What does it mean for the program to finally clear an obstacle that was 20 years in the making?
We've tried to build a foundation. We've been to four straight bowl games, and in '08 we came here and failed miserably on the same type of quest. This year we had 35 guys who've been in this situation before. We had guys who were much more confident and much more aware of their surroundings. Experience breeds success, and because we had been in this situation in '08, it gave us an upside in terms of taking the next step and winning the championship.
When you came here from Cincinnati, did it seem like a harder job than you had expected?
I'm a part of the culture. I was here for six years as an assistant coach from 1995-2000. We went to four bowl games at that point. There's great tradition at Michigan State. Now, we haven't won the championship in 20 years, but we've had good, solid football teams that were at bowls and played at a high level. What we wanted to do was try and develop consistency, and we wanted to continue to build a foundation. There was no concern on my part when I came here in '07 that we'd be successful. It was just a matter of time.
You've achieved the goal of a championship, do you believe you're deserving of a BCS berth?
I do think that. I think right now we're one of the top eight or nine teams in the nation. I know only two teams can come from the Big Ten, but you certainly have to throw our hat in the ring. We're the only football team that's beaten Wisconsin, and I might add that we did it convincingly. I'll say it twice, we did it convincingly. They're up there at six or seven, and we should be right there with them. Our goal is to win the championship. That's our number one goal. Where people place us from there, we'll still go to whatever bowl we go to as Big Ten champs.
What pleased you most about the way you attacked Penn State?
I think we had a very workman-like attitude. We ran the ball effectively. We passed the ball when we needed to. We came up with trick plays. I thought Coach Treadwell called a great game as did Coach Narduzzi. We got off the field. They made a couple plays against us which made it interesting, but things happen. They have a good football team. They have great players here who make plays. I thought we played very fundamentally sound for the most part. I thought we were in charge for pretty much the whole football game.
Can you look at the guys who've been here for years and see the satisfaction in their eyes?
You see a lot of satisfaction. To get to where we are right now, a lot of work had to be done. Collectively as a group, whether it's workouts or learning defenses or offenses, when you stop and think about the time spent preparing for a football game, a football championship, a football season, it's an incredible amount of time. There are so many people invested in it.
What's going through your mind, with everything you've been through this season, to have a championship cap on your head?
I'm extremely content. That's the way I feel. I don't feel like I'm going to go run down the hall with my hair on fire or anything like that. I'm just very, very content. I feel very blessed with my health and how our football team has rallied around each other and responded in the face of adversity throughout the season. There's a lot of faith in that locker room...faith on the field and off the field. They go hand-in-hand, and I think that helps with our success ratio.