LOS ANGELES - Stanford's Andrew Luck Director of Offense Mike Bloomgren and several student-athletes previewed the Rose Bowl Game while speaking to the media Friday morning at the LA Hotel.
MIKE BLOOMGREN: We couldn't be more excited to be here as a football team, second year back in the Rose Bowl. It's kind of a culmination of all of our goals. We had a great time yesterday at Disneyland and looking forward to getting back on the field with these guys today and getting back down to business. We're going to treat it pretty much like a business trip from here on out. We'll have a great time practicing football and playing together like we always do. Looking forward to getting back on the field today and certainly looking forward to January 1st.
Kevin, when you look at the Michigan State defense on film, the tendencies, what do you see and what are some of the unique challenges that they present?
KEVIN HOGAN: Well, first when you look at them on film, they're a very experienced group. They do what they do very well. They're coached very well, and that's a huge problem because they don't try and do a lot of things differently, they don't try and get out of their game, get out of their game plan. They're just very solid, very stout, and it presents a lot of challenges for offenses.
Kevin, have you seen any defenses either this year or in your career that are similar in the Pac-12 or the non conference or bowl games you've played?
KEVIN HOGAN: Yeah, you see that with all the top defenses we play. They stick to their true identity. Some defenses might try and get out based on what you're doing, but the really good ones, they'll stick to their style, and do that through and through.
You've probably seen on film a lot of their middle linebacker who is not going to play in the game. I'm wondering how you think that might affect them and what kind of a talent he is:
DAVID YANKEY: Yeah, definitely. We saw a lot of him on film, one of their older guys. It's a tough break any time you're not going to the bowl game with your team, but I think they're pretty much going to stay like Kevin said, stay true to who they are. They're a very good defense with a lot of experience and a lot of guys who know how to play in that system and do a very good job of it.
For Kevin and David, if you guys could follow up in a little bit more detail as far as doing what they do, specifically what are some of the characteristics of what they do that may be a little different than what you've seen in the Pac-12 for both of you?
DAVID YANKEY: Yeah, up front with the front seven they're a very physical front. Their D line is extremely physical. They like to get into the offensive linemen, cause a lot of trouble, get a lot of penetration, just kind of make plays not really work the way you want them to, and then their linebackers are great athletes, can move around really well and make tackles along with their safeties coming down.
KEVIN HOGAN: Yeah, and in the secondary, they've got a lot of experience, a lot of playmakers. They don't always show what they're doing, which makes things tough at times, but they all fly to the ball in the run game, and it's hard to beat them over top, so in that sense they can put more guys in the box and still cover downfield.
David and Mike, how has Kevin grown as a leader and a quarterback from last year's game to now, and just adjusting to your system as opposed to last year?
DAVID YANKEY: Yeah, I think Kevin has grown a lot as a leader from last year. He came in and was playing a lot for us and just had that competitive fire within him, just always ice in his veins, went out, won a bunch of games, but in the off season you saw him develop as a leader for the offense and the team as a whole, and now you see him doing all the right things, taking more notes than anybody, just doing everybody that the QB should and being a great leader for the offense.
MIKE BLOOMGREN: I would agree with everything David just said. I would say also his presence in the huddle. He always came in and even when he came in the Colorado game last year, I think he's an easy guy to follow. But just his work ethic and everybody seeing him at the front of the huddle for a whole year now, I think he commands the huddle the way a quarterback should. It's really easy for us as coaches to trust him as our leader.
Mike, their middle linebacker has been a huge part of their success as a defense. When you look at film and prepare for them, do you think that there's something there that you guys can take advantage of, the fact that he won't be in the game?
MIKE BLOOMGREN: He's an outstanding football player. That's the first thing I think you start with by saying about him. The thing that they're going to miss, judging by the film, is he looks like a coach out there. He's making this check and that check, and in terms of his performance, they've got other people that can step in and play football. There's no doubt about that. I think they'll probably miss his leadership. I feel like he was probably the quarterback of their huddle, and in addition they'll just miss some of those checks at the line of scrimmage. But again, they're a great football team. They're a great football team, and they don't do it with just one player or one middle linebacker. 41 has played some throughout the year, and they've got guys that are great contributors in special teams and situational football on defense. I imagine they are going to be able to plug somebody in and play football.
Mike, going up against Pat Narduzzi and the play calling game, can you talk about the cat and mouse involved with the amount of blitzing that Michigan State does and how they like to disrupt offenses, just your approach when you play a coordinator that's that aggressive with some of these blitz schemes?
