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ROSE BOWL GAME: MICHIGAN STATE v STANFORD


December 29, 2013


Connor Cook


PASADENA, CALIFORNIA

Q.  I caught up with your quarterback who just marched in, and, Connor, they've kind of sequestered you over here in this corner.  You're a big star in this media day?
CONNOR COOK:  I don't know, being in the corner, I thought facing the corner, really no sweat for me.  I really don't care.

Q.  Let me ask you, what does taking this team back to a Rose Bowl after 26 years mean to some youngster like you?
CONNOR COOK:  It means a lifetime.  You look at the 100th anniversary of the Rose Bowl, a century of football.  Essentially this being the ultimate goal for the program at Michigan State constantly harped on ever since I've been there, ever since the recruiting process started for me.  Coach always said come to Michigan State and you play in a Rose Bowl.

Q.  When you take a look at the season, where was the point from your personal side, where the light bulbs went on and everything started to slow down, everything started to make sense to you and you became so effective?
CONNOR COOK:  After the Iowa game, we really got going with the whole offense and guys are stepping up, making plays, and I think going into Iowa, playing in a hostile environment like that, winning on the road against a good team, boosted the confidence for me and the whole offense.

Q.  When you take a look at Bowl preparation so far, is there anything that causes you to say we have to take a look at Stanford?
CONNOR COOK:  Just our consistency that we've had all season.  Our defense has been great, our offense has really come around.  I think as long as we just continue to do what we've been doing week after week, I think we'll be just fine.

Q.  Everybody wants to take about your defense and Spartan D.  As you guys through the course of the season saw all the spotlight being shifted over there, what was the offense thinking and what were your thoughts as the head of the offense?
CONNOR COOK:  Obviously we want to be recognized because we just don't have a defense from Michigan State, we also have an offense.  We're a whole team.  We're a whole package.  But we kind of like the doubters, and that provides some motivation for us.
And I think you saw that against Ohio State.¬† All the talk was about Ohio State and all the talk was about our defense.¬† And we took it upon ourselves, let's have a bang‑up performance, let's go show what our offense can do.

Q.  For four decades I've yet to meet a quarterback that when the game is on the line, the final seconds, doesn't want the ball in his hands, and most of them have always told me that they dream about it, they visualize it.  Give me your visualization for the final minute of the Rose Bowl.
CONNOR COOK:  Really, I don't know what the final minutes entails.  But if we are down, if we have the ball, we need a field goal to win, touchdown to win, I would love to have the ball in my hands.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  It was stressful.  When you're being rotated in with two other quarterbacks, not knowing when you're going to get pulled, not knowing when you're going to get yanked, it provides an uneasy feeling.
And I know I started to feel a lot more comfortable once the coaches said I'm the guy, we're going to go with you, we trust in you.  And that just allowed me to become more comfortable with me and have more confidence within myself.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  It was surprising that I got pulled.  I was unsure why that happened.  And the whole media thing went down with my answer to the media.
But what was the second part of your question?

Q.  (Indiscernible).
CONNOR COOK:  I wasn't that surprised.  After the Notre Dame game, I met with Coach D and we talked about it.  And he was like this and that about what happened, the whole decision.  And he's like I'm going to go with you for Iowa and the remainder of the season, forget this, put it all behind you it's in the past; we'll focus on the now, and that's Iowa.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  I think just being prepared, knowing the game plan, knowing who your reads are, and Coach Warner putting me in good situations week after week.
Me not trying to force anything.  I know we have a great defense.  And I know it's not bad.  If you've got to punt, you can punt.  Not trying to force anything.
And then, too, just our guys making plays.  50/50 catches, where I'll throw it up a DB can make a play on it.  And our guy can make a play on it but our guys end up coming down with it.  Really just me being smart, protecting the ball and our guys making plays and Coach Warner putting me in the right situations.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  I've always been that way, trying to be a humble guy, whatever the situations are, good or bad.  Pretty much just the whole media (indiscernible).

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Yeah, that's pretty much how it is (indiscernible) playing football whatever.  I think as far as coordination, I think no matter who you are (indiscernible) but I think it just comes with the territory.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:¬† Right.¬† It's a surreal feeling.¬† Through the recruiting process, when you're getting recruited‑‑ playing the Rose Bowl, you get there, you have banners everywhere.¬† You have posters.¬† (Indiscernible) for the Rose Bowl.¬† Coach will be say you'll be the one with roses all around and banners.¬† To actually be here talking to you guys to be here in Los Angeles, being able to play in the Rose Bowl, it's a surreal feeling (indiscernible).

