"...don't believe something because an "expert" is saying it. Believe it because of the evidence."
[The Athletic Department made Ryan Van Bergen and Kevin Koger available for short interviews following the BCS bowl announcement. Brady Hoke was not available because he is currently in New York for the Football Hall of Fame Inductions. Hoke will be back for a Wednesday presser, and bowl practice will commence at the end of the week.]
Ryan Van Bergen
How does it feel to be going to the Sugar Bowl and playing Virginia Tech?
“It’s huge for us to be in the Sugar Bowl. It’s a great opportunity for us to this season off strong. We felt like we earned a spot in the BCS with our performance this year. We’re really excited to get one more chance to play as a group. It’s been a special year for us and we get one last chance to make a statement.”
Were you keeping track of all the games yesterday and which teams to root for?
“No I actually stayed off twitter and everything, honestly. I was just sick of hearing the different things and the different scenarios how it all could play out. Just figure let the chips fall where they may. Like I said, we feel like we deserve this spot and we’re really excited about the opportunity to play a good team like Virginia Tech.”
What does this change or add to your legacy?
“It gives us another opportunity. It’s been since 2006 since we’ve been in a BCS game, and I just think it kind of reestablishes what this team has been able to do and how we’ve come, especially with the expectations we had coming into this season. It’s a tremendous opportunity to put a final stamp on this year.”
This is the first time Michigan’s ever played Virginia Tech. How familiar are you with them?
“I can’t lie. I’m not very familiar with them at all. Obviously I’ve only had about two minutes to watch their game film. From the clips on ESPN, they looked pretty good. We didn’t get a chance to watch them too much this season, but obviously we’ll take them very seriously. They’re a very good team, a very talented team. Unfortuantely they’re going to be motivated off their loss to clemson, but they’ve got plenty of athletes, I know that.”
Did you hear what Kirk Cousins said last night about you guys?
“I didn’t catch it. What did he say?”
In a nutshell, that Michigan got to stay home and watch the game on a couch and Michigan State shouldn’t be penalized.
“I mean, if he wants to be able to sit on the couch and watch us play in the Big Ten championship game, then he can do that. We would have loved to trade places and have that chance and have that opportunity. All complaints aside, they had an opportunity to the Rose Bowl sitting right in front of them to grab, and they didn’t seize the opportunity. I think they’ll do well in the Outback Bowl, but best of luck, best wishes -- we’re going to the Sugar Bowl, and we’re excited about it.”
What does the January 3rd spotlight do for this program?
“It’s huge! It’s huge. It kind of establishes national relevance for Michigan as a program. It puts us back on the map, so to speak, as a national powerhouse. It will be great for recruiting, it will be great for the alumni and the fans, but the biggest thing for us: team 132 wants to play again. We’ve really grown close. We have great team chemistry, and the opportunity to play one more game on a stage as big as the Sugar Bowl is huge for us.”
Have you ever been to New Orleans?
“Never been to New Orleans, but I hear Bourbon Street’s pretty cool, so I’ll have to check it out.”
Hoke’s emphasizes winning the conference and rivalry games. Do you expect the same kind of emphasis for a bowl game?
“I know he’s going to emphasize the Big Ten conference and representing the Big Ten conference. It’s more than just about Michigan. It’s about representing the Big Ten conference on the biggest stage as possible. Obviously this is one of the biggest stages you can represent the Big Ten conference in, and we want the Big Ten conference to receive national attention as one of the best conferences in the country. We want to be able to beat out of conference opponents, and then kind of get respect nationally as a conference, and that’s something that we get an opportunity to do representing the Big Ten in the Sugar Bowl.”
How might this bowl game help erase your poor showing in the Gator Bowl last year?
“I think that that’s exactly what it is. It provides an opporunity for the guys who played last year and fell so short in that bowl game -- it provides us a chance to redeem ourselves and show that we can put forth a championship effort in a championship game, because that’s what this is. That’s why I think everyone’s going to be so well motivated and so excited for it.”
What was the reaction like in that room when the bowl game was announced?
“It was huge. It was something, like I said -- we all thought we were going to get it, but we weren’t sure if it was something that was going to happen, but we felt we deserved it. To have it finally and not on some kind of rumor or headline or something like that, having it on good authority that you’re going to that bowl game was huge for everybody I think on that team.”
