those young backs coming together. You don't know which one is going to be in, and it really doesn't matter because they're all playing so well. I think we're really close to breaking out. I think you're seeing this all come together, and I think you saw how the Ohio State game and the Penn State game. Finally everything is clicking, and we're excited to keep it going against Iowa.

Q. For Jack and Aaron, you guys have been good on third down this year. Can you attribute to what that success is and talk about what Connor does that makes him special on third down?
AARON BURBRIDGE: Our coaches and ourselves, we harp on third down, being able to convert on third down. Every third down we're in the huddle saying, you know, it's the "money down" gotta keep the sticks moving, so we just focus on trying to get the plays -- the right play and execute.

JACK CONKLIN: We also really harp on first down conversion rate, so our goal is to get 4 yards that first down every time. That makes it more manageable if we get that goal down, we are left with third and 3 to third and 6, trying to stay out of the those third and long situations is best, but to see Connor out there when we do put him in that position, he's making those throws, making it to Bur out there, making those catches, and you see R.J. and MacGarrett doing a great job.

Q. Riley, Coach was talking about these guys want it all and the goal is a national championship. I think there are a lot of programs that shy away from doing that and say we just want to focus on today, and that hasn't seemed to be your style. Why does that mentality work for this team and how long has that been the approach around here?
RILEY BULLOUGH: Yeah, you know, Coach D., he's a coach that tells it how it is, and we appreciate that as players. We feel like if we look at our goals and we say we want to be champions, that helps us understand the amount of work that is needed to go into that kind of season. So, yeah, like you said, it's not as much as our guys, one game at a time, because we know it one game at a time, we're mature enough to know each and every week you've gotta to go out and play as hard as you can, but in the end you gotta know what you're working for. We're working for a championship; it's no secret. We talk about it every week. So, you know, it's time to be about it this weekend at Indianapolis, and we couldn't be more excited.

Q. Jack, I know you guys as an offensive line are sort of built with great depth and you've rotated a lot of guys in but how much of a strain was the -- was it on the depth of the offensive line this year, maybe more than you would have expected, and how did you think you guys survived that to this point?
JACK CONKLIN: I think definitely going into the beginning of the season we didn't that depth yet, there were a lot of younger guys who had a chance to learn and possibly step many into those positions. I think the injuries led to them being forced into that and they did a great job and as you can see we have come out 11-1, and credit to those guys being able to step up.

I think now at this point of the season that we do have everybody healthy again those guys have now had those reps and have really matured so now we have got continue to the point in the season where we have the depth that we have had in past years.

Q. Jack and Riley, you guys have been counted out a time or two over your guys' career, especially you, Jack, as a walk-on, knowing what disrespect can do and the chip it can give you on your shoulder, with you guys being favored in this game, how do you approach Iowa, making sure you don't give them the same sort of fuel, and Riley after.
JACK CONKLIN: Well, I like to think of Iowa as a similar team to us, in that a lot of people don't talk about them as much throughout the conference, and we want to be that solid -- that pounding team. Iowa has had that title for a long time, and we want to prove that we're the more physical team, and I think that's what is riding on this game, that's the chip on the shoulder. We want to know known as the most physical team in the conference and show that on Saturday.

Q. Jack, this one is for you. It was once said that you Shilique beat you about a million times in practice. I kind of think that's a hypothetical number, but it kinda seems real with the way that you look. You look like that type of player that would lose to him. What do you have to -- you know what? Next question: Burb -- yeah, I'm not even going to go to you. Joel --
JACK CONKLIN: I'm just going to cut you off there -- you don't see many flags in practice on those off sides! (Laughter.)

Q. Listen, the ref doesn't lie. I'm just saying.
JACK CONKLIN: I guess we're finding that out on Saturday.

Q. All right. Next question: Joel, I heard that Shilique is a very hand some guy, and that it was once said that?
JOEL HEATH: I suppose.

Q. Let me finish the question: It was once said that he walked up to you and batted an eye and you fainted! (Laughter.) True or false?
JACK CONKLIN: I can say I saw that.

Q. You saw that?
JACK CONKLIN: I saw that!

JOEL HEATH: Definitely false, definitely false.

