Players Speak to the Press

At the weekly press conference, Ronald Bellamy, Carl Diggs, Jeremy LeSueur, and Bennie Joppru addressed the big win over Michigan State, and their preparation for Minnesota.

Senior Wide Receiver Ronald Bellamy

On his performance last week:

"That was my best game since I have been at Michigan, but I think there is more to come. I have another game like this in me. It is great confidence to carry me into next week."

On his career at Michigan:

"Looking back I wish I would have redshirted. My freshman year at the receiver position it was David Terrell, Marcus Knight, Marquise Walker, Kevin Bryant and DiAllo Johnson. So, we were pretty deep. I was only 17 at the time, so I was still pretty young. Looking back I wish I had redshirted."

On the touchdown that was called incomplete:

"I thought it was a touchdown. When we watched the film yesterday it looked like I had possession and it should have been a catch, but that was okay because I made up for it later."

On the possession passes opening up the deep threat:

"It definitely did. Braylon (Edwards) and I were getting double-covered in the game and corners were sitting on our routes. Once Coach (Scot) Loeffler and (Terry) Malone saw that they decided to throw the ball over their heads."

On the passing game plan last week:

"We figured that they were going to play the same coverages that Iowa played because they had success against us two weeks ago. They tried to play that same coverage, but we had plays to beat it."

On playing on artificial turf:

"Minnesota has a different surface than what is in Oosterbaan (Fieldhouse). Just a chance to play on the turf is great for a receiver because it makes you faster. You can get out of your breaks faster and I feel lighter on the surface."

On his contributions to the team:

"Me having the chance to make plays helps my confidence, John's (Navarre) confidence and the coaches' confidence. Whenever John is going to throw me the ball I am going to make plays."

On getting the ball more this year:

"It is a matter of waiting your turn. I can't control who is going to throw me the ball, when I am going to get the ball or how many catches I am going to have. I just go out and play football. I am a competitor. I want the ball every play, but it didn't work out like that last year. This year I have been given the opportunity to make plays."

On the openness of the passing game:

"You can never take a play off. On one of Jermaine's (Gonzales) catches, I was John's first read. Jermaine caught it but he didn't expect it because he was the second read. As a receiver in this system you never know where the ball is going to be thrown. That is the difference between this year and last year is that John going through his reads better. Last year if the first read wasn't open he would dump it off to the running back."

On playing time at the beginning of the season:

"Actually I couldn't play until I got healthy. When the doctors cleared me to play a full game that is when the coaches put me back into the starting lineup. It was basically the doctors' decision."

On when he was cleared to play:

"I was cleared to play the Notre Dame game, but I knew I couldn't play an entire game at that point. The Illinois game, the start of the Big Ten Conference season, was my first action. That was when I knew I could go."

On the Little Brown Jug:

"The Brown Jug is like the Paul Bunyan Trophy. You also want to keep it at home with you. You don't want the other team to take something that means so much to this program."

On being vocal about getting the ball:

"As far as being vocal, I let the coaches know that I want the ball, but I am not one of those guys that complains all the time about wanting the ball. As long as the team is winning I am happy. If that means that I am blocking or catching one or two passes I am happy with that."

On the freshman receivers:

"Jason Avant is the real deal. He is 200 pounds as a freshman and he is much more mature than what the freshmen have been in the past, including myself. Jason has a lot of potential and I expect him to shine next year. Steve Breaston and Carl Tabb can fly. They are going to be big deep threats next year. I expect both of them to contribute a lot next year."

On John Navarre's ability to throw the deep ball:

"He is making those throws every day in practice. It's just a matter of playing pitch and catch. He saw that I was open, he threw a great ball and I made the catch. He is playing with great confidence and he is letting his receivers make plays. He isn't thinking about it, he is just reading and reacting. Last year I thought John thought too much, but this year he is just going out there and playing. He is being the leader that he is supposed to be."

On the receivers dropping a number of passes:

"It is a lack of concentration. If the ball touches your hand you have to make the catch. Whether it is a poorly thrown ball or not you still have to make the play. It just comes down to concentrating on making the catch."

On the benching of Braylon Edwards:

"That just shows you the depth of our receiving corps. If one man goes down the next man has to step up. That was the case Saturday. Coach felt after Braylon dropped the ball that they were going to give another man a chance and Jermaine (Gonzales) and Jason (Avant) made plays."

Junior Linebacker Carl Diggs

On Minnesota's running game:

"They have two good running backs and we know that they are going to come out and look to run on us. We have to prepare and work on that in practice this week."

On the Ohio State-Minnesota game last week:

"Ohio State shut down their running game, and it looked like they had trouble passing after that. Both teams are really physical, so we are going to have to come out and be as physical as Ohio State was."

On playing a night game:

"It is kind of difficult to play the night game because you are waiting around all day. We are used to waking up in the morning and heading over to the field to play our home games. I think we will just be a little more anxious this week because we have to wait longer to play the game."

