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September 21, 2014

Mark Dantonio

COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I thought that basically, we talked all week about coming out game ready, I said that yesterday in the press conference and I thought we did that.  Certainly, culminated in us controlling the game in every facet, basically.
When you look at what we did offensively, a lot of big plays and a lot of different people with big plays, and a lot of people involved in touchdown runs or touchdown catches.  We tried to get the ball to as many people as possible, our skill players and let them work, but played very, very well.  Had the one turnover only.
When you look at us defensively, played extremely well collectively.  Any time you give up about 110 yards total, I think that's outstanding.  Obviously they are 1 out of 13 on third down conversions, and really only had 50 plays in the game.
So not many penalties as a team collectively.¬† And I think our special teams, the first play, the punt return by Macgarrett Kings jump‑started us right out of the gate, and sort of started the progression of everything.¬† So I'll just take some questions.¬† Great effort by our football team.

Q.  Wanted to ask you about your linebackers, I know Riley ended up starting, and you wanted to get some other guys in.  What are your impressions from that group overall?
COACH DANTONIO:  I thought Taiwan Jones played well.  We had pretty good performances by all of those guys, I would say.  But again, when you look at them collectively, they are in the right place a lot of times.  Most of the time they are in the right place.  They had a couple blows, because nothing is perfect.
But I thought they played hard.  They ran around.  They were effective.  We sent Ed Davis on a number of blitzes and he got to the quarterback, and we hit the quarterback 15 times out of 50 plays on passes.  So we got pressure on the quarterback and I think it affected everything as the game wore on.
Overall, I would say our linebacker play was probably low winning, when you look at us, or you could say high winning, they didn't run the ball very much at all.  But we are trying to chase perfection and chase excellence, so we are sort of nitpicking at times in terms of gap controls and exact responsibilities.

Q.  After watching the film, what were you most pleasantly surprised of and what maybe concerned you?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think‑‑ I don't know if I was surprised, but the way we came out collectively as a team, I knew we were heavy favorites in the football game.
I wanted to make sure, or we wanted to make sure as coaches, that we played up and that we did not play down to the point margin that they were predicting.  And we wanted to be game ready.  That's a very simple statement, but that affects how you go into the game mentally, physically, and emotionally.  And I thought we did that.
I thought our players on the sideline were very emotional, very enthusiastic, so those things were good.  Aside from that, you have to be impressed collectively how our entire defense played, as I said earlier, and then also we got so many different touches on the ball from different players.  You got Tony Lippett making big plays, Connor Cook making big plays, Macgarrett Kings, RJ Williamson.  We had a lot of guys making a lot of big plays throughout the game.  I think we got a lot of touches.  Because of that Langford got the ball and we had an opportunity to play a lot of players and that was a positive.
Things we have to fix up, I think that we had a couple things, we got penetration with our twos where on offense, we have to be better.  When our twos go in, we have to play a little bit better in terms of those individuals, certain individual players.  And then obviously we gave up the one long touchdown pass, which was an adjustment issue, flash adjustment.  Basically an adjustment issue; it just didn't happen fast enough.

Q.  Wanted your thoughts on how Brandon Clemons played, and then just how rare that is for a guy to play on both sides of the line.
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, I think it's rare, there's no question about that.  He was a defensive lineman, really.  We moved him to the offensive line in the Bowl game but then had to move him back over to the defense once we got out to California due to an injury.
So he's had a little bit of offense, but then when we lost Connor Kruse, we moved him back over there but when we lost Kittredge for a short time, we sort of had to play in both areas.  It is extremely rare.
I thought he did a nice job.  Didn't play as much defense.  He's still learning on the offensive side of the ball, but you see that he has the athletic ability and he can play over there.
And I thought on the defensive side of the ball he played well.¬† I'm not sure how many plays he played on the defensive side of the ball‑‑ he played three, only three.¬† But again, we played him more on the offensive side of the ball but he's certainly capable on the defensive side of the ball, as well.

Q.  Maybe not quite as fast as Chris Gamble, how many guys have you play on both sides that you can remember?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† One, two, three, four‑‑ I think four other guys since we've been here.¬† They certainly have not gotten the recognition that Chris Gamble has gotten, but he's playing 135 plays six different times.
But I think it can be done.  I've seen it done and I think it can be done.  You just have to strip through your practices to allow it to happen.

Q.¬† Do you look at Brandon's long‑term future as being more on offense, and once you get everyone back healthy this year on both lines, where do you think they will be?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think right now, he's going to be an offensive player for us and an offensive guard for us.¬† I think that's probably where he can become a little bit more starter quicker, although I would not put‑‑ if he went to the defensive side of the ball, I think the same thing could happen.¬† I just think that we have more defensive linemen right now, that that¬ís the best place for him.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I think we'll always have the ability to move him back and forth a little bit.¬† And he's a red‑shirted junior, so he'll be a senior next year.¬† But wherever he can get on the field the most, that's where we will play him as we move forward.

