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Dec. 7, 2014

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An interview with Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, Michael Bennett and Cardale Jones

THE MODERATOR: We’ll ask Coach Meyer to make an opening statement.

COACH MEYER: Well, it’s an honor to represent the Big Ten as the champion of the conference. Very proud of our team. Also great respect for Coach Andersen and Wisconsin.

I’ve been asked a lot, `Did I see this happening?’ I saw a team that prepared very well and is playing at a very high level right now.

A lot of things happened this past week. There’s a family grieving that was a big part of our family. Kosta, we had a prayer and a moment of silence for him in our locker room for him and his family. We’ll never forget our teammate.

Also some injuries, from Braxton Miller to Dontre Wilson to J.T. They were here supporting their teammates. Nine assistant coaches who did a wonderful job. But most importantly very grateful for this team I get to coach. These are great guys that come together. In a tough week, a close team got even closer.

Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Cardale and Michael.

Q. Cardale, did you play with a little chip on your shoulder? All week people were calling you a third stringer.
CARDALE JONES: I wouldn’t say a chip on my shoulder. I played with confidence because of the confidence my teammates had in me, the confidence my coaches had in me, my family, close friends, Buckeye Nation.

Without a chip on my shoulder, not as much as the confidence that my teammates and my coaches had in myself.

Q. Cardale, how much fun was that?
CARDALE JONES: It was very fun, going out there showing everybody what we can do when we all come together as one.

Mike said it best. This is the first time I think we played as a nine unit strong all the way across, from the kicking game to offense to defense. It was a great game plan executed by the players.

Q. Michael, what were you feeling on the defensive side of the ball? What was it like going up against Melvin Gordon tonight?
MICHAEL BENNETT: They have had a really high powered offense all season. Great O line. Melvin Gordon is the real deal. He made a lot of plays that there was nowhere to make a play. I got a lot of respect for that offense.

I think we came out with a lot of intensity, a lot of drive. Cardale said it, nine unit strong on defense. We usually had the D line do well, then linebackers don’t do well. Then linebackers and DBs do well, then D line doesn’t have a great game.

This is the first time everybody did everything that was asked of them and did it as hard as they possibly could. This is a huge victory for us. A lot of respect for the offense we won against.

Q. Cardale, Ohio State did everything it could do. Will it be difficult to wait for tomorrow until the College Football Playoffs are decided because that’s nothing you can control?
CARDALE JONES: That’s right, that’s nothing we can control. All we can do is prepare for our next opponents. If it’s going to the playoffs or not, that’s out of our hands.

Q. Cardale, what kind of statement do you think you made to the Selection Committee with this one?
CARDALE JONES: It was a huge statement, I think. I mean, we played a great, great team, the number two defense in the country. We put up 59 points on them. They have the best running back in the country, so…

Q. Cardale, you had them on the run. What did you say at halftime to make sure you kept things going? What did you say to Coach Ginn when you saw him?
CARDALE JONES: We knew going into this game we was going against a great team, like I said before, all around. We had, what, a 31 or 38 point lead going into halftime.

That team didn’t win 10 games by giving up at halftime. That’s something our coaches preached at halftime, they have fight. They was going to keep fighting back, keep fighting back, keep fighting back. I saw that on the very last drive. They called a timeout. This team will not die. We had to keep our foots on their throats and just keep going.

Q. (No microphone.)
CARDALE JONES: I talked to Coach Ginn. I’m going to talk to him a lot this week about staying patient, poise, every opportunity for success. Keeping me levelheaded. I would say he knows me best. Even though I might not show a lot of emotions, he knows how I’m feeling.

He did a great job of keeping me levelheaded.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, fellows.

We’ll take questions for Coach Meyer.

Q. From the time you got the news on Braxton till now, can you elaborate on the job Tom has done this year? How difficult was it for Cardale and Tom to get ready in six days together?
COACH MEYER: Well, our strength coach made a point to me, and I made it to the team on many occasions, that Cardale came in when we came in. He’s been in every meeting with our quarterback coach. Tom Herman is an excellent coach.

His unit the first year was very average. I talk about we got a Player of the Year in the Big Ten, but as a unit they weren’t very strong. Kenny Guiton got better and better. Now it’s one of the strongest units on the team. He’s done a marvelous job.