MIKE BLOOMGREN: First and foremost, that's probably a better question for David than me just because me and Pat aren't going to get to throw one blow against each other as the day goes on. I'd like to. I think he's a little older than I am, so I like my chances to be quite honest with you.
But the way it's going to play out, they do an unbelievable job of playing their front, and everybody talks about a seven man front, this is a nine man front that looks the same every play on 1st and 2nd down. They do such a great job making everything look the same. You think you're just going against a vanilla college 4-3 and then, boom, on the snap, you get this crossed off and this guy coming off the edge and one thing I'm not sure he gets enough credit for is what he does on 3rd down. They put people behind the sticks on 1st and 2nd down and 3rd down they swing in from vines. It's unbelievable how many different pressures they have. They do a super job coaching these guys, and their players play incredibly hard.
Having gone through the whole Rose Bowl week last year, is this year, I guess, a little more businesslike because you know what's coming, the distractions aren't as new for you?
KEVIN HOGAN: I guess you could say that. Just having done it before, we know what to expect. We're going to definitely enjoy all the festivities, everything that the Rose Bowl has to offer, but at the same time it's very much a business trip. We came down here for one reason, and that's for the game on January 1st. But we will enjoy the experience. There's not many times that you get to play in a Rose Bowl, so we're going to enjoy it.
For Kevin, when you look at Michigan State and the way that they do a lot of press, a lot of bump and run, is it a situation where you have to try to throw the fade on them at times and try to maybe get a deep shot or pick up a pass interference?
KEVIN HOGAN: I feel like a lot of times that's what they want you to do. They'll try and bait you into throwing balls like that, and they have such great coverage skills that they'll go up and make a play on it. But we're not going to try and – we're going to stick to our game plan, our style, run first and take shots when they're there.
But they have great techniques, and we're going to try and exploit them as best as we can.
How similar does Michigan State look to Wisconsin having seen them in the Rose Bowl, and is Michigan State apparently a typical Big Ten team for you or are they a little different?
MIKE BLOOMGREN: Are you talking offenses or defenses? I think defensively I'm not sure Wisconsin and Michigan State are that similar. From a starting point, yes, they're a 4-3, a college 4-3 with a cover four, quote unquote, behind it. But they're a very different style in how tight the safeties are for Michigan State. They're actually linebackers or at linebacker depth a lot of the time, it sure seems like, and they're more movement based. Michigan State is more movement based, whether it's the defensive end digging across the tight end space or whether it's one of those cross dogs we referenced earlier. I don't think there's a whole lot of similarities when you talk about Big Ten football. I think one thing that all comes to mind is power, smashmouth football and kind of running the ball downhill that we all are used to. One thing that we noticed as a staff is we've had a chance to watch every single game this year, so all 13 of their games, and there's not a lot of fullback in the Big Ten anymore. It's kind of different than what I imagined, to be honest with you. I noticed a little bit when we watched film on Wisconsin last year but maybe even more so this year.
Just to follow up, do you think that the style that Stanford plays kind of gives you an advantage? When we think of Pac-12 I guess from the outside looking in we think about spread, prolific, throw first offenses and yet you seem to play that power football game you just described we might see more in the Big Ten:
MIKE BLOOMGREN: I think it has been, and I think everything, when you talk about our system, from day one, when we talked about – when I think of our offense I want it to be intellectual brutality, so I want us to have very smart guys we're going to give great answers to, we have smart coaches who are going to develop great schemes and then have to teach in such a way to where they get it to every guy in the room, and luckily with Stanford kids that's pretty easy. And when these guys go on the field and our O linemen communicate great up front and our quarterback gets us to the right play, and we're moving.
This is going to be a game for us that's going to be a little bit different. I talk to the linemen a ton about AAA, because it's something again we talked about on Day 1 installation, that's alignment, assignment, adjustment, and because there's so much movement with Michigan State's front seven or nine, we're going to have to do a great job with the movement and handling our adjustments in this game plan.
Coach, what are those glasses that you have on?
MIKE BLOOMGREN: Man, that is a great question, and I'm glad you asked. First off, it's a way for me to pay homage to Nerd Nation, which has been the Stanford thing all year long. Secondly, Stanford, how much do you know about Stanford? Really hard to get in, great school, absolutely, and it's right in the heart, kind of the epicenter of the technology universe, OK, and these are Google glasses from right there. One thing we tell recruits all the time when we're in their homes is come to Stanford. Your summer interns can be at a place like Google or on any of those venture capitalist firms. A special place like Google, we have a great relationship with them, and mostly why I'm wearing them up here is probably because I'm the one on our staff that's most likely to buy these, so I'm kind of trying them out, as well, because I'm a big tech guy. I'm really excited about this product. I think it's really, really cool, and last but not least, I kind of wanted to flip the camera back on these reporters. They're not used to that. So I've got it back on them, so if they misspeak or if they basically go on a 30- or 60-second rant like some coaches do up here at the podium, we're going to put them on SportsCenter.
