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October 26, 2014

Mark Dantonio

Q.  Can you talk about that conversation and your thoughts today on all that?
COACH DANTONIO:  Coach Hoke, Brady, did call me but I think that conversation is probably private but I will say that Brady and I have a very good relationship and I have a lot of respect for him.

Q.  I asked you yesterday after the game before you had the chance, Dawan and Darius in particular, now that you have seen it, would you assess their performance for me, please?
COACH DANTONIO:  I thought both guys played very, very well, that want especially.  Fitting things up, very firm, point of attack.  I thought he did a good job in terms of handling our defense and play calling and getting people lined up, etc.
I think really when you look at it, defensively we got them out with three‑and‑out seven times.¬† Went through and out seven times and a lot of that was the fact that we made them one‑dimensional.¬† He couldn't run the ball.¬† He got behind the chain.

Q.  Obviously the series with Michigan, you talked a lot about respect, but I'm wondering nationally, the rankings come out again, do you feel like you're fighting for that respect in that sense?  I know the playoff rankings are to come out this week, but do you feel that respect is something you guys are working on on a national stage?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† No, I really don't.¬† I think we've been in the Top‑10 for almost every week maybe with the exception of a couple.¬† When you're in the Top‑10 in the country and your football team, I think that's a positive thing.¬† All we have to do is continue to take the next game and things will work in our direction.¬† It's important that we take things one thing at a time and that's what we're going to do here.¬† We're going to try to live in the present.

Q.  With everything that happens with that type of game, before the game, the way you guys performed, does that do anything to narrow a team's focus or heighten its intensity, what does it to for focusing a team for this part of the season?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think that every November is very critical to every football team.¬† It sort of‑‑ it defines you.¬† You can have great September, October but if you don't play well into November you're going to become one of those teams that are contending for things.
We played very well in the month of November in the past and we need to continue to do that if we are going to reach our goals.¬† We have got an off‑week so we should be able to get fresh emotionally and fresh as far as physically and have a little additional time to work on Ohio State, so be no excuses.¬† We'll be ready to play.

Q.  In the last five weeks, you've really spent the first several days up until Wednesday, I believe, out recruiting and then brought the guys back for just a quick Thursday, Friday practice.  Is that the plan this week, as well?
COACH DANTONIO:  Pretty much the plan.  We have X amount of recruiting opportunities left, so we'll use those, go around the country in different areas.  We want to make sure we don't get anybody hurt in practice, so we will practice a little bit but not overly practice them.
I think the main focus will be on getting healed up a little bit and reaffirming who we are from a strength perspective.  So working in the weight room and mental preparation.  We have got four weeks to go.  It starts with Ohio State next week, so four difficult games we need to be at our best.

Q.  Last Sunday night, I asked you about Geiger and you thought he was in a slump, you didn't think so.  What do you think is going on with him right now, a kick he normally would have made?  And it's not like this is the first time he's had this struggle.  What do you do as a coach to get him over this hump?
COACH DANTONIO:  First of all, the wind down there was pretty abrupt.  It was swirling.  When their kicker kicked the field goal, all of a sudden it went calm.  It was a difficult kick into the wind or with the wind swirling.
So I have a great amount of faith in Mike Geiger.  He's been extremely effective last year.  He's still extremely confident, and that's my main focus; is the young man confident, or is he not.  And from my perspective, he was a confident kicker and as long as he remains confident, I don't think we'll have a problem.  Guys are going to miss tackles, we're going to drop balls and we're going to throw a bad pass and kickers are not going to make kicks at times.  I still have a great amount of faith in him.

Q.  Eight penalties for 88 yards, upon looking back at the film, how much of that was solely based on the intensity and nature of, I guess, the rivalry and how much of that was lack of discipline on some of your guy's parts watching the video?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think some of those calls are in question but I'm not going to make a big case about that.¬† Just they were subjective calls, calls that could have gone either way.¬† The punt return call, the guy was slipping towards his back and our defender was coming in and he happened to go head‑to‑head.¬† It was not an undisciplined play.
As far as the roughing the passer, subjective.  They called off the target but kept the roughing on, very subjective play.  The pass interference call, could have gone the other way.  Later on, I guess another subjective call.
The things that I concern myself with is how many penalties do we have that are undisciplined things such as jumping off‑sides, or missed alignments or those type of things.¬† We didn't have many of those.¬† I think probably you could say the one call, the one penalty on McDowell might have been something there but again subjective call based on everything that I saw going on on the field throughout the entire game.