Q.  You've obviously played a lot of true freshmen and redshirt freshmen.  Can you talk about their performance collectively and maybe a couple who stood out to you, please?
COACH DANTONIO:  I thought yesterday as we watched the game as it continued on, I think our entire front seven en, with the exception of one player, were redshirt freshmen or true freshmen.  I think that bodes well for the future.
Some of the guys that played I thought very, very well, I thought Malik McDowell played well.  He had limited reps with Craig Evans in there, made about 15, 13 reps, but I thought he played pretty well.
Montae Nicholson is a guy who continues to make his way and prove that he can play, and I think he's a guy that is coming faster and faster.  Jon Reschke had a nice game as a redshirt freshman.  Chris Frey is in there playing.  We have a lot of guys in there playing; Demetrius Cooper.  So a lot of guys in there playing, so it's tough to pick them all out.
I thought they played pretty well again.  We had 50 plays on defense, and most of our true freshmen or redshirt freshmen were playing on the defensive side of the ball.  Certainly Brian Allen played on the offensive side.

Q.¬† The Big Ten has taken a beating perception‑wise over the last few weeks but yesterday, it was 12‑1, a big win over the ACC and Big 12.¬† What did you take from yesterday if you had time to pay attention to that?
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, I understand and I know the Big Ten Conference is an extremely competitive conference.  There's great players here and there's great coaching going on at every institution.
What I saw and what I recognize is that we're going to play some very good football teams as we move forward.  Indiana wins at Missouri.  I watched the Nebraska game last night.  It looked very, very good, and you know, on it goes.
So it's a good conference, extremely competitive conference, and I just believe it's usually a match‑up of teams.¬† It's not so much a match‑up of conferences; every team plays another team.

Q.  Was Malik's performance yesterday, is he making a push with his play in games and in practices to move up the depth chart?
COACH DANTONIO:  You know, he rolls in there right now, he's a guy that's going to play every game, he's going to roll in there.  Is he a starter right now?  No.  But does he roll in there on the third series or is he in there on a second series or a series gets long?  Yes.
So I think you have to include him as one of those one‑and‑a‑halves right now:¬† As a guy that you know is going to play every game, you know he's going to make some plays.¬† And you know, he's been stout in there and he's got a knack for getting off the blocks and running, and he can control his gap.

Q.  When you talk about being game ready, what do you attribute that to?  Is it leadership, maturity, and is that maybe the most encouraging thing for you yesterday overall?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I attribute that to a couple things.  One, if you're not coaching it, you're letting it happen.    So in my mind, we coached for that and we got that across to our players as coaches, as a collective group of coaches.
No. 2, our leaders within our football team, which maybe is the most important, are pushing in that direction, as well.  They understand where we're at in the schedule of things as we move forward.
And then the third thing is the chemistry of our football team.  I really believe that people don't want to let each other down, whether that's a coach to a player or a player to a coach and we're striving for perfection, as I said, and we're working very hard to achieve that.
But that has to happen with a lot of enthusiasm and edge energy, as well.  It just can't happen with ability.  It's got to happen with energy, and I think we gotten energy yesterday coming out of the gate.

Q.  Following up on that, in the last two weeks, the two weeks between those two games, did anyone really step up in terms of practice, the locker room, whatever it may be behind closed doors in terms of leadership?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Well, I think that when there's a two‑week lull, first of all, and hey, you lose a game, you lose a game that was a big game, and it's a tough game and you thought maybe you had‑‑ well, you felt like you had opportunities to win coming out of the game.
There's always going to be a little bit of, okay, who are our leaders, who is leading, we have a little adversity here, what is going to happen.  I just sort of sit and wait to see who shows up.  I think Kurtis Drummond has done a nice job of that.  I see Shilique Calhoun doing those things.  I see Connor Cook doing those type of things and certainly on the offensive line, I see Travis Jackson.  Tony Lippett is another guy.
But every position group is really trying to establish that one guy within that group and who sort of leads that group or that Bell cow, as we would call them.  So we look for that as we go.  Sometimes it's apparent to us and sometimes it's sort of behind the scenes a little bit, so it's sort of hard to say.
All I can tell you is that coming into the football game, you felt like there was a sense of focus, and I think that's what we got.  We got good focus right from the start and we played hard from the start and there was no letdown throughout the game.  Guys played hard.  Did we play perfect?  No.  Do we have to pick some things?  Absolutely.  But for the most part, we played very well.

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