Michigan redshirt senior linebacker Kenny Demens remembers the pain of losing at Michigan State 28-14 last season. A pain he is reminded of daily.
"Everyday, everyday, I feel everything. I feel everything," Demens reflected on the loss to the Spartans last season. "Last year after that loss, (linebackers) coach (Mark) Smith told me and Desmond (Morgan), ‘Don't forget the feeling.' Coming in Sunday, he said just that to us. He brought it up again. I didn't forget about it. It hurt and it still hurts. Hopefully we can go in, we can win—win big."
After all, Demens has yet to beat the Spartans with a career record of 0-4 versus his instate rival.
But that wasn't always the case says Demens, "I remember when I was little, Michigan always winning. I've always remembered that. Just coming here and things haven't gone our way. I haven't got a chance to beat Michigan State yet. It's not what I was used to growing up. Hopefully Saturday we can change that."
"I was accustomed to Michigan winning—winning big. State, they're a great team. We got to show up Saturday."
How big would a win mean for Demens?
"It would mean a lot, just going out as a senior, just ending that streak," Demens said. "It would mean a lot. It would mean a lot. I want this game more than anything… ah, we need it."
New persona for Demens
Demens says his season has changed. And that moment came when Michigan linebackers coach Mark Smith called him in his office the week of the Notre Dame game.
"I think I was thinking too much," Demens said. Coach Smith told him "just to focus in on one thing. And coach Smith brought me in his office and said, ‘Kenny, just play football. Play like you know how to play.' That's what I have been doing lately."
"I went home after that meeting, just kind of felt like I had the green light. I just want to make plays. I told myself I wasn't afraid to make mistakes. He was worried about me and I was worried about myself. They just wanted me to play football. Just said to myself, ‘I'm going to go out there and do what I am used to doing—just making plays.' I'm not afraid to make mistakes."
And since that meeting with Smith, the Wolverines have improved to No. 10 nationally in total defense. A big part of the resurgence has been the play of Demens, who has 20 tackles and an interception over the past three games.
Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said the defensive focus was exemplified by Demens' interception against Illinois.
"This defense appears to be very, very focused on trying to get better each week," Mattison said. "That play Kenny intercepted—that's something I know Mark Smith has gone over and over with him. And he (Smith) has showed him on the field. (Kenny has) practiced it on the field and saw it on film. And good things happen when you prepare."
Demens says he has focused on watching film, studying the playbook, and being more confident as a player on the field.
"I would say I have a lot of work to do. I am playing a lot better since the beginning of the season. All that goes along with the preparation. Out coaches just giving me everything I need to go out there and make plays."
Demens looks to banish demons re MSU
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