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January 1, 2014
Michigan State Â– 24
Stanford Â– 20
THE MODERATOR:Â We'll get started, we'll have coach make a brief opening statement.Â Coach, congratulations.
MARK DANTONIO:Â Thank you very much.Â First of all, I just want to thank the Rose Bowl for everything that they've done for us this year.Â It's an outstanding experience for our football team, and to come away with a win, just sort of puts the icing on the cake.Â We've talked all along about being able to handle success.Â As we continued to climb and win football games throughout the season, we talked about what are you going to do now, now that you've reached the pinnacle of what we've done before?Â Got to handle success, and I thought we did that.
I want to congratulate Stanford for what they've been able to accomplish, and they've been there, they've been in the BCS games and we have not.Â So I really felt like as a football team we were a little bit‑‑ I don't want to say we were tourists in the first half, in the first part of it, but we didn't have our flash, emotions that we usually had, and plus we made a couple plays on our defense.Â But like we always have, we recollected ourselves, we're a very resilient football team.Â I owe that to our leadership of our football team, the ground level, our seniors, our quarterback being able to bounce back from a play here or there, and just maintain.
But I think key plays in the game, two of them.Â When Connor throws the interception, to be able to come back after that interception, go in the two‑minute drive and get a touchdown to cut it back to three was huge, rather than going into the locker room 10 down.Â And then obviously our defense played outstanding in the second half and the stops on 4th down were huge for us.
Just want to congratulate our football team in all respects.Â I'll take a couple questions.Â You win with toughness.Â There's no question about that.Â You win with toughness physically and mentally, and I thought we did that tonight.
Q.Â Coach, the evolution of Connor, when you look at these last two games against the No.2 ranked team in the country and No.5 ranked team in the country, a couple of good games.Â Could you ever have seen it coming and how pleased are you?
MARK DANTONIO:Â Absolutely I could see it coming as we continued on through the season, he just continued to elevate his play with experience.Â We are in a big time environment.Â We're at the Rose Bowl playing the No.5 team in the nation.Â There is no bigger prize, really.Â How far can you go to reach that level emotionally?Â And he just continued just to impress.Â I'm not sure how many yards he threw for, but I think he had 229 in the first half, so he had a bunch.
But just to overcome adversity, and that's what you have to do as a quarterback, you have to manage the situation and then you have to overcome adversity, and you have to make plays down the field, and he was able to do that.Â So just an outstanding job by him in all respects.
Q.Â Could you please talk about the game plan on both sides of the ball I think was very good by both your coordinators.
MARK DANTONIO:Â Well, defensively we felt like we had them down a little bit, but they're a very, very intricate offense even though they may be a two‑back team and those things, they find a way to always keep you off balance, and they were able to continue to do that.Â I was impressed with some of their skill players, obviously, but push came to shove, we sort of started shoving back a little bit really, I guess you'd say.
Outstanding job by Coach Narduzzi and our entire defensive staff.Â Once again, we know what they're doing, it's about execution.Â Really when you look at it we were minus‑2 in turnover margin.Â To win a football team minus‑2 and we didn't come up with a turnover is a statement in terms of really how dominant were we on the defensive side of the football.
Offensively Dave Warner, Jim Bollman and our offensive staff found a way to run the football so we were able to keep people off base and run it.Â Langford had a solid game.Â I'm not sure if he went over 100 or not, but very solid football game, kept them off base.Â Did some no‑huddle things and things of that nature and I thought we threw the ball down the field very, very effectively.Â Come away enough points to win, 24, obviously we left one on the ground down there.Â But again, a great punt return by McGarrett Kings, sets us up, Connor throws a strike, we're right back down to the end zone so we really didn't lose anything when we did turn the ball over.Â We were in the end zone on that next occasion.
