Talk about the season Mike McCray’s having and really the career after having to bounce back from an injury-riddled start and really be one of your key players. Just talk about what he means to this team and this program.
“Elected captain by his teammates. Playing good ball. Been a sure tackler and been the quarterback of the defense—I hear it sometimes referred to a linebacker that way, signal-caller, et cetera. Just been steady. Been a real good football player.”
Opponents are averaging 3.5 points per games in the second halves of games against your defense. Talk about your staff in terms of the adjustments that they’re making in terms of what’s being thrown at them.
“Yeah, our defensive staff, led by Don Brown, they’re at the highest level in all phases, not just making adjustments at halftime. Game planning, teaching, all areas of coaching.”
What is Wilton’s status this week?
“He won’t be able to compete this week or for multiple weeks.”
Can you divulge what the nature of the injury is?
“Um…I think you can talk to Wilton about that or the doctors but yeah, he’s going to be out. John O’Korn will be the starter.”
[Hit THE JUMP to see which of Jim Harbaugh’s lists he forgot to bring to the presser]
You called your guys’ win over Purdue kind of a manly win, going in there and being able to beat the elements. Michigan State coming off what Dantonio called a 12-round fight against Iowa. Your thoughts, is there maybe an extra premium on it this year given that you’re both coming off such big wins?
“What I said was nothing makes you feel more like a man than go in, defeat an opponent in their stadium, defeat their crowd, and also defeat the elements. That’s the way I said it.”
But given the nature of that win, kind of defining early win for you guys, Michigan State’s coming off a similar type of win, does that put any extra premium on this week’s game.
“Fantastic football team that we’re playing this week. Always think of it as a huge game, big game. This one’ll be that.”
Can you talk about the way John O’Korn so far has taken advantage of the opportunity and keeping himself ready for just this moment in his career?
“Yeah, John’s done a fantastic job ever since he got here [and] in every role that he’s been in he’s acquitted himself very well, including coming off the bench and leading our team to a victory against Purdue. I think that speaks volumes.”
Michigan State’s defense has played pretty well here the first four weeks from what we’ve seen [inaudible].
“Yeah, they’ve played very well. I think their offense has played extremely well, their defense has played extremely well, and their special teams have played extremely well. Very good football team in our opinion.”
Is Brandon Peters going to be your backup quarterback?
“Yeah, Brandon will be the backup. Dylan McCaffrey will be third.”
Last week you spoke glowingly about your secondary. Where do you think they’ve improved the most since the start of the season?
“In all areas of defensive backfield play. Wouldn’t pick out one thing as the most. Been good. Tight coverage. They’ve tackled well. They’ve been assignment-good. Haven’t been any real blown coverages I can think of. Talked about it before, that’s been a real bright spot on our football team.”
What kind of challenge does Brian Lewerke present your defense as a guy who can throw and run and make big plays?
“Yeah, I think you just said it, did a nice job summarizing it. Throws very well, runs very well, has a penchant for making the big play.”
What did you see in the improvement week that you liked?
“A lot. A lot of things.”
“Didn’t bring that list with me but just good improvement. Guys [had] good focus. Good practices. Good energy.”
Can a 3-3-5 be a staple against a more traditional team like Wisconsin or Michigan State or do you have to adapt?
“I think you like your opponents to think all options are open and available.”
Is there such a thing as bringing too much emotion into a football game, because this is one where there’s a lot of emotion on both sides.
“Do I seem over-emotional to you?”
What’s the message to John O’Korn right now given that it seems like he’s going to be taking over for a little bit in a pivotal game. What’s the message to him?
“Putting in the gameplan today and John does a great job of studying that and studying the opponent and expect that this week he’ll continue doing a great job of that. We’re putting in the scouting report and the gameplan. That’d be the message.”
You’ve stated how you like playing games in the day. Is there a part of you that’s excited to see the atmosphere Saturday in a night game against Michigan State, first one since you’ve been here?
“Yeah. I mean, I’m not—I understand that there’s night games and I’ve said this before: I think as a player there’s an exciting part of that, especially the way the pants, the silks, there’s a shine there kind of like…yeah, night games are cool. Is that—what are you asking me?”
They’ve only played three night games here and obviously you weren’t at the others so you haven’t seen Michigan Stadium at night. Is there part of you from that standpoint that’s excited to see that?
“Yeah, there’s a part of me that’s excited about that. I think there’s a part that excited the players as well, playing under the lights.”
Any chance we’ll see alternate uniforms?
Where does that loss to Michigan State two years ago rank in terms of last-second heartbreakers for you as a coach or player?
“Again, I didn’t bring that list with me today.”