Joe Bolden, Kyle Kalis,and Willie Henry
When Michigan State won on Saturday, how did that change your feelings toward The Game and what this matchup might mean?
WH: “Personally for me it didn’t because this is the biggest rivalry in college football, in my opinion. They’re going to go out there and give it their all. We’re going to control what we can control, so we’re going to go out there and play Michigan football Saturday.”
KK: “Yeah, I have to agree. You know, the whole year it’s really just been us controlling our own destiny. It’s going to be up to us having a great week of practice preparing for the game. They’re going to come out hard like they always do. Yeah, doesn’t affect anything for me.”
Joe, you’re a senior. You’re from Ohio. Is there really anything else to say this week?
“Not really, no.”
Is this a game you’ve been waiting for?
“Yeah, [for] four years, you could say. Since I committed.”
Considering you’re all from Ohio, what does this mean for your family and your friends having to deal with both sides of the rivalry?
KK: “There’s definitely some conflict, but it’s all good. This is the best rivalry game in college football. No doubt in my mind, and I know I’m not the only one who thinks that. It’s going to be fun. We’ve all been waiting for it. Team’s been waiting for it. Both teams are going to come out hard, guns blazing, not holding anything back, and it’s going to be a good one.”
Willie, you guys made a slight schematic change going into the game with Penn State on Saturday: you put four traditional down linemen in the game. When did you make that decision, and how do you think that approach worked this weekend?
“That was all coach Durkin and the coaching staff. They come in every week and they’re scheming up something different to help the defense and the team to put us in a better situation to win games. They thought going down to a traditional 4-3 look was better for the team; I’m all for it. It was more what was best for the team and a schematic advantage for Penn State.”
How do you think you guys did with it?
“I think we did well. I congratulate the D-line. I felt like we put a lot of pressure on Hackenberg during the game and tried to keep pressure and get to him with a four-man rush.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Kyle, can you talk about Jake [and] when he got on campus what you thought of him and how different that was to have a quarterback come in brand new as a fifth-year senior, and how he’s developed this year as a teammate and a player?
“Yeah. I mean, I talked a lot about it before, but Jake is an awesome guy. Super intelligent guy. Knows the game of football inside and out, which is really what you want at the quarterback position. Great guy to be around. A natural-born leader. In the huddle he takes charge and we follow him, and that’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed from him so far. And just getting around the guys, becoming part of this team is something he’s done a really good job of and we all love and respect him, and we’re happy for how good he’s been doing.”
Joe, can you talk about Jake Butt? You see him all week long in practice. The offensive players always praise the defense: ‘going against this defense is what makes us good.’ Talk about going against Jake Butt on a weekly basis and the challenges he presents to a defense.
“Jake’s a great player. I think we’ve seen that throughout the season, especially here recently. I think he’s one of the semi-finalists or something for the Mackey award, which speaks volumes for what he’s doing.
“And he always jokes around that I hold him in practice. I always claim that I don’t hold him, so I think I don’t know if it’s a combination of holding and not holding and just being a pain in his neck at practice and him being a pain in my butt. No, I think he’s a competitor and it’s great to see him at practice and how he carries himself at practice. Whether I’m holding him or not, there’s no flags at practice so I guess we’ll never know.”
Kyle, you’ve got a good front four going against you here against Ohio State. You did really well against Penn State. Talk about the challenge of going against this front four.
“It’s going to be good. The past couple of years playing against them it’s been a good battle up and down the line. It’s been a game where it’s up and down and it’s going to be a tornado of ups and downs. That’s what it always is, and it’s going to be a hard fought battle and I’m personally looing forward to it. It should be fun for both sides to get out there on Saturday in the Big House. Hopefully it’s snowing; that’d be nice. But yeah, I’m looking forward to it. That’s why you play at Michigan and that’s why they play at Ohio State: for this game, and it’s going to be fun.”
For Kyle and Willie: Jim Harbaugh has played in this game like you have. Does he bring anything different to this week?
KK: “Other than his enthusiasm unknown to mankind? Because besides that, I mean, that’s what drives us every day is having a coach like that being able to push us the way he does. That’s something that…I can probably speak for all of us up here: it drives us and it drives the team, and he’s the guy behind the stage pulling all the strings. He is…he’s our guy, and we love playing for him.”
WH: “Same. He’s the guy that we look to for leadership, to encourage the team whether we had a good or bad practice. He’s the guy that everybody looks towards to point us to the right direction and I think he did a great job this whole season.”
