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ROSE BOWL GAME: MICHIGAN STATE v STANFORD


December 28, 2013


Connor Cook

Blake Treadwell

Dave Warner


PASADENA, CALIFORNIA

DAVE WARNER:テつ Obviously we're excited to be here.テつ Been here a few days already.テつ The opportunity is something we always talk about throughout the 12 months a year.テつ To be able to finally get here, into the Rose Bowl, and be out here right now in Los Angeles is something of a dream come true.テつ We've had a great time so far, the Lawry's Beef Bowl last night.テつ I heard one of the players ate about $300 worth of beef last night, so they might be trying to get their money back.
Happy to be here is the bottom line.

Q.テつ It's been almost exactly one year, 364 days exactly, since you were in Tempe relieving Andrew off the bunch in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.テつ Now a year later you're about to start the Rose Bowl with the Big Ten champion.テつ Walk me through that journey.テつ How have you grown in the last year?
CONNOR COOK:テつ You know, it's been a roller coaster ride.テつ It's something you dream about as a kid, playing in the Rose Bowl, starting in the Rose Bowl, but back then the stuff that we're doing now as a team is hard to grasp and stuff like that, but the whole journey has just been hard work and dedication, just believing in yourself, and really just when no one else believes in you, when no one else has really given you an opportunity, just got to dig deep and work hard.

Q.テつ Blake and Connor, how helpful is it on a daily basis to practice against your defense?
CONNOR COOK:テつ Very helpful.テつ You're going up against a Jim Thorpe Award winner in Darqueze Dennard.テつ You've got great guys up front all around.テつ That makes us work a lot harder in practice, and then you come out on game day and go against guys that obviously aren't as talented, aren't as good, but still decent, but we just have a great defense, and they just give us a great look every single day in practice.
BLAKE TREADWELL:テつ Like Connor said, when you practice against our defense before games, I feel fully prepared to go because our defense is so great, so much intensity, all of those factors help me feel so much better for game day, as well.

Q.テつ Dave, kind of the same question for Connor.テつ There's been such a transition and transformation with this offense.テつ I know there's still work to be done, but have you thought back at the journey this year and how much things have changed and how good this offense has become from start to finish because early in the season we would have been pestering you at this presser who's going to be your starter at quarterback.テつ Now you have a horse to ride in on and things have really grown for the better all season.
DAVE WARNER:テつ Absolutely.テつ It's been a long journey, and seems like a long time ago that we were being asked that question about what's wrong with our offense.テつ There was a lot of questions to be answered at various positions.テつ Really we went into the season with a stable offensive line, I believe, and some depth there.テつ Other than that, there was a lot of unanswered questions at the receiver position, at the quarterback position, at the running back position and the tight end position.テつ It was a work in progress until those pieces started falling into place.テつ Connor became the guy at quarterback.テつ Our receivers started stepping up and making plays, and we sort of settled in with Jeremy Langford and our tight ends began a rotation.
As that developed and guys started making plays, I think our confidence grew.テつ As Connor started making plays, his confidence grew, and when he steps up in the huddle guys look to him now as our leader and know he'll be able to do what we need him to do to take us to victory.テつ It's been a process without a doubt, and it seemed like it took a long time, but I think it was a necessary process, and we're still not a finished product by any means now because I think we can continue to grow and get better, but we're happy with where we've come, obviously.

Q.テつ Just wondering, after the Notre Dame game, what was that mood like?テつ Did you shift anything as far as who was working with the ones more or less?テつ Did Connor work with them more?テつ That really seemed to be a turning point, those weeks between Notre Dame and Iowa.
DAVE WARNER:テつ Yeah, to be honest with you we went into the Notre Dame game with Connor being the guy, took most of the reps with the ones that week and planned on him being the guy all the way through.テつ We made a change at the end there for whatever reason, right or wrong, but probably after that Notre Dame game is when we sort of said as an offensive staff that Connor is our guy.テつ We can't make a decision late in the game and make a change.テつ We've got to go with him the entire way, and I think that was a point where obviously our offense began to grow and develop, and part of that was just knowing that Connor is going to learn just like anybody is going to do their first time playing throughout the course of a game, a lot of football players are going to make mistakes.テつ We knew we were going to have to live with that, and again, that's not just Connor, that's at any position.テつ Just so happens that at quarterback everybody notices them, everybody sees them.
So we knew at that time that he was going to be the guy, and fortunately things grew from there, obviously.

