Denard Robinson and Jordan Kovacs
What was so formidable about your opponent today?
Denard: “They’re a great team. They’re a great defensive team, too. And so they played great. Toward the end that’s when we started picking it up. We talked about all week finishing, so that’s what we did. We finished out the end of the game, and we kept fighting the whole game. We never let up.”
What does this moment feel like for you guys?
Kovacs: “It’s pretty good. It feels pretty good. And like Denard said, you have to tip your hat to those guys. Obviously they were struggling a little bit coming in, but we knew it was going to be a dogfight. That’s what the Michigan-Michigan State game is year in and year out. They have a tough defense. They pound the ball on offense. You have to tip your hat to them, but Michigan won today.”
Is this defense good enough to win the Big Ten?
Kovacs: “We believe it, but at the same time, I think if we play like this every week we’re going to be in trouble. We have to keep getting better. That’s one of the things coach Hoke and coach Mattison emphasize: never become complacent. Get better every week. That’s what we plan on doing, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The last defensive stand was sort of reminiscent of the last drive against Notre Dame. Did it feel like redemption or something similar to be able to get the stop this time?
Kovacs: “You know, that’s what I was thinking as we took the field. It’s our opportunity to redeem ourselves and give the offense the ball back. Same situation as Notre Dame, and today we executed. We stopped them when we needed to and made some big plays and got the offense the ball back and let Denard take over.”
Drew Dileo was there every time you needed him. What was it that made him so effective today?
Denard: “When I went through with my reads, he came open. That’s when I got him the ball. I mean, he kept getting open. He’s a tough guy, but to be honest with you, you have to give credit to the offensive line. They gave me time to throw the ball today. I think that was the biggest thing. Throwing the ball, and getting time to throw the ball. That was a big factor during the game.”
Can you walk us through the last throw to Dileo?
Denard: “Basically the offensive line gave me a lot of time. The first hole, I missed Drew, and then he ended up getting open on the second hole, and that’s when I got the ball to him. Thankfully the offensive line and the running backs did a great job blocking and giving me enough time to throw the ball.
What was your key to success to stopping the run today?
Kovacs: “The front seven. I don’t think there’s any secret to it. Those guys are really playing some good ball. They’ve gotten better week in and week out. Defensive back-wise, we just kept the ball inside and in front. We didn’t want to give up that big play, and for the most part we did a good job of keeping the run contained. But you have to tip your hat to the front seven. The big guys and the linebackers, I think coach Mattison had a great scheme, and we just executed.”
It’s easy to be confident during a shutout. How do you maintain confidence on defense during a close game like this?
Kovacs: “Yeah I mean we’re feeling more and more confident each week, but like I said, we don’t want to be too confident. We don’t want to be too complacent. We’ve got to get better week in and week out. Our front seven’s improving. Our defensive backs are improving each week, and we just want to keep on striving.”
What does it feel like as seniors to leave without a 0-4 record against Michigan State?
Kovacs: “Feels good. I feel like we got the monkey off our back a little bit. This is a big game year in and year out. You don’t want to go 0-4 in this game. We won it for those guys that were before us, too. They’re a part of this team. It wasn’t just for these seniors. It wasn’t for these underclassmen. It was for this program. This program was in desperate need of a win in this game, and I’m glad that we executed and played well today.”
You reached your 300th career tackle. What does that mean to you, especially since you got it during this game?
Kovacs: “Not much. Hehe. To be honest with you, a stat’s a stat. I don’t really care about the individual stats. I’m happy that we played well enough defensively to win the game.”
Michigan State was stopping you on the ground early. Did you see something change later so that you were able to break a couple big ones later?
Denard: “I think the offensive line just started communicating and seeing who they needed to block and that’s what happened. Once the offensive line started going, that’s when the run game started going. I think that’s how you win the game. The guys up front.”
Denard, how much did you want to have the ball in the fourth quarter?
Denard: “Of course the offense wanted to have the ball in the last minutes, and just fourth quarter, you want to hold the ball. It’s always good for a team to see the defense on the sideline and you going to score. That was a great feeling, and you know, we finished the game, and that was the biggest thing that we wanted to do today.”
Did you guys receive the Paul Bunyan trophy, and where is it right now?
Kovacs: “Paul’s back. He’s in the locker room.”
Did your record in this series add to the pressure?
