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October 19, 2014

Mark Dantonio

MARK DANTONIO:¬† I thought we played extremely well, especially in the second half.¬† Sort of took control of the game with the two scores right before halftime, great two‑minute drive at the end of the first half, and then as we progressed through the rest of the game, defense played extremely well and pressured the quarterback, eliminated the run, and good things sort of followed.¬† I also thought offensively we played very strong, as well.¬† I'll just take some questions based on what I said yesterday.

Q.  I'm curious about your thoughts on Geiger.  Obviously last year he set the bar so high.  Do you think he's in a slump or do you just think he set the bar so high last year that it's hard to maintain that level?
MARK DANTONIO:¬† You know, I do not think he's in a slump.¬† I think he is a very goal‑oriented young man.¬† I think he's extremely confident.¬† I'm not concerned about him.¬† We're going to miss some sometimes, there's no question about that.¬† You know, I know that he'll bounce back.¬† He had one miss the last two weeks, really probably the last three weeks, but I'm not concerned about him.¬† I think he's a very confident player, and I think he's a very good kicker.

Q.  Were there any issues with the snap and/or the hold on his thing yesterday?
MARK DANTONIO:¬† Yes, there was a low snap, and it was sort of‑‑ we got it down, I thought Mike Sadler did a great job to get it done, but it was a low snap and I think it threw off his timing a little bit.

Q.  After an offensive explosion like you had on Saturday, for you personally, do you now because you've spent so much time looking at the offense, do you turn more attention to the defense or do you just kind of go back to watching over both of them?
MARK DANTONIO:  As a head football coach I'm extremely confident in both of our staffs offensively and defensively.  It's pretty natural for us to spend time with our defense because I'm a defensive coach by trade, so I look in that direction more because I feel that's where I'm more competent.  Offensively I'm going to go in there and present ideas and listen and certainly try and understand the offense and know the plays and all those type of things, but at the same time I'm going to try and spend probably the majority of my time with the defense, just basically by trade, when I watch practice film, etcetera, and then also I try and watch offensive practice in person.  I try and vary the two to try and stay abreast of both situations, and special teams are involved obviously, as well.

Q.  I want today ask you about your short yardage package.  There was another situation against Indiana where you've had some trouble executing in 3rd and short, 2nd and short.  How do you address that, and what's gone wrong in those short yardage situations?
MARK DANTONIO:¬† Well, I think it's a combination of things.¬† One, the defensive team usually puts‑‑ when I write down on the film too many men, TMM, that means too many men there to run the play.¬† They've got the right defense, so some of it is structural, some of it is physical, some of it's mental.¬† There's no set thing in stone.¬† Sometimes you're not going to have the right play call on, and the thing we have to understand is that it's not perfect. ¬†From my perspective we're not going to be perfect out there.¬† We're going to strive for perfection, obviously want to hit our goals in terms of our short yardage goals which is 80 percent of the time we want to win those situations.¬† Sometimes it's not going to work.¬† The bottom line is how many points we're going to score at the end of the day.

Q.  Is it oversimplifying, I guess, for some to speculate that why wouldn't you just go with a bigger, stronger running back?
MARK DANTONIO:¬† No, because I think all of our running backs have the ability to get the short yardage play, and in some cases they bust it after that.¬† I think Jeremy Langford runs behind his pads, Delton is a bigger guy, brings more of a force, but I also think that Nick Hill, extremely explosive and explosive great‑‑ he's got great footwork in the hole and is a great cutter.¬† As you saw yesterday when we did run to him on 3rd and 1, there was a surge.¬† One time he was stopped at zero gain and he moved the entire pile two, three yards. ¬†He's got a surge to him.¬† Very confident in all three of those guys, so we're not going to say, hey, we're going this with this guy, doing that with that guy.¬† We want to make sure that we're not tipping our hand as to who's in the game really as to what we're doing.