Q.テつ A lot of rhetoric the last few weeks about this game has been both defenses, especially the run defenses, and this one is for Blake.テつ Obviously you've both also got pretty good run offenses.テつ Can you talk about the challenges of running the ball in this game but also the importance of which team will be able to run the ball?
BLAKE TREADWELL:テつ Well, if you look at Stanford, one of the things I first noticed was they have a lot of seniors and red‑shirt juniors.テつ A lot of experience for a team.テつ And when a team has a lot of experience, they catch on to things, play very intelligent football, and they know the flow of the game.テつ So that will be a challenge in itself.テつ But going against an experienced team, our offensive line is experienced, too, so we look forward to that battle, and we know most of the time the game is won in the trenches, so we look forward to that battle when game time comes.

Q.テつ To Blake and Connor, kind of going back to the turning point, I think I've already talked to Connor about the Notre Dame game, but to either of you, was there a turning point not just for the offense but for the team this season, be it the Michigan game or whatever, when you said, we've got something special here, and Coach D was right, we're really going to go places?
CONNOR COOK:テつ You know, I think as a team, or as an offense, the Iowa game was the turning point for us but I think that was also the turning point for us as a whole team, going into that environment, it's a hostile environment, it's hard to win there, and we went in there and played great as a whole unit.テつ The offense came around in that game, the defense has been doing their thing all year.テつ But I think really as a whole team, too, the Iowa game was a turning point.
BLAKE TREADWELL:テつ Yeah, I agree with Connor.テつ When the Notre Dame game happened, I remember that game, a lot of us were looking down and whatnot, but after that game, we gathered around after the bye week, all the seniors and the leaders all gathered and we said this is not what's going to happen, we're going to stand up, we're going to fight and show what Michigan State can do.テつ So we always knew we had confidence, and I really believe after experiencing that loss and going like Connor said into Iowa and winning, we just knew things were in our favor.

Q.テつ For both guys, what's the biggest challenge facing the Stanford defense?テつ What do they do best?
CONNOR COOK:テつ They do a great job of trying to confuse the offense.テつ They do a lot of different fronts and a lot of movements and stuff like that, try and confuse you.テつ But then like Blake said, they're intelligent, they're an experienced group and they catch onto things.テつ Really as a defense from top to bottom they're very stout with their front seven and the secondary.テつ But they have a lot of experience, they have a lot of guys that started last year, so it's an experienced group, it's a smart group, so it'll be a challenge top to bottom.
BLAKE TREADWELL:テつ Like Connor said, experience, and when you watch them on film, their defensive line, everybody is hustling, 100 percent effort this way or that way.テつ They're always moving.テつ So it's a team with great motor.

Q.テつ Connor, can you just reflect or flashback, I guess, to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and what a different bowl experience this is for you in terms of your preparation, your feelings and where you're at as a quarterback?
CONNOR COOK:テつ You know, obviously for this one I'm the starter.テつ I wasn't starting last year.テつ I mean, you get in, you watch all the film you possibly can, you prepare like you're one of the starters like I was last year, but this one is a lot different.テつ This game is much bigger.テつ It's the granddaddy of them all, it's the Rose Bowl.テつ Really I'm just watching a lot more film probably than I was last year and just taking it day by day and just the whole bowl experience is a lot different, we're doing a lot more different things, the whole Beef Bowl thing we did yesterday was a lot of fun.テつ I think we're going to an improv thing tonight after practice.テつ That'll be fun.
Really I think this bowl is just‑‑ I don't want to say that the bowl last year wasn't really meaningful, but it's something that we harp on every single year, every single day back at Michigan State, to make it to the Rose Bowl, and we're finally here.テつ Really it's just a blessing to be here.