Kovacs: “There’s only pressure if you don’t prepare. We felt confident coming into this game. We felt like we prepared well. We just wanted to win for the seniors. We wanted to win for the guys last year, and we wanted to win for this program. I wouldn’t say there was any added pressure. Like I said, we felt confident coming into this game because of the way we prepared.”
What happened on their touchdown scoring drive, and how did you adjust after that?
Kovacs: “I think they opened up a little bit. They gave us a little bit of play-action, some stuff that we didn’t really see in the first half. They kind of hit some big passes, and they had a good game plan, but we schemed that a little bit and made our adjustments. We played well after that. Obviously there were a couple drives that they had that we’d like back, but at the end of the day, we did enough to win, and we’re happy with that.”
I don’t know if you guys saw after the game, but I almost got trampled out there. [MGo: -_______-] Have the fans ever trampled the field like that after a Michigan State win? Is this rivalry getting to the level of Ohio State?
Kovacs: “This has always been a big rivalry. You can’t rank one rivalry ahead of the others. This is as big as the others, and we’re just excited to win. Obviously it’s an intense game. I could tell you that. It was a physical game. It’s a dogfight. Obviously with the intrastate rivalry, the fans get involved, and it’s an intense atmosphere, but I’m glad you didn’t get trampled too bad.”
Did you watch the game-winning field goal? What was your vantage point and how did you react?
Denard: “I didn’t watch. I just took a knee and prayed and I was just thanking the above the opportunity to step on the field today. It was a great honor. I didn’t see it until everybody ran onto the field, so I just stood there.”
Kovacs: “Yeah I was watching, but I was also thinking about the next play. Okay, after we make this, what are we going to run defensively? I have all the confidence in the world in Gibby. I think he’s a heck of a kicker. He’s made some pretty big kicks for us. I’m proud of him and I’m proud of this team.”
Brendan Gibbons and Drew Dileo
Brendan, when you went out there, did you have any flashbacks to the Sugar Bowl?
Gibbons: “No. There’s no flashbacks. This is a new game, new season. Coach trusts me to go out there and win the game for the seniors and win Paul back to Ann Arbor.”
Which kick will be more memorable to you, the Sugar Bowl kick or this one?
Gibbons: “They’re all pretty big kicks. This one was a bigger one -- our bigger goal is to win the Big Ten championship, not just beat Michigan State, so I don’t know.”
What was it like when the trophy was brought in?
Dileo: “It’s always exciting to bring Paul Bunyan back. For me in particular, and Brendan -- I haven’t seen Paul Bunyan since I’ve been here at Michigan. It’s nice to get him back in our trophy case where it belongs.”
Were there conversations about that this week?
Dileo: “Yeah. There’s been a conversation the last four years.”
You had that big catch against Ohio State last year. How big were these catches today, especially that last one?
Dileo: “I think it was more Denard got a little pressure and scrambled, and I just continued running my route through the coverage. We knew that their DB’s didn’t really cover once the quarterback started scrambling, so I just kind of got open, and he found me and made a good ball and I caught it.”
Can you talk about the focus on the ensuing kick and whether or not you knew it was good?
Dileo: “Yeah. Kind of to switch gears from catching it, clocking it real fast, and then holding the field goal. Like I’ve told y’all before, I held in high school for two years, so it really comes naturally to me. Also to have Jareth Glanda as a good snapper, and Brendan -- we all have complete faith that he was going to make the kick. It was pretty nice.”
Did you know that he hit it?
Dileo: “Usually I can tell, you know, if he hits it good. I knew he hit it solid. He crushed it pretty good, but then he was kind of playing the wind, so it kind of started right and went back left.”
What is it like for you to have this kind of impact in such an important game?
Dileo: “It’s been pretty exciting. I have a role on this team, and to fulfill my role like I did today is nice for me, and nice for these seniors, team 133, coach Hoke, and everybody.”
Does the timeout to ice you have any effect at all?
Gibbons: “It really doesn’t affect me at all. I think it’s kind of pointless. I was just ready to win the game and have Paul back.”
Dileo: “To add on that real quick, coach Hoke prepares us for those situations. He calls timeout in practice all the time before Brendan kicks. It’s not like he hasn’t done it before.”
Before the kick, are you thinking about the same brunette girls, or are you mixing it up a little bit?
Gibbons: “No, I was just thinking about the seniors. That was my main goal. That’s what this season’s about: the seniors and winning it for them, winning the Big Ten championship for them.”