Special teams were solid.Â Geiger hits a field goal in the Rose Bowl as a true freshman.Â We did what we had to do to win the football game, and I would just add that as I said in the pep rally yesterday, we moved the rock.Â We got off the dime and we move the rock.Â We moved the foundation.Â We moved our football program here to the Rose Bowl.Â Not just this particular game but all the way from a 7‑6 season.Â We were able to dream big.Â I would say our fans represented, and they moved the rock, as well.Â A lot of our fans had to come fly out here, some drove, some flew, some slept on cots, some spent their last dimes doing this, some got bumped off the plane, I'm sure some sat in the middle aisle or the middle seat all the way out, connecting, driving someplace, connecting back east, connecting here, so they got it done and they showed up en masse, and I thought our fans were tremendous.
Q.Â The defensive stand at the end, can you speak to how appropriate it was that your No.1 defense made one of its biggest plays of the year at the biggest time of the year, and does winning the Rose Bowl feel maybe almost better than you might have ever dreamed it would?
MARK DANTONIO:Â You know, people keep asking me does the championship feel better, all these different things, these levels of excitement.Â I can just tell you that every level, I'm just so excited for our football team and our players and our Spartan fans and our families of our coaches, and our coaches.Â I'll just sum up again, I just feel so content and so humbled really by all the support that we get and the things that have been given to us by our administration and our president and our athletic director Mark Hollis.
It's sort of living the dream.Â Sort of living the dream.Â I woke up this morning, and I knew the day might be very, very special if we played hard, great things were going to happen, we had possibilities, and that's what we did.Â We just kept playing.Â No magic to it, we just kept playing, found a way to make plays.Â Mumphrey comes in and makes a play.Â Lippett has big catches.Â McGarrett Kings, big catches, big throws, Langford, big plays, defensively 4th‑and‑1 stop and I think it's Kyler Elsworth on the hit over the top, I think, but he found a way.
Q.Â A couple questions:Â Did you say anything to Connor after the interception was returned for a touchdown?Â And if so, what?Â And also, you spoke all week about Tyler Elsworth and Darien Harris stepping into that role at middle linebacker.Â Can you just comment on how they played today?
MARK DANTONIO:Â Yeah, ask Connor what I always ask him when he makes a play that's difficult to‑‑ that goes against us.Â Are you all right?Â And he always says, yeah, I'm good, coach.Â He gives me a little fist bump and I feel better and we all go our own way, and that's what we did.
I have a lot of faith in him.Â I've seen him perform, and I know him as a person, and he doesn't get rattled.Â He does not get rattled.Â It doesn't mean we're always going to be right, but he doesn't get rattled, and I think that's a huge, huge thing when you're a quarterback, that he can handle it, hang in there, have some bad plays and then bounce back and make great throws, and that's what he was doing.
Our linebacker positions, we missed Max, and I love Max Bullough, but our linebacker position was a position of depth.Â If I wasn't coaching today, somebody else would have been coaching.Â That's just the way the world is made.Â Opportunities come for other players, and they have an opportunity to make good on it.
Kyler Elsworth got a chance to make a play, makes the play of the game.Â Darien Harris probably made some plays out there, as well, but he was very active in the football game as were a lot of our players.Â Big pick by Trae Waynes.Â Things were happening so fast, I can't tell you who made all the plays until you watch the film and who had the great game.Â But I thought we played very well up front, other than a couple‑‑ a big run which bounced, which is a leverage thing on the back end where they cracked the safety.Â We played very, very firm inside, especially the second half.Â When you look at the second half, we shut them down.
Q.Â You've taken these steps as you said to win the Big Ten championship, you win the Rose Bowl championship.Â Is there any reason Michigan State can't take the next step and win the National Championship?
MARK DANTONIO:Â That's our plan.Â Our plan is to keep winning.Â Our plan is that we're one game away.Â I said why not us a couple weeks ago.Â I think we can compete with anybody in this country.Â I think we could have last year.Â You've just got to find the inches.Â You've got to execute, you've got to find the inches, and more importantly probably, you've got to believe that you belong there, too.Â You can't second‑guess yourself.Â You have to dream big.Â It's been done here before, and I think that the responsibility is that you can do it again, but you've got to take it one game at a time.
