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October 14, 2014

Mark Dantonio

COACH DANTONIO:  First of all just want to congratulate Tyriq Thompson on his signing with Michigan State.  It's a little bit different situation, if you sign a Big Ten tender and have all your paperwork done relative to the school and all those different type of things, you can release those things.
An outstanding player, comes from an outstanding program, ML King, very quick, very explosive, very intelligent plays tailback, as well, for his high school and with the opportunity for him to come here mid‑year will give us an indication that all indications are he would be able to play as a true freshman.¬† Be exciting to watch him as we move forward.
Our 100th game here as a staff since coming here in 2007 this weekend.  Just want to personally thank everyone who has been a part of our program for that period of time, especially our players who many have come and gone and been a very, very large part of our success here and want to congratulate them and thank them as well.
Great challenge against Indiana this weekend.  Another road game for us.  When you look at Indiana right now, I think you see a football team that certainly has had explosive offenses.  Tevin Coleman is a an outstanding running back, leads the nation in running.  I know their quarterback situation with Sudfeld being out now, it's a little bit different.  Covington looks like the guy that will be starting for them, but I guess you can't be sure until you get to game time.
But I think they are an experienced offense.  Their number of starts that they have at the offensive line position is probably the largest in what they would call the power five conferences, the most number.  I think they have great skill outside and Shane Wynn is a very exciting football player. 
Defensively, much improved.  Playing some younger players and getting them involved and much improved athletically.  And I'll take some questions.

Q.  Bo Pelini said he was going to turn you guys in to the Big Ten for clapping communication.  Were you contacted and did you have to change anything that you do?
Simple answer, simple we.  It's all good.  Bow and I are great.  Have a lot of respect for him.

Q.  You talk about the hundred games.  When you look back, when you came in, was the hundred games at all something, you talked about the seven years.  Was the hundred games part of the plan when you look at how different things are from when you got here?  Can you reflect a little bit?
COACH DANTONIO:  No, it's sort of a milestone I think for us.  First of all, I said the other day, that probably the most important thing that I did in coming here was to select our staff, who to bring here, and the continuity that we've had as a staff throughout this time has been largely responsible for our success both on the playing field and off the playing field.
When I say that, I mean our players, too.  We have not had a lot of attrition here.  Most of our players have stayed and worked extremely hard to become a part of this.
No, I really didn't.  I really didn't look at a hundred games.  That's almost unthinkable when you're starting No.1.  So you know, I think we tried to do it the right way and I think that there's consistency in what we've done.

Q.¬† Halfway through the season, your team has scored or your team has scored 273 points and only 28 of those points came in the fourth quarter.¬† Looking forward to the second half of the season, are you looking for any changes offensively production‑wise, and also leadership‑wise, who are you looking to step up in the fourth quarter?
COACH DANTONIO:  Certainly you want to score more than 28 in the fourth quarter but some of that I think are a result of maybe some of the games where we had our twos in and we really weren't operating at a normal pace.  The other ones that are in question are the three games you're probably talking about.
Certainly we've got to always address our areas of our weaknesses our areas where we're falling short.  And so you know every week we're going to address those things; I don't care whether it's a specific play, coverage, whatever it is.  You want to address your weaknesses or your areas where you need to perform better.
I think that's one of the areas, so we're addressing those things and we'll look for more of that and more opportunities as we go through these games.

Q.  Going back to Tyriq Thompson, did you know that was coming at all?  When did you get an indication that he wanted to sign that, and why did it happen at the time that it did, and also how much do you think enrolling early can help a kid?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yes, I knew that this was what he wanted to do.  We had talked about it and so it was something that he was comfortable with doing.  So he sort of made it happen.
As far as the timing, we just decided that last week we would try and get him the papers last week and they were able to get there I think on Monday or something.  So it just worked out now.
So I think it is an advantage to come mid year for some.  If you're mature enough to handle it, if your grades are in order it gives you an upside.  But you have to be mature enough to handle it as an individual because you're going from a high school senior setting to a college setting.
So all the social issues, academic issues, the football issues, they are all going to come right at a person very, very quickly.
I think sometimes people struggle, so it's not right for everybody but I think in his case this is something he wanted to do and I think he's prepared for it and I think he's mature enough to handle it.  So we are excited about this opportunity for him and for Michigan State football.