Denard says the offensive line makes him look good, and the offensive linemen says Denard makes them look good. Which is it?
Dileo: “I think it’s both, really. Our offensive line is pretty good. Pretty damn good. And Denard makes them better, and they make Denard better. Really it goes both ways.”
Did anyone talk to you before that last kick, and if so, what did they say?
Gibbons: “I was just down by everyone, and everyone was saying, ‘All right, Gibby go win the game for us,’ so I just went out there and won the game.”
Did you say anything to Matt Wile before his first career attempt? Did you know he’d be good from 48 yards?
Gibbons: “Yeah he has a very strong leg. It was into the wind a little bit, and he did a really nice job when his number was called.”
What gave you confidence that the defense could make the last stop to give you the ball back?
Dileo: “Really, how hard we practice and how hard they practice. We really had a physical week of practice. Coach Mattison and coach Mallory and coach Smith had a good game plan. I don’t really see a whole lot of that because I’m more on offense, obviously, but I have trust in our coaches. I think that’s kind of where it starts, trusting our players to get it done, and they got it done.”
Early on it looked like there was talking between the two teams. How intense is it down there, and what’s it like?
Dileo: “I mean, it’s Michigan-Michigan State. In-state rivalry. It’s pretty intense. I think that’s something you just have to expect.”
Was there part of you that wanted the game to come down to your leg in the final seconds?
Gibbons: “My job on the team is to put three points on the board or one point on the board if we score a touchdown, and I was excited when my number was called, that coach Hoke has trust in me and the field goal unit to prepare or get a win for Michigan for our bigger goal in the Big Ten championship.”
Kovacs said this win lifts the monkey off your back. Is that how you guys are looking at this?
Dileo: “Yeah, I think so. As I’m sure he said, it’s nice to beat Michigan State. But like Brendan just said, it’s just another championship game. We’re trying to win the Big Ten championship here at Michigan. That’s what’s expected, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Craig Roh, Roy Roundtree, and Taylor Lewan
What’s it like to finally beat these guys?
Lewan: “It’s special. It’s a rivalry game. We have three big rivalry games a year, but at the same time, this wasn’t our season. We have bigger goals, and our goal is the Big Ten championship, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
The defense played well again. Do you feel like you’re a defense that could win the Big Ten?
Roh: “I think through the way that we prepare -- it’s all the work that goes in before that makes us feel that we can play with anyone in the country. It’s just the way -- we prepare like an NFL team, and that’s the way we’re going to keep preparing every week until the season’s over.”
When Brendan goes out to attempt that field goal, was there any doubt he would make it?
Roundtree: “It goes back to Thursdsay. We go through different scenarios. It was down by three or two, and we executed, and we played it over today, and just coming off of what happened, we didn’t score on that drive, but Brendan was over there focusing, and he said he had it, and it came down to him, and he got the job done.”
Taylor, the talk last year was that they manhandled you. Do you feel like you held your own today?
Lewan: “As a whole offensive line? I think we got the job done. It wasn’t always beautiful, but at the end of the day the offensive line came together and we did what we had to do to win the game.”
Did you go over to the sideline to get the Paul Bunyan trophy?
Lewan: “You know, I ran over there. It’s my first time beating Michigan State, so I don’t know how that works. So I ran over there to get the Paul Bunyan trophy, because last time I remember that’s how they did it. I didn’t see him and coach told us to go over and sing the Victors, so I did that.”
Did you and Will Gholston talk after the game?
Lewan: “I went up to him and said, ‘Good luck,’ and ‘Good game.’ There’s nothing else to say.”
Can you talk about what it meant to Brendan Gibbons for the game to end the way it did?
Lewan: “You know, I said at Virginia Tech, the Sugar Bowl, Brendan, obviously his freshman year wasn’t what we wanted, what he wanted. To complete the zero to hero turnaround, everyone who watches Michigan football and is a fan of Michigan football can really appreciate Brendan Gibbons for what he’s done for this University and all the ups and downs he’s had. I think overall he’s overcome so many things, and I’m so proud of him as a friend, as a teammate. I can’t say anything bad about Brendan.”
When did you guys finally see Paul Bunyan?
Lewan: “I didn’t see him until I went into the locker room. So I don’t know when y’all saw him. When did y’all see him?”
