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BIG TEN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: IOWA vs MICHIGAN STATE


December 5, 2015


Shilique Calhoun

Connor Cook

Mark Dantonio


Indianapolis, Indiana

Michigan State 16
Iowa 13


THE MODERATOR: We'll have coach make an opening statement, then go to questions for him and Shilique and Connor.
COACH DANTONIO: Great job by our football team. Outstanding job just in terms of just staying with it I thought. Tough game. Credit Iowa. I thought it was an outstanding football game, very well‑played. Tough going out there on both sides of the ball.
We found a way. We found a way. Great drive at the end of the game, nine‑minute drive, clutch plays by our quarterback, defensively played lights out. So I'm just so happy.
As I said out there, I really believe, this is our third time winning the championship, third time being here, two times winning it here, there's no question in my mind this is a special place down here in Indy, the championship game. We come here with special people all the time. It becomes a very, very special time for us.
I want to congratulate our football team and all that they've accomplished.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Mark and Shilique, Connor not clearly 100%, but the guts he showed that final drive. What does that mean to you as a team and a coach displaying that kind of leadership and guts?
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: He looked 100% to me. If he wasn't, he did a good job of disguising it.
We're just tough all around. Guys that want to make plays and also want to be out there on the field to contribute for the team.
I thank him for being out there, making those big plays and also fighting through adversity.
COACH DANTONIO: Really, when you look at that football game from a coach's perspective, Iowa did a nice job I thought taking a lot of our wideouts out of the game, five‑under, two deep, different things they were doing. Playing tight coverage. Things happen. But big plays. Big third‑down plays almost constantly throughout.
We got set back a couple times with penalties. Connor would make a play. Burbridge would make a play. Price would make a play. King would make a play. Big plays, big catches. I thought our football team did an outstanding job.
12‑1, you cannot argue with that. You cannot argue with the way we played down the stretch in football games.

Q. Connor, how did you feel out there? Looked like you would fake your arm at times. Also that fourth‑down run, what's going through your mind?
CONNOR COOK: Obviously I wasn't 100%. I got a grit it out being in a situation like this, playing for a championship. You have to go out there and compete.
There are times when I'm not sitting around, I'm not keeping it loose and it gets cold, the first couple passes are kind of sore. But once I get into a rhythm, it loosened up.
But, I mean, we're so blessed to be here. For me and Shilique being seniors, coming back here, with unfinished business, all the stuff we talked about earlier in the year, it's all talk until you actually go out and do it. For us to go out there and do it, Shilique leading the defense, me leading the offense, to finally be sitting here 2015 Big Ten champs is pretty surreal.
COACH DANTONIO: I looked at him in the huddle, I said, Can you do this, get it up in there?
He said, Yeah, I could get it.
We went with that particular football play. It's been very productive.

Q. Coach, that big run by Connor, the LJ Scott run, that entire drive exhibited the toughness that was predicated on the play of your offensive line. Seemed like they had their strongest drive on that line. Guys are falling, coming out, in. Tell us about what the offensive line was able to do on that final drive.
COACH DANTONIO: We weren't getting big runs, they were four, five, three, that type of thing. I sort of felt like No.3, LJ Scott, was in rhythm. He found a crease, he'd get north. Like I said, we had a couple big plays from our quarterback, Connor, throwing the football, et cetera, running with it.
I think you threw one pass in nine minutes maybe, is that right? One too many maybe, I don't know.
But big, big third‑down catch on that play by Burbridge. Threaded the needle, 50/50 catch.

Q. Coach, your three biggest conference wins this year all came at the very end. Can you explain the ability of this team to wait out the opponent until the very end.
COACH DANTONIO: Well, I just think we have resilience. I said all along, this football team, we know how to win. Connor is 34‑4 maybe, something like that. Maybe we're 35, 36.
Incidentally, our senior class, congratulations. The all‑time winningest class in the history of Michigan State football, which breaks the record of last year. We won a lot of football games in the last three years. Really if you look since 2010, we've won a ton of football games.
Our football team knows how to win. We can play it out. We don't count ourselves out. Things aren't going so well, we keep playing, as evidenced really by the football game in general.

Q. Coach, on the last drive, did you decide you were going to pound or did it evolve, or did you plan it that way?
COACH DANTONIO: Coach Warner did a great job calling it, with help from the other offensive coaches. As it got down inside the 10, I was saying, Pound it, take the game and the clock, which I think is a big thing. If you can run the clock out, 24 seconds at the end of the game, 14, whatever it is, so we got the game and the clock.
We did it slowly, methodically, didn't want to really take the ball off the line of scrimmage in those situations because we were getting positive yardage. That's a credit to our offensive line, our tightends, our fullbacks and the way our runningbacks were running the football, as well as our quarterback running it.

Q. That league, can you talk about the 85‑yard touchdown pass from Iowa, what the mentality was after that happened.
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: Coach always preaches adversity. He says we're going to face it. We understand that as a football team. The biggest thing is how do you fight back against adversity. He says weather the storm, beat the storm.
At that moment we were weathering the storm. We bounced back and made sure we stopped their offense, didn't allow them to move the ball any more. Just made sure we did everything we could on defense to make sure they didn't have any productive plays.
But it was a great play by their receiver. Our DB was in great position. Just a great ball. Something that we're going to have to work on. They did a great job, and I think our DB did also.