On playing on artificial turf:

"I don't really like turf too much. I don't really like the surface. It's kind of hard for me to run on it, I feel. The new turf I like better but the old type of turf that Minnesota has is something I'm not very big on. I don't feel as fast on turf as I do on grass."

On refocusing the team goals since the Rose Bowl might be out of reach:

"Basically, we just focus on beating the team at hand every Saturday. We're just taking everything one day at a time because you never really know what can happen. Our goal is to stay focused on who we're playing and do the best we can do and come out 4-0 in November."

On Minnesota quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq's ability:

"He's very athletic and he can hurt you running the ball as well as throwing. When they have a quarterback who can run like he can it adds another dimension to the offense that you have to look at and make sure that you keep him in the pocket and everyone is staying in their lanes."

On shutting down MSU quarterback Damon Dowdell:

"The key was making him run east and west and not letting him get outside of the defense. We kept the pressure on him and kept him running toward the sidelines. I felt like that's what we did and he couldn't hurt us running the ball."

On the defense regrouping after the Iowa game:

"I felt like we needed to come and play a game with all of our dimensions. We just wanted to come out and stop the run and show people that we can be a good defense. Compared to last week I felt like we didn't show that. We could not stop the run except for the first half. Throughout the game we didn't show that we could play for four quarters. We showed we could do that this last game."

On the importance of stopping the run because it is Minnesota's strength:

"I feel like it is a big challenge for us to go out and stop the run because of some of the things they do. If we can stop the run we can make them one-dimensional, but it will be hard to stop the run because they are a very good running team with two very good backs."

On Terry Jackson II being the speed back and Thomas Tapeh being the power back:

"Tapeh is more like a physical, run-down-your-mouth type of back where Jackson is more like a speedster back. It seems like once they get in the red zone they like to give the ball to Tapeh more."

On Minnesota's offense being very straightforward:

"We'll pretty much know what's coming. They're a very physical team. They're not looking to hide anything. They will come running right at you and see what you can do. If you can't stop the run they'll just keep pounding you."

Junior Cornerback Jeremy LeSueur

On if last week was the biggest win of the year:

"That was a really big win. There is a rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State and you always wait for that game and you are excited, especially from last year. It meant a lot for us to come out and perform like that, especially coming off a loss the week before."

On how it felt last year compared to this year:

"Last year it was real hard. This year we wanted to come back and practice well and perform well in this game. That is what we did."

On his confidence growing:

"I would say that. In the summer I worked really hard because I know that if you work hard good things will come to you. That is what I kept in my head. I just want to work hard and stay focused. I know I can play, so I just need to come out and play every down. Right now I am feeling really good."

On the chances at a BCS game:

"We want to win out no matter what. Right now we are not focused on bowl games because we have a really good Minnesota team coming up. We are going to take it one game at a time. All we can do is go out and let the chips fall where they may."

On the condition of Zia Combs:

"I am not sure. I do not know too much about that. That is more of the doctors. All I know is that he is doing real well and he is up and around."

On the team's goals for the rest of the season:

"We want to win out. We have Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State -- three really big games. We want to win out and we will have to wait and see then. We have to take care of our business first."

On if the win over MSU indicates a strong finish:

"A game like last year is really hard on a team when you play like that and lose the way we did at the end. But you learn from that. That is the key. You move on and learn from your mistakes and try to get better. That is what we did. We wanted to come out, especially after the loss the week before, we knew it was a turning point. We could either stay down or get back up. We wanted to practice hard during the week and come back and perform really well."

On the pressure starting opposite Marlin Jackson:

"We love that. We want him to get all the credit in the world. We all can play and he can play. That is the thing that you come to Michigan for because you have corners that can push you and people behind you that can play. It is great."

On the issues at Michigan State:

"We do not focus on that. We focus on that game at hand and who is playing. That is in the past, that game is over and we are looking at Minnesota."

On if the Minnesota game is dangerous mentally after the huge win:

"That game is in the past. We enjoyed it as we were playing it and on Sunday, but as of right now, we have out mindset on Minnesota. That is what we have great coaches for. We are trying to take care of them. They have a really good team."

On playing a night game:

"I do not think it will affect us too much. The coaches will set the time back so it is the same as here. It will not affect us too much. We just have to go in and be prepared."

On Minnesota's receivers:

"We just got through with the Michigan State game, so we have not really gotten into film on Minnesota. From what I have seen through, they are very good."

On kickoff returns:

"I am going to break one. It is coming. In the summer I worked on returning kicks. My speed helps me and we have great guys up front blocking. It is gong to come. I am excited to be back there."

On if Michigan is playing more man coverage than in the past:

"We are playing a lot of man coverage but we still mix it up. It all depends on the offense that we are playing and what the coaches think is best for the opponent that we are playing that week."

On Blake Nasif's interception:

We were real excited. To see someone go out there and make a play is great because we always say the expectation is for the position. For him to go out there and not miss a beat it is great. He works hard just like everybody else on the team. For him to go out there and be able to enjoy it was great."