Q.テつ You kind of touched on it in your final couple words, but some coaches, some teams don't want to put Rose Bowl championship every day in your head.テつ Some teams do.テつ How much has that helped throughout the journey to be reminded this is where you want to be, this is the goal of this university?
CONNOR COOK:テつ It's very helpful.テつ I mean, it's just the coaches put that thing in your head, put that‑‑ we have stuff all around our entire university, just play for the Rose Bowl, P4RB, stuff after the banquet, when Coach D said you will be the ones.テつ We had banners hanging up in our locker room, the practice field, stuff like that.テつ When the coaches get that in your mind, it's the only thing you want to achieve.

Q.テつ What's been the Dantonio influence not only on the team but on the staff when everyone was panicking on the outside three or four games in?テつ His big thing is stay the course.テつ He's not a panic guy.テつ What were things like behind the scenes three or four games in when you were scrambling for answers?
DAVE WARNER:テつ Well, obviously he spent a lot of time in the offensive staff room with us trying to work things through.テつ Seems like every day we had discussions about personnel, trying to get guys in the right spot, the right guys on the field.テつ It wasn't so much about what we were doing offensively.テつ We felt like we were going the right direction with our schemes.
But Coach D, I still remember him saying, and we relayed it to our players over and over and it ends up coming true, that when things start clicking it's going to snowball.テつ I think that things started clicking there as the Big Ten season rolled around, and it started with some of our receivers stepping up, Bennie Fowler, Tony Lippett who didn't play great the first couple games, sort of in and out of the rotation, and all of a sudden those guys start making big‑time catches, catches that aren't easy.テつ Coach D calls them 50/50 catches, you might make them, you might not.テつ Those guys are making those catches frequently, if not most of the time, all the time, and as soon as that happened Connor's confidence began to grow and our whole confidence level began to grow, and that's where that snowball effect started taking place, and it kept going from there.

Q.テつ You guys are obviously a very close‑knit team, both offense and defense.テつ How has the absence of Max impacted you guys in terms of bonding together, and who have you seen stepping up into sort of the Bullough role, if you will?テつ Obviously he's on defense, but still, as a team?
CONNOR COOK:テつ You know, obviously Max is a great leader, a great guy, and it hurts us that he's not here.テつ But we're not going to let it affect us.テつ Other guys can step up and fill that role.テつ Kyler Elsworth has been very vocal at practice along with Darien Harris.テつ It stinks that he's not here, that he's not going to be able to play in the Rose Bowl for his last game as a senior.テつ We all feel for him, but then again, we're not going to let something like this affect us because we're a very strong team, we're all very close together and we can fight through adversity.

Q.テつ Connor, going back to that Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, did you have any inkling that you might get into that game?テつ I can't remember if you ever spoke to that.テつ How much of that was kind of instinct and reflex as opposed to now when you're much more sophisticated in terms of your preparation?
CONNOR COOK:テつ Yeah, leading up to the bowl, I had a meeting with Coach D who said he was going to give me one series in the game and what I did with that series was up to me, and then really, I think I had a decent first series, and then he gave me another opportunity later in the game.
It was my first time out there, first really game experience.テつ The other game that I played in earlier in the season was against Central Michigan.テつ That was like mop‑up duty.テつ Really, you're just out there flying around, really just reacting off your instincts.

