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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 12, 2014
COACH DANTONIO:Â Basically, pretty much what we said yesterday.Â Offensively in the fourth quarter we need to be able to finish.Â Defensively, you know, we were hurt on some bubble plays and things of that nature.Â Made some different directions at half‑time.Â Played much better.Â Game got interesting in the fourth quarter.Â Credit Purdue.
With that being said, we need to continue to push forward and continue to win.Â I'll just take questions.
Q.Â At times your offense has scored a lot of points but in the biggest games against Oregon, Nebraska and Purdue, it's not scored in the fourth quarter.Â Why do you believe that is and what do you do to rectify it?
COACH DANTONIO:Â Well, I think every situation is a little bit different.Â In the games against Oregon, it was just a flat ballgame in the fourth, I felt.Â We got down there, threw a pick in the red zone or very near the red zone and we didn't make it on a fourth and one, so we did move down there to get the points.
In Nebraska game, we made the decision to sort of take the air out of the ball and run it.Â And we needed to be able to run it more effectively and get the first downs.Â But our pass game was not‑‑ didn't feel like we should pass at that time.Â There had been a couple near interceptions and did not want to take the risk in that situation.
And then yesterday, we just played the game, but again, we had a fourth quarter interception, which limited us and we went I think twice three‑and‑out possibly in those situations.
So why is that?Â We're assessing that as we speak.Â I do think that with all that being said, there's some aspect that we're going to get everybody's best shot.Â You know, so if you can make a play against Michigan State's defense right now, there's a lot of enthusiasm that's created.Â We need to understand that last year we were hunting and we were the ones that were on a mission, I guess.Â We still are on that mission.
But I think it's now a little bit more of the fact that people understand where we're at and are looking to give us their best shot, as well.Â I don't think there's anything wrong with that but I think we need to understand that aspect and play the other end of that.
Q.Â Do you have long‑term concerns about Jack Allen?
COACH DANTONIO:Â No.
Q.Â How about short term?
COACH DANTONIO:Â Pretty short.
Q.Â Do you come out of that game‑‑ a couple other guys were banged up and came back out, Williamson and Hicks; do you come out of that game pretty healthy?
COACH DANTONIO:Â We really don't talk about our injuries, unless they are going to affect the game itself next week; and if that's the case, I'll let everybody know on Friday.Â But I don't anticipate that being the case.
Q.Â Last night after the game, talking about just playing the game late and throwing the ball, you mentioned going off a couple times on second and five, third and five, were those instances where you wanted maybe not to look down the field that much and look at shorter options?Â What did you see on film when you looked at that?
COACH DANTONIO:Â Bottom line, you had an opportunity to hit a quick out‑route to Lippett in the first situation, and he should have taken that when he was open.Â Would have got the five yards.Â He elected to go deep to the tight end; bad decision.
Second one, wide receiver sat on the route.Â He didn't have enough time to come off of that route due to the running back's protection, so he was forced into throwing it.Â Not his fault.
Q.Â After watching the film, was there anyone whose play stood out as a positive that maybe you didn't notice from field level until you saw the film?
COACH DANTONIO:Â I thought our two tackles, two offensive tackles, played very well.Â You know, we got on people.Â We pass protected pretty well, as well.Â Both those guys, Kodi Kieler and Jack Conklin played well.
I thought that obviously we were able to run the ball effectively.Â It really didn't matter which tailback was in.Â They ran effectively.Â They all broke some tackles and they all had some holds to run through and got a additional yardage after contact, so they all played pretty well.
I thought Connor Cook, our quarterback, made some great throws.Â But you know, obviously Lippett plays very well, as well.Â But there's consistency to everything, and you've got to get it done at the end of the game.Â You've got to make a block as a wide receiver to sprint a guy late in the game.Â That didn't happen on occasion.
So it's never as good as you think; it's never as bad as you think.Â We've learned that.Â But there's room for improvement.Â I think there's always room for improvement in what we're doing and that would be for coaching, as well.
Q.Â How encouraged are you to see the toughness Connor Cook is playing with?Â We've seen him throw a block and a tackle and yesterday it looks like he's playing in maybe a tougher frame of mind.