Senior Tight End Bennie Joppru

On the fans in Minnesota looking forward to the Michigan game:

"I think they are. My parents come down for a lot of the home games, so they cross paths with a lot of Minnesota's fans when they were going to Minnesota's away games. Last week they came across someone on the plane connecting in Detroit going to the Ohio State game. They said that they really did not care about that week but next week was the big one. They are all looking forward to this game. I do not remember that last time they had a big game like this."

On if he was a Minnesota fan as a kid:

"Yeah. My friends and I would go to the games and cheer for them. I think it was in 1996 when Minnesota was playing Northwestern and it was a sold-out game. My friends and I went there and bought tickets at the ticket office and they said we had the last four tickets. We assumed they would be in the upper deck, nosebleed seats but they were front row in the end zone. I will never forget it. We had a good time. Minnesota ended up beating them. I had some good times going to those games."

On if he follows Minnesota still:

"I always cheer for the Gophers. I always check the scores every week after the games. I have some friends on the team. My best friend is the left tackle. I always hope they do well."

On the Little Brown Jug:

"It is all exciting. The Brown Jug has a great story behind it. Anytime you have a trophy game, it is nice to hold on to those things. When you do not have it, that is when it is most important."

On if he would like to raise the Jug in Minnesota:

"I would like to hold it up period, but to go home in front of my whole family would be nice. Right now I have about 62 tickets for the game and growing. I grew up about 15 minutes from the stadium, if that."

On if the game is going to be sold out:

"I think it is going to be loud. I remember in 1998 when we went up there, it was maybe two-thirds full and it was loud. It is going to be loud no matter what. I hope it is packed. They are having a great season. I think the fans are noticing that and hopefully they will show up in numbers."

On Minnesota's tight end:

"I speak to Ben (Utecht) every once in a while on the phone. I always check the stats to see how their tight ends did. I like seeing tight ends catch the ball and get some yards. I am always rooting for tight ends actually. It is a good part of the game to throw tight ends the ball. I take notice of other tight ends' statistics, but I do not really compare myself to them."

On if playing in the Metrodome has a different feel:

"It is off campus and we used to go to Vikings games a lot there. It is kind of a pro atmosphere and it gets loud. They have their advantages. It reminds me a lot of Syracuse."

On being captain and a big part of the offense:

"After going home last spring, if you had told me or anyone back home that I would be in the position I am in now six months later, I would have told you that you were crazy, and I am sure a lot of other people would have too. That means a lot to be able to go home holding my head high. It is going to be special."

On Minnesota's traditions:

"They won the national championships and actually Paul Gill was one of their great running backs. I played baseball with his grandson and I became pretty close to his dad because he was a big sports fan. I always knew some Minnesota history. I always followed them and cheered for them. I just liked Michigan a little more."

On Minnesota keeping its in-state recruits:

"I think so. Coach (Glen) Mason has done a great job with the program, turning it around. I saw Saturday that they have 20 or so kids from Ohio. They are doing a great job of not just keeping their own kids but they're taking kids from other states as well now. That is when a program is really coming around. They have seven or eight wins already and are having a great season."

On if he would consider Minnesota if he was a high school senior now :

"Absolutely. Anytime a program is doing well you are going to consider it more. They were not doing good then but they are doing much better now."

On if a BCS game is still a possibility:

"You do not want to look forward to things but it is hard not to. The only thing that we know is that if we finish strong is that it is going to be a great season, even if we do not go to the Rose Bowl. We realize that we cannot be looking forward. Ohio State is in three weeks, Wisconsin is next week and Minnesota is this week. If we slip up it is going to be an average season. One game, one play is going to be the difference between a great season and an average season. We all understand that."

On the importance of the Michigan State game:

"It was very important. We knew it was going to be a physical game, which it was. We played physical. We played tough. We watched the film yesterday and that reaffirmed that. I think the offense realized that we are a tough offense. We do not have to throw the ball as many times. We can run the ball if we have to, too. I think some guys were leery of that and did not have the confidence that we were a tough offense. I think we are a tough offense and I think we showed it on Saturday."

On if he was surprised by the final score:

"Yeah, especially considering they did not turn the ball over until the end of the game. I would have never thought it would get like that."

On the drive all on the ground:

"I saw it after the game on Saturday, 11 plays for 81 yards, all on the ground. I saw Coach (Terry) Malone yesterday and I asked him how he liked that drive. He said he liked it but he also liked the one with three plays and a touchdown. I do not think he really cares how we do it as long as we score. It is a good point, but is shows a little toughness being able to go 11 plays."

On gaining a lot of yards on the ground in the fourth quarter :

"It just shows that if you run the ball, teams get worn out. I think Michigan State got a little tired last week. They had some new defensive linemen playing. Eleven plays right at you is going to tire you out any way you look at it."

On his touchdown:

"When I got to the sideline everybody told me that it looked really painful. I have come up twice this year. I think I got stopped on the one-yard line against Penn State and Illinois. I caught some flack for it so I said I was getting in and I decided to jump even if I did not have to."

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