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In the aftermath of the Notre Dame weekend, a Q & A with Ryan Van Bergen

Chris Ryba/Daily
Fifth-year senior defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen celebrated Saturday's victory in a unique way with Dave Brandon. Buy this photo

By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published September 14, 2011

Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen has been through a lot of change at Michigan.

He came to Ann Arbor under the direction of Lloyd Carr, paced the defensive line through the Rich Rodriguez era and now he headlines Brady Hoke's front four on defense. Van Bergen bulked up to nearly 290 pounds over the summer thanks to off-season conditioning and a special recipe: pineapple-glazed salmon.

Van Bergen spoke with the media on Monday, fresh off the Wolverines' stunning victory over Notre Dame less than 48 hours earlier:

The Michigan Daily: How do you balance enjoying that win and how it doesn’t do anything for you facing Eastern Michigan?

Ryan Van Bergen: You enjoy it. Saturday night we enjoyed it. Sunday we watched some film and enjoyed the highlights. Then it’s time to move on. Eastern’s a good team, they’re 2-0 for the first time in a long time. We’ve got to prepare for them, and we’ve got to play a game Saturday.

TMD: How different was it coming out of the tunnel Saturday night, under the lights, as opposed to noon or 3:30?

Van Bergen: It was really weird. The tunnel is dimly lit anyway and the field looks like it’s daylight because of the lights. The atmosphere was just crazy. I’ve never heard the Big House that loud. We were watching film on it, and the cameras were shaking. You could barely see the game at some points because it was so loud that the stands were moving.

TMD: You’ve been through these comebacks before, a couple against Notre Dame and against Wisconsin back in 2008. Did you draw on them? Did you talk to other guys to keep the faith when it was looking so dire at some points?

Van Bergen: We just know we have the players who are capable of making plays. If you have Denard Robinson on your team, 30 seconds is plenty of time to score a touchdown. He can run 100 yards in under 10 seconds, so you don’t need to worry about 30 seconds being on the clock. Denard Robinson can take the ball down himself, and he’s got receivers that can make plays — as you can see — one-on-one they’re dangerous. We didn’t ever give up as a team. We persevered, it’s something we’ve talked about all off-season.

TMD: When you see wide receiver Jeremy Gallon that wide open on the wheel route on the sideline, what’s that like when you see it develop?

Van Bergen: Well I didn’t see it because Gallon is 5-(foot)-6 and everybody else was in my way. I saw it on the JumboTron and I couldn’t believe it. I’m looking and trying to find out where their defense is because he’s running still and he got to the sideline.

And then we’re down around the 25-yard line, and I’m a good friend of Brendan (Gibbons), and I know he’s going to make the field goal. And then coach Borges throws a pass to Roy (Roundtree). I can’t believe he caught it; I just fell down. I think I chest-bumped Dave Brandon. It was just a great experience, it was awesome.

TMD: What’s that like, chest-bumping Dave Brandon?

Van Bergen: “It was kind of interesting because I was going for it and I don’t think he knew. You’re making eye-to-eye contact, you start gathering for the jump, you’ve got it timed out. You practice this kind of thing. We didn’t rehearse this. You could tell that he’s kind of rusty, but I think he’ll come around.”

TMD: Are you aware that you’re now off scholarship?

Van Bergen: No, he seemed to enjoy it.

TMD: The defense locked down pretty well in the fourth quarter; so how disheartening was it when they walked right through the defense to take the lead again inside 90 seconds?

Van Bergen: We didn’t communicate as well as we needed to in that kind of situation. It was a great learning experience for us. Luckily it didn’t cost us that game. We need to look back at it and see what things we can improve on, because two-minute defense is the most pressure-packed situation in the game. We’ve got to be good there. Our offense scored, we need to hold onto that win for them.

TMD: On the flip side, talk about recovering the fumble just minutes earlier.

Van Bergen: I didn’t know what happened because I was rushing the passer. I thought I saw the ball out of the corner of my eye, and I wasn’t sure, but then it came squirting through the line. They were in the red zone, if they would have scored there, who knows what the outcome of the game would’ve been? That was a big play for us. All I really did was fall on the fumble.

TMD: You’ve created and secured more turnovers this year. What’s been the difference there?

Van Bergen: Emphasis. In practice, we emphasize that regardless of what the tempo is. If we’re in shoulder pads or not, we’re always trying to strip the ball from our backs. If there’s incomplete passes, we’re always scooping and scoring those in practice. Every ball that’s on the ground is our ball.

If you look at turnovers, that decides a lot. The top of the AP charts are the teams that get the most turnovers and have the biggest turnover margin. We haven’t been at the top because of that reason. If you look at it now, we’re probably creating some of the most turnovers in college football.

TMD: You’ve had fast starts the last couple years, and you’ve only played seven quarters, but does this 2-0 start feel different than the last couple years?

Van Bergen: I feel like every year has felt different. This year’s felt different just because we’re 2-0, and one game was called because of rain and the other came down to the last two seconds. It’s been a rollercoaster already and it’s only been two games. We’ll find out where we are with this next game … we want to come out and be dominant and have a good all-around game, because we have not put one together that we’ve been successful in all three phases. If we can do that, then I’ll start thinking it’s a different season.