Q.  I wanted to ask you about Nick Hill, too.  He talked about having a big smile on his face when he got that touchdown yesterday, but just how gratifying is it for you personally to see a guy who's really always been stuck behind a bunch of guys to have the stuck he's having this year?
MARK DANTONIO:  Well, he's had a great spring, great fall camp.  He's a guy that knows the position extremely well, and he's playing great football right now.  There's no question we feel like we can put him in.  We put him in every game early in the game to give Langford a break.  We've also used Delton Williams some like that.  We have a lot of confidence in him.  I think his confidence is very high right now, too, and he's been a team player really from day one.
He's been a kickoff return guy, he's been a punt return guy.  When those things haven't worked outs, he hasn't pouted or gone in the tank.  He's kept working.  Now you see really the fruition of everything that's happened.

Q.  Following up on that with Nick Hill, what about physically for him this year?  He mentioned that he's probably almost 20 pounds lighter, but obviously he still has the strength out there.  Is he a different back physically this year than he's been in the first three years?
MARK DANTONIO:  Well, I still think he's extremely explosive and powerful.  Pound for pound, he's going to be one of the more powerful guys on our football team, explosive numbers.  He's got very good speed, and he's got great vision in the hole and great feet in the hole.  He can slip you and he can break a tackle.  So I think that he's feeling good about himself.  I don't know that he's 20 pounds lighter, but if he says, I'd better check the scales.
I just think he's playing at a high level.  Very confident.

Q.  If you would please go back to your TMM comments about short yardage situations, so is that more just Connor's maturation, reading that there's just a TMM situation and moving out of it?
MARK DANTONIO:  I think sometimes people stunt to it, sometimes people blitz to it, to those situations.  Sometimes you're just in a position at times where they've got one more guy than you've got there relative to what they did.  That happens with some of the things we do defensively, too, and I think that's the whole strategy of playing offense and playing defense.  Sometimes we have more people there an offensive standpoint that we're able to block the look, and we've got it all sealed up.  But on occasion, especially in short yardage, especially in situations during the game where it's sort of crunch time, I think that they're going to try and put more men up there at times.  And I can't think of a single scenario that that happened yesterday, but I know, for example, at the end of the game when it was 3rd and 6 or 7 when Nick hit the long run and they had everybody up there, well, there's a price to pay if you do split it.

Q.  At what point today did the attention shift to Michigan for you, and is there a different buzz around the football building today?
MARK DANTONIO:  Yeah, it'll shift here tonight when we have our meetings with our players.  It'll shift at that point in time.  We'll sort of move from one to the other.  It's a magical thing.

Q.  Your defense held Indiana to 11 yards in the second half, and you really didn't elaborate too much on that.  There had to be some magic there, too.  Can you talk a little bit about what changed for your defense in the second half in Bloomington?
MARK DANTONIO:  Well, I think we got pressure on the quarterback.  I said going into the game I thought Indiana was in a tough situation with losing two quarterbacks last week, and they also had a couple guys transfer after the second semester after spring ball.  Difficult situation for them to be in, and I think it's his first time out there, so their quarterback, 12, is going to be nervous.  We got pressure on the quarterback, so it's hard to throw with people in your face, there's no question about that, and I thought we played them pretty well down the field, as well.

Q.  When you reviewed the film, could you give us the name of a couple of guys that maybe in the most game you didn't mention but watching on film they really stood out as having an impressive performance to you, please?
MARK DANTONIO:  Yeah, I can't really remember who I talked about, but I thought our wide receivers played extremely well, Macgarrett Kings had a big day as well as Burbridge.  I think everybody is getting used to Tony Lippett having that kind of day, but then even R.J. Shelton, as well, had a nice day, as well, with some runs and yards.
All of our running backs were hitting full stride at the end of the game and through the second half, and I think from an offensive line standpoint, Travis Jackson played extremely well.
Defensively, when you look at us defensively, Shilique Calhoun played well, felt like R.J. Williamson had a great game, and I'm just sort of looking at the grades here.  I felt like Kurtis Drummond was very, very solid, got great play from Trae Waynes, and then at the linebacker position we felt like Darien Harris played a good game, as well.  Lawrence Thomas played very well, as well.

