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September 16, 2014

Mark Dantonio

COACH DANTONIO:  Real quickly, looking forward to getting back on the field.  Excited about the opportunity to play this weekend.  Sort of tough to sit back last week and watch, and I think our team is focused and we'll look forward to them coming out.
So I'll take questions.

Q.  Can you run through what Sunday was like for you, watching the guys in the NFL?  Did you get a chance to watch any of those games or are you focused on what you're doing right now?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I saw a couple of snaps off the Redskins game and a little bit of the tail end of the Browns game.  I didn't catch when Drew threw a touchdown pass.  I think that was late, as well.
I think that from a Spartan standpoint, you've got three guys playing in the NFL who lead their teams to victory on Sunday at the highest level.  And I think that's a statement of Michigan State football.  What they have been able to accomplish individually and then as a group, just being from Michigan State.
So we sort of look that, and when young people look at our program, they have to be able to sit there and say yeah, you know, if I'm coming to Michigan State, we can have great success and we can go on and play at the highest level and be successful at that level, as well.

Q.  Pat said when it gets to game time he will expects some changes on the depth chart.  Do you expect that there will be many changes by the time we get to game time on Saturday?
COACH DANTONIO:  Not too many, no.  No.  I think the younger players are going to play.  We're going to give players more opportunity to play.  I'm not sure that they are going to be in the starting positions, but they are going to have opportunities to play more often.
I think sometimes you go into the game and always talk about how you're going to play the players, but you get into the game itself, and especially in a big game like the Oregon game, you're a little bit leery to go in a different direction, just to give somebody a break because you think that there may be a breakdown of some such.
But I anticipate younger players playing, some of our redshirt freshmen, some of our freshmen guys playing, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  Should be a good football game.

Q.  Last year after you had the NotreDame loss with the week off, it was the Big Ten opener coming up.  Is there anything you do differently this week or this time around, not to overlook Eastern, but to make sure guys are staying focused and not looking past them?
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, we didn't win the last time we came out.  So the focus is to win a football game.
Eastern Michigan will come here.  They have a lot of guys from the State of Michigan.  Usually when you play in‑state, you're going to up your game a little bit.  I think they have put a premium on toughness in their program.  I think Coach Creighton has done a nice job in terms of coming back and trying to restructure exactly what ‑‑ who they are and build a reputation and build an identity.
And I think toughness is on that landscape for them.  He's the first head coach that has been hired there as an acting head coach since Jim Harkema.  He brings an outstanding record in to Eastern Michigan.  I think he was 31‑9 maybe the last five seasons.  So they are building something there.
So as you go through, you need to understand that everybody plays the game:  It's about blocking, tackling, getting people down and catching the football and running with the football, and whoever does that best usually is going to win the football game.
I know that they are going to play hard.  I understand the situation completely, but I know that they will play hard.  When you turn on the film, that's when you see, guys playing hard.  They make some mistakes but they play hard.  Any time you do that, you always have a chance.

Q.  What's your evaluation of the running game through two games, and what needs to get better there?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think first of all it's a little bit skewed because in the first game it was 38‑0 at the half, and so we played with our younger players throughout the second half and kept it pretty basic.
Then the second game, pretty balanced initially and then we got into the fourth quarter and became more of a throwing game once it was established midway through the fourth quarter that we had to score and score quickly.
It's a little bit skewed a little bit, but I think we need to run the ball more effectively.  However you say it, however you want to say it, we need to be balanced and we need to try to make sure that happens as we progress through the season.

Q.  You said it was a tough day watching football Saturday.  Would it have been easier had you won the week before?  Was coming off a loss make it that much tougher?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think any time, here we are at the beginning of the season with the bye after two games, that's very early in the process.  And I think any time that's happening, you want to play‑‑ you want to play football.  So I think that we still would have been itching to play I guess a little bit.
But you take it as it comes.  You build on it.  You try to use it for what it is and you try to get better because of it.  So I think that's what we try to do.  We want to be fresh.  We want to be motivated to play and have great attention to detail, all those different things we talk about, and I think our players are.
They had an opportunity, probably about 70 of our 105 players, probably went home, had a chance to watch their high school football team on Friday night or Saturday night, and I think that was a positive.
So they should be fresh.  We'll go hard today in preparation for Saturday's game, and we will not overlook anybody.  So we'll come ready to play.