You guys both, meaning Michigan and Ohio State, had gutting loses both to Michigan State in the closing seconds. What did you guys do to bounce back and right the season and make sure things didn’t come unraveled, which could happen for the Buckeyes maybe this week?
WH: “Control what we can control. Stay focused. We always had a mind we’ve got to play the next down and play the next game. We couldn’t control the last snap; we couldn’t right that out. Nobody expected it, but we had to go out and play five more games on the season so let’s finish the season out strong.”
KK: “Yeah, definitely when you have a game like that you can’t let it linger and you can’t let it beat you twice and that was a big thing for us. We just had to move forward, and coach Harbaugh was also an instrumental part of that in just getting us ready and having us prepare the way that he knew we had to to be ready for the next week, and it was good.”
Kyle, these past couple years the games with Ohio State have been close. The two-point conversion loss and then last year you guys hung with them for three quarters. How much have you guys talked about that? How much does that go into preparation for this week?
“I guess some guys talk about it. I haven’t really talked about it that much. The thing that I’m really looking forward to is today is the first chance we really get to be able to dive into the film and see what these guys are all about, and we’ll take it from there.”
Your coach was talking about the 1969 team [and] Bo Schembechler having them shovel off the practice field before the game because there was snow that week. Could you see him having you guys do that, and if not what’s the most head-turning thing he’s had you do that you didn’t expect?
JB: “I don’t think he’s going to have us shovel. That makes no sense when we have all these fancy machines that the university pays so much money for. You can make one pass and it blows all the snow. No, we’ve got the Michigan Mile today and I think everyone’s a little curious how we’re going to run that. I don’t know. I guess we’ll see.”
For Willie and Joe, can you talk about the challenge of their offense and specifically Ezekiel Elliot and his running game opening it up for JT, and can you take things from what Michigan State did this weekend to see what they did to shut them down?
JB: “I don’t know. I’ve gotta ask, how many of you guys are from Columbus? Who made the drive all the way up here?
/a few people sheepishly raise their hand
“You guys are crazy.
“And this guy’s sweater right here. [/points at Isaiah.] I’ve been staring at it for the last five minutes. It’s very appropriate for today. I just had to comment. I couldn’t get that off my mind. Sorry, I just had to say that. [Isaiah’s sweater had snowflakes on it.]
“You talking about the game this weekend between the two? We weren’t able to watch it. We were sitting on a plane waiting. We were delayed coming into Detroit. As you can see there’s a lot of snow on the ground. I haven’t really got to watch it too much other than certain plays here or there, so I couldn’t tell you that we’re going to look at what Michigan State did or how they’ve been playing because, to be honest with you, I haven’t really paid too much attention to them until this week simply because we’ve had more important games up to this point. That’s something coach Durkin always preaches is the next game’s the most important game, and this one’s definitely the most important game I think and yeah.”
Before the last home game, BTN was filming inside the locker room and you guys were getting fired up, beating on the door. Is that pretty typical of a Michigan-Ohio State game, those kind of emotions that brew, and do you expect something similar this week even in preparations and practices?
KK: “You know, it’s a big game, and it’s one where when it comes it’s time to just let loose and it’s time to just play. There are a lot of emotions that go through you when you play a big rivalry game like this and pounding on the door, sometimes that’s going to happen. That’s part of the game. That’s why you play is to experience those type of things and experience these type of games. Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened again.”
JB: “Yeah, I think one of the biggest issues nowadays is TV and waiting on them to start a football game. You’ve got two teams that just want to play each other, and at the end of the day they don’t really care how many people are sitting in the stands, they don’t care how many people are watching at home, who’s taping it, who’s broadcasting it, they just want to play. Like Kyle said, there’s a lot of emotions running through you. For some guys stuff may happen, I don’t know. I’ve never pounded on any doors so it’s personal preference whether you want to pound on a door or not, I guess.”
But you get the point.
“Yeah, yeah, no doubt. Guys are fired up.”
“Yeah, it’s quite a big fight, actually, so that was interesting. Yeah, I don’t know. Pounding on the door knocking to get out, I guess.”
WH: “There’s just a lot of emotion. It’s a high, emotional game. Like Joe said, the two teams waiting to go out there on the field let everything they have out because they know everybody’s watching. And whether everybody’s watching or not you just want to go out there and compete to the highest level. Like Joe said, coach Durkin made an emphasis that the next game is the most important game, so we’re going to go out there and play like it’s our last game.”