Q. Coming from the wandering bear and -- I'll pass the microphone on.

Q. Riley, if you could talk about what Burbridge has done in practice. We've seen him on Saturday but you've seen him throughout his career and the plays he's made, and, Aaron, talk about the foot injury and how devastating that was and what you had to do to get back to form.
RILEY BULLOUGH: I think Burb and all the guys practice hard, and for an elite team that's important because you play how you practice during the week, and they make plays against us in practice, and we make plays against them, so it's a battle each and every day. Believe it or not, this deep in the season we still go one's versus one's quite a bit in practice, which a lot of teams don't do, so I think that just helps us on game days, and just that mentality has really gotten us to where we are today.

AARON BURBRIDGE: I broke my foot during spring, but luckily it was early in spring ball, so I had time to recover so I could come back in time for camp, so first day in camp, I was back, and I just didn't lose a step and just kept playing.

Q. Joel, in 2013 you guys had a number of guys that had played for Big Ten Championships in '10 and '11. What do you remember from those guys on the previous teams and what lessons do you pass on to the younger guys?
JOEL HEATH: I think the biggest thing is to be hungry, no matter the circumstances of win or loss. In a Big Ten Championship, it's just to continue to have that drive first, second, third, fourth quarter, I think that's the biggest thing to pass on to them is that you now have the experience going this year into it, so now you can think about next year it's expected that you repeat the same thing, so just that confidence, giving them confidence that next year you come into it with the mind-set that that's the objective and the goal that you can achieve.

Q. Is there any one player's lesson or message to you from before that stood out?
JOEL HEATH: I think Tyler Hoover was one of the biggest ones. He had a lot of success at Michigan State as he was here with many different championships, and I think him talking to me about the expectations for the prior season was always big for me.

Q. Riley, how much did you play in 2013 in the Indy game, were you on special teams?
RILEY BULLOUGH: Yeah I was a special teams guy that year.

Q. How much dialogue have you had with Max and what he's told you about, because he's been there and done that about what you're facing this weekend?
RILEY BULLOUGH: We talked on Sunday about the game and he always just talked about just understanding the expectations and understand, you know, there is nothing wrong with having pressure on you, because we know there is pressure, but what he always would say is he likes pressure, everyone in our family likes pressure, because it makes us better. So if you can understand that and control it, that's when really you can play your best.

Q. Jack, I'm wondering the same thing I asked Connor, if you've reflected at all from the time you came here as a walk-on when other people didn't want you including Michigan and everything that's happened to you in three years and everything you have experienced here, if you've thought back on that at all?
JACK CONKLIN: Definitely I think about it every day. That's my motivation to work harder and keep preparing every week. It's just how close it is to being, you know, back there. I think just -- that's the chip on the shoulder mentality that Coach D. has built around here, and I think you see that with all sorts of guys, Darqueze, Trae Waynes, Le'Veon countless guys on our team that even now -- those are the type of guys, and that's the motivation that our team has and that's why we've been so successful.

Q. Riley and Joel, getting the defensive perspective on Gerald Holmes. You guys tackle him a lot in practice and in camp how tough is it to tackle him, and what have you seen from the way he's emerged --
JOEL HEATH: Well, he's an extremely strong runner, first off, and he's developed a great deal of vision now, kind of going into the season, I think that was the one component that he was missing in the beginning. But I can see the vision that he has, on top of his strength in his legs, and I think that's always been the biggest thing for him is getting up field and making sure that he gets those extra yards, so that was the biggest thing, improvement that I've seen in him leading into the last regular season game.

RILEY BULLOUGH: Yeah, you know, just him being a tough, determined runner is what has carried him this far. It's good to see -- I think he's matured a lot in the last couple of months, which is another good thing, you know, just him never going down and keeping his feet moving, what you need to do in the Big Ten, especially with our offense, pro style, we run it a lot. So when you can get those extra yards, that's really what's going to propel you from being a back-up to being a potential starter, and I think that's what he's done for himself, so I'm happy for him.

Q. Joel, seems like the offensive line over the past few weeks has gelled and gotten everybody healthy. Have you noticed in practice when that really kicked in and when those guys started to get that chemistry back that they had in the past?
JOEL HEATH: Definitely during game time. I think those were kinda statement moments when we noticed that everybody was kind of in gear and in tune when we were playing against them as a defense. So you can definitely tell in terms of their intensity and how physical they come off the ball against us, and it's kinda that confidence that they previously had that they now have again so it's good to see that and that it's back!

Q. (No microphone.)
JOEL HEATH: I would say three weeks ago that they got geared up with that same, confident mind-set.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.

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