Q.  Can you talk about the journey from where you started this season (indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:¬† It's been a lot of fun‑‑ pretty much the whole season, week after week, but our offense progressively has gotten better, building off our past performances.
But the whole journey with the offense has been great.  Guys have stepped up top to bottom, a lot of my development, quarterbacks, receivers making big plays giving me confidence, the offensive line giving me confidence letting me stand back there confidently going through my read progression.
The journey is great.  Not finished yet.  One more game to win.  That's Monday.

Q.  Talk about the defense (indiscernible) everything, is that a rallying point?  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Totally rallied.  We've talked together as a team and we're going to rally around it (indiscernible) it hurts us emotionally but we're not going to let it affect us.  We'll rally around it and we'll be ready.

Q.¬† Coach talked about pressure, pressure not always being the‑‑ do you guys feel the need to pressure‑‑ no one's believed in us all year, we've always been the underdog.¬† Do you feel you have something to prove?
CONNOR COOK:  Exactly.  I think you see (indiscernible) Stanford's the favorite from what I've heard, but we're used to it.  I think the whole season I think it went eight weeks straight or something like that without being ranked.  People doubted us all season.  Every single week they doubted us against Ohio State.
We're used to it.  We like that, we like being the underdog.  We use it as motivation.  So this would be no different.  Do just like that and we'll be ready.

Q.  In terms of football, you go back to your childhood and when you were a kid, what did you watch on New Year's day?
CONNOR COOK:  The Rose Bowl.  The Rose Bowl.  Every single year we would always celebrate New Year's Day at my grandma, grandpa's, everyone was there.  After our lunch, whatever meal we had, we would watch the Rose Bowl, gather around the TV and watch the Rose Bowl.
The memories I have on New Year's Day is to watch this game.  To actually be able to play in it is surreal.  I can't even describe the emotions I have being able to play in this game.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Yes.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Right.  Yes, just, going to my grandma and grandpa's every single year, watching Vince Young tear it up out there and all the great USC quarterbacks that have played in this game to actually be able to make it a reality is a dream come true.

Q.  A lot of the guys on the team were talking about this becoming the standard now.  I mean, you guys actually talk about that with the team, the Rose Bowl being the standard now that you've gotten to this point, about being the one thing you reach for?
CONNOR COOK:¬† Ever since I've been here the standard has always been make it to the Rose Bowl.¬† If you make it to the Rose Bowl, you're a big‑time champion.
Like I said before, during the recruiting process, when you're going through the recruiting process, the letters, Coach is always saying (indiscernible) that's the standard all along.  Ever since I've been in high school.  Ever since Coach D has been here at Michigan State, that's been the standard.  And I don't think it's going to change.

Q.  The games, talking about Stanford's defense, if you could pick one thing that really stands out to them about them being the biggest challenge, what would you say that would be?
CONNOR COOK:  Really, I think their whole defense as a whole unit is very, very stout.  They have great defensive linemen, linebackers are big, strong, fast.  They have a great secondary.  But I think the biggest challenge that we're going to see is just the confusion.  They're going to try to confuse us.
There's defensive linemen, they do a lot of movement, variety of different fronts.  So we just gotta find out where No. 93 is, because he lines up in multiple positions, and work around where he's lined up.  I think we'll be good.

Q.  Your defense does that a lot, too.  I'm sure on practices on third down they move late especially, there's a lot of movement there, does that help obviously with how good your defense is and that type of thing where you really have to be on your toes thinking all the time?
CONNOR COOK:  Going up against our defense every single week in practice is still beneficial for us, and especially for me.  Having the opportunity to go up against the number one defense weekly always helps, too, in your preparation for your game.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Yeah, I think we had like two Tuesday practices, and then back when we had practice over Michigan State like football practice, we had like four, just like install days, just going over.  I think our install days get trimmed down as the days go on, but when we first started it was huge.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  It's been great.  Roller coaster ride.  A lot of fun from where I was at last year obviously to now, it's something you dream about as a kid.
But being able to be in a situation that I'm in, being a sophomore, it's been great.  And I'm just so thankful.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:¬† My family is definitely‑‑ my dad, talking to him every single week with my preparation.¬† And the quarterback coach has been great.¬† Being a mentor for me.¬† Talking to him about anything, stuff other than football, it's been great.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  I've grown so much since a freshman.  I came in, I didn't even know how to identify Mike linebackers.  From where I was at to now, I've pulled down so much, but there's still so much more to learn.  The plays the area I feel most comfortable is knowing what the defense is doing.
Obviously learning our offense is a process.  I have that down, but knowing what the defense is doing, different fronts, who to slide to for protection and just knowing the different coverages and everything just slowed down a lot with me to grow more.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Right.  Yeah, you pick up on things, especially for how much time we've had to watch film on them.  You find little blitz imitators.
But I know when I was a freshman or even last year I couldn't even do that.  But obviously watching a lot of film on Stanford throughout this whole year I've gotten a lot better breaking down film, knowing what to look for, stuff like that.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Jacked.  I want to play now.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Coach Dantonio does a great job with allowing us to prepare mentally, getting in our heads, stuff like that.  He said at game time, let the lion out of the cage at game time, don't get too antsy.  We're letting the coaches do the best job getting us prepared physically and mentally.
But really you've got to be calm, not think about it too much.  Get your mind off the game.  I think the coaches have been allowing us to do that, comedy club last night and Improv last night in Hollywood so far.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Never been to LA.  Never been.  But I'll say my favorite part was last night we went to Improv, guys talking to us, great team bonding.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  The difference is that I can possibly get sacked by you guys.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:¬† The strangest question?¬† I got asked yesterday.¬† Our offense kind of took off after the Notre Dame game, some guy was like:¬† What would your offense be like if you would have won that game?¬† I had no idea how to answer that.¬† Well, we'd be 13‑0 playing in a National Championship.¬† It's kind of awkward, but...