Ty, looking at Michigan State's corners and the press scheme that they play, can you talk about the match ups with what you've seen from Darqueze Dennard and Trae Waynes?
TY MONTGOMERY: They're very athletic corners, they're very physical. You can tell they have some experience and they're very patient in their press coverages, so we're going to have to be on point with what we do.
Just to follow up with that, Ty, how often has a guy like you been pressed in the Pac-12? How often do you see that and how much do you relish that?
TY MONTGOMERY: You know, press coverage is something that as a receiver you have to be able to beat, so teams are going to try to press guys to see what they can really do. I get pressed a lot, and I just have to beat it, and as a receiver I kind of do relish being pressed.
Tyler, looking at Michigan State's run defense they do rank No. 1 in the country in what they allow. What makes them so effective against the running game and what are some of the challenges that you'll have ahead of you?
TYLER GAFFNEY: They're a big, physical strong defense, and they believe in playing team defense more than I've ever seen – more than any team we've faced. They don't go away from their scheme. They don't go out of their own jobs. They understand where they fit into the defense, and they're not going to let anything slide by by going out of their own job in the scheme.
Ty, can you talk about the match up with Darqueze and the rest of the Michigan State corners? What kind of challenges does that present to you?
TY MONTGOMERY: Yeah, individually I haven't really thought about just a match up between me and him because it's 11 V 11, whether I've got to block him, whether I've got to beat him on a route, I am going to do what I have to do for the team.
For Ryan, a lot of times as a lead blocker you've got to find a way to get to those linebackers. How hard is it to get to the second level to get your block on the linebackers when your assignment is not maybe a defensive end or helping shift a tackle? How much of a challenge is that against Michigan State to get to the linebackers or the safeties or whoever you have to pick up?
RYAN HEWITT: We'll see. I don't know yet, but again, they do a lot of stunt, a lot of fronts – not a lot of fronts, but a lot of stunting out of their front, a lot of different blitzes with the linebackers so it'll depend how it all fits as the play happens, but there's going to be a lot of in game adjustments and a lot of on the fly adjustments during the play. Guys are going to pick up my guy and I'm going to have to pick up their guy. That's just how their scheme calls for us to play. It'll be a challenge, but it's one I'm up for.
Ryan, what's it been like having Tyler back this season on the field and just his personality off it?
RYAN HEWITT: Me and Gaff are roommates on the road, so we go back. It's great having a good friend back. And on the field he's a stud. You like blocking for guys that make you look good, and he's one of those type of players. It's been a great experience and a good year, and I hope that I've been able to do a decent enough job where he's had some holes and made some big runs. Statistically speaking I think we've done a decent job.
Tyler, what des this game mean to you as a kid coming from the West Coast? What does playing at home mean to you being the starter?
TYLER GAFFNEY: You grow up watching the Rose Bowl, especially as a West Coast kid. This is the game you want to be in. I'm from San Diego, so I saw the Holiday Bowl, Poinsettia Bowl first hand. I had never been to the Rose Bowl until last year, so with the fact that I had never been, it was almost something I couldn't imagine being at, and last year I was there as a fan watching these guys win a Rose Bowl championship, and this year it's almost a surreal moment where a year ago today I was just a fan, and now I'm in the game. This is all you can ask for.
Ty, the Michigan State secondary has been pretty impressive all year. Darqueze Dennard is a Thorpe Award winner. Talk about the challenge you face going up against the secondary?
TY MONTGOMERY: Like I said, they're physical, they're athletic and they're good football players. You can see they are experienced and they know what they are doing when they're out there, so we've got to be on cue on the outside with what we do, whether we're blocking or whether we're trying to win on a route.
Switching gears, Ty, can you talk about your kick returns and what kind of art and skill that's been for you? How much do you look forward to that, and what do you think some of the reasons are for the success that you've had?
TY MONTGOMERY: I do look forward to kick returns. It's one of my favorite parts of the game. But I can for sure tell you that the reason for my success isn't just because of me but it's because of the other 10 guys on the field. When you've got 11 guys running at you trying to take your head off, you've got to be able to trust those other 10 guys that they'll do their jobs, and they do those jobs very well.