COACH DANTONIO:Â We wanted to get him involved in running the football and I think we did that yesterday.Â I think he had, you know, maybe six runs‑‑ six runs, he was credited with seven but one was a scramble.Â He had six called runs, one call‑back, as well, because of a penalty, a longer run.
But I think he can be an asset in that area and it takes pressure off our other situations and gives us another dimension.Â But I think Connor can be a tough guy.Â You know, so he needs to be able to stand in there as a quarterback.Â It's a mental toughness thing as much as a physical toughness.Â He's done a good job.
When you rise up in the polls, when you're sitting No.1 in the Big Ten, or whatever the case, whenever there's very, very high expectations, that creates a higher level of accountability.Â It just does.Â There's more expectations, so there's a higher level of accountability and no more is that more evident than at the quarterback position.Â I mean, that just goes‑‑ that's the position with the most leadership and so that's going to naturally fall to that.
Q.Â Last year you mentioned maybe there weren't as many expectations outside and it seemed like it was more of a fun ride for Michigan State.Â Can you talk about how much harder it is on this football team to operate with expectations, you already may have mentioned getting the other team's best shot but how much more difficult is it?Â You said in the off‑season, it would be.
COACH DANTONIO:Â I think the key is how well we're able to handle success.Â I don't think there's any question about that.
When we come here, when we first came here, it was about trying to get things in order and get the team in order and then it was about establishing a program by going to Bowl games every year and finally we won a co‑championship in the Big Ten and we finally went to the Rose Bowl and won an out right championship and then the Rose Bowl.
So the expectations have risen.Â Along with those expectations, though, it becomes tougher and tougher.Â And so there has to be a resiliency among our football team, and you now sort of become like a‑‑ I don't see we're the only hunted team in the conference.Â That's not saying that.Â But you feel a little bit more of the pressure to go out and just overpower people.
I don't think that that's always going to be the case.Â You've got to play the game.Â We've gotten ahead.Â Got to be able to close the game out more effectively because we're up 21 points in the last two weeks.Â But people don't stop playing.
Q.Â Wanted to know about the number of targets you had and receptions for tight ends yesterday, Jamal Lyles in particular.Â Was that just something you were seeing out of Purdue's defense, or are you trying to get the guys more involved going forward?
COACH DANTONIO:Â I think we got a couple of guys that are excellent tight ends.Â A couple times, the read by the quarterback took him there, I believe, and usually that's the case.Â On one occasion, we went to the tight end, for sure.Â Although that one was incomplete.
But for the most part, I think they are just in the pass concept and he's finding those guys, and they are very good pass receivers and they can have big plays of their own.
Q.Â Just wondering if you feel any differently about the fake punt called than you did yesterday?
COACH DANTONIO:Â No, I don't.Â I feel like it was a good plan.Â I feel like the timing was right, considering the situation and the momentum and the direction in which it was going.
I do feel like the execution didn't get done, and that is coaching.Â That is also coaching.Â So that's a part of it.Â So that all lies with me.
But having to do it over again, you know, that's the direction we would have gone.Â I think sometimes as a head football coach, you have to take risk, calculated risk, and you have to be accountable for that calculated risk.Â Sometimes it's going to work and sometimes it's going to not.
But you have to come to a point some point in time where you rescue your football team, too, and you're a part of this process, rather than just letting it sit all on did I defensive coordinator or an offensive coordinator or a particular player or a unit.
Q.Â Yesterday we saw you say something to Kurtis Drummond and obviously Kurtis has made several plays for you over his career.Â But the last couple weeks looks like he's had some tough breaks, and you talk about missing tackles.Â Is Kurtis putting too much on his own shoulders right now?Â How would you assess that and what did you tell him yesterday?
COACH DANTONIO:Â I'm not sure when you were‑‑
Q.Â The potential pick six.
COACH DANTONIO:Â Okay.Â You know, Kurtis played better than he has yesterday, there's no question about that.Â For us to be ultimately successful, our seniors have to have their best year ever.Â You can't worry about the future.Â You can't worry about the past.Â They have to live in the present and they have to have their best year, ever.
He's very, very capable of that.Â He didn't play as well yesterday, and he'll be the first one to say that.Â But there's the next game next week and we have six more to go and he's a very good player and made a lot of plays for us.