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  It's just going to get more intense as the game gets closer and stuff like that.  Yesterday wasn't that big and obviously you have this whole media gathering today.  But you can't let it affect you.  You've got to keep doing what I've been doing the whole season, focus on Stanford, get in, watch film, put my blinders on, and just focus on the film.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:¬† To be honest, no.¬† Really the main thing in my mind was just to secure the job.¬† Went out, the quarterback job, you're the guy.¬† And once I did that, obviously you want to win every single game.¬† You want to go 1‑0 each and every week and everything will take care of itself.
Back during the first, second week of the season, did I envision this, no, but it's a dream come true.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Surreal.  Being here, like in LA with the team, with some of my best friends, coaches.  Stuff that we're experiencing.  It's just a surreal feeling.  I'm just so blessed to be part of it.

Q.  How has the weather been?
CONNOR COOK:  Fantastic.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  It's just been a lot of fun being able to be here in LA with my team.  Being able to experience stuff we've been experiencing has been great.
But it's just truly a blessing being able to be here with some of my brothers, some of my closest friends and being able to play in the 100th Rose Bowl is truly an honor.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  I've tried to picture it a couple times, trying to envision myself out there, what I'm going to feel, but a lot of the emotions will be running through my body.
But really the main thing that I'm probably going to feel is just being so‑‑ seems like a thanks, being thankful for it, being able to be in the situation I'm in, being able to play in this game.¬† Really the main thing that I'm just feeling is just being thankful.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:¬† I don't think so.¬† This is stuff you dream as a kid.¬† You want to be the guy, lead your team to the Rose Bowl.¬† Probably the only thing that really prepared me for this is just the building blocks of the season, being able to go ‑‑ win 12 games in a season, that probably is the only thing that really probably prepared me to play in the Rose Bowl.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  During the whole recruiting process during high school you get the letters, Coach Dantonio, come to Michigan State, you get an opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl.  Get to Michigan State, that's the only thing you talk about, make it to the Rose Bowl, make it to the Rose Bowl.
As the season started to go on and we started to win each and every Big Ten game, hey, you know what, we have the defense to do it, offense to do it, it really became a reality.
To actually be here sitting talking to you guys achieving the ultimate goal as a program, to make it to the Rose Bowl, it's a surreal feeling.
But obviously we have unfinished business to do.  We've achieved the ultimate goal to make it here, and now we've got to win.  We don't want to walk away losers.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:¬† I think I'm looking forward to it.¬† I think it just is‑‑ the top four teams make it.¬† It gives everyone an opportunity to make it to the National Championship game.¬† So if we're in a situation right now, we would be playing one more game to make it to the national title.¬† So I think it givens everyone an equal opportunity.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  We're a balanced team.  (Indiscernible).

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Offensive line at the receiving corps, running backs.  I think as a whole people underestimate us as a team on offense.  But probably don't think we have as much talent as we actually do (indiscernible).

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Perfect Rose Bowl?  Winning would be the perfect Rose Bowl for me.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  I think multiple guys have stepped up, one being Tony Lippett and Bennie Fowler and you have Macgarrett Kings.  You have three guys right there that I can count on, third and ten, third and long, whatever.  I need to throw it, you see multiple guys step up.
I know there was like a third and 17 against Nebraska, just threaded the needle to Tony Lippett.  Such a hard catch.  Hoping he would be in the spot where I threw it, and he made a grab.  You have Benny going up and making great plays.
Really there's multiple guys I can count on that I always have faith in if the game's on the line I can put it in their hands and they'll do something good with it.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:¬† Yes, you watch it as a whole unit, but then scheming‑wise, the front seven, you have to know what front they're lined up in, who you got to block, who you got to slide to.
But really the main thing we're trying to figure out is just where the defensive linemen are going to line up, where the linebackers are stationed.  We'll work around that.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Right, we've always had that.  If you see them lined up with something different, something funky, if you don't like it, you can get out of it.  The coaches allow me to have free rein of if something doesn't look good that I can possibly check out.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  It's a surreal feeling.  It's hard to grasp.  Still have to pinch yourselves sometimes.  Wouldn't want to be anywhere else, wouldn't want to be any other situation.  I'm truly blessed.

