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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE


November 9, 2014


Mark Dantonio


Q.  Mark, just wondering after you looked at the film, did you think anything different about the defensive effort last night?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Well, you know, obviously we're disappointed in it.¬† It's a combination of a number of things, I think, when you look at the film.¬† It's run‑pass conflicts that they put us in.¬† That's coaching.¬† So that's structural.
There's also some situations where, you know, we've gotta make the play, and so that's physical.  And then there's obviously some situations where we had a mental error as well.  So those three things usually play into things when they're not successful, and it's a combination of all those things.
But I think really when you look at the defensive performance, you know, it's third and 23, we're ahead 14 to 7, I mean they shouldn't make the catch.  You gotta beat the guy out of there.  But it's a great throw, great catch, great throw and great catch, but still, you gotta be able to defend that one.
And then the big 79‑yarder after the points were taken off the board, as I said last night, was huge.¬† Again, I think run‑pass conflict for our linebacker, so he couldn't be in a position to make the tackle.¬† Corner missed the tackle and our safety was a little bit out of position.¬† So it splits us.
Then you've got, you know, 48, 44‑yarder cover one, and we've gotta cover it.¬† So that's just physical.¬† And you know, the 55‑yard run in the fourth quarter.
You know, when we pull it within, I guess 11 and you have the opportunity to stop them with nine minutes or so to go, and you know, it's a little bit more structural on that.  We play a coverage, and they happen to run a play that sort of goes opposite to that.  And then it's the mental error as well.
So combination of a lot of different things, but I feel the bottom line is we were outplayed, out‑coached, and you know, on the defensive side of the ball, and you know, we've gotta go back and get grounded and look for results and play through the pain a little bit.
That's probably a longer answer than you wanted.

Q.  A couple of weeks ago I asked Coach Burton about the lack of development and other defensive ends behind Marcus and Shilique, and if it was a concern, and he said it wasn't, but I'm curious, when you watched that, they at times look exhausted.  Was that a major reason in maybe their performance in the game?
COACH DANTONIO:  You know, Demetrius Cooper is a redshirt freshman, and he needs to play a little better when he comes in there.  And then also Evan Jones is a guy that has not played much and he's a guy that's moved to defensive end recently, within the last year.  So he's not really where he's supposed to be.
You know, the defensive ends, when there was a problem, you know, some of it was structural, but the majority of it was, you know, Ohio State played well, and it was a physical game up front.  But I don't think that our two defensive ends played horrible.  I think we got handled inside more than I thought we would coming into the game.  But all the things I talked about earlier, I think it's a combination of all those things and usually when there's a performance like this, those things happen.

Q.  I'm not trying to play Monday morning quarterback.  I guess we always do after defeat.  In hindsight, with the two byes, I know you wanted to give your coaches time off and I know you wanted your players fresh, but would you handle it differently in preparation for Ohio State now looking back?
COACH DANTONIO:  No, I wouldn't.  You know, when I look at what we did for the Ohio State game, we worked on a Monday, you know, we worked on a Wednesday, we worked on a Thursday, we worked on Friday of the bye week.  And you know, we had opportunity to watch film with our players as well on a couple of those occasions.  Then we worked all day Thursday on them and came back and worked a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.
You know, they had a plan.  There's no question they had a plan for us.  It was a good plan.  It's a plan that, you know, in some aspects was elementary so that they could play fast but it was very comprehensive with different formations and I think of the formation and the combination of J.T. Barrett being very, very good, very good, throwing the football.
And you know, we sacked him twice, but we didn't get to him and hit him very often.  And then the lack of tackles for losses.  And they were 10 out of 14 on third down.  Good things are not going to follow that.  So a lot of those situations I think there were six times, I believe that were short yardage, third down and short.
So there was a combination of a lot of things that go into this, and it's more about gap control and linebackers getting in the right gap and they're running either zone plays or power plays, and then being able to‑‑ they put you in run‑pass conflicts, like I said, where a backer is coming into the box to stop the run, but then he has to help underneath from a pass coverage standpoint as well.¬† So good playing by them.¬† We need to be improving our plan, and we'll go back to work on it.

