Quick Hits: Kyle McCord Says “You Dream of Moments Like This,” Emeka Egbuka Feels His “Blood Getting Hot” and Denzel Burke Says “We’re Gonna Get It Done for the State of Ohio”

By Chase Brown, Dan Hope and Garrick Hodge on November 21, 2023 at 3:58 pm
Kyle McCord

The Game needs no introduction, but coaches and players can still set the stage.

On Tuesday, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles held press conferences inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center team room and previewed the 119th edition of The Game on Saturday.

Moments later, five players – quarterback Kyle McCord, wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, linebacker Cody Simon and cornerback Denzel Burke – did the same on the indoor practice field.

Among the topics the players discussed, McCord said "you dream of moments" like Saturday, where undefeated rivals will meet at the Big House in a top-three matchup. Additionally, Egbuka said everyone in Ohio State's 2021 class "can't leave here without Gold Pants" after back-to-back losses to Michigan, while Harrison said he expects a "heavyweight fight" in Ann Arbor.

Videos of the media sessions from the five players, as well as bullet-point recaps of what each person said can be found below.

QB Kyle McCord

  • McCord says he’s known J.J. McCarthy since his sophomore year of high school and that they became friends during the recruiting process.
  • McCord says the Buckeyes have to prepare for this game the same way they’ve prepared every week. “At the end of the day, on Saturday at noon, we’re going to put the ball down, it’s going to be football.”
  • McCord said he thinks the Notre Dame game “definitely helped” Ohio State prepare for this game as it tested the Buckeyes’ ability to play a top team in a hostile environment.
  • On how he keeps himself from getting nervous: “I think the only time you’re nervous is when you’re not sure if you put the preparation in or not.” He thinks the game is won with preparation during the week.
  • McCord said his first memory of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry was watching the Buckeyes’ double overtime win in 2016.
  • McCord said Michigan’s defense is “super talented across the board and obviously coached really well.” He said the Buckeyes “know it’s going to be a fist fight on Saturday.”
  • McCord said it gives him “a huge boost of confidence” to have all of his weapons on offense back healthy.
  • “When you’re a little kid, you dream of moments like this. Two undefeated teams in the biggest rivalry in sports, you can’t draw it up any better than that. But I think at the same time, like I said earlier, it’s all about the preparation during the week. It’s all about putting the work in and giving yourself an opportunity to go out and succeed.”
  • Asked about his mindset on running the ball, McCord says it’s “whatever the game presents.” If the defense gives him the opportunity to run the ball, “I’ll be ready.”
  • McCord said he respects Michigan. “It’s hard to stand up here and say I don’t respect a team who’s 11-0, who’s done some really good things in the past few years. And they’re a really good team. So I think there’s definitely a respect level there. I think we know that they’re a good team, and I would say vice versa.”
  • He said he’s not trying to prove that Ryan Day made the right choice by picking him over McCarthy. “The biggest thing for me is just winning this game, by any means necessary.”
  • “The amount of great players that have played in this game throughout the years, the back-and-forth games throughout the years, I think there’s a reason why this is the best rivalry in sports, and just to be able to play in it, it’s special. It’s an honor.”

WR Marvin Harrison Jr.

  • Harrison said it's "super exciting" for The Game to be here. "It's exactly how I dreamed of it. Both teams are undefeated. ... It's exactly how I wanted it to be."
  • Harrison called Michigan cornerback Will Johnson "a tremendous player." He looks forward to their one-on-one battles on Saturday. However, Harrison understands that Ohio State will move him around the field while Michigan moves Johnson around the field, so the players won't always be matched up against each other on Saturday in the Big House.
  • On what it takes to perform in big games, like Ohio State-Michigan will be this weekend: "I always played in the big games. My teams were always good. We always made it to the championship in whatever division I was at – little league, middle school, high school. I've been there so many times that you look forward to the moment and understand that your preparation takes care of everything else."
  • When asked if the Ohio State-Michigan game will be like "Christmas morning," Harrison said "Christmas is definitely more exciting and less stressful." Harrison added: "You embrace the stress that you have waking up on Saturday morning. You're really going into a heavyweight fight there."
  • On how much Harrison needs a win over Michigan for his legacy: "We all go in there in the locker room and debate who has the best (recruiting) class, who is the best team. The number one question you have to ask is, 'Did you beat 'That Team Up North?' It always starts there. That's a deciding factor on where your class ranks as far as legacy-wise. But I think that matters."
  • On the video Ohio State posted of him looking back on the Shoe: "Not for certain, but it could have been my last time in Ohio Stadium. I was just looking back on how far I have come. In the spring game my freshman year, I caught a slant in the exact same spot I caught my last touchdown in the Shoe in that last game. Looking back on how far I have come, I didn't expect to accomplish as much as I did in my career, even though it's not exactly over yet. It was a special moment. It's a special place to play in front of those fans every Saturday. It's a blessing and one thing I'm gonna miss."
  • On the progression of the passing game: "Having Trey (Henderson) back helps the whole offense with how explosive of playmaker he is. Also, you have Emeka back healthy and Cade coming back healthy. It's definitely nice to see us clicking on all cylinders going into this game. You want to play your best football in November. Coach Day always preaches that to us. It's exciting to see where we're going."
  • On Kyle McCord: "I've been in a lot of big games, and a lot of those games I played with him. I know where his mind space is and the confidence he will go in there with. He's one of the most confident guys I have ever been around. When he trusts himself – we always have trust in him to make the plays – there's not another person I'd want to go into battle there with."

