Instater VanBergen talks The Rivalry

Full Transcript: VanBergen on how an instate guy sees The Rivalry, on growing confidence, on the D-backfield ... and teasing Jordan Kovacs ...

Question: How motivating is it knowing that you've lost three straight to state?

Ryan Van Bergen: "We're very motivated. This is our seventh game of the season and we've won six so far and this is the next obstacle to conquer to get to the Big Ten Championship and get to where we want to be. There is a little bit more added to it because of the instate rivalry, but as far as games go, it is just another game for us. We want to win. We want to be 7 and 0. We just want to keep rolling."

Question: What do you attribute the second half success defensively to last week and obviously throughout the season?

Ryan Van Bergen: "Scheme adjustment. We made some big adjustments at halftime. Came in, Coach Mattison and all the defensive coaches, Coach Mallory and Montgomery, Coach smith, all sat down by position and we went through some different things. We kind of simplified our defense a little bit because of the adjustments that we were making. We were making some extreme adjustments, played some different techniques even in the second half. In the second half, we've been pretty good. I don't know what it is throughout the season, but we don't give up many points after halftime and that's a signature of good adjustments and good defense."

Question: The simplification, is that something that you guys do more weeks than not at halftime or is that just last week?

Ryan Van Bergen: "Not necessarily simplification. That was the case last week, but we've made adjustments that are subtle, sometimes. It just depends on what the offense is giving us. Whatever the offense is giving us and whatever they're having success with. Their most successful plays are what we're going to aim to shut down regardless of the opponent."

Question: When you look at the first half of the season, what is the biggest halftime adjustment that you think you guys have made this year that has made a positive impact on what you guys did in the second half of a game?

Ryan Van Bergen: "Probably last game, because Northwestern lost a running back the previous game and they had a really prevalent running game in the game that we had film on and they hadn't thrown the bubble screen too much. So we kind of cheated our linebackers inside and weren't covering down those bubble screens because we were anticipating more run and they made the adjustment without the running back to throw the bubble screen and they hurt us with it couple of times. They attacked the perimeter and so we had to adjust to that and it was a pretty serious thing to bump all the linebackers out as far as we did, but it was successful."

Question: With this game specifically is this a measuring stick game for you guys considering the game the last three years can be what this game means to people instate?

Ryan Van Bergen: "It is a measuring stick just as much as any other game is a measuring stick game. We'll know more about our team once we play this team because they are one of the tougher ones on our schedule. They're defending co-champs. They won a share of the Big Ten last year. So yeah they'll be a good gauge of what we are as a team and where we stand in the Big Ten conference."

Question: When what happens on Saturday takes place, you go from the first half to a shutout second half, does the reaction to the adjustment, does confidence start to become a factor, you've seen it work and now you know the things that are asked of you are going to have an effect?

Ryan Van Bergen: "Absolutely. I've said it before. We have tremendous confidence in Coach Mattison and all of our position coaches and when we make those adjustments we full hearted know that they are going to be successful if we just play our techniques. Everything comes back to fundamentals and techniques. When things go wrong, Coach Hoke talks about it, when things start going wrong or you encounter some adversity, the first thing you have to do is go back to fundamentals and techniques and play those well. You'll climb back into games. You'll come back from a ten point deficit at halftime. He's told us over and over again and put us in situations where we need to step up because of things we've done in practice or whatever and because we're used to those situations, I think this team has a lot of confidence when we get into them."

Question: How have you been able to eliminate all the big plays that we saw last year and how big is that for this week because last year they really hit some big ones on you guys?

Ryan Van Bergen: "That's all a credit to the secondary. The secondary this year has a new philosophy of keep the ball inside and in front. With the exception of Jordan Kovacs who we put in the box every once in a while, the free safety and the two corners do a tremendous job of just funneling the ball inside because we preach running to the ball. You'll see D-lineman going to the ball 30 yards downfield and as long as they keep the ball inside and in front, we'll get guys down. Somebody is going to bust a 25 yard gain on us. The thing that can't happen is teams going for 70 yards on a run or over your head on a pass. We've got guys who have played well. That's part of their fundamentals in the secondary and they do a great job and because of what they're doing, we've been successful against the big play."

Question: Speaking of Kovacs what was the reaction when you saw on film the tearing off of the helmet?

