Jarrod Wilson, Jack Miller, Brennen Beyer
Before you were at Michigan, your favorite Michigan v. Ohio State game. Maybe something that you watched growing up?
JM: “I was never a particular fan of either team, but when you grow up in the state of Ohio or Michigan the last weekend of November the game is always kind of a big deal, so I always watched them. I don’t necessarily remember a specific one more than another. Maybe when they were #1 and #2 one year down in Ohio or whatever, maybe that one. But you always know about it. You always watch it, and it means a hell of a lot.”
Jack, we just had your offensive coordinator out here who was talking about the challenges you guys have gone through adapting to a new system here. I know it hasn’t been maybe the year you’d hope for, but how do you feel you’ve done trying to learn what he’s been teaching and what kind of struggles have happened along the way?
JM: “I can only speak from an offensive line perspective, and maybe that’s a bright spot for us is we’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on. In November, which is arguably the most important month, we’re running the ball really well. We’re protecting Devin pretty well, and so I’m pretty proud of how the offensive line’s coming together as a team and we’ve been pretty successful down the stretch, but we haven’t put it all together as an offense or as a team and that’s the ultimate goal, which we’ve failed to accomplish.”
If you could just briefly describe your feelings for Ohio State. Obviously it’s a more elevated rivalry, but what about them makes this special for you?
BB: “Growing up in Michigan this game’s been my favorite game to watch moreso than any other sporting event I’d say just being a big Michigan fan. Playing in it is pretty cool too. It’s just got so much weight in the football game, two programs, two top-of-the-line programs. There’s just so much going into it. So much history and so much tension in the rivalry. It’s awesome. It’s the game you want to play in.”
JM: “I think I’ll say it the most diplomatic way I can: I’m not a big fan of Ohio State. I never have been. Ever since they beat Miami in the 2002 National Championship Game I’ve always disliked them, and I don’t like the Horseshoe and I don’t like Carmen Ohio. That’s kind of how I feel about them.”
JW: “It’s the greatest rivalry in college football. As far as Ohio, being an Ohio kid I kind of grew up watching them but never really was a fan of them. For this game I’m just really excited to play.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Jack, pass interference in that 2002 National Championship [Game] or not?
JM: “No, absolutely not. The Hurricanes were on the field. It was a late call.”
Were you a Miami fan?
JM: “I was. My dad was the best man in Rob Chudzinski’s wedding. They were best friends growing up, and he was the offensive coordinator for the Canes at that time so I grew up a Miami fan. I didn’t dislike Ohio State really until that game. Living in Cleveland, growing up Cleveland I found a way to dislike them as I grew up.”
As a follow up to that, what is it like to go home to Ohio if you lose this game, and what is it like to go home if you win this game?
JM: “Yeah, it’s different. When I lived in Cleveland it was complete Buckeye territory and winning means a lot, bragging rights, for sure. When I go home to Toledo now where my family lives it’s kind of half and half. I get supported half the time and people don’t like me the other half of the time, so it’s a nice bragging right to have for a full year.”
That was the diplomatic version?
JM: “Yeah, that was. That was the version for you guys.”
Alright then. You mentioned it real quick, but what’s it like with your friends? Do they text you? Do they give you junk? What’s the back and forth like with your friends from home, who are probably Ohio State fans?
JW: “I’m not really- I’m not receiving that many text messages. They all know the game’s coming up, but really just going to try to focus and make sure I’m doing good with understanding the game plan and everything so I’m just going to try to cut everyone off. I have a friend who plays for them so we’re probably going to have a few choice words, but nothing disrespectful or anything.”
JM: “I’d say the same thing. I have a lot of respect. I know a lot of those guys and it’s a great program. I have a lot of respect for what they do. My girlfriend goes to Ohio State, so I try to…I’m just playing around. I’ll block it out all week and get ready for the game plan. It’s a fun rivalry. That’s what makes it fun, especially for a couple kids being from Ohio. It’s a good time.”
Talk about where the defense has come from the Ohio State game last year until now.
