When did the team find out that John’s going to be starting this week?
“I mean, kind of just the way he performed last game and just waiting for Wilt to get back healthy. John performed at a level where that gives you confidence when your quarterback comes and performs, especially a second-string guy, the way he did. It gives you confidence. John’s going to hopefully do the same thing this week. I know he’s preparing to have the best game of his life.”
Does anything change with him under center, not going into specifics?
“No, not really. I think they both bring great stuff to the table. They’re similar quarterbacks. I think you can expect the same or expect better. I think he’s going to do just fine.”
As one of the team’s leaders, what do you tell the younger kids that have only played in this game once or never before?
“Just don’t get caught up in the bull. It’s a rivalry game so there’s a lot of trash talking gonna happen. A lot of stuff after the play’s gonna happen—I’m sure it will—but we’ve got to be mature and understand that, okay, somebody’s sitting on you, let it happen. Let them get the penalty, not you, so that’s one thing we kind of emphasize as leaders is if something happens and you don’t like it, coach Harbaugh always says you grab ‘em and just grab ‘em. Keep it there.”
[After THE JUMP: Lavert Hill, Mike McCray, and Mo Hurst]
You’ll likely be going up against Felton Davis. He had a big game against Iowa. What kind of challenge does he present?
“He’s a pretty good athlete. He knows how to track the ball in the air, so we’ve just got to get our hands on him and just disturb him at the line and just play ball.”
His first touchdown was on a rollout by Lewerke. As a corner, what challenge does that pose when a quarterback can keep the play alive that long?
“Just stay your eyes on the man at all times. Just don’t look back at the quarterback until the ball’s in the air and you know you can get it. Just have your eyes on your man.”
A few of you guys said that last year you got the redemption but you still have that bitter taste from how it ended here in Ann Arbor last time. What are your thoughts on that?
“Yeah, we talked about that yesterday. You still think about it sometimes. It’s one of those things that’s in the back of your mind. They came in here and beat us and we want to change that this year.”
Where were you on that play?
“I was on the sideline. It was just one of those plays that you’ll never forget.”
Have you ever had a more heartbreaking last-second loss than that?
“No. That was probably the only one in my life ever, really. That was probably one of the most memorable losses ever.”
You guys haven’t allowed a point in the fourth quarter all season. What is it about this defense that you’re able to lock down late in games?
“We talk about that as a defense, coming out especially after halftime and getting that third-quarter shutout and coming into the fourth quarter just finish, finish the game how we started it. That’s really all it is.”
What’s your confidence in O’Korn?
“We’re really confident in O’Korn. He had a great camp, had a great spring, and hopefully he can do what he did against Purdue. We’re very confident.”
How much does the game two years ago stick with you?
“It sticks a lot, especially just being there and just experiencing a lot of that postgame sadness and seeing all the players out on the field and celebrating a long time after we were done, so it hurts and sticks.”
What’s the biggest difference in this type of game compare to other games in the Big Ten?
“Both the teams just come out and try to play as hard as possible. When you’re battling an in-state team everything really matters about this win because the recruits care about it and the people in the state care about it a lot and you hear about it for the entire year. It’s something that brings out the best in people because a lot of these guys know each other and a lot of them are from the same areas or from a similar background.”
Has Chase’s performance surprised you at all or did you see this coming from him?
“No, I actually saw this coming from him. I really thought Chase was going to have a phenomenal year. You can kind of see it in spring ball start to develop . He started to gain a lot more confidence playing on the outside. You saw a lot of flashes from it last year.When he got his opportunity he made the most of it and normally that’s always the person that breaks out once they’re a starter.
“The same thing with Dev Bush. He had a really great year on special teams last year and he’s having a really great year this year.”
A lot of the guys have acknowledged that Chase may be wired a little differently. Do you see that?
“Ah, nah, he’s normal.”
“That’s the question. I don’t know.”
MGoQuestion: What have you seen on film from Michigan State’s offensive line?
“They’re tough guys and they play through the whistle. I know I’ve been playing the center for about four years now and he’s a great player and he’s up for I think a number of awards. I think their offensive line is put together pretty well. They like to run the ball and they’re pretty good in pass protection as well so it presents a challenge for us and it’s a really big game for a good offensive line and good defensive line to play.”
Was there a moment early in your career where you knew this rivalry had a little bit more of an edge to it?
“I think it was like my first or second play. I was kind of used to just knocking people back in high school and my first play I got double teamed and caught one under the chin and I kind of knew this was sort of a different game and that you really had to bring it every single play. I mean, all the stuff after; they’re playing through the whistle so you’re getting pushed five, ten yards downfield if you’re running to the ball. Or any sort of extra play: if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in this game.”