Ryan Van Bergen: "I was mad. Kovacs is always in the locker room talking about how he is a better pass rusher than me all the time. I've always told him that you come free all the time, nobody blocks you, all you have to do is tackle the quarterback and he's like, ‘Yeah, I'm good at that' – look what happened. It was funny because I asked him, what are you doing diving for his head. He's like that's what you do, you always hit quarterbacks up there. I was like yeah, but I'm 290 pounds. You're Jordan Kovacs, you need to go for the legs. He didn't believe me, but now I think he'll go back in film and I think you'll see him wrapping up a little lower. He's playing a little bit too big."

Question: How much more does it mean to the instate guys growing up around this rivalry?

Ryan Van Bergen: "It means a ton. I'm from the west side of the state and anybody who is from here, knows that this place is split right down the middle and those west of the line are Michigan State and those east of the line are Michigan. There is no in between. You either like one or the other. It's rights for the title of the state, state champions, who's the best in the state. It's huge. It's big for the fans, big for the alum and big for the players and coaches."

Question: What does it mean to lose to Michigan State three years in a row?

Ryan Van Bergen: "It means a lot. It's part of your legacy. When you come to Michigan to play football, you're legacy is left by Big Ten Championships, Rose Bowls and how you did against your rivals. Right now, the legacy with the seniors in my class, we're going to have to come back and say we've lost to Michigan State three years in a row, none of us have beaten Ohio State. That's our legacy like it or not, good, bad or indifferent. Luckily we have this year to change some of that and that's our focus going forward."

Question: Brady was talking about when he was defensive line coach here how this was always the most physical game of the year, is that the case from your perspective?

Ryan Van Bergen: "I think so. I think if you look at the statistics that coach was talking about. This game is won and lost by rushing yards and when it comes to rushing, it's all about who's tougher up front, who's more physical up front. It has always been about who's going to hit who harder and who is going to move guys off the ball. Yeah this is our most physical game."

Question: What does Kirk Cousins do on film that impresses you? Does facing Ryan Lindley earlier in the year give you a better feel for someone like him?

Ryan Van Bergen: "I would say Cousins is more comparable to (Dan) Persa rather than Lindley because I think he's underrated as a scrambler. He makes plays with his feet and he has got great receivers and he gives them time to break open when he's in the pocket and he can break away from a four-man rush pretty easily if you're not disciplined in your rush lanes. He's just a playmaker. He's smart with the ball. He makes good decisions and he keeps that offense rolling because of his will and because he tries so hard to make those good decisions and make good throws and keep the offense on the field."

Question: With Coach Hoke and his first year, so much of the first year is building an identity in what he wants the program to be like. You were here in 2008 and saw the struggles, how big is it for building that momentum and getting people to buy in that he started 6 and 0?

Ryan Van Bergen: "I would say that is something that is huge for his tenor here. I've been a part of the program for long enough to know that alums will let you know if they are unsatisfied or something like that. No one is holding their tongue here and you're under extreme scrutiny as a head coach and as a player and everything. I think that being where we are right now is only going to help this team in the future with recruiting and stuff like that. There is going to be a winning tradition reestablished here, sooner rather than later and we're starting that."

Question: Your one of the members of your class that remembers what the Paul Bunyan trophy and what it looks like, is that something that you talk to the guys about and is anyone on your team being compared to it, like Will Johnson was?

Ryan Van Bergen: "You talking about me (laughter)."

Question: Just trying to be subtle.

Ryan Van Bergen: "No. I've seen the trophy. I think there has been emphasis placed on it by the coaches and stuff. We've had a meeting yesterday and the coach talked about it, the Governor's Trophy and what it means. We've got some guys that play from out-of-state that maybe don't understand it. For the most part, the guys that contribute on the field and stuff are veterans and they know exactly what that trophy means and what this game means. I've drawn comparisons to the Paul Bunyan trophy, I think I might have to shave my beard or something and I got to stop carrying my axe around (laughter)."

Question: Michigan State had a pretty dominate running game in last year's game, do you guys have a chip on your shoulder going into this year's game considering how successful they were last year?

Ryan Van Bergen: "Absolutely. Rushing defense is so emphasized with this coaching staff. We've talked about what teams ran on us and what yardage they got and use that as motivation through fall camp and Michigan State is one of those teams that comes up because we gave up so many yards rushing against them. They're going to rush the football. That's what they want to do. That's what they are. They run the football and they take shots downfield. It's going to fall into our lap as far as the front seven making sure that we can take control of the game and shut down their rushing attack. That's going to be our goal and it should be interesting, I'm excited about it."

Question: Have you see Jerel Worthy's tattoo that kind of plays off the rivalry?

Ryan Van Bergen: "I've heard of it, but I haven't seen it."

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