How did you find out originally?
“We found out upstairs, a couple of us, and then through interviews and stuff like this, we’ve been kind of just notified. It’s been very recent, though …”
Has your roommate David Molk been insufferable since winning Offensive Lineman of the Year?
“Oh you know Molk. He’s such a jabberjaw that he’s so hard to keep contained. That’s all he does is run around the house and talk about how he’s a better O-lineman than me, and I told him, ‘I don’t even play O-line.’ No, I mean, I couldn’t be more happy for Dave Molk and what he’s accomplished. He works so hard, and he’s a tremendous worker, and as far as national accolades go, the sky’s the limit for him. I know that there’s still the Rimington to be announced, and I think he’s the prime candidate for that because he is the best center in the country hands down. I wish him all the best, and I have confidence in the fact that he’s going to be reward for the work that he’s put in.”
Your reaction to Michigan going to the Sugar Bowl?
“I mean, it’s really exciting. It’s a testament to how hard the team worked this year. It’s really good for the senior class. We’ve been through a lot, so it’s good to end on a high note.”
What do you see when you look at Virginia Tech?
“I mean, I can’t say them I followed them a lot this year. They always have good athletes, and I know Marell Evans has a couple friends on their team.”
Van Bergen said he stayed away from everything yesterday to avoid overanalyzing the BCS scenarios. What did you do?
“Oh yeah, I was actually the opposite. I was with a couple of teammates. We were over at Kenny Demens’s house, a few of us. We watched probably every game we could possibly watch throughout the day, and we were going over scenarios and all that. It was a lot of fun, though.”
Who did you think was going to be your opponent?
“We really didn’t know. We kept hearing different stuff. I distinctly remember JB Fitzgerald was so negative the whole day, but I mean we were just going through every scenario possible, googling all the scenarios as each game went on. Like I said, it was a lot of fun.”
What kind of stuff did JB say?
“Just being so negative. He said, ‘Oop, we’re going to the Little Ceasar Bowl in Detroit.’ He was being really sarcastic, and he was basically cheering for every team he should have cheered for. Yesterday if you were following him on twitter you would see that.”
When, where, and how did you find out tonight?
“Actually before our meeting -- Justin Dickens told us earlier, but I wasn’t supposed to say anything, so I kind of had to act surprised. Yeah I found out probably about an hour and a half ago, 7:30.”
What are your plans the rest of the night? Is there a team meeting?
“Yeah we have a team meeting. I guess we’re going to go over all the logistics and all that for about a half hour, 45 minutes. And after that probably just bask in the ambience.”
Ever been to New Orleans?
“Never. Never, but my roommate JB, he has a lot of family down there, so he says it’s a good time.”
What kind of spotlight will the Sugar Bowl provide your team after the season you’ve had and the struggles you had before this season?
“It’ll be a great atmosphere. It’d be great for the team, but it’ll just show everybody Michigan’s back, and we’re serious.”
Did you see Kirk Cousins’s comments after the Michigan State?
“Nah. I didn’t see anything.”
He basically said that Michigan shouldn’t go to a BCS bowl because you guys sat home and watched the Big Ten championship game.
“Yeah. I mean, we did get to recover a little bit, but I’d rather play in the Big Ten championship game. I mean, the inaugural Big Ten championship -- that says a lot of about the teams that played in it. We’d be happy to trade places, but it is what it is.”
Will you make this more of a business trip as a senior and a captain? Do you want this to be very focused?
“Definitely. We went down to Jacksonville and didn’t put on our best performance. It was embarrassing to say the least. We can learn from our mistakes. I mean, we’ll definitely have a little bit of fun, but the main thing is to go down there and win the football game.”
Do you think the focus will be different this time with a different coaching staff?
“No I think the focus is always to win the football game, but I mean it was just disappointing to put all that work into a game and have the outcome we did last year.”
What do you make of the prestige of the BCS games?
“I mean, it’s definitely exciting. One thing that people don’t realize -- I think we’re going to be playing indoors, and a lot of people on the team haven’t played indoors. I have freshman year against Minnesota, but it’s a lot different playing indoors as opposed to playing in Glick. It’ll be a different experience. The lights are a little bit different, but it’s going to be a great stage with a lot of people watching.”