Q.  In eight years you'll be 66; will you be around for your 200th game?
COACH DANTONIO:  I don't know, that's a good question.

Q.¬† What are the challenges for the next hundred, different than‑‑
COACH DANTONIO:  Who knows what the rules will be like.  So, you know, I think the challenge is in the futurebecause I think the landscape is changing.  And I think we're in a period right now where there will be a lot of change in college football, whether it's rules on the field or whether it's rules in recruiting or the setups of conferences.
So there's a lot of change and things that are happening for the student athlete.  I think there's a lot of change there, so it will be interesting to watch that.  Plan to be here.

Q.  Coming back to the fourth quarter offensive struggles, are there any consistent issues in those three games?  I know they are different situations but is there one or two things that you can point to in all of them that need to be fixed?
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, the bottom line is, do you score points in those situations and put the game out of reach in two of them, and get back into the game in one of them.  And so when I watch the fourth quarter, and I watched the fourth quarter this week of each of those games and you critique those things, there's different situations.  There's different teams.
I guess it's a little like playing golf, which I'm not a good golfer but I guess if you're a hundred yards out, it's never the same shot.  So it's probably very much the same.
It's a different team, different situation.  But the end results are that you want to put the Purdue game away; we're on the 20, we're going in, up by 21, things changed.
Same thing could be said for the Nebraska game.¬† Ball goes through one of our defensive back's hands, should be a pick six, should be 34‑9.¬† But it's not.¬† So you've got to play the cards that are dealt you and you've got to be able to overcome those situations.
In the end, I feel like we overcame it in the end.  Everything that's seemingly is a weakness for you at some point in time strengthens you.  I firmly believe that.  Everything that you go through, the adversity that you go through, the anxiety that you have, will inevitably strengthen you if you look for it to strengthen you.  If it allows you to crush your spirit, then you've got problems.  But I don't think there's where we're at.
I think our football team is resilient and we're looking forward to another opportunity this weekend.¬† Will be another challenge to go on the road.¬† We've had great games with Indiana down there and we need to play up.¬† We've not come out‑‑ we've always come out focused in the game.¬† We've always come out focused after half‑time.¬† You know, what we've got to do is just close it out, and I think that's something that we've done here in the past and we'll continue to do.

Q.  As far as the human element to this football team, you've got a pretty big game in two weeks against a rival.  How do you overlook or how do you avoid overlooking the trap aspect of playing Indiana team that got beat soundly, that's going with a very inexperienced quarterback; how do you keep your guys dialed in?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think all you have to do is you watch the film and you see the big play potential that's there on the offensive side of the ball and you see how they are playing defensively.  You listen to reporters asking about fourth quarter issues.  And you've got no problems.  You can move forward.
So the way this program is built, has been built is to every week, every day, go background yourself, and work hard.  That's the way I hope that we are structured and built.  And if you do that, then you're always ready for the next challenge, whether it's after a big game that you lose or after a big game that you win, you're ready for the next challenge.  And I think that's what we have to be about.
So next week takes care of itself.  This week is about Indiana and our focus needs to be right there.  We have so much to lose; we have too much to play for.  There's too many things riding on every single game that we play, and I would say that that's the case for everybody involved in every conference throughout this season.  There's just a lot to play for for everyone.

Q.¬† You mentioned us in the media bringing up some of the short coming in the fourth quarter‑‑
COACH DANTONIO:  Did I say consistently?

Q.¬† Yeah, we have consistently brought that up.¬† Yesterday Coach Saban said it pissed him off that the media complained about two close victories and you seem pretty even‑handed with the critics that you've dealt with at Michigan State.¬† Why is your approach different than his as far as being able to handle the criticism and expectations?
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, that's a tough question.  We're just different people I guess.  Not saying that either approach is right or either approach is wrong.  It's a frustrating business.  That's why I put on the suit today; I could act civilized.  Because it gets to me, too.

Q.  When you look at the number of different start times this season and moving forward, how do you adjust to that as a program?  What does that do and how does that affect what you do for travel and everything on Friday?
COACH DANTONIO:  Really didn't affect your travel on Friday.  We're going to stay consistent with that.  But I think it does affect the day because you have to sit there and you have to wait, especially for a night game.  You see everything that's going on throughout the day.
So we'll do different things to try and stay busy.¬† But you also can't over‑work yourself or have so many walk‑thrus that you're tired.¬† So I think there's a fine line in being ready for the football time and try to make sure that we're mentally ready.
I think at that point it's more about being mentally ready than physically, but I do think that you have to get off your feet and you have to hydrate and you have to do those different things, too.

