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October 27, 2007

Kirk Ferentz

COACH FERENTZ: I thought all three of our specialists did a great job, Daniel Murray, Ryan Donahue and Austin Signor making a tackle, but those three guys did a great job. It was obviously a hard-fought ball game, and credit to Michigan State.
Mark has done a great job with that program in a short time, and we didn't put up much of a fight in that first half; it was a beating that we were taking. Just obviously very happy and more so proud of the way our guys came back and played the second half and in the overtimes. We competed.
Been saying all along we're not the prettiest car on the lot, that's for sure, but we've got a strong engine, and our guys are working hard, getting great leadership from all of our players, and the attitude -- I've said that all along the attitude starts at the top.
Our seniors are doing an excellent job there, so just proud of the way they competed. We're in a game, and it's going to be a hard one, hard for us to win, we knew that. But that's why you work, you know, can't say enough about the way the guys competed today, just really happy for our players to have some success. They needed that.

Q. What did you say at the end of the first half?
COACH FERENTZ: There was one call that we felt got us that -- the officiating had nothing to do with us getting pounded. We were getting pounded, basically. Take our three kickers off the field that first half, and it's hard to find anything we were doing better than they were doing, and credit goes to them. We didn't look like a football team, and they did, and that's not a good feeling. But they missed a call -- doesn't mean they think they missed it, but I think they probably thought I missed a few, too. Good thing they're not allowed to get interviewed and say that.

Q. (Away from microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, I think it's representative of our seniors, but to understate what he did -- he played a tough ball game in that second half, and his teammates were helping him. He competed. He's not 100%, but we're at the end of October, we're almost in November. He competed, and that's what you hope your seniors do, and he's given us all he's got.
Guys like Tom Busch, those guys are doing a great job. And when you have that, and then we have a lot of young guys -- obviously more than we choose to, but they're jumping in, and I thought Ballard, Clayborn, Jacody, I think all of those guys gave us good play on defense. They're making mistakes, but they're playing hard, and we need that right now.
Drew Gardner jumped in there after Fletcher jumped in there, and we're running out of guys. And the only thing I'm mad about is Pugh jumps in there and runs in there and thinks he did something. The other guys do the work, and he gets all the -- now he'll be holding a press conference.

Q. (Away from microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ: That would have been -- it looked good to us. I thought Ryan really -- we felt coming in -- every game for us is going to be tough, so special teams are critical, and we're young at those positions. I thought he -- he is gaining ground every week. He seems to be growing a little bit and looking more confident, more mature out there, playing more mature, and he came up big for us today.
I thought he helped to keep us in the ball game. Signor has been doing a good job, and Daniel Murray gives you a good feeling. He missed that had one, but he made the other two, and they weren't routine, as you mentioned. So all three of those guys are thinking right right now and concentrating, and that's really good.

Q. Talk about the momentum going into the second half.
COACH FERENTZ: I think our players made up their minds. They made up their minds they were going to go out and -- I'm sure we've looked worse. We could start ranking those things, but I can't remember us playing just -- we were getting handled. And Michigan State is a good ball club, don't take that wrong, but we weren't putting up a fight, and that's hard to stomach.

Q. Halftime, had the players had enough?
COACH FERENTZ: You hope they have, but you never know until you get out there. I was hoping we were ready in the first half, and it wasn't true, and it's my job to get them ready. So a little disappointing, but the moral of the story is if you compete and work hard, maybe something good will happen. I know this: If you don't, it won't.
So it's just the way we're built right now. We know it's going to be tough, and I've been saying all along it's a fun group to be around. Every day in practice, meetings -- you guys don't, but we see them on a daily basis, and I think, you know, you get a little -- you get a sense of what I was talking about today. I think you can see why; these guys are fighters.

Q. Albert Young, 179 yards.
COACH FERENTZ: That's huge. And we don't have a lot of fire power in our offense right now. We don't have many veteran guys, and Damion gave us a spark when he gets injured, so it wasn't like we had a lot of options, and he competed. He really competed, and I think that's representative of the kind of guy he is, kind of football player he is. A huge play was the completion, Jake Christensen to Chaney. That was a huge play, and we're not exactly a second and 20, third and 20 ball club. So for us to convert that, I think it was -- second and 20, right?
But it was a huge play for us. A lot of guys doing a lot of good things, and we made our share of mistakes early, came back and looked like we cleaned some stuff up.

Q. Was there a conscious decision made at halftime to change the game plan?
COACH FERENTZ: No, I think we -- the decision was stick with the plan. It was hard to evaluate what we did in the first half. We were three and out every time but once, and sometimes we were three and backwards. So hard to evaluate what we were doing and plan -- part of the plan coming in was do the math. If we can, we've got to try to run it, and that was kinda it. So we had the possession right off the bat, our defense was three and out.
They did a great job. Felt like if we could score and get it to 7, then you don't have to start doing ridiculous things, and fortunately we got there.