WR Emeka Egbuka

  • Egbuka said he feels "healthy" entering The Game. Egbuka said that allows him "to play how I know how to play" and "play my best" for the Buckeyes in their top-three showdown with the Wolverines.
  • On what The Game means to him: "Everything. This is the only game you have to win at Ohio State. We're locked in. We're focused."
  • Egbuka on his health and preparation for the Michigan game after he missed several weeks with an undisclosed ailment he suffered vs. Maryland: "I keep getting better and better each week. I feel like last week (before the Minnesota game) was the best I've felt. I'm gonna continue to feel better this week, too."
  • On Michigan cornerback Mike Sainristil: "I don't have too much to comment about in terms of their players. But I know that we're gonna go in there with a great game plan, work our tails off this week and do our best. We're gonna fully trust in the coaches' game plan and whatever plays are being called. I have full trust in (Kyle McCord). We're gonna go in there and give it a good shot."
  • On Ohio State's class of 2021 having no Gold Pants after two seasons: "Everyone in my class, we feel like we can't leave here without Gold Pants."
  • Egbuka called the lead-in to Ohio State-Michigan "a slow build" and said the Buckeyes can "let everything go" once The Game kicks off. "We're gonna work on staying locked in and staying focused this week to make sure we put our best foot forward on Saturday."
  • Egbuka said Ohio State's coaching staff and players have done a great job of staying focused with all of the distractions that have surrounded the Wolverines the past few weeks. "We have something special here in Columbus. We have a chance to do something special. We are not focused on what 'That Team Up North' is doing or what they have done. We are fully focused on what we are able to accomplish here."
  • On the rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan: "You have to experience it to know what the rivalry is like. ... With more experience and being able to play 'That Team Up North' more, you know what it means to this university. It starts to mean something special to you as well. The longer I've been here, the more and more I feel my blood getting hot for this rivalry."
  • Egbuka said Ohio State gained valuable experience from its wins over Notre Dame and Penn State that it will take into the team's matchup with Michigan on Saturday.

CB Denzel Burke

  • What stands out to you when you watch Michigan on film? “Nothing. We just gotta go out there and do our job and really compete, play hard for each other.”
  • Burke said he loves being the “villain” on the road. “Just to be able to go in someone else’s hometown and compete, play hard and play for each other.”
  • Burke said thinking about last year’s loss is “horrible.”
  • “Just thinking about The Game, my blood boils.”
  • Does he feel extra pressure since he hasn’t won a pair of Gold Pants yet? “There’s no pressure, man, we just gotta go out there and ball and do what we know we can do.”
  • Burke said he is “100% healthy” right now.
  • On Jordan Hancock: “He’s such a dog … he’s balling, man, and he’s really helping us bring BIA back with this defense.”
  • Asked about the respect level between players on both sides of the rivalry, Burke laughed and paused before answering, “There’s respect for them. We didn’t get it done the past two years, and our job is to go out there and get it done.”
  • Burke said the Buckeyes need to play with “controlled aggression. Don’t do nothing that can have a detriment to the team, and play hard for each other and do the right things always.”
  • Burke said he feeds off the abuse the players will receive from Michigan fans. “We’re looking forward to that. It should be fun.”
  • Burke acknowledged that the environment caught him off-guard as a freshman in 2021. “As a freshman, I never really knew the importance of that game. And these last two years, I’ve really got a different whole perspective.”
  • “This is a game of inches, you never know when that play could be the game-changer. So our mentality is to take care of every single play.”
  • “This game means a lot for us, and we’re gonna get it done for the state of Ohio.”
  • On the history of The Game: “We want to get it back to what it used to be like, and that’s dominance.”
  • On his motivation for The Game: “I’m not just doing it for myself, I’m doing it for my teammates. I’m doing it from my head coach. I’m doing it for our coaches. I’m doing it for the state of Ohio. And we don’t want to let them down.”

LB Cody Simon

  • Simon said Ohio State is prepared to face offensive sets with extra offensive linemen. He added it helped to play Minnesota the week before because the Gophers have some similar personnel. He expects a physical matchup against the Wolverines.
  • Simon went through Senior Day festivities last week but said he has not made a decision on whether to return for his fifth year of eligibility. “I felt like I’ve been here for four years, I wanted to run on Senior Day and felt like it was the right decision.”
  • On still trying to earn his first career win against Michigan: “It’s everything. We need to try new things and find ways to give more effort, put in more preparation, be a good teammate and get us over that hump. It’s tough, it’s not an easy feeling to have. But that’s what we’re working on right now.”
  • On why he believes this defense is better equipped to not make the same mistakes against Michigan the team did a year ago: “I trust in my coaches. I watch a lot of film and we watch a lot of little details that can help us get an edge. I trust in their vision and mentality that we can get it done.”
  • Simon said everything Ohio State has done this year has been in preparation for this game and said the team “couldn’t be more ready for it.”
  • On the boost of getting Tommy Eichenberg back: “He’s such a big leader whether he’s on or off the field. We’re so thankful we have a leader like that on our team.”
  • On how last year’s game affected Jim Knowles: “It’s tough in his first year with us and getting to know the rivalry and being a part of it. As it’s gone on and being here a lot longer, he’s understanding that every little detail matters. Not saying he didn’t before, but know he knows it’s so much more magnified and how much focus and every little detail matters more.”
  • On Michigan’s tight ends: “They’re good athletes. They work well in space. And our focus is to limit their impact as much as possible in addition to everyone else in their offense.” 
  • On J.J. McCarthy: “He’s really creative. He can make something out of nothing. Our goal is to contain him as much as possible and not allow him to make as many crazy plays as he usually makes. He’s a good player so we’ll have to do our best and contain him.”
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