Q.  Is there a time that you prefer over another, start time?
COACH DANTONIO:  I guess I would prefer to get up and play.  I think most people would, because there's a lot of anxiety there.
But I think playing a night game is exciting, too.  A 3:30 game is exciting, too.  I just show up, you know.
But I do think that there is something to not sitting around.¬† You get up and you get going and you play.¬† But I'm not saying that that's‑‑ at the end of the game, I can tell you which one was fun, basically.

Q.  You've talked before about eliminating distractions and noise from your players, but any national network they turn on, Michigan State is being discussed as one of the favorites for the playoffs, and Vegas came out and named you with the best chance at winning a national title.  They are going to hear it; so how do you get them to deal with it?
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, I think as you turn on the film, first of all, and you look for your deficiencies, you need to understand where you are at and you need to understand that you always need to continue to rise toward the top.
But you also need to point towards reasons people are talking about that, too, because we have a lot of strengths, as well.
Again, I go back to what I said.  You have to stay grounded.  You've got to come to Sunday meetings to get grounded sometimes, because that's when you're going to see the good things you did, see the things that need to get better and that's where there's going to be coaching involved.  So you try and do those things.
But expectations, we want those expectations.  I don't think there's something that we don't want.  We all want to get there but I think that it's the journey, how you go through the journey.
So the only way that I can tell you, the experiences I've had, you get there one game at a time and if our people can't understand that, then we're not sending the right message.  So I know it's tough out there with social media and all the different things; the noise, as you said.
But we also sort of live in a bubble, too.  So I don't hear as much about that.  I heard about that today.  Sort of figured that I would be asked that question and didn't really have a good answer for it.  I guess keep trying to press through it.  I think it's a good problem to have.

Q.  Where do you think the defense is right now?  Do you think it needs to get better?  Are you pleased with where it's at after two games in conference?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, every game is a different set of problems, different set of circumstances for every aspect of our football team and I think you just continually try and get better.  Statistically, we have given up some plays, but you know, we have won the football games.
Just like offensively, we have made a lot of plays, but in the fourth quarter, we struggled in a couple games.  So I think we've been tough to run against.  We've affected the quarterback relative to sacks.  We've gotten turnovers.  Those are the positive things.
The negative things are how many explosive plays are you giving up and basically, though, if you give up four or less, four or less explosive plays a game, we've won the football game.  That's history here in seven and a half years, and bottom line is, do you win.
So I think we're playing okay.  I think we're playing pretty well.  I think we have a good plan every game.  I think it differentiates and changes relative to who we play.  But we play people with good concepts and are constantly trying to scheme one way or the other to try and put you at a disadvantage, but that's offenses today.  And you look around the country, that's offenses everywhere.
You look around the country and see the amount of points that are being scored by everyone, they are forcing you into playing 11‑on‑11, which is true‑‑ is always going to be true, but they really force you into playing people 11‑on‑11 by one‑on‑one with the jet sweeps and the different things people are doing and the different offensive formations and all the things that you see.¬† So sort of a new wave a little bit.

Q.  Inaudible.
COACH DANTONIO:  No, not all of them, some of them are structural.  But the physical mistakes sometimes occur because, you know, where is your help.  It's not just, okay, it goes on one person, but where is your help relative to that particular situation at that particular time.  Do you have help or is it all you?
So when it becomes all you, it becomes a little more difficult.  I think that's the nature of football these days.  People are spreading the people horizontally and they are spreading the field vertically and they are doing it with different formations in different ways.
You see more wide receiver runs than you've ever seen, and you see more lateral movement and you see more changes in formation and you see different tempos.  Indiana may not motion as much but they show tempo getting the plays off in X amount of time and that creates I think awareness issues for most teams.
So you're constantly trying to stay ahead of the curve, and we've been able to do that defensively, and I still think we are ahead of the curve.  And I think we have good football players who, again, when you go back to some of the other questions here, will be motivated to play on Saturday.

Q. ¬†Post‑game Saturday, Sunday, you were never asked what the call on the fake punt was.¬† What was that?¬† We don't know because it didn't work.
COACH DANTONIO:  Frozen.  Yes, we froze.