But Cardale is a veteran player that was immature when he first got on campus and has really matured. Obviously Tom gets a lot of credit for that.

Q. What statement did you make to the Selection Committee?
COACH MEYER: I hate getting asked that, to be honest with you. I like coaching a team. This is without question the most improved from start to finish team that I’ve ever been around. To see them operate in all facets of the game at a high, high level from our punter to the way we played defense, then offense was incredible. Our third quarterback, two Heisman candidates out, this guy comes in and plays like that.

The Selection Committee has a tough job. The whole BCS thing, this is supposed to clean up the BCS conflict or conversations. All I can speak to is I’ve been around teams that have competed and won national championships. This team, the way it’s playing right now, is one of the top teams in America.

Q. Could you talk about your defense and how you thought they played today?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, best effort we had since we’ve been here. I think Mike said it best. There’s always been games where the D line played well, maybe the back end was giving up some plays.

This was a complete, thorough effort by our defense. Coach Fickell, Coach Ash. Everybody was waiting for the silver bullets to come back, including the head coach. That was a fantastic effort.

Q. You talked a lot this week about how far Cardale has come in three years. Now that he’s done this, can you answer that again?
COACH MEYER: Yeah. He’s one of the most improved players I’ve ever been around. The correlation between handling your business off the field and on the field, he does a good job in the classroom now. It wasn’t pleasant his first year here. Our academic people have done a great job.

You have to give credit to Cardale’s support group at home. Obviously he played for one of the best high school coaches in the history of the high school game in Coach Ginn. He’s been very supportive. We’ve had many conversations about this situation.

If everybody wasn’t aligned, that wouldn’t be the same young man sitting right there. His support at home, his high school coach, his position coach, they’re all obviously close. Obviously Cardale bought in.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

COACH MEYER: Thank you.

An interview with Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen, Melvin Gordon and Marcus Trotter

THE MODERATOR: We’ll ask Coach Andersen to make an opening statement.

COACH ANDERSEN: First of all, I’m proud of this team. They fought like crazy. We get an opportunity to play together one more time.

Ohio State, tremendous football team. They showed that tonight. All the credit in the world goes to them for the way they played, the way they competed. They deserved to win the football game.

We’re going to bounce back, take care of business. I’ll do a lot better job as a head football coach. I failed the kids tonight. So I’ll come back, fight, and away we go.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for the student athletes.

Q. Marcus, were you surprised at all with anything that Cardale Jones did today?
MARCUS TROTTER: Not at all. We knew coming into the game he’s a great quarterback. Every player that plays for Ohio State is a great athlete.

They were a great team. But it was just more of us mis fitting runs. Kudos to Ohio State. They’re a great football team. A lot of things they gained were on our mistakes, definitely, so…

Q. Melvin, two games against Ohio State in the last two years. You had a tough going. What is it they brought tonight that you guys weren’t expecting?
MELVIN GORDON: I don’t think they brought anything surprising. When it came down to it, we just wasn’t playing Wisconsin football. Just one of those days.

But we just got to regroup, get back together, get ready for this bowl game.

Q. How do you overcome something like this to get ready for the bowl game?
MELVIN GORDON: When we get the team, when we know who we’re going to face, we have to put it aside and get ready for that.

It hurts. It’s going to stick with us for a while. We can’t let Ohio State beat us two games. So mentally we just got to get over this hurdle. It’s adversity. We good with that.

Like I said, we got leaders on this team that will help us overcome this. We’ll get together. Like I said, when we know who we’re facing, we’ll be ready to go.

MARCUS TROTTER: I mean, exactly what Melvin said. Just in life you go through a lot of hurdles, a lot of adversity. You got to be a man and stand up to it.

That’s what this team is. We have a lot of men that handle adversity on and off the field.

We’re excited to go back in the film room, make the corrections of what we did wrong. Use this to burn a fire, to be motivated, to prove to everyone the team that we can be, because this wasn’t Wisconsin football today and we’re going to prove that the next game we play.

Q. The physical nature of the last three weeks, did that have some carryover on what happened on the field tonight?
MELVIN GORDON: I don’t know. It was a big time game. When you’re out there, you’re not thinking about injuries. My body was fine. The coaches took care of me during the week. We do what we had to do. I was going through practice fine. Like I said, we just didn’t play Wisconsin football today. Obviously that showed with the score and how we performed.