As far as what I said to him, I don't know if it was something schematic or what it was because I can't really remember, during the game, that point.
Q.Â I know you changed up some things to deal with those bubbles, but what about just Darian and how played in the second half?Â I know that was a big part of it, being more physical and aggressive, was that growth for him?
COACH DANTONIO:Â It was.Â At that position, at that particular linebacker position, that will backer or that star backer, as we call it, you can't be a statue out there.Â You have to be fluid in terms of recognizing formations and active relative to the coverage or front that's called, and you have to be able to adjust, adjust with the different alignments that they are giving you.
In the second half, he did a much better job of that.Â He got off of blocks.Â In the first half, I thought he did a good job early on, but then we were out‑flanked a little bit.Â Sometimes that's going to happen but over the course of the game, I think he obviously did better, and then he has a great play at the end of the game with the pick for a touchdown.
So made a lot of plays without Darian Hicks being in there.Â But I thought he did a nice job and a great job in the second half.
Q.Â When you watched your defense come out in the third quarter and play so strong, and then obviously Purdue picked it up there at the end, is that more Purdue and their energy level and their performance going up a notch, or did your defense take a little bit‑‑ I don't mean a setback as far as how good they are, but a step back in the fourth quarter?
COACH DANTONIO:Â Well, if you look at the fourth, first of all, I thought we played very well in the third quarter defensively.Â In the fourth quarter, you look at it, they got a pick.Â They went down the field with the interception return.Â It was fourth and two.Â They cracked us.Â We didn't replace and it was a little confusion in terms of how we lined up.Â And then we missed the tackle.
So it's a 42‑yard run for a touchdown.Â And then we fake the punt, which is on me as we talked about.Â And then our defense had to go back on the field on the 30‑yard line.
We had a pass interference penalty in the end zone on a reverse pass.Â We tried some type of trick, but ‑‑ not even sure what type of trick.Â But we had the PI in the end zone and they put the ball down there, and then we missed the tackle and the guy gets in the end zone.
So I'm not sure that we gave a lot of plays up in the second half.Â We played much better in the second half, but the situations that we were dealt, weed into to be able to overcome those because those are two sudden change situations, and we didn't.
I don't think they drove the ball the length of the field in the second half, as I recall.Â And I just watched the film again today, so I should recall (chuckling).
You know, credit Purdue.Â They did a lot of things that they had not done previously formation‑wise, and some different things.Â And they took advantage of some different things and we've got to tackle more successfully in the open field, especially in the first half.
But I thought once it became crunch time in the fourth quarter, I think we went two times down on their end stopping them two different times, one with the pick and then another time on fourth down, one, two, four.
So we've got it back and we won the game on the back end coming out the door.Â Again, I do think that the positive in these things, if you have to look for a positive, is we won the football game, we continue to move forward.
You know, you have to re‑right the ship a little bit and regain your momentum a little bit.Â I think there's something to do in that.Â If you win by 21 the last two weeks, then you're going to start to think things are easy.Â Things are not easy.Â Nothing is ever easy.Â All you have to do is look around the country.Â The opposing football team that you play against is going to have a plan; it's going to be a good plan, and their players are going to play and they are going to have players that make plays.
You just have to keep playing throughout and not relax.Â I don't think we did relax but you just can't‑‑ you need to keep persevering.
Q.Â Is the team mood better than it was after Nebraska?Â I hear you rationalizing another victory, you've won 20 out of 22 now.Â Are the guys feeling a little bit better than they were after the Nebraska game, considering it was on the road?
COACH DANTONIO:Â You know, first of all, I felt great after Nebraska.Â We beat a great football team and I think our players did, as well.Â Was it as pretty as it was, as you want it to be at the end of the game?Â No.Â But I thought we played very well in the first three and a half quarters, whatever it was.
Secondly, I haven't seen them yet today.Â We'll have a team meeting here in about 15 minutes.Â But people are resilient.Â We'll get ready to play the next game and this will just give us the added fuel to prepare ourselves.Â That's the way you've got to look at it.
Hopefully it brings another edge back to us in terms of the direction we're going and how we've got to get there.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports