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November 11, 2014

Mark Dantonio

COACH MARK DANTONIO:  First off, I'd like to pay our deepest respects to our veterans, and mention them today, a special day for everybody in America, all our veterans and all that they've done for us keeping this land free.  So many of them pay for it dearly throughout the years, so deepest respect there.
Go to Maryland this week, a 6‑3 football team.  Had a big win over Penn State.  Good football team.  C.J. Brown has Michigan State ties with his father having played here in '83 for Coach Perles as quarterback.  So I'm sure he'll look forward to this football game.
It will be a blackout down there.  Coach Edsall is a guy that we've competed against when he was at Connecticut, when we were in the Big East and I was at Cincinnati.  So know him a little bit well.  I think it's important that we respond.  From my perspective, things either get worse or they get better.  They never stay the same.  So it will be important as we move forward that we take the correct approach.  So I'll take some questions as we go through it.

Q.  When you look back at Ohio State when maybe you guys lost out on a BCS game or whatever, what do you draw from that when helping your team to go forward with, obviously, a loss of that expectation?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  Well, I think that anytime you lose there is going to be disappointment.  That's any time.  So oftentimes losses are‑‑ they hang on the inches.  Whether it's five plays, whether it's five or six or seven.  Here I thought we were in the football game, and things didn't go as planned, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  We've got to just respond.  I think that is part of this whole situation.
What do you tell your football team?  Just exactly what I just said.  It's going to get better or worse.  That's their choice, that's our choice as individuals how we handle success, how we handle failure.  So we've always responded.  I think we're not going to feel sorry for ourselves.  We have to move forward, and that is the best way to do it is to get back to practice today.
So I've been assured by our players that our mindset is correct.  And we have a lot to play for here.  First of all, the season is not done yet.  You just don't know what can happen because there is a lot of parity in college football today, but even beyond that we've got a lot to play for.  Our hopes are to be a Power Six football team in terms of playing in one of those games.

Q.  Your record is pretty good after disappointing losses moving forward.  I don't know what it was at Cincinnati.  But what is something you've taken as a philosophy in those next weeks that's helped that over time in terms of talking to your team, in terms of approach?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  You have to gain something from everything.  You have to gain something from a loss.  That's important that we do that.  You have to understand okay, these things didn't work, these things did.  How did we respond?  Who is your leaders, how did your leaders respond?  How did I respond?  Everybody involved in the process has to come away and gain something here.  As long as we gain something, we get stronger.  Adversity is going to cause you to get stronger.  I'm sure Ohio State, when they looked at last year's game, this made them refuel their fire a little bit and made them come here with a different mindset as well.
So that's sports in general, I think.  But that's probably everyday life too, as I said Saturday night.  We've got to gain from it, and that's what we'll take with us.  We've got to grow.

Q.  I know we've talked some about this Sunday night, but again, on the defensive effort, is there anything that needs to be reevaluated for the rest of the season on that side of the ball?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  I think you're constantly reevaluating everything you do on a game‑to‑game basis, play‑to‑play basis.  We're going to play our best players.  Guys are going to improve.  Guys are going to make mistakes.  They've got to learn from their mistakes.  Every game is a different game.  Every situation is a different situation.  There are a lot of different things coming at you at a very fast speed and you've got to react.  You've always got to be in a great reactionary position as a defensive player and tackle in space, play the ball in the deep part of the field, make tackles, affect the quarterback.  Those three things we did not do.  They led to big plays.

Q.  Going back to when you came here, you've always used competition as a way to motivate players, whether it was Chris Norman or even R.J. earlier this year.  Will you open up and let Cronin compete with Geiger just for his own confidence maybe to win that again or is that something you've considered?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  You have to look at things across the board, not just on game night.  I think you look at things as practice occurs and ask yourself, okay, how is this guy kicking in practice as opposed to this guy or whatever the case is.  So we see these guys every single day, and we assess them every day.
So the answer to your question is yes.  The answer to your question is, do I think Michael Geiger is still our kicker?  I do.  So I don't know if I answered the question.  But we assess everything.  It's a competitive situation.  But before you get to the game, you need to prove it in drills, you need to prove it in practice as well.