Q.  Just to follow up on that, coach, and I know imitation is the greatest form of flattery and a lot of people now are doing what Michigan State is doing and looking at what you're doing, but we've heard a few teams now say we know what they're going to do defensively.  Do you have to change things up and be a bit are month of a moving target now that you just seem to be on everybody's radar?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think you have to do some of those things.¬† Some of those things you're able to do.¬† A lot of it's calls, though.¬† It's hey, did they have the right defense zone for the right offense or vice versa at times.¬† And some of that works for you sometimes.¬† Some of that works against you sometimes, you know, so‑‑ but that's part of the game.¬† You know, that's coaching.¬† That's part of the game.¬† And there's some randomness in that as well.
But you know, I think that that's the way things go or things tend to go in cycles, you know.  There's different things that come along, and then people catch up and then things have to be modified again.
So again, I'll go back to say what I said earlier, you know, I want to congratulate Ohio State in that game last night.  They did a good job.  I thought we played very well offensively, no turnovers, did a lot of good things offensively.
The fourth and five is the one situation where we needed to come up with a better play, I felt, than we did.¬† But we rallied back and made the game competitive throughout, and I think a couple of the biggest plays in the game obviously were that swing in points where we missed the field goal and after the fumble‑‑ caused fumble by Chris Frey and recovery.
And you know, the subsequent 79‑yard play, which flipped the score by 14. ¬†So you know, it was 28 to 14 could have been 21‑21.¬† And then they got another one.
And we were driving in that two‑minute situation, but weren't able to convert it.¬† We ran out of steam, good punt, 26‑yard good return, seven missed tackles on that return.
So it's all the combined things, but I think there were some great performances out there.  I thought Jeremy Langford played a great game.  I thought we ran the ball very effectively.  I thought we protected the quarterback.
Cook threw for over 300 yards.¬† I think the last 50 was in that‑‑ you know, that last segment, you know, at the end of the game.¬† So he threw a good solid 300 yards plus, and no interceptions, no turnovers and we scored points.
We had Mumphrey making plays and Macgarrett Kings making plays and they were some other guys obviously that made a couple, but probably wasn't as big a game for Lippett as there has been.  But we did some good things offensively, but not enough well across the board from a total team standpoint, and we had opportunities.

Q.  Maybe just a little silver lining in you mentioned the missed field goal earlier.  But how important was it for Geiger to come back and hit that fold goal late when he's been struggling so much?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think it's obviously big, you know.  Those guys have one thing to do, but it's glaring if they don't do well, if they miss one.  The one he missed I thought he hit it well, it got up well; there was great foot in it, you know, but he missed it.  So it's just like a missed tackle, except they only come along every now and then.  You gotta make 'em.
But you know, I think he's a confident player.  He's a confident kicker and, you know, it's not like we have seven kickers there.  You know, you usually recruit one.  So he's gotta challenge himself as well.

Q.  When you look at the tape, some of the plays where they were able to kind of meet you on the edge, have success in the flaps.  What do you draw from there?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Yeah, you know, there were some‑‑ you got certain players from a position standpoint, certain players that gotta have the edge, gotta be contained players, more contained players or have the pitch on the option or not let the ball bounce and those type of things and there was a variety of times where that happened.
Those to me are either physical errors or mental errors, you know, from not taking the right course or getting walled in and not being physical enough to get off a block.¬† But that definitely happened, and those things can happen and it has not‑‑ it hasn't, you know, I think this is the first time since‑‑ in quite a while that, you know, we've played like this from a points standpoint and getting off the field, and you know, it all sort of was a perfect storm a little bit in that case.
But again, congratulate Ohio State.  They had a lot to do with it.

Q.  Coach, I guess there's some confusion as far as what you're playing for now, Selection Committee Bowl.  I guess that's like BCS bowls, but essentially it's a spot among the elite.  You're still ranked No. 12 in this Top 10 rankings.  How important is it to finish this season and maintain that spot at the top that you kind of had to claw to get back to?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah.  I think it's critical.  You know, first of all, we gotta get up off the mat.  That's what's critical.  You can't feel sorry for yourself.
You know, we let an opportunity slip by.¬† It was going to be a tough football game any way you cut it.¬† We knew it was going to be competitive and it was going to be a great game and I think it was a great football game.¬† It just got 2‑1‑sided really on both sides, in both scenarios.¬† We got out scored.¬† And it's not like we weren't scoring.
So that's what happened.  And there's been a lot of shoot outs in college football in this day and age, but I think going back to your question, I think it's critical that we get up, we play through this pain and reestablish ourselves.  That's part of being a competitor.  That's team sports, individual sports as a whole.  And our players will bounce back.  So you know, it's not like we've not been through this before.  We have.  It's just been a while.
And so you know, it hurts a little bit, extremely disappointing, but at the same time, you know, you move to the next challenge in your life.  I think that's what you have to do and that was my message to our football team last night, and that's what I tried to convey to you guys last night as well.

Q.¬† You know, you mentioned a little bit about some mental errors, and you mentioned a few gap control errors, and I think there was one on Ohio State's first long tail back run on their second possession inside there a little bit.¬† And we know it's not a perfect world and at times there are going to be mental errors, but were there a few more mental errors than you would normally see in‑‑
COACH DANTONIO:  Yes.

Q.  In week No. 9, in November, a few more than normal?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Yes, there were.¬† But game plans change every week.¬† That's what happens.¬† Game plans change every week.¬† Players must adapt to the formations that they're seeing and the different movements, and that create change.¬† And formations and movements into formations create change a lot for defense from an adjustment standpoint.¬† If you don't have the right adjustment, if you're not gap sound or if you're‑‑ you know, you have some, I guess, you would call it disparity in the coverage, then you know, problems are going to happen.¬† And you know, we had some of those.
But again, that's coaching, that's execution.¬† And so, you know, credit Ohio State on those things, and you know, it's something that we thought we had prepared but obviously we didn't prepare to the‑‑ you know, the bottom line is did we execute, did we get it done from an execution standpoint, and that's‑‑ and we did not on a consistent basis.¬† I would say that's being kind.¬† On a consistent basis.
And that's coaching and that's playing.  And you know, that's a team sport thing.