We have to build for 2014, our seniors have to have their greatest year as they did this year, and it's exciting for our seniors.Â They go out 13‑1.Â It's a tremendous job by them, 42 wins in their careers here, which is a ton in four years.
Q.Â With such a great season, your name personally have been linked of course with a lot of other high‑profile positions and jobs.Â During the day today a report came out that you were on the verge of some significant news with Michigan State.Â Can you comment on that?
MARK DANTONIO:Â Yeah, I can comment, very happy at Michigan State.Â That's very flattering, but would be hard to leave these guys.Â They make the plays.Â Would be hard to leave all those people out there.Â So while it's very, very flattering, my intentions are to be at Michigan State.Â That's all I'll say about those things.Â I'll look forward to seeing my guys come back on Monday morning for classes.
Q.Â You said all along this would be a game of adjustments, and it looked like Stanford had the ball moving a lot in the first quarter.Â Can you talk about some of the in‑game adjustments that you thought were key to your defense slowing the Cardinal down?
MARK DANTONIO:Â Well, they opened up a B gab, they hit an iso, they cracked on Isaiah Lewis, the ball bounced on us for a big gain.Â So we had to negate that, they came back to that play a couple times and we shut it down.Â But it's constantly‑‑ pretty constant.Â The thing about what we were able to do, offensively now and defensively, especially probably defensively, is we have a lot of experience on our football team.Â We have guys who have been there, even Kyler Elsworth has played four years for us.Â Our coaching staff has been together so we're able to adjust and tweak things mid‑stream during games to create situations that will eliminate a play if it's made.Â Got to give credit to Stanford.Â They have a great football team.Â They're a very well‑coached football team, and they've got players.Â But I thought our coaching staff did an unbelievable job.Â We just tweaked things.Â Our scheme, our package is versatile enough to move in different directions and change things and still do things and our players are experienced enough to be able to make that change.
Q.Â Can you talk about what this game means for the Big Ten?
MARK DANTONIO:Â We've got a one‑game winning streak.Â (Laughter.)Â That's about what I can tell you.Â Obviously it's a big step.Â I'm not sure who won which games today.Â I know Nebraska won.Â I'm not sure on the other ones.Â But I thought we played a quality opponent.Â We had the banner of the Big Ten Conference when we came here as their champions, and I'm excited about the fact that we were able to deliver.Â We first delivered for Michigan State, first delivered for our players and our fans and our families, and then secondly we delivered for the Big Ten Conference, as well, and that's exciting.
Q.Â Could you just comment at this time of transition about the significance of the Rose Bowl in the sport with your sort of long view of it in your career, the significance of the game itself?
MARK DANTONIO:Â The Rose Bowl to me is the pinnacle of what we do in the Big Ten Conference.Â We talk about National Championships, we can talk about those, but the one thing that we can control is can we get to the Rose Bowl because your winning and losing defines that for you within your conference.Â If you win the Big Ten Championship you're going to be here and then you can play this football game.Â Some of the other things are taken out of their hands with polls and these type of things, so I always try and focus on the things that we can control.Â That's tangible, that's there.Â We understand the rules of engagement there.Â If we win, we're going to the Rose Bowl.Â I think the Rose Bowl, I can just tell you the experiences that we had this week are really unparalleled, and I've been to a lot of bowls over the course of my time.Â But it's unparalleled.Â They have the resources and they have the interest, and they put those resources to work and make it an unbelievable experience for you.
Also when you ride in here on game day and you see‑‑ I don't know how many Spartans were there or Stanford fans, but you see a packed house like it was and the excitement that existed in that stadium, it makes it special.
THE MODERATOR:Â Coach, thanks so much, and congratulations once again.
MARK DANTONIO:Â Thank you so much, guys.Â I'm so impressed and proud of our football team and happy for all those involved.
Q.Â This is for Connor.Â What's the best way to explain how and why Michigan State won this game?