Tyler and Ryan, watching film of Michigan State's defense, how important is Max Bullough to that defense from what you've seen, including pre snap and the things that he does in that way?
TYLER GAFFNEY: You know, he's the heart and soul of their defense, the captain, the leader. He's a big, physical, very, very experienced player. I think he's their longest starting active streak during this time. You know, it's going to be hurtful for them to not have him, but we've got to expect that there's going to be a guy that replaces exactly what he does. We're going to prepare for his type of player.
RYAN HEWITT: Yeah, I agree with what Gaff said. As he alluded to, he's a very smart player, kind of lines the defense up, makes the checks when they need to make checks. He runs the defense. As Gaff said, he's the heart and soul of the defense. I think it'll be a tough loss for them. But at the same time it'll probably be something that kind of fuels them, and we've got to pick it up because we lost a brother so we can't let them diminish our play by any sense. There will be a guy that steps up as Gaff said. It's going to be, it's the Rose Bowl. Guys go down with injuries, guys miss games, so there will be someone that steps up.
What have any of the former players told you about what this game means to you guys or means to the university?
TYLER GAFFNEY: So I can tell you that since I wasn't here last year I can experience exactly what you asked. I asked them all about it after the game. As a West Coast team, this is the big daddy. This is what you play for. This is what a college football player dreams of being in. I think if you told any team that they'd be in the Rose Bowl at the end of the season, they'd take that and they'd be more than happy to be a part of it.
Ryan, Michigan State's physicality, the coaches have talked about the challenge and how they want to embrace playing Stanford because Stanford is known as being such a physical squad. What about your challenge looking at Michigan State, a team that prides themselves on out physicaling people, beating people down?
RYAN HEWITT: Yeah, you know, I think they are physical. I think people kind of downplay the physicality of the Pac-12 as a conference, but all that has done is prepare us for a team like Michigan State. We expect the utmost physicality. We expect the most physical team we've played. They are arguably the most elite team we've played. We expect a physical bout. It's the Rose Bowl. It's going to give them even extra motivation to be physical and to stop the run and stuff fullbacks and guards and pulling tackles and the whole. It will be a good match up, and it's hard to answer questions like that before the game because you don't really know. But again, we'll know after.
Was it similar to Wisconsin, because Wisconsin kind of has the same mantra? Do you think it's almost a little bit been there, done that, having played a Wisconsin team, while different scheme wise also prides themselves on that style of Big Ten football?
RYAN HEWITT: No, I wouldn't say it's a been there done that thing, but I think Wisconsin is a different experience, a notch on the belt to use as an advantage, and our team can use that as an advantage. We played Wisconsin, and again, that's a physical team, and we expect the same out of Michigan State, and like I said, we won't really know until game day.
Ty, can you talk about when we think about Stanford, we think about power run game, we think about giant tight ends, we think about max protect. You're the receiver, you're not at Oregon or Arizona State where they're going to throw the ball 45 times. How is it you embrace your role as a receiver on what you know is a run first team?
TY MONTGOMERY: People might not think I'm being genuine when I say this answer, but I enjoy every aspect of the game, not just passing. I enjoy running, I enjoy special teams, I enjoy blocking for guys like Tyler Gaffney, Ryan Hewitt, Kevin Hogan, whoever it is running the ball, I enjoy blocking down the field and another receiver catches the ball just because I really love and enjoy the game of football, and I love all these guys around me. So it makes it easier to block down the field for guys like Tyler Gaffney, Ryan Hewitt and whoever else has the ball in their hands.
The Nerd Patrol thing, where did that come from, and it seems so different – you think of Stanford as an intellectual, top flight, great football team, and then you're putting on these glasses and acting like nerds. Where did that come from?
TYLER GAFFNEY: Nerd Nation. That's just something we, I guess, throughout the years have come up with about Stanford's community. We embrace what we do. Everyone else considers us we're just school guys that happen to play football. You know, nerds.
We've embraced that aspect, but it's more than that when it comes – everyone at Stanford has their niche. They have their reason they're at Stanford, they have their reason that they're successful, and guys on this team, there's countless guys on this team that football – if football doesn't work out for them at the next level, they're going to be very successful in what they do, whether it's running a company, a CEO or whatnot. They're going to be successful, and I think as a whole Nerd Nation, just really embraces that as our team will embrace being a nerd and being successful at it.
TY MONTGOMERY: Yeah, I'll be a nerd as long as I can be nerds with these guys.