Q.  After the Oregon game, Coach Narduzzi said he should have left starters in longer against Jacksonville Statejust to help season the team a little bit more.  How much will that play ‑‑
COACH DANTONIO:  I disagree with that.  38‑0, we get our younger players playing.  Next question.

Q.  In the Eastern Michigan State, how important is it for you to get your starters confidence?  And also in light of the fact that you're No. 11 and in light of the fact that there is consideration for college football playoffs, how do you manage the game differently?
COACH DANTONIO:  We are not going to run‑‑ we are going to play to win the football game.  End of story on that.
We are going to play to win, and after that is accomplished, in any game, after that is accomplished, we're going to try to get our younger players playing and develop experience and depth on this football team.  And that's how we play it here.
I'm not interested in taking a time‑out before the end of the game to get another seven points.  I'm interested in playing the game the way it's supposed to be played and letting it go.  But we will play hard and come ready to play and if we hand the ball off to somebody, I expect them to run hard and try and score a touchdown.
So I guess‑‑ I don't know what the question is.  It's 0‑0 right now, so my main focus is they all count one, and we need to be prepared to play a football game on Saturday afternoon.

Q.  So I guess with that in mind, when Oregon called a time‑out, is that something that you understand because of where Oregon is, or is that just part of the game that they scored a fourth down touchdown on you late?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think they called a time‑out because they decided to go for it on fourth and two, and I think it was‑‑ it just sort of happened they scored the touchdown.  It happened.  We've got to deal with it.
But I think it was probably the smart thing to do rather than risk a field goal off the block, etc.  It happened that they scored the touchdown on it, but no, I didn't hold it against them or anything like that.

Q.  Coach Creighton is very similar to you in personality off the field and he has mentioned to me about looking to you kind of as a role model about building the program.  Can you just talk about when you hear those kind of compliments from people that you play, and where you have grown as a coach, are you able to maybe appreciate and look back on how far you have come?
COACH DANTONIO:  That's very kind of him, but I think his record is greater than my record at this point.  I think he's had success where he's been.  I was at Sound Mind Body Camp when he spoke prior to my speaking; I was impressed with his delivery.  I'm very impressed he's not going to back down from anything and he's going to challenge his players to play with great effort, great toughness and know what to do, and that's where it all starts.
And you start by building your program that way, by instilling toughness in them, not trying to get the fast ticket, not trying to get the fast track to a win.  It's got to start with building a foundation and I think that's what he's trying to do.
And I can appreciate that, that aspect, when you come in as a new football coach, wherever you're at, regardless of what the record was before then.  You're trying to build a foundation in terms of what your goals are, what your ideals are, who are you conceptually, and that takes time.
And so I know that is a difficult job.  I understand that.  But as I've said, before you turn on the film, do they play hard.  That's the first thing you have to ask yourself, do they play hard?  And the answer is yes.

Q.  Because of this factor that everyone in this room thinks that you're going to win by 45 points, do you have to coach harder in a week like this so that kind of mind‑set doesn't filter in your players?
COACH DANTONIO:  In 2012, we were down 7‑6 at the half.  We were I think 30‑point favorites.  Our guys need to come ready to play.
If there was a message out of that press conference, that would be the message.  We need to come ready to play.  We need to be able to perform.  And every time you step on the field, you're competing against not just the opposing team, but you're competing against yourself, your attention to detail, your excellence, your ability to go take the next step as a player.
We have got a lot of players who have not played as much football, and they are playing in front of 86,000, 76,000 people or so.  There's going to be anxiety, anxiety for everybody involved here.  So you need to be able to build on that anxiety and use that to your advantage and be able to prepare yourself to play.
Yeah, I always try to coach harder.  I think you have to do that every game.  You're really only as good as your last game probably, huh.