CONNOR COOK:Â We've always believed in ourselves, no matter what the situation is, if we're down, guys rally around each other.Â I think everyone on the whole football team is very optimistic, and the coaches put that in our minds.Â And then two, we're just a balanced team.Â Our defense, they have been doing their thing the entire year.Â They've been shutting out our opponents and then our offense has really stepped up and become a lot more balanced in the pass game and run game.Â That's allowed for success.
Q.Â Connor and Denicos, you guys are sitting there rubbing your eyes, almost looking like you're about to cry.Â What are your emotions like right now?
CONNOR COOK:Â I was just rubbing my eyes because I'm really tired.Â (Laughter.)
DENICOS ALLEN:Â I mean, as a senior, there's a lot of emotions going through my mind right now.Â It's everything I asked for, everything you want as a senior, perfect ending I would say.Â But this has been my goal.Â I've been chasing this goal since '09.Â Ever since I committed here I've been chasing to be a Rose Bowl champ.Â To do it as a senior in the last game of your career, it's amazing.Â It's pretty surreal right now.Â It still hasn't hit me, but I know when I get to the hotel and relax, it's going to hit me.Â But I'm thankful.
Q.Â Connor, Coach Dantonio talked about the exchange he had with you after the pick six.Â Can you relay it from your point of view?Â Earlier in the week you talked about training camp and trying to win the starting quarterback job was so successful for you.Â Can you compare that to where it's ended up?
CONNOR COOK:Â Yeah, when I came up from the sideline, Coach D was just giving me this look and I was hoping he wasn't going to be super upset and say something to put me down.Â Coach D does a great job of just having a good relationship with all of his players no matter what.Â If you do something stupid, he's not going to degrade, he's not going to yell at you, so I walked off the field and he said, hey, you good.Â I was like, yeah, I'm fine.Â Gave him a little fist pump.Â Everything was good after that.
What was the second question, about the journey from fall camp until now?Â It's just been a roller‑coaster ride, the stuff you dream about as a kid.Â First off my main goal was to win the job and once I secured the job, my main goal was just to go 1‑0 every single week.Â Obviously we wanted to set our goals high and we did, we knew what we were capable of, but never want to look too far down the line.Â Everyone on the whole football team pretty much had the same mindset for every week, we go 1‑0, and the winning and the success will take care of itself.Â That's what we did.Â We stuck to the plan, and here we are Rose Bowl champs.
Q.Â Denicos, you've been the tough guy all these years here, and yet you do look a little emotional tonight.Â Can you just talk about this ending for you some more and when you knew it was over?Â And I guess Kyler Elsworth getting that stop.Â He's been a teammate of yours for a long time.
DENICOS ALLEN:Â Yeah, you know, with the situation with Max, when we first heard of it, I wasn't too worried because I know Kyler Elsworth.Â For him I was kind of upset, but I know Kyler Elsworth is a playmaker.Â I've been playing with him for four years and he's been making plays.Â Last year or the year before he made a big block against Wisconsin and he's made big stops on 4th down in the championship game a couple years ago.Â You know, I just had confidence in him.
Just to play with the guys I played with on defense, to play with them for a senior year and to play the way we did, it was just a journey well worth it.Â It's a great ending, and I'm going to be sad to leave my boys behind.
Q.Â Connor, my question has to do with the drive that ended with the fumble by Jeremy.
CONNOR COOK:Â Yeah, that was a thing we called fastball, and that's just a quick huddle.Â Coach is just on the sideline signaling our plays in.Â It's just a fast tempo and we were moving the ball great, and I think Jeremy had like eight straight touches or something like that.
You know, for him to fumble like that, it was understandable, just because he was the workhorse in that whole series, but I feel like we started to get the pace going a little bit, and just I think I got comfortable, too.Â We were moving the ball, I was so nervous before the game, my butterflies were flying around a lot, but I think right then and there I was like, okay, you know what, I'm comfortable, it's the Rose Bowl, it's the second half, we've got to win this game.Â I think that right there was really was the turning point for us as an offense.