BB: “I think we’ve definitely improved as a defense. I think we’ve done a really good job of understanding the calls [from] coach Mattison and want he wants us to do through execution, and understanding what offenses want to do against us and stopping them. I also think we’ve shown improvement and gotten better as the game have gone on throughout the season. That’s been key.”
JW: “I believe we all have trust in one another. We don’t have to be out there trying to play hero ball [and] make every single play. We can just trust the guy beside us to do his job, his responsibility. That’s the biggest adjustment I’ve seen from last year to this year.”
This has been a tough season on all of you. Have you seen any change in how Brady has approached the day-to-day and how he’s handled this season?
JM: “No. If anything I think it speaks volumes about his character how he’s come in to the building every day with the same energy and the same passion for us and for Michigan that he’s had from day one, and it’s disheartening that the season’s gone this way because it’s a great group of coaches both on and off the field that put in countless hours of time and energy to try to put us in the best position, and it’s a great group of guys I play with who work their tails off. It’s disheartening that it hasn’t worked out the way we want but nothing’s guaranteed.”
Jack, who’s your girlfriend rooting for on Saturday?
Would that be a deal breaker if she wasn’t?
JM: “Yes, it would. It would.”
When the offense has had kind of a tough year do you put it any more on your shoulders to make a play as a defense or try to pitch a shutout or anything like that?
JW: “I think as a defense we just do as much as possible to win the game. If they don’t score they don’t win, so if we do our job and make sure they don’t put points on the board we’ll be good.”
Last year nobody gave you guys a chance in this game but you were right in it until the very end. What did you see throughout the entire week that week, and how come maybe that hasn’t carried over this year and you haven’t seen the results? I assume you expect the same results again, to be right there and win this game, but what was it last year and how come that hasn’t happened through 11 games this year?
JM: “I’m not sure that I understand your question, because this year has been a lot like last year up to this point. We haven’t played the game yet this weekend, so if you’re asking what was different about the game last year I don’t understand.”
No one gave you a chance to win and yet you had a chance to win on the very last play. You’re right, this year is similar. What was different about that game?
JM: “What makes rivalries like this so great is you know everyone’s going to bring their A game. We were able to put some things together that we hadn’t to that point. I wish I knew why, because we would have done it this far in the season. Hopefully we’ll be in that same kind of situation again where it’s neck and neck and we can put yourselves in a chance to win the game.”
You guys always talk about your three rivals, but how different does this week feel than Michigan State and even Notre Dame? And also, is it tough to see Ohio State having the kind of success that that program’s been having this year and really the last few years?
JW: “For me it’s not tough. No disrespect to them or anything. I’d just say they’ve had a pretty good year and they’re doing what’s expected for them to do. For us as a team things haven’t went our way, but for this game there’s no more extra excitement or anything. It’s just the greatest rivalry this sport has to offer. That has fuel within itself.”
JM: “They deserve what they’ve gotten, no doubt about it. They’re a great program. They’ve got great players. They’re well coached. People get what they deserve and they’re having a great season, and I’m sure they deserve it. It’s not tough to see that. It’s tough that we’re not doing as well as we feel we should be doing.
“Then as far as rivalries go, they’re all important but I’d be lying if I said this one for me personally, being from Ohio, wasn’t a little bit more important than the others, maybe.”
BB: “I’d say I don’t mind at all seeing Ohio do well because at the end of the season we get to play them, and the better they do I just think all the more exciting that is for us to go out and take them out, so it’s fine by me seeing them do well.”
You guys have faced enough other quarterbacks that are dual threats, but maybe what do you do differently in preparation or what do you hone in on for a guy like JT Barrett?
BB: “I think just being disciplined with the quarterback. Make sure you put yourself in a position to take him and not let him explode up the field. Just playing smart football and keeping him boxed in there. Just disciplined.”
JW: “As far as the back end, just staying with receivers. He may get outside the pocket a few times, which is normal, but we’ve just got to stay plastered to our men and make sure he doesn’t have any shots downfield.”