Roundtree: “Yeah, locker room.”
So there was never an exchange?
Lewan: “I feel like they were upset about it.” [Ed: This got cleared up after the presser. According to Ablauf, protocol for when Michigan wins is that Paul Bunyan is exchanged between locker rooms. Michigan State likes to parade it around the field when they win, apparently.]
Craig, you said you prepare like an NFL team. How do you know that, and what gives you that feeling? And Roy, what was going through your head after the kick?
Roh: “I guess I’ll go first. Coach Mattison coached in the NFL, and he said that we prepare like an NFL team. I’m guessing that’s pretty -- I don’t think he’s lying to us, because he’s pretty brutally honest, mostly all the time. And just the way that we feel how committed the guys are all across the board. There’s something special about this defense and the guys on this defense.”
Roundtree: “I got really emotional. We saw what our team can do. They finished. We emphasized that all week, to finish for your team. I feel like we did that as a whole and came out with the W. Got Paul back.”
Beating Michigan State had to feel better than a normal win, right?
Roundtree: “Yeah. I mean, like I said, it was a big rival game. We haven’t beaten them in four years. Just seeing what our team can do. I give credit to the coaches because they made sure that we stayed focused throughout the whole game. We had some downfalls. We didn’t score. But we came out with the W and we are excited about that. But we can’t have that determine our season. We’re going to enjoy it tonight and get ready for Nebraska tomorrow.”
As a senior, how satisfying is it to go out with the win?
Roundtree: “It feels great.”
Pretty difficult to win without scoring touchdowns. How much confidence do you have in the defense?
Lewan: “I have all the confidence in the world in our defense. Football is a team sport the last time I checked. There’s been times where we’ve done well and helped the defense out, but there’s been plenty of times the defense has helped us out. I think what we did today was a W, and I promise in a couple years when you look back on it it’ll still be a W, and that’s how I’m looking at it right now. Obviously there’s things we need to fix in the offense. There’s things we need to do better. We need to block better. We need to catch better. It’s a full team sport. I’m grateful to the defense. Like I said, a W is a W, and that’s how I’m taking it today.”
Anything to add, Roy?
Roundtree: “I mean, just watching them guys going against them every day in practice and I can see how competitive they are. I rarely sit down when they’re on the field because I actually like to watch them, and seeing all the guys work together and see them motivate each other to get the offense back the ball, because all of us say just give us the ball back so we can score. Give good credit to these guys because they worked hard for us today.”
Roy, can you talk about Drew Dileo and his contributions?
Roundtree: “I mean, Drew is my roommate, man. Smart guy, physical, small, but he makes big plays. Marquise Walker came in there and spoke to us Thursday, and he said you have to make the big plays and stay focused, and I feel like Drew did a great job. He really put on for Michigan today.”
Immediate reaction to the kick?
Lewan: “Heh. Well, I was in on the field goal. The first voice I heard was Craig’s voice, just telling me, ‘Nothing gets by you, Taylor.’ … I told Craig, ‘I block. That’s what I do. I’m going to block for this field goal.’ I saw the kick. I had confidence in Brendan the whole time. I told you how I feel about Brendan and I’m not going to change that statement. I was confident the whole time.”
Roundtree: “Gibby was confident in himself. They tried to ice him, but I told everybody on the sideline, ‘Don’t rush the field,’ and I was the main one on the field, so … But it felt great just seeing them out there and the excitement.”
Roh: “For me, it was really once I knew it was going through, I was really really happy. But then I saw everyone running on the field, and I looked up and there was still five seconds left, so I was trying to get everyone back on the sideline so that we didn’t get flagged, but we did get a flag. But we ended up winning the game, so that works.”
Was the Notre Dame game on your mind on that last Michigan State drive? Also, what does it say about the defense this time around that you were able to get the stop?
Roh: “More of what was on my mind is just the fact that everyone on their defense just needed to do their job because that’s all we needed to do. We’ve been coached so great with our technique. When we do what we’re supposed to do, it works. It was really exciting to get that last defensive stand, to get the offense back on the field so that they could put some points up. That’s exactly what happened.”
Their fake punt was a big play. How big was it that you were able to hold them to a field goal on that drive, though?
Roh: “I think with any good defense, they’re going to thrive in quick change situations. I think our defense thrives in those types of situations. We almost want those quick change situations because we can show how good we are. That’s something that’s always exciting for us.”