Q.テつ Just to follow up with Dave on this one, I remember speaking to you after the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl about the decision to bring Connor in.テつ Can you reflect on that because I think there was a conversation between you and Coach D, he consulted you, you were the quarterbacks coach, and then also if you could talk a little bit about when those conversations were going on earlier this season about the three or four quarterbacks, what was it that Connor brought to the table in the decision‑‑ when you guys were trying to decide which quarterback you were going to go with?
DAVE WARNER:テつ I'll answer your first question.テつ I think throughout the second half of the bowl last year, Connor earned the right to get another opportunity in there as a quarterback based on what he did in the first half.テつ Pretty much every drive the second half was like, okay, we've got to make a decision because we were in and out if I remember a little bit with Connor and Andrew, so the last series really wasn't any different, only the fact that it was a do‑or‑die situation obviously and we needed to drive and get some points on the board.
It was a situation, again, where Coach D and I talked, and the decision was made.テつ Fortunately it worked out well.
Part of the reason Connor played in the bowl game last year is because of his mobility and the ability to create, to extend plays, and that is something that we really talked about frequently.テつ After the bowl game, it was stressed to all the quarterbacks that that's what we're looking for, to have a guy that's going to be able to extend plays and make things happen down on the football field.テつ That's what Connor has done since he's been here, and as with any quarterback, you need to be able to do that to extend plays and scramble and so forth, but still make the right decisions.
As that developed within him, moving around and making those right decisions, he became more and more the guy that was going to lead our offense.

Q.テつ Blake, just going back to the beginning of the season, how much added responsibility did you feel personally when you were named team captain, and how do you think you've sort of grown into that role?テつ And then for Dave and Connor, what have you seen from Blake as he's kind of evolved into a team spokesman over the last year?
BLAKE TREADWELL:テつ Well, first off, after the bowl game, I was reflecting on the season and stuff.テつ I decided, this is it for me.テつ This is my senior year.テつ I need to do everything I can to make sure this team is ready for next year.テつ So I kind of took it upon myself, slowly started speaking up.テつ I'm not a big rah‑rah type of guy, I'm more show your actions on the field.
But I slowly started speaking up in winter conditioning and stuff, and through the summer I made a commitment to myself and the team, just continue to work.テつ You see us offensive linemen doing extra stuff all the time in the summer to prepare for the season, and then it was the teammates who voted me captain, it wasn't me who did it.テつ So I was very humbled by that.
And as well, I'm a captain, I feel like we have so many seniors and guys that want to take responsibility that everybody was kind of a captain, everybody was saying what they need to do to do this or that to really make the team grow further, so just three guys leading, I felt like we had a captain at almost every position.
I feel like I've definitely grown, but my teammates around me have definitely helped make this year special.
CONNOR COOK:テつ Yeah, he just brings great intensity to every single practice and every single game.テつ He sets an example with his work ethic and guys try and follow that.テつ But then like he said, he slowly and surely started speaking up a little bit as a spokesman.テつ But really the thing that stands out is just his work ethic and how hard he works every single day in practice and then on Saturdays, too.
DAVE WARNER:テつ I think obviously the reason we're here, a big reason we're here is because of our leadership, especially our senior leadership, and I'm not sure there's anyone on our football team who's stepped up as much as Blake did.テつ It was mentioned that after the bowl game last year, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, right when we got started in February with winter conditioning, it was like, wow, Blake is stepping up.テつ He grew into it as he said and has become a fantastic leader along with a lot of our guys.
It's no secret why the best years we've had around here at Michigan State in seven years have been when we've had tremendous senior leadership, and Blake is a huge part of that.テつ Very obvious.

Q.テつ Blake, with all you have invested in Michigan State, with your dad coaching here and playing at East Lansing High School, how much is winning in this game a part of completing the dream?テつ Obviously you want to win.テつ If you lose it's still a great season, but if you win you'll have something to tell your grandkids about one day.
BLAKE TREADWELL:テつ Oh, yeah, this game is very important, for this program, for everybody involved with Spartan Nation.テつ When you come here as a freshman, you don't know which way is right and left on the football field.テつ So it's amazing how being here for five years now, growing with my brothers, my seniors, finally being able to do something very special your senior year is truly a humbling experience.
This bowl game is very important to me.テつ I've stressed to this team, our seniors have stressed to this team how important it is to finish what we've started as well as continue the legacy for guys like Connor and stuff as they become growing in their years forward.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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