Q.Â Denicos, when you first committed to Michigan State in your very first interview we did, you talked about respect and how Michigan State showed it to you, Ohio State didn't, other places didn't, and you said when you walk off the field the last time you want to have earned it.Â You're now one of America's best linebackers and a Rose Bowl champion.Â Talk about fulfilling that prophecy you had the day you committed.
DENICOS ALLEN:Â Yeah, like I said, it's been a journey.Â Coming here, two‑star linebacker, not known by anybody, building from the ground up.Â I love being an underdog and I love working up, and I think that's what people respect the most, someone who continues to push even though they're not getting the recognition they deserve or whatever.
But it's been a journey.Â I've met a lot of great people here.Â I've met a lot of great friends here.Â I don't regret coming here at all whatsoever.Â I'm glad I didn't go to any other school.
To end it on this note, I think we deserve and earned the most respect in Michigan State history.Â I think it's pretty great.
Q.Â Connor, can you talk about as far as the first half, you mentioned butter flies that you were feeling, but then in the second half you guys certainly came out with the thrust and intensity to take over the lead.
CONNOR COOK:Â Right.Â I think Coach D touched on it a little bit during his interview, said that we had a little touristy feeling.Â I think our offense came out flat.Â As soon as we went in there in the second half, I just kind of like gathered myself and was like, we have one more half of football left for the whole season, I'm going to put it all on the line and do whatever I possibly can to help my team win and send the seniors out on a high note, so really, I just took a deep, I was like, we have one more half to play and I'm going to give it everything I've got.
Q.Â Connor, you've really enjoyed the underdog role, embraced it, seemed to play it up, seems to work well for you.Â You're not going to go into next year as the underdog.Â Will this football team be able to stay hungry with so many seniors like Denicos moving on and Michigan State entering into next season as likely the Big Ten favorite?
CONNOR COOK:Â After this year, obviously, the expectations are sky high.Â I think we'll have to realize that.Â I think we'll come together as a team and have that talk and stress how important next year is, and from what we were able to do this year, and there's no question, there's no reason why we can't do it next year, as well.
Really‑‑ was there another question you asked?
Q.Â Just about how you maintain the hunger with all the leadership you guys are losing.
CONNOR COOK:Â Well, guys have to step up every single year.Â Seniors graduate, underclassmen have to step up.Â I think the main thing we have to be is so hungry and realize that together we can accomplish anything, and we showed that by what we did this year by winning the Rose Bowl.
Q.Â Denicos, you're leaving.Â This is going to become Connor's team next year.Â Tell the fans why you have confidence in Connor's ability to bring them back.Â Would you discuss him, please?
DENICOS ALLEN:Â Yeah, I've talked to Connor and I've told him since camp, look, I've got faith in you.Â I can tell you want it.Â You're a champion at heart.Â I tell him that before every game, play with confidence, and he does.Â You know, I'm confident in him and all the younger guys because the seniors we had, we had a great group of seniors, and we really‑‑ I feel like the underclassmen really took how we played and how we played the game and how we attacked practices and stuff like that.Â They took it and they learned, and I feel like they're going to carry that on to next year.
I wouldn't say we have the best senior class.Â I wouldn't say that.Â I would say we have the best mentality towards the game and the best attitude.Â That's contagious.Â Once you're around that, you pick it up and you just go with it, and I feel like that's exactly what they're going to do next year.Â I'm confident in him and the whole team.
Q.Â Connor, the touchdown drive before the first half, obviously a quick turnaround after the pick six.Â To do that, to end the first half, talk about that.
CONNOR COOK:Â Any time you can end the half with a touchdown coming down from the stupid decision that I made, but any time you can end the half on a touchdown that gives you so much momentum.Â I think that was kind of like the turning point for the game really, so any time that a team like us can drive down on Stanford, on their amazing defense and get the rock rolling a little bit, and then we got the ball coming out in the second half, we realized that if we put the ball in the end zone now we can add onto our lead in the second half.
But really want to say thanks to all the seniors that we've had.Â Want to send them out on a high note and I want to say thank you to Denicos and all the seniors that have been a part of this amazing team that we've had, and I'm going to miss them.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports