News and Notes from Spartan Football

 

There is no doubt that Kirk Cousins is a good QB.  There is also no doubt in my opinion that this fine young man and QB has not taken his game to another level this year. 

 

Certainly not an indictment, he will already be considered among the best ever in the Spartan Nation.  With that said he has a chance of leaving with four wins over UM and three in a row as the starting QB.  Here are some thoughts and quotes from Cousins as we approach the big game.

 

No one can be more engaged watching the film this week then Cousins.  So he commented about the much improved UM defenders.  “I think what they’re doing really well is they’re playing inspired, and they have a lot to play for, for good reason. They’re undefeated. But they’re playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of energy, even more so than last year, and that’s helping them make the difference for them.  That’s true in football in general. Momentum plays a big role in having success, and they certainly have that right now.”

 

Speaking of the legacy of this senior class he had some great insight.  “I think they’re all special accomplishments. I think that they’ll mean a lot more to us and reflect on them a lot more when our career’s over. We’ll be back 15, 20 years and that’s what we’ll spend our time focusing on the accomplishments and reminiscing and talking about how good we used to be.

 

Right now we’re focused on what’s next, and right now it’s beating Michigan this year. We’re not too concerned about what happened last year because it doesn’t help us this Saturday. There will be plenty of time the rest of our lives to focus on the accomplishments that we as a senior class are hoping to achieve. But right now the focus is going out and trying to beat Michigan this year and this year alone.”

 

From the time he was recruited until now, Cousins has watched Mark Dantonio transform this rivalry.  How is that?  “Coach Dantonio has done a tremendous job within our team. Obviously, outside to you as well it’s noticeable to you, the emphasis he places on this rivalry. But even within our team in team meetings and within the building, the emphasis he places on it, he’s done a very good job, making it very important.

 

When I came, we had not beaten Michigan in I believe it was five or six years. The fact that we’ve now been able to turn the tide to some degree, I think it’s a credit to him and the way he’s running his program. He’s instilled great confidence in us, and we certainly have been able to measure up the past few years, but obviously, it’s a year-in, and year-out kind of thing. We need to get that done again this Saturday.”

 

Since Cousins is from Holland, how is this game for the players from the State of Michigan?  “Well, being an in-state person myself and with so many players from Michigan on our team, more so than being recruited or not recruited by them, I think the biggest thing is how personal it is. Because you have so many people close to you, family members, close friends who are Michigan fans and who are going to let you hear about it year round whether or not you lose. It’s just a constant rivalry, and that’s what makes it such a big deal come this Saturday.


So when you’re from Michigan, you have so many people around you who are from the University of Michigan, it makes it that much more personal and puts that much more meaning on the game.”

 

In his much ballyhooed B1G luncheon speech Cousins reference speaking at a school and a youngster asking him if he was as good as Dennard Robinson the UM QB.  Cousins talked about that incident and Robinson. “Sure. I do a fair amount of speaking in the off-season and was at a K-8 school, essentially an elementary school. Gave a talk, and at the end opened it up for questions. I get all kinds of questions from kindergartners to eighth graders about my faith, my academics and football.

 

Again, because I’m from Michigan, I’m talking to schools from Michigan, there is just as much Michigan State as Michigan fans. There is a good mix. So one of the Michigan fans who is about second or third grade asked me — one of the questions he asked me is if I wished I was as good as Denard Robinson. I said certainly I wished I had his speed. That could help me a lot.

 

He’s a tremendous player, very dynamic. He’s a whale of a player and tough to stop with all that he can do. I think what gets lost with Denard a little bit is how strong of an arm he has. Watching the game last week, some of the balls he threw deep go a long way, and he puts a lot of velocity on the ball.
I think when you talk about running quarterbacks, you don’t give them their due throwing the ball, and I think he has a very, very strong arm that measures up very well with a lot of guys around the country that are considered pocket passers. I think his arm strength is right up there with him too.”