Q.¬† Special teams a little bit‑‑
COACH DANTONIO:  Had to get it go.  (Laughter).

Q.  Mike said last week that after a couple of break downs with Nebraska they would be spending extra time on special teams in practice and that it was better this week.  Did you spend more time in that and did you see the improvement you wanted in special teams as a whole?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I think we did.  You know, we are going to spend time as a staff every week in special teams.  So I'm going to be involved in that, as well as some of our other coaches.  Everybody's got different portions of special teams that leads that, and they have their little individual staff that works within that special teams unit.
So we spent a lot of time and we have sort of prided ourselves on being good on special teams here for pretty much our entire time here.  We've had good specialists, good kickers, good punters, good snappers, good holders.  We've done some good things in special teams, punt returns, etc.  Had a big punt return on Saturday, as well, to set up a score by Macgarrett Kings, a big punt return.
So we are going to continue to try and do what we do there just like everything else; critique it and try and make it better.  Obviously there was one short coming and I'll take the heat for that.

Q.¬† Halfway point in the season, are you pleased with where your football team is at, and if you could reflect back on‑‑ this might be coming too far to left field but last year at this point you were 5‑1 also.¬† Is this football team as far along as last year's team, and could you do a halfway evaluation?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think different scenario.¬† Last year's football team, 5‑1, we still were not in the Top‑25.¬† And so we were grinding to get there.¬† This year's football team is in it and we're grinding to stay there.
So in both cases, I think, you know, the hard work is embedded in our players.  I think you have to answer those questions, though, at the end of the season because things can change very quickly.  One way or the other, and that's what we saw last year.
So we need to stay focused and accountable every single day.  As I talked to our football team about it, and every play is an event in itself, every day is an event in itself and you have to live in the present.

Q.  Do you think the defense can show the same amount of improvement this year as your offense did?  Because this is a little bit younger defense than you had the offense last year that matured the second half.
COACH DANTONIO:  We're coming.  We're coming as a defense.  I think we are playing some younger players and they are getting better.  I have been impressed with our defensive tackle performance inside.  Taiwan is making big steps as a Mike linebacker.  He's playing much better than he did earlier in the season.  You have Darien Harris out there playing; I think he had a great second half.  He's been very, very solid.
In the secondary, as I talked earlier, there's things that happen sometimes.  Montae Nicholson is playing well and RJ Williamson played well this past week, as well.
Every single week, every single day that you're out there, your performance, your effort, basically is going to impact your reputation, let's just face it, and it's every day.  Even off a practice film, your reputation as a football player is what you see and what you put on that film.
So I think it's important for all of us to realize that and including as a coach, including as a coach, and I think we're just trying to continue to strive towards being perfect.  We all try and do that.  I don't care where you're at.  You're just trying to strive for excellence, but it's difficult to chase it.

Q.  You challenged Lawrence Thomas a little bit in the preseason.  Just wonder how you evaluate him at the halfway mark and if Damion gets healthier how does he work his way into that?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† He's had a good fall thus far.¬† He's quick.¬† He's quick‑bodied and I think he's playing with effort in there and I think he's been extremely solid in there.
David Knox, remember, he's been off of football for six months almost, so he's getting back into it.  He's playing a little bit more.  This past week, he started to play and then, you know, had to pull himself out for a second.  But he'll be capable of playing this week and we'll continue to get reps from game I don't know, but I think he's a solid performer in there right now.

Q.  How different is Tevin Coleman this year versus last year, and what do you think the impact on what they do will be affecting him with the quarterback change?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think he's a guy that they want to get the ball to, there's no question about that.¬† He's got to touch the ball a minimum of 20‑plus times a game.¬† The guy has huge figures in terms of runs.¬† I think he leads or maybe tied in the nation for big runs, you know, 20‑yard runs, three 70‑yard runs, X number of 60‑yard runs.¬† When you look at that, the statistics of his big runs, they are staggering.
So when he goes untouched, which is part of their philosophy; by spreading you out and running routes.  As they run plays, they run routes.  So you have to cover the routes, because sometimes you don't know if it's playaction or not.  But when it hits it and goes north, he can get there quick, just like he did last year against us.
So I think he's a more complete running back.  You see him running through tackles, and you know, your objective is to shut him down.  I think he's obviously one of the keys to victory for us.  Very good player.

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