How does five losses in a row weigh on this team?
“You don’t think about that stuff. You just play it one year at a time, one game at a time, and if you look back even in our history, if you look at the 1969 year Michigan beat Ohio State. You don’t look so much at the fact that we had lost to Michigan State that year and other teams, you look at the fact that we had beat a really good Ohio State football team. It’s kind of that same thing. It doesn’t matter how this season has went so far, the fact that we lost a couple games in the past. It just matters what we do in this game, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
With Don Brown, I think it’s pretty interesting that he’s 62 years old and yet he’s able to connect with guys like you. How does he do that?
“He just does it because, I mean, he’s 62 in age but he’s got a young soul, I’ll tell you that. One of the best feelings is when you’ll be out there and you’ll do something good he’ll call you ‘bro.’ ‘You’re an animal, bro!’ Yeah, one of the highest compliments I’ve probably received here.”
Coach Harbaugh was kind of saying he brings the energy and passion kind of exactly like you were saying, like a younger guy. Does that kind of emotion rub off on everybody on the unit?
“Oh, for sure. Everyone loves coach Brown. Like, he’s notoriously liked and respected across the board. There’s other coaches that players kind of schluff off but definitely not coach Brown. He’s earned our respect. He’s a wizard when it comes to knowing football and just preparing for games and I’m just excited to play under him in this game.”
[After THE JUMP: Cole, McCray, Kinnel, Hurst, and Higdon]
As you look back at games where you guys have had success offensively, what’s the biggest thread in common?
“I think we’ve got to run the ball. Games where we’ve run the ball successfully it’s worked out well or us, so that’ll be another big key for this game is getting the run game going. That also takes some pressure off our protection and off our quarterback, too.”
Do you sense how much the fan base wants a win in this rivalry?
“Yeah. I mean, you guys see it too. Our fans want to win every week and if we don’t beat a team by 50 they’re the first critics, so yeah. Everyone wants to beat Ohio State. That’s why you play the game.”
What are the conversations like with your dad?
“Just growing up, of course I was an Ohio State fan but once I committed here, he was all in and a big supporter of me and a big supporter of our team so I thank him for that. Probably after this game and the bowl game he’ll go back over to the dark side.”
What’s this week like over the years with him?
“He’s always there helping me. He records previous games and evaluates the games and he gives me his tips and things like that just to help me get ready for the game and help me help my teammates get ready for the game as well, so he’s a big asset for the week, I guess.”
Can you talk about what Khaleke’s done at that Viper spot this year?
“He’s done a great job. He’s putting up crazy numbers and he’s a great player, and off the field he’s a great guy, too. I told you in the beginning, before the season started, that he would have a great year and he’s kind of backed me up on that.”
He’s putting up Peppers numbers. Is it in part the position or are those just two really good players?
“I think it’s a little bit of both. The Viper position is kind of like a SAM backer but they’re both really good athletes, like you said. They both take advantage of their opportunities and Khaleke has had a great year and Jabrill had a great year last year so just two really great athletes.”
Were you recruited by Ohio State at all?
“I was recruited but I did not get the scholarship.”
That [losing] streak, your personal connection, just the magnitude of this game, what would it mean to you to be able to get this win?
“It would mean a lot to me. Like I was saying, for our team coming off a loss against Wisconsin, Big Ten’s not in the picture, playoff’s really not in the picture, but they have that in the picture so we want to take everything away from them. We want to beat them, we want to ruin their season, we want to go into bowl prep with a great win and confidence for our bowl game, so we’re going to take this week serious and execute the gameplan the coaches give us.”
Is ruining their season sort of the rallying cry for this team?
“It’s more for us, we definitely want to win for us, but we know what’s at stake. If they have one more loss they’re pretty much going to be out of the playoff picture regardless of what happens in the Big Ten championship game.”
So that would be a nice side—
“Yeah, that’d be nice or us. Definitely.”
When you think about the play from last year and the end of the game, how much did you guys talk about that and what was your view of it?
“I mean, it was talked about for a long time. I think till I’m an old man I’ll think he’s short, but yeah, it’s something that was talked about on ESPN every day for probably like a month so yeah, it’s something we talked about a lot for the rest of that season.”
Do you notice a difference in terms of preparation from them? Obviously they’re going to prepare like any other game but at the same time they want this one that much more.
“Yeah, I think there’s definitely—even if you say there’s not a change in preparation I feel like everything’s a little bit more… people just look at the game a little bit more and study more and you get the extra film in, those type of things. I feel like everyone just prepares a little bit harder.”
What was last week like for you? When did you know you were going to play and did you feel 100% out there?
“It was tough. I was working through some things, but that was a huge game. In situations like that, as long as I can walk, run, play, I’m gonna give my all, regardless if it’s 100% or not.”
Are you still feeling it then?
“Um, still working through some things, but I’ll be there this weekend.”
Take me into that moment where you’re running out against Ohio State and hitting the banner. What is that moment like from a player’s perspective?
“Your heart’s pumping and it doesn’t stop. Most games, after the first snap your heart dies down a little bit. During this game it doesn’t. It’s amped up the whole entire game and you know that they want it just as bad as you do.”
Maurice said you guys talked a lot about that last play against Ohio State last year and obviously it was on TV constantly. How much did you guys talk about it and how much do you use it this year?
“We use it a lot because you can’t leave no doubt. We put the game in the hands of the referees. That’s one of the worst things you can do, and we’ve got make sure we don’t make that same mistake this year.”
But did you guys talk about it as a team for a while?
“No, we really talked about it amongst ourselves but we really didn’t discuss it much as a team. We know what we have to do this year and we’re ready to go with that.”
What was your view of it?
“For me, [/laughs] I think everyone knows we definitely won that game, hands down. But it is what it is. I can’t change the results. No one can. That was on us to put it in the hands of the refs.”