 

Cousins talked some more about this rivalry and how it divides people and unites them.  “Well, when I committed to come to Michigan State and I have close friends and people at my high school telling me that they want to see me succeed but they’re rooting for Michigan. Or they’ll root for me every game but one, that’s when you start to realize who is with you and who is not with you.
Ultimately, I said it before, it’s like saying I’ll root — I’m for you, but I’m not for your wife and kids. The bottom line is you’re either for Michigan State and for Kirk, or you’re not. There is no in between. I think this game is a perfect example of that, and that’s why it’s so personal.”

 

As I stated earlier Cousins is a good QB, but in my opinion hasn’t taken another step this year.  For sure part of that reason is the OL.  How did they benefit from the  bye week?  “We’ve talked for a while about getting experience and getting continuity and being able to find five guys who we can play with. I think we’ve found that. I think the experience they’ve been able to gain in games like Notre Dame and Ohio State will really help them and serve us well come Saturday.
Guys are playing really, really hard, and any time you can get a bye week it’s welcomed up front at the offensive line especially. Those guys do as much hitting and have as tough of a job on game day and in practice than anybody.

 

The fact that they were able to catch their breath and rest their bodies to some degree last weekend and on Saturday, that will help us that much more on this coming Saturday. Obviously, we go as they go, so we need them to play well. Their play will make the difference in the game.?

 

Cousins talked some more about the senior class and their approach and mindset this weekend.  “I think we’ve talked about as a senior class when we came here as freshmen, talked about painting the state green and trying to in our five years here, really turn the tide of the state to at least make it 50-50 or more and really put Michigan State on the map again.

 

I think to this point we’ve done a good job of that, but there is still work to be done. Our play on Saturday will go a long way in helping us to that direction. That’s why this game is so important.

 

Being a senior, it means a lot if you can go out with a win and very much in the opposite way, it would hurt a lot to have a loss. That’s why it’s so important.”

 

That last three years have been great for MSU vs. UM, but does it really matter for this one game?  “I don’t think it goes out the window, but I don’t think anything we did last year is suddenly going to help us on Saturday. Michigan has a new head coach, a new program, a new team. So it’s a year-in, year-out thing.

 

We’ve been able to have the last three years in our favor. But we go back to work this week to try to make it a fourth. I don’t think it will do us any good this week.

 

But the way Michigan’s playing, they could clearly care a less about what happened in the past years. If anything, it only motivates them more. So we need to be ready this Saturday, and I believe we will be.”

 

Cousins was asked about his play this year and in his usual frank and honest style disagreed with me that he has not taken a step forward this year.  “I would say I’m playing at a higher level than I was last year. I would say there are plays I’d like to have back. And the nature of the quarterback position is you could play 19 out of 20 plays perfectly, and if that one play out of 20 is catastrophic, it changes the whole dimension of how you played.

 

Obviously there are plays I’d like back. But to throw 53 passes against Notre Dame and only turn the ball over once, I think, it’s pretty good. To go to Ohio State at the horseshoe and win there in a place no one’s beaten them since 2007, I would say is pretty good.

 

 I would say I’m playing better than I was last year and we’re only halfway through the year. So there is a lot of football to be played, and people remember how you finish. So how I finish this season will tell the tale of my senior year, and that’s why games like the one this Saturday are, again, very important.”

 

There is NO doubt that Cousins has struggled in the most critical part of the football field, the red zone, and he talked about his play there.  “It will be important this Saturday that when we get down in the red zone, to be able to come away with at least field goals, but preferably touchdowns. Certainly against Notre Dame we were unable to do that at one point due to an interception. Against Ohio State, we were able to come away with some points down there as well.
I think there are a variety of things that go into that. Turnovers are obviously a major part of it. Penalties, offsides, holding, all those kind of things can hurt new the red zone because you are so precious down there.

 

So while we talk about executing being so important, obviously this Saturday it will be. But when you get down in the red zone, the attention to detail and the ability to execute becomes even more important. We need to make sure when we’re down there we limit the mistakes.
Again, rivalry games like this, when you get down there, you have to come away with points to have a chance, and we need to do that when we get a chance this Saturday.”