Q.  What's it like being in California, easier to focus or kind of less?
CONNOR COOK:  Being out here has been a lot of fun.  The coaches have been allowing us to do some nice activities.  Yesterday we went to Hollywood Improv club see comedians.  Guys are focused.  Not hard for us to dial in mentally.  Once it gets closer, we'll dial it in more.
But all year guys have dealt with distractions, this and that, guys have handled that good.  But being out here it's fun and everything, but we'll focus in, be ready for the game.

Q.  When you look back at this game, when you leave, maybe 10, 15 years from now, what's the most important thing you'll take away from the whole experience?
CONNOR COOK:  If you win or lose.  The main thing, I think, you want to walk away victorious.  You don't want to walk away losers.  If I look back at this game 10, 15 years, I want to look back, say:  We won.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Equal, same amount of pressure pretty much.  Obviously the Ohio State game was huge.  The main goal as a program is win the Big Ten, make it to the Rose Bowl.  To be one game away from the Rose Bowl, obviously a lot of pressure.
But this is the granddaddy of them all.  Huge stage, a lot of people are going to be watching.  It's a lot of pressure right there.
But you just want to walk away victorious, walk away a winner.  That's what we strive for here all year.  Ever since I've been here in 2011 and even before I was here, the main goal is to make it to the Rose Bowl, win the Rose Bowl, be Rose Bowl champs.

Q.  Do you have pressure from your team (indiscernible) Michigan State fan base, Big Ten (indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Yeah, we really don't look at that as pressure.  It's more like motivation, obviously.  A lot of Big Ten teams have struggled in the Rose Bowl.  We just want to come out here, we didn't really want to focus on that too much.  Our main focus is just beating Stanford.
I think as long as we put all our focus on Stanford, go with the plan, allow the coaches to put us in the right situations with the whole game plan and everything like that, we'll be fine and we'll put the Big Ten on the map.

Q.  How were you introduced to the game?
CONNOR COOK:  I was introduced to the game of football from my father when I was real little.  Obviously he played football in college, and that was his main sport.  He introduced it to me at a young age and allowed me to play football and have a lot of fun.
But my first year of organized football was in third grade when I played flag football.  Ever since then the love I've had for the game has been tremendous.  And I love it.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  It's quite different.  The regular season you go through the motions a little bit with practice.  It's very, very repetitive.  Football practice has had some time off, you get to go home a couple times after exams, the final exams and then after a first set of bowl practice.
But as soon as you get here it's all business.  The coaches obviously harp on this game a lot, ever since we've been here as a program, ever since I've been here.
So really being able to play in the Rose Bowl, the granddaddy of them all, the game is so, so intense, and the coaches realize that and they're making the practices really intense, too.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  It's like a surreal feeling.  You try and process it.  You're here in Pasadena, you want to pinch yourself and from where I've started at the beginning of the year to now.  Obviously the stuff you dream about as a little kid, stuff you dream about, growing up, you want to be the quarterback at a Big Ten university like this.
You want to be the quarterback to lead your team to the Rose Bowl.¬† It's been kind of hard to process.¬† You lose sight of it during the season, you're just so focused on going 1‑0, winning every single game, and you're not really like living in the moment.¬† You're just so focused on winning every single game.
But looking back at the whole process, it's been a roller coaster ride.  Wouldn't want to be anywhere else.  But really the only thing I can say is how blessed and how thankful I am for being in this spot.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Really, I mean I've been on the field so much this whole season.  There hasn't been much time off the field.  Probably just being able to spend time with my family going home.  We had two bye weeks, going home spending time with my family, spend time with my girlfriend and her family and being able to be home for the holidays.  That's probably the biggest moment for me off the field.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:  Not much has changed for me really other than when I went to go return books after exams are over, some people want to get pictures and stuff like that.  Obviously as a backup quarterback you don't have this whole media stuff, you don't talk to the media.
Really not much has changed.  I'm still the same old Connor.  Misspelled my name right there, so really nobody knows who I am.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
CONNOR COOK:¬† This is a great team all around, great defense, very good offense, and coaches have done a tremendous job of allowing us to get in the right mindset for each and every week, giving us the right game plans, allowing us to be‑‑ putting us in the right situations week after week.¬† And being so tight with one another.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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