Q.  Defensive tackles seemed like they had an up‑and‑down day, could have made some play.  How have you evaluated that group on the whole, replacing two starters, and is it also still possible we see Gleichert (ph) or someone else step in there this year that we haven't yet?
COACH DANTONIO:  I would say that based on how we perform the first game, very well.
The second game, you've got a guy that in terms of Mariota that makes things happen.  He's a very good quarterback, probably leading the Heisman race maybe right now, I don't know.  But he's a very good player and he made us miss.
We stopped the run for the most part.  They had 20 yards rushing at the half and 53 yards after three quarters.  They had a couple runs at the end of the game that sort of opened it up.  Prior to that, I thought we got pressure on the quarterback.  We pressured the quarterback ten times where we had a scramble to make something happen.  We eliminated the run, we went five times three‑and‑out, between the second quarter and the third.
So everything was going in the right direction.  What we needed to do was be able to finish, and I don't know why we didn't finish, and it had something to do with maybe them ‑‑ I'm sure it did, they are a good football team.
But whatever the reason is, we as a program, not as a defense, not as an offense, but we as a program, as a coaching staff, weren't able to finish that football game.
And so again, as I've said, we talked about this last week, the onus is on all of us.  It doesn't go in one particular area.  And I think we're going to get Hickories (ph) back, we're going to get David Hoff (ph) back.  That gives us six defensive tackles to play once we get into the Big Ten season.
I'm very excited about our freshmen defensive tackles, probably redshirt the other two, but I'm very excited about those guys, as well.  Joel Heath and L.T. have been solid, solid players for us.  They are athletic, they are big.  But we're two games in, so it's really hard to evaluate where we are as a team.  But I think we have the makings of a very good football team.  But again, we're going to have to see this week and moving forward.

Q.  When you go back to the running game a little bit, when you try and blend in some young guys when you have some veterans, how critical is a game like this for them to get carries, and not only for this season, but moving forward in their career?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think it's critical for young players to get confidence and the only way you give them confidence is by good things happening on game day.  You can get X amount of confidence in practice, but that has to transfer the game field.  When you do have experiences on game day, it just makes you more confident, makes you more positive and allows you to I think go farther.
So yeah, it's important for Delton Williams to get the ball.  It's important for Gerald Holmes to get the ball.  And if we ever decide to take the redshirt off Madre; and I don't know that we won't.  Just depends on how everybody else is playing, and injuries, and those type of things.  We'll see what happens.

Q.  What about a defensive end in the depth chart right now?  Obviously Marcus and Shilique played the majority of the last game.  Is it Evan next?  Is Montez still possibly going to play this year?  What do you have at the reserve level?
COACH DANTONIO:  Montez will play.  I think he's a guy that continues to get better.  He came here, I think 212 pounds and now he weighs about 240.  He's about 6‑6.  He's active.  I think we've got to continue to work with Evan Jones, Demetrius Cooper.
I mean, Evan has been solid.  He's had a solid camp and he's a tough guy and he's going to play with great technique.  I think Cooper has got to come.  He's got great ability and we've got to see that ability come out of him in game day.  But again, he's a redshirt freshman and if you think back to Shilique when he was a redshirt freshman, playing behind William Golson and Marcus Rush, if you have opportunities, he wasn't quite as productive as maybe he was the following year.
So we're looking for those things to come out in him, but I would say all those guys have an opportunity to play just based on no‑huddle offenses and tempo and some of the different things that we see.

Q.  On the punt return, it looks like the gunners are beating your guys outside and you've got some good athletes out there.  Is that something that you've put emphasis on, or is that just going up against the pure athletes at Oregon?
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, we've got to eliminate the gunners.  You know, when they do spread them out, we want to get the ball to Macgarrett Kings' hands and get it moving north.  But they beat our guys.
So it's tough when you go out there and they have got a two‑way go, take away the inside and then they get on top of you and stack it.  But they did beat our guys; when you go out and double them, then you're short.  You're short inside.  Our goal is always to make sure there's no penalties on the punt return team and make sure we get the ball back and make sure there are no fakes.
So those are our goals.  Anything beyond that is a positive.  We've got the ability to break it.  He will break one, because that's the type of ability he has.  But our priorities are going to remain intact.  We're not going to have the ball faked against us and all that type of thing.  We want to get the ball back and not have a bad situation.

Q.  Then to follow up, I was the Internet and Rick Neuheisel was talking about Oregon out‑scheming you and he pretty much showed a pick play.  The difference between a pick and a rub, can you explain that, what makes the play a legal rub versus an illegal pick by definition, and is that something you think you're going to have to be prepared for more this season?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I guess a rub is one that's not called and a pick is one that's called.  I guess that would be the difference.  But, you know, I don't think there's any question they rubbed us on the one, on Darian Hicks, and you know, he came clean.
But that's something that we work on, something we practice and we've got to be table to get over on it, and there's things that we can do to alleviate that situation, which should have been done in that situation.
And then the other one, we just blew the coverage.  The other one, which was‑‑ I don't know that it's scheme; it was an inadvertent picky think is when they came off the tight end.  Maybe they were trying to rub there but the tight end got knocked down and he knocked our corner down.  So I would say those are the two that are in question probably.  I don't think we were out‑schemed but I don't have the telestrator.

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