Q.¬† I'm not trying to belabor anything but can you just‑‑ how do you want to leave that whole Brady Hoke / state thing?¬† Where could you want to leave it now that the dust is settled so to speak.
COACH DANTONIO:  It's my feeling as a person, not as a coach, but as a person, is I really don't care to cause pain for anybody.  That's not why I'm here.  So I'm good to go.  We'll focus on the future and that's something that occurred, that's in the past and we'll focus on the future.

Q.  You mentioned healing up this week, but is there any chance that Hicks could be active for the Ohio State game?
COACH DANTONIO:  There is a chance possibly from what I understand but we'll have to see.  I think it may be right on the edge there of his time back, when he'll be back.

Q.¬† Is this the kind of matchup where‑‑ first game back, you want to be careful of the guy, but is this the type of matchup that perfectly suits him and would help you guys a lot, in particular, just in this game?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† He's a good football player, emotional guy, quick‑bodied guy.¬† He helped us in a lot of areas.¬† It's too early to tell based on I really haven't watched too much of Ohio State film, at all, other than last year so not quite sure on that.
But he's a good football player and we need as many good football players as we can get.

Q.  Chris Frey is eligible to play in the Ohio State game?

Q.  The punt return, are you concerned about a lack of production on that unit?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think you need to get vertical on it.  Once he caught the ball, I think he did a great job handling the ball with the wind conditions as they are but he's got to get vertical.  He's got the ability to break well, we've seen it before in the past but he's got to be consistent in that area in terms of getting north and we'll work on those things.

Q.  Did Joel Heath come back in the game?  Is he fine moving forward?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yes, he did come back in the game.  He's okay.

Q.  As far as the complete performance, was that your best of the season?  How did you evaluate it after looking at everything?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I thought it was a good performance but just like everything we look at, we can always do some things better.¬† We gave up a play and we fumbled the ball and we had a chance to put the game away, 28‑3, we fumbled the ball and hit a 30‑yard pass or 20‑yard pass, about a 20‑yard pass down to the ten which I thought could have been prevented.
So to get a couple points there.  But we also had our fumble which led to their first field goal.  So there's certainly things that we can continue to get better at, specialties we could have been better at, as well.
I thought we played well yesterday.  I thought we played extremely well in the offensive line and I thought we ran the ball very effectively.  We had a lot of five, six, seven, eight, nine runs and then we busted some, as well.
So Langford played very well, other than the one fumble and I thought we pass protected well.  I think Cook was hit four times, maybe sacked once but hit three or four times, but I thought our passing game probably could have been better, although we hit some big ones.  Again the wind was swirling down there and sometimes it was 25 and sometimes it was 15.  I do think that made a difference in the game as we move forward.

Q.  How about the emotion that you guys played with?  Was that where you wanted it to be?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Oh, I think we had enough emotion to carry us, yeah.¬† But I think we also need to be fresh and bring our emotions to the football game and I think we've been able to do that week‑in and week‑out thus far and that's sort of been a trademark of who we've become.

Q.¬† You talked yesterday about scoring a late touchdown and that translates to some people running up the score but you didn't throw the ball after the ten‑minute mark, is that piling it on?¬† Did you just call runs the rest of the game?¬† Or is that what you do with three tight ends and no receivers in the game?
COACH DANTONIO:  We were trying to work the clock and I had to say what I said yesterday.  But we were trying to work the clock and finish, and I think it was important, especially in the fourth quarter that we finish and we were able to do that.

Q.  There was talk nationally about the crowd but I don't think it's gotten enough comments about how it was Saturday night.  Could you comment?
COACH DANTONIO:  I commented yesterday.  Our crowd was outstanding.  Our student section was outstanding.  And you know, people came to make a difference in the football game.  I'm talking about the fans came to make a difference and they made a difference.  I mean, it was loud.  My ears were hinging until one o'clock last night.
So it was extremely loud there.¬† It was a great environment.¬† Spartan Stadium is a great place.¬† What happened in that Nebraska game, it was a very late‑night game and probably thought the game was over.¬† But very impressed, and everybody that I talked to was extremely impressed, recruits that came, our players, etc.¬† Very impressed with our crowd.

Q.  A year ago against Michigan, they did a good job against your running game for most of that game, and you controlled that last drive but is there something to take out of progress with your offensive line looking at what you did yesterday with a pretty similar defense for the entire game?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think there is.  We played extremely well up there.  Conceptually the things we attacked them with were well designed, but we put a body on a body, basically, and we won that battle in the trenches and we said at the beginning of the week, if we were going to win, when we were going to win, first of all, it was going to start up front and that's what happened.  We started up front.  On the offensive side of the ball, as the game wore on and certainly on the defensive side of the ball we won up front, as well.

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