Q. You have been in holes a couple of times the last couple of games. 17 3 in particular. What made this game different in terms of getting out of that hole?
MELVIN GORDON: We didn’t make any explosive plays. We lacked that today. Usually we have some explosive plays from somewhere. We just couldn’t string them together today. It’s just that type of day.

The plays were going their way today. All we can hope to do is hope to do better again soon.

Q. Melvin, talk about the fumble in the first half.
MELVIN GORDON: Yeah, we was just down. Honestly I was desperate to make a big play. Lost focus on the ball. That’s how it came out. I was just trying so hard to make a play, get the team going. Like I said, just lost focus of the ball. I can’t do that. That fumble’s on me 100%. They score right off it. That didn’t help us at all, so… That’s on me.

Q. Marcus, you guys as a defense haven’t had a game like that in a while. What was it like there out on the field?
MARCUS TROTTER: As a senior, I tried to have the defense stay calm, even though what was going on. I feel like I take full responsibility of what was going on on the field in regards to not rallying the troops together.

I felt like the defense today was in some parts playing a little timid. We’re a bunch of guys who are blue collar workers with a chip on our shoulder. Something about today, we didn’t have that attitude. Me and the other guys really try to implement that today. I put that on myself.

I think the biggest thing for us is just to stay calm. We always had the belief that we could come back in this game if we just kept on working hard, not get scared, keep on attacking them.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, fellows.

We’ll continue with questions for coach.

Q. Marcus alluded to timid play a little bit defensively. Would you say this is kind of an uncharacteristic day for your defense? Were you surprised by what Jones was able to do?
COACH ANDERSEN: Yeah, very uncharacteristic day for our defense. You would know that I guess. If you hadn’t seen us play, you wouldn’t know that. But completely uncharacteristic of our defense. I thought they played hard. Didn’t see loafs, didn’t see any quit. Saw an offensive line that locked us up really good at the point of attack. I saw some talented players making some plays.

You know, went the right direction all the time. They played hard. Meant a lot to them. They kept fighting.

Q. Coach, how do you get this team’s confidence back after that?
COACH ANDERSEN: They’ll be fine. They’ll get confidence right now. They got beat by a good team. I don’t worry about this team fighting back. I don’t worry about their toughness. I don’t worry about their care factor. They got knocked down, took a big shot tonight. They’ll be excited to go play.

Like I said, no kid in that room has won a bowl game. The opportunity is there for them to do that on a big time stage, big time environment. We reacted well in the past to situations that haven’t gone our way, and those that have gone our way.

It will hurt. You want to get back in this game, then we better figure out what went wrong tonight. This league is getting better and better and better. We got to find a way to chase those guys that beat us tonight. If that’s what we want to be, everybody’s going to be there every single year now. So away we go.

Q. Philosophically, how do great teams like yours sometimes just not have it on a given night?
COACH ANDERSEN: I don’t think it has anything to do with us not having it. I’m not going to agree with any of `we didn’t do this, we didn’t do that.’ Marcus Trotter is my guy. But the word ‘timid’ doesn’t come into my vocabulary in any way, shape or form. It was a physical game. We played with physicality. So did they.

I think the key is you look back and say, `What went wrong?’ Like I said, when it’s wrong and it’s bad, it’s my fault, okay? So no assistant coach, no nothing else. I got to do a better job.

I’ll take a long, hard look at the tape on both sides of the football. We played a very talented football team. We didn’t execute in key moments. There were a lot of balls in the air contested on both sides. Tremendous players on Ohio State’s side came down with those balls.

Again, need to do a better job of coaching them.

Q. Was there a specific point in the game where you felt like it was getting away from you?
COACH ANDERSEN: Oh, I don’t know. No, I don’t remember a specific time when I sat back and said, `Hey, this game has gotten away from us.’

I wanted the kids to keep fighting and battling all the way through, try to stay focused. As the score got farther and farther out of reach, at that point it’s out of reach.

My mind doesn’t work that way. I don’t sit down and say `I’m going to cave in, lay down, let you whip me.’ It’s not going to happen. You might beat me. You might beat these guys. But we’re not going to stop fighting.

Got out of hand at some point, but got to keep on battling.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

COACH ANDERSEN: Go Badgers.