Q. How did Pugh end up in the backfield?
COACH FERENTZ: It was a really good called by Ken. When you get down on the goal line, you know, there are certain things you can do in a goal line defense; there aren't a lot of different options, but there are certain things you can do. But we hit the right play at the right time, and the guys executed it everything. Pugh didn't do anything, but the other guys did a great job.

Q. Why was he in the lineup?
COACH FERENTZ: Albert came out; he had a stinger. It wasn't by choice, I can promise you that. In fact, I was going to burn a time out just to get him back in there.

Q. When you talk about the defense, specifically in the fourth quarter, it looked like they were having a ball, like they relished the chance to be out there with the game on the line.
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, it was the opposite of the first half. We didn't look like we wanted to play the first half. I don't want to direct it at any one person, our team looked indifferent, and we started clicking in the second half. And it starts up front, you know.
If the guys up front are working, that gives the team a little energy, and we were doing the things we were supposed to do and, you know, the other part of the -- the crowd got into it, which, boy, they're fantastic. But we understand it's our job to get them into the game, and we didn't give them much to cheer about in the first half. It's fun when you get that momentum going, and we haven't done a lot of that this year as a team, and it was great to see that start.

Q. The crowd got most excited when you got excited.
COACH FERENTZ: It was a pretty boring first half then, wasn't it? That was bad.

Q. Looked like the line started to stay with their blocks in the third quarter?
COACH FERENTZ: They're young, you know, and I thought they stuck with it. After that first half it would be easy to get discouraged, because there wasn't much we could point to that said, boy, this looked good. First down we let their nose tackle run in there, Baldwin. He's a good player, but I don't think we put a hand on him. Those things magnify situations. But to our guys credit, they kept playing and settled down, and I thought they started to get into a groove -- I wouldn't say a rhythm, I don't know if we're there yet, but they were starting to enjoy the game.

Q. The guys in overtime, like Chaney, Pugh and Gardner making the winning tackle. Is that what your team exemplifies?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah. Gardner is our third option at left corner, and we're nervous about going to two sometimes, but we went to three, and he stepped in there and did a good job. We were down to -- we started out without Kenny at the right end on defense, and Chad Geary goes out there, Clayborn is out there, working in and out, doing a good job, Reisner as our second tight end right now, and -- a lot of young guys, and I like the way they're improving.
We were pleased with that. We like their attitude, they're working hard, and they're starting to act like maybe they belong out there, which is good to see. Again, that pass, the Chaney to -- Jake Christensen to Chaney was huge for us. Take a penalty like that, and it's like, gee whiz, especially with an offense that doesn't have much confidence right now. But those plays can give us confidence, and everybody is working together, young guys are part of the equation, not by choice but by necessity. In some cases by choice, but -- I'm happy -- I thought Ballard and Coleman both did a good job. There are some good things going on out there.

Q. Drew Gardner, a walk-on, should feel good about his contribution today.
COACH FERENTZ: He ought to feel good about it; our whole team should feel good about it. They worked hard for this. It's kind of like everybody else -- Drew is a guy that comes to work every day, doesn't say much, doesn't draw attention to himself, except in a positive way. He's a hard-working guy. He's not the biggest, not the fastest, but he's a good football player and obviously believes in himself, and he jumped in there and played good football.
So for us to have chances to be successful -- we've talked about that. We need everybody making a contribution just because we're a little thin in some spots. So it's great to see. It's a great illustration for the whole team to look at and be aware of.

Q. Did he come to you and wanted to be part of this team? Is that how that worked?
COACH FERENTZ: Uh-huh. Yep, I'm not exactly sure -- Darrell knows -- I think it was a fourth connection, but it wasn't like he was a recruited walk-on. I never asked; maybe I should have, but he popped up on our team one day, and I'm glad he's here, because he's been a great guy to have on our football team.

Q. (Away from microphone.)
COACH FERENTZ: Lobby for anything if you're going to talk to me right now. I'm not going to be available after this is over.

Q. Klinkenborg, did he hurt his hand?
COACH FERENTZ: He has a fracture; hopefully he will be able to play next week. He went back in there trying, and he couldn't compete, bumpy out there, rough out there. He's had a tough year.

Q. How do you feel over all with this win, Coach?
COACH FERENTZ: You know, I'm thinking -- I don't want to say huge, because that will be the head line, but it's obviously very big. All wins are great, believe me, but when you've got to work for it and fight for it, which we did today, you know, you backtrack to the last however many weeks we've been going, there haven't been a lot of routine ground balls.
It's been a tough season. We've had a lot of things take place. So you watch the guys, the way they're working off -- we get to see them on a daily basis, and, you know, you're hopeful at some point they get a little reward for their efforts. No matter what -- both teams should have walked off feeling good about the way they competed. But you get to a point where you've got to have -- it sure helps when you get some reward, and I'm thrilled and, again, especially for the seniors. I'm thrilled for all the guys, really.

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