Q. Coach, how does it feel to be in the playoffs?
COACH DANTONIO: We're not in yet, so we're just enjoying the night as Big Ten champions. I would expect it just gives us another thing to maybe celebrate tomorrow. That's the way I'm looking at it (laughter).

Q. Mark, you said on the podium after the Rose Bowl and said, Completion. That was a seven‑year journey. What is this? This puts you in the final four. A watershed moment in a lot of ways.
COACH DANTONIO: I don't really know. I tell our football team, Dream big. We have world‑class athletes on our football team. They're capable of so much, especially when they believe those things.
I think, like I said before, we know how to win. There's a belief system. I've said it every single year. We have great chemistry in our football team. That's provided by our seniors. That's provided by our upperclassmen who have been here to this game before. Because of that chemistry, it creates energy, positive energy. That energy goes a long way. When you got to reach down when things aren't quite going so well for you, you got to reach down and you got to find something to grind out, to fight back in some way, we've been able to do that.
Championship football teams do that. They do. They just know how to do it.

Q. Connor, the Most Valuable Player award was escorted off the field by two teammates that line up in front of you. Could you describe how you decided to make that gesture for them.
CONNOR COOK: I mean, there's no question anyone who was watching that game, they deserved that award. For them to come up big like that in the last drive, 22‑play drive, 21 were runs. Whoever was talking about earlier, guys falling down, guys hurt, rotating more guys. Guy who was just on the sideline hurt ends up coming back in.
They grinded it out, opened up the hole for LJ. They put the team on their back that last series. Whoever was watching, I mean, honestly, couldn't be more obvious they deserved that award. They have done great all year, keeping me protected, allowing me to go through my reads and stuff. There's no surprise for them to come up big like that in the end.

Q. Coach, the idea that your program doesn't get the respect that it deserves has become part of your public identity. Now you're going to the playoffs. When is your wait for respect going to be over?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, I think that's you guys saying that. I think we get plenty of respect. We just play and we just go about our business. Maybe we're not as flamboyant as some. I don't know.
But we earn it the hard way. I don't really know how to approach that. But I think we've been in the top 10 for like 20 weeks. I mean, that's pretty good football team. Maybe they need to‑‑ I guess, people are disappointed when we're not No. 2 anymore at some point.
I think people largely expect us to be in the top five, which is pretty respectful.

Q. Shilique, Connor touched on this, what does it mean for you to come back for your senior year and win a Big Ten championship?
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: It's special for all the seniors, not just me and Connor. A lot of guys had the opportunity to move to the next level.
But something that we had in our eyes was this opportunity, the opportunity to play for a Big Ten championship. Now we have an opportunity to play under Coach D, understanding he's a great man, he wants you to succeed in life, not only as a football player, but as a man.
To have the opportunity to have him as a mentor who will coach you up each and every day, you don't want to give that up. I think a lot of the seniors were happy to come back and be a part of his program more so than just part of this football team.

Q. Mark, you have said since the day you arrived at Michigan State there would be no shortcuts. It's one thing to win, it's another thing to do it the right way with character, integrity. How much pride do you have in not only winning, but with the kind of young men that you did?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, pride is a tough word to use. I'm very, very proud of our football team and the way they approached the game, the way they prepared, the way they played the game, the way they've handled themselves away from all this up here, press conferences, things of that nature.
We just go about our business. We're not here just to play football. We're here to do something for the community a little bit, spread it around. We're here for each other, want to graduate, all those different things.
Along the way we can win football games. That's the way we've approached it.
We built a foundation. There's so many people. Darqueze Dennard is here today, Trent Robinson came in. I can't tell you how many Spartans were here, but guys who laid it out, laid out this road for us back in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. This is more than one year. This is the accumulation of a lot of people, a lot of work.

Q. Coach Narduzzi obviously had a tremendous run with the program. In your thoughts, he's been such a big part of this program, he's not here now, he's off doing his own great thing, but have you talked to him? How do you feel about doing this and he's not here?
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: I talk to Coach Narduzzi all the time. He was more than just a coach to me. Someone you could rely on in tough times and also good times.
We can have constant conversation. I check on him, he checks on me. He's kind of like a father figure in a way.
I'm happy for him. I'm pretty sure he'll be giving me a call tonight telling me I needed to get some more sacks. I look forward to it.
COACH DANTONIO: I would say Pat has been a great friend, did a lot of great things here. 2015 belongs to Coach Barnett, Coach Tressel, Coach Burton and Coach Snyder. We've done an outstanding job offensively shutting people down, especially this last month. We've had a lot of injuries and a lot of growth along the way. They are outstanding men and outstanding coaches.
This group of people, our defense belongs to them.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Congratulations.
SHILIQUE CALHOUN: Congratulations to the basketball team on their win today. Look forward to them making it to the Final Four and winning a national championship also.
COACH DANTONIO: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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