Q.¬† I know football is a team sport and not an individual sport, but Jack Conklin's performance last night ‑‑ obviously you've seen the tape more than we have‑‑ certainly seemed to be a high level.¬† Could you please talk about the silver lining?
COACH DANTONIO:  High level.  Very high level.  Very high level.  Played extremely well, think he can become a dominant offensive line.  Great movement.  Executes.
Again, I think our offense, you know, all in all, when you look at our offense, we responded.  First of all, we took control of the game and then after the fact, after things started moving forward, you know, we were able to answer.  And you know, the fourth and five, which I think would have cut it back to four points, I think, if I'm remembering, you know, we didn't get it done on that one.
So you know, you deal with it and you move forward, but not a perfect world on offense, but played pretty well.

Q.  Understanding obviously you guys are playing to win the rest of the way, with the BIG TEN race changing, do you look at all at maybe a few more younger players here in the last three games?
COACH DANTONIO:  No, we're going to try and win football games.  You know, we'll try and build depth as we go.  There's certain players that need to play, but I think they've been playing.
You know, I thought Malik McDowell came in and played well.  When he came in, he played well.  And so you know, obviously, you know, when you play well, you get more reps, now, there's gotta be consistency to that.  There's been other times when that hasn't happened as well, but he played very well when he came in.
You know, Montae Nicholson had a couple of opportunities as well.  So he needs to continue to play because of, you know, he needs to mature as a football player, too, you know.  When young freshmen play, they get better as they get opportunities.

Q.  Again, just the hindsight is 20/20.  I wasn't able to detect how often you blitzed.  I know that was a question from a lot of fans that I've been asked is how come Michigan State simply didn't blitz more.  I know it can't possibly be that simple.  What was the deal with the pressure last night?
COACH DANTONIO:  No.  Well, the deal with the pressure was we blitzed a lot, but we didn't get home, so it didn't seem like we blitzed.  And that was the problem.  There you go right there.  But we blitzed a lot.  I don't have the statistics right in front of me, but you know, we were over 30 percent probably.
You know, but blitzes are great if they get home.  If they're protected or if you don't hit them or if you come halfway or you know, you're not hitting them if you're not running through people and affecting the quarterback, then all they do is hang you out a little further in the back end.  And then we had that happen to us a number of times.
On the 23‑yard, third and 23, we blitzed. ¬†Didn't get home?

Q.  Looks like Demetrious Cox is getting a little more responsibility here and there.  Looks like he's coming along a little bit?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah.  Demetrious played some corner out there when Trae went down for a short time.  I thought he played well, and you know, so he's been playing some corner for us.  He's very balanced.  He's strong.  And he's been playing the star backer in our nickel package.  So he's done a nice job.  So he is coming as a player.  Expect to see more of him as we go.

Q.  Did he get credit for a sack on that grounding?  I'm not sure what the rules are.
COACH DANTONIO:  Yes.  You guys good.

Q.¬† I guess I got one final question, coach.¬† You met Coach Meyer midfield.¬† You know, I don't know how many times he gets Gatorade baths for winning regular‑season games, but what was the exchange like with Urban Meyer, and what about the coaching I don't want to say rivalry because both of you deny it, but just the relationship of what happened last night and the way the game played out.
COACH DANTONIO:¬† You know, it's just‑‑ I mean they played a great game.¬† They were prepared to play, and it was just congratulations, and you know, everything‑‑ there's no problems there.¬† No problems.¬† So there was‑‑ there was really nothing there, so‑‑ I mean just a formal coach thing out at midfield.
But you know, there's really nothing to say about it, you know.  I've got respect for how he coaches the game.  They played well.  Their players outperformed our players as the game progressed, I do think our offense played well.  We need to be better in special teams, but we came off with two turnovers there, and defensive play we didn't measure up.

Q.  What about your ability to run inside the offense a few weeks in a row now.  Can you continue to build on that.  And where would you rate the so called conventional run game right now?
COACH DANTONIO:  Very, very good.  If you look at Ohio State, what they were able to do, it was a conventional run game in terms of power football, you know, pulling one guard and then also zone football.  But they formationed it differently than us.  And that's what gives it the variety.  That's what causes the issues with guys in the box and things of that nature.

Q.  How about your ability to run the ball?
COACH DANTONIO:  I thought we ran the ball well.  I thought Langford played very, very well, as I said earlier.

Q.  And the offensive line?
COACH DANTONIO:  Played well.  Very well.  Had a couple of holding calls which are in debate, but they always are.  Other than that, we had one sack; protected the quarterback.  Got a little bit of pressure, but played very well.  I've got a meeting, guys.  So I'm sorry.  I gotta get going here.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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