Jake Butt and Mason Cole
Jake, talk about how it’s your last game coming up and what do you know about Florida State and that matchup?
“Yeah, first on Florida State, we’ve gotten the chance—they play a lot of night games down there in the south to stay out of the heat a little bit, so after some of our noon games I got watch them play Clemson and Ole Miss. Just kind of flipped it on, so, I mean, we haven’t studied them yet. That’ll happen here in the upcoming weeks. We do know they’re a very good team and they’re gonna be hungry for that win. With it being the last game, gotta lay it all out there.”
Mason, what are your thoughts on playing the Seminoles? Being a Florida guy, you’ve been familiar with them a long time.
“Yeah, just really Excited to play another Florida team. We beat Florida, we beat UCF, and hopefully we beat Florida State. Just exciting to go down to Florida and play a really good team. Excited to play in front of family and friends. It’s gonna be two great programs going against each other.”
Did you guys get together and watch the selection show today? What was the general [feeling]? Were you disappointed? Were you excited? Can you take us through the emotions from this afternoon?
JB: “This was our first weekend off in a while, so I know most guys were home. We didn’t have a watch party or anything. I’d say it’s mixed emotions because you set out goals at the beginning of the year and obviously one of those was to be in the playoff, but we weren’t and really we can’t blame it on anyone but ourselves. We left our fate in the hands of other teams and we understand that. That being said, we’re excited about this game. It’s a big game, great opportunity for us to compete against a really good team. We’re really excited to play in this game.”
MC: “Yeah, same thing. We had an opportunity at the end of the year to be in that playoff, but they put us in a great bowl with a great opportunity to go play a really good team. We’re just excited for that now.”
[After THE JUMP: how Butt will look back on this year a decade from now and which way Cole’s leaning re: turning pro]
You guys came to Michigan to play in big games like this. Is this sort of an opportunity for you guy to make a statement nationally to show that hey, maybe you should have been in the playoff to play a program like Florida State on the national stage?
JB: “Definitely. We’ve played some tough opponents in our career and especially this season, too. We’ve played some really good teams, so we’re excited about that challenge. You kind of start to think as you’re on your way out of here what’s your legacy going to be? How are you going to be remembered here at Michigan? You’ve got to win some Big Games and this is one.”
What would an 11-win season mean to you in terms of showing improvement? That’s a pretty good number of victories.
MC: “Yeah, just getting that 11th win, I think it’d be huge. I don’t know how many—twelve?”
SID: “No, eleven.”
MC: “Eleven Michigan teams have won 11 games, so to get to that twelfth team that’s won 11 games, it’s a big milestone. Winning 11 games is hard no matter what conference you’re in, no matter who you’ve played, it’s hard to do. It’s hard to win 11 games. To go out there and get the last win for the season, it’ll be great for the seniors, great for the team, and great for the program.”
JB: “Yeah, I just agree with everything Mason said. To get 11 wins is huge. It’s something we haven’t been able to do, obviously, in our time here and again, going back to that legacy, to be able to do that would be huge for the seniors and for this team when you look back on it.”
Bonus quotes from scrums after the podium session:
Can you talk about the mixed emotions? Just how disappointing was this weekend?
“It’s disappointing. It is. But again, you’ve got to remind yourself that we put ourselves in that position. We had plenty of opportunities to change outcomes. The season was in our hands and we didn’t get things done when they needed to get done. It’s disappointing, but you can’t just dwell on the past. There’s still a big game to play for this week—er, at the end of December. We’re excited about that. We’re not going to let that opportunity slip by worrying about what could have been.”
You guys hit pretty hard in December last year. Is it a little harder to do that knowing you’ve got one more bowl game and then you’re moving on?
“No, not at all. If you love football—I know I love football. That goes to say for about every guy on this team. You won’t make it in Harbaugh’s system if you don’t really love football. You love competing and you love this university, so you want to do everything you can to make this fanbase, make this university proud. This is the last game, so a lot of emotions are going to go into every single day trying to win that last one.”
How do you think you’ll look back on this season five or ten years from now?
“Uh, I’ll be proud. I’ll be proud. You look back and I think you’ll probably look back at everything all at once, and you look at our class and some of the things we’ve been through, we’ve seen the lowest of the lows and we’re getting to experience a little bit some of the highs. But we’ve never folded. We’ve never quit. We’ve never turned our back on this program. If anything, even through all the hard stuff that we’ve been through, all it did if anything was we just got back to work on Monday and worked harder because we truly believed there’d be a brighter day in the near future.
“Here we are. We’re going to a big bowl game; it’s a New Year’s Six bowl, right? Yeah. So we’re fired up about that. That’ll be part of the legacy we can leave if we can go out there and win this game.”
A couple of weeks ago Erik Magnuson said in the week leading up to the Ohio State game that in years past when there was a big game you guys “hoped” that you could win instead of sort of believing it but that this year was different that way. Is that something that you sense program-wide this season?
“This season, yeah, and since Harbaugh’s been here that’s how it’s been is you really truly believe that you were going to win every single game that you were going into, especially the big games. These coaches do an unbelievable job of preparation and putting our team in position to succeed and they continue to do that. At the end of the day it kind of comes down to us executing, and we’ve missed out on that at some points in the season, we’ve done a great job at other points. We’re going to need to execute in this upcoming bowl game.”
Do you believe that’s something you kind of have to learn, to learn how to win in those moments that you talked about?
“Uh, no. No. We’ve been playing this sport our whole lives. A lot of us have been playing in really big games our whole lives, so in the moment—when Michael Jordan talked to us, and one thing Coach Harbaugh says is you don’t rise up to the moment. You’re just going out and doing what you’ve been repping and practicing so many times. That’s really what it comes down to.”
Have you thought carefully about going pro?
“No, not yet. Right now just focused on beating Florida State. After that, maybe think about it a little bit with my family, but definitely leaning on coming back.”