Q.  Obviously we're going to be talking about the Michigan game Tuesday, but the line did come out today, 15 and a half point favorites for Michigan State, first time in a long time.  Is that surprising to hear that?
MARK DANTONIO:  I can't really speak to that right now.  That doesn't really involved me.  I don't make those decisions.  We'll talk about things on Tuesday.

Q.¬† I want to ask you about something else that doesn't involve you.¬† The polls, and I know you said if you keep winning it takes care of itself, but I know you keep one eye on the prize, but you win 56‑17 and teams jump you.¬† Does that kind of befuddle you a little bit, or do you accept that that's part of the nature of the beast that you can win 56‑17 and teams are going to jump and move around you?
MARK DANTONIO:¬† I think that's just the way things go sometimes.¬† I know that there's a number of polls out there and I know in the coaches' poll we're fifth, and I think in the AP Poll, which is the writers' poll, which you guys vote for that, I think we're eighth, and that's all that I really know.¬† But I think really to be honest with you, I think polls are just something to do until the end of the year to be honest with you until everything else shakes out, because the way it looks right now, you just do your job and worry about the next game on your schedule, and as long as we can do those things, I think one way or the other, we move forward.¬† One way or the other, win or loss, we move forward, and that's the best‑‑ until the end of the year, you really have a hard time saying what kind of team you have until the end of the year.¬† We're really going into the meat of our schedule, I feel, which is the toughest part of it, and this next one up is a very important game.

Q.  I wanted to ask you, watching the replay of this game and listening to commentators, it's just different opinions, but they seem to be picking on Connor Cook's mechanics a lot, and I wonder where you're at and how you feel about Connor's mechanics and if you think some of this criticism is maybe a little off base or does he have a lot to work on?
MARK DANTONIO:¬† I think everyone, we all have‑‑ as I said yesterday, we go back, this is not a perfect game, we go back and we critique what we've done and we try and get better, and there's some things where things are taken away and you've got to reset your feet, and there's some times where he's exactly on the money.¬† I think that's the game we play in, and I think without question you can pick apart anybody's game and you can watch a broadcast and it's not always going to be good.¬† But he's been a very efficient thrower, passer; I think he was 75 percent completion percentage yesterday and threw for 330 yards.¬† I try and keep my mind on the bottom‑line figures, which are, are we winning, are we successful, how many turnovers, he had one bad throw into coverage, but he had some tremendous throws down the field.¬† He's our guy.

Q.  Going back to the running backs a little bit, Delton Williams didn't really get in until the third quarter again, but again, runs off a big run right away and runs off a touchdown.  What have you seen from him and can he even crack the top two with the way Hill and Langford have been playing?
MARK DANTONIO:  You know, we try and ride the hot back as we go, and if one guy is doing well, then the other guy, his reps are probably going to suffer a little bit.  But it doesn't mean that that's not going to be reversed.  There's a time and a place for all three of those guys.  Delton is an extremely gifted player, and he runs with an attitude.  He did perform extremely well yesterday, great at winning, as did the other two.  I think those are good situations to have, it's just tough to get three of them in there the first half, and as the game rolls on you try and do your best to do that.  But you ride the hot guy, too, we've always tried to do that.

Q.  We've seen some Tweets you've put out, "it starts here."  What is that a reference to six games into the season?  That seems to be a little different.
MARK DANTONIO:¬† Yeah, I just did‑‑ last year the mantra was sort of "chase it," because I felt like we had to run something down.¬† This year in regards to where we're at in the process, it sort of starts with our next step.¬† Just like tonight, it sort of starts tonight.¬† We're trying to live in the moment and not get too far ahead of ourselves.¬† I mean, that's really all that was‑‑ we wanted to have something here where our players could reach out or we could talk about just like every football team, a theme, and so that's what I decided on.

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