Q.  Coach, does the mentality change now that you've kind of been knocked from the top of the hill?  You guys clearly weren't the best team in the Big Ten.  Does it change you from being the hunted to the hunter?  Do you think that Maryland has changed the mindset at all in the locker room now that your kids have kind of had a dose of reality?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  That's a tough question to answer when you put it like that.  I still think we have an opportunity to be the best team in the Big 10.  It may not show in the record, but I still believe we have that possibility.  I think we'll go to Maryland and play.  The competitive nature of everybody is of that mindset.  So we'll see what happens.
That's why I opened up with what I said.  You're going to find out a little bit more about yourself as we go further and further.  That's why we evaluate the season at the end of the season, not at midway, not at the beginning.  We evaluate it at the end.  You either get better or you get worse, and you need to learn from your experiences and you need to respond.
It's very important that when things go poorly for us, that we do respond.  That's very important to the structure and to the overall philosophy of this program.  It goes beyond winning and losing.  Actually it speaks to the leadership from within, whether you're the head coach or whether you're a senior or a captain, it speaks to the leadership and it speaks to the general dynamics that we talk about every single day which is effort, toughness, knowledge.

Q.  With all those things you just mentioned, is it any easier to get that out of your players now that you've been here for eight years and sort of established what you want to do as opposed to the beginning of your tenure or is it always the same challenge?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  I think it's always the same challenge really.  I think that every class or every football team is different, and every football team has its set of leaders, it has its set of guys that they're going to follow.  They're all different because they're all growing in different ways.  Freshmen in 2008 as opposed to a senior in 2012 or '09 to '13 are different people.  Just like our seniors in 2008 were different people because they were here with us for one year, let's say.
So I think every year is different.  That's why I think you have to continue coaching, not just the X's and O's, you have to coach everything.  You have to coach attitude.  You have to coach leadership.  You have to coach sacrifice, everything.

Q.  We saw Delton in the first half Saturday I think for the first time in a couple of games.  Is there an effort to get him involved a little earlier in games?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  Yeah, I think Delton has done a nice job the last two games.  I've said all along every time I talk about Jeremy Langford, I make sure I talk about Nick Hill, who has been solid, and Delton who is a very good running back as well.  So we've got depth at that position.  They're good players, but Langford was hot, too.  So when he was hot, we were giving him the ball, and I think he responded.

Q.  There have been lots of stories about perception and whether the program has arrived.  When a program is 7‑2 and it feels like disappointment, is that when you've arrived?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  Well, I don't ever want to start the season saying, "I hope we're 7‑2."  You know?  I want to start the season or always talk about after nine games we want to be 9‑0.  So I guess that's how I'd answer that.
I don't know if you ever arrive.  I truly don't know if you ever arrive.  We were 7‑1 last week at this time and I didn't feel like we had arrived.  We were still pushing.  But I knew that we had a great opportunity and that we let that opportunity slip by us.  That doesn't mean that we're not going to have another great opportunity this year.  It just means that that opportunity went by us and we've got to create another one for ourselves.

Q.  When some of us were asking your players the other night about the season being lost, they kind of rolled their eyes.  Isn't that kind of the mentality of players and coaches that they're kind of all championship games?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  Yeah, I think every game is very important, you know?  You go into every one of them thinking that something positive's going to come out of it if you win.  That's why throughout this year I've said, hey, all we've got to do is worry about winning the next game.  Things happen good for you if you win the next game.  Just look at what's going on down the road in Columbus now.  They've won the next game, things are going well all of a sudden, which five weeks ago not so good.
So things change.  I think that's the reality of college football.  Things are going to change.  They've changed for a lot of people this past week.  There are a lot of people sitting around wondering, okay, what do we do next?  But that's competition.  At the highest level, and that's what you look for and that's what you compete against.
So I don't think there is anything wrong with doing your best and coming out.  You might not like the way you come out, but if you do your best, I think you can handle it.  I hate to keep going back to Saturday night's game, but you know, even Monday morning, yesterday morning I put the film back on and looked at it differently in a different alignment of things just to ask myself and answer to myself, were we playing hard?  Were we competing?  Did we quit?  And the answer is no, we kept playing, and we were playing hard through the very end.  That's what you ask your players to do, and they did that.
So that doesn't mean ultimately you're going to lose or win, but they did that, and that's the first question you have to ask yourself did we shut it down?  Quit believing in ourselves?  And I don't think we did that, and that's a good sign.  That's a good sign for the future.

Q.  Talking about Darian Hicks, it seemed like they went at him a lot the other night.  Probably a tough game for him.  But he sat here after for 15 minutes whatever and answered every question.  Is this the kind of game, even though it didn't go well for him, that a young player needs to go through and grow?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  Yeah, absolutely.  I make the comparison to him, and I look at Trae Waynes who is a very successful corner right now.  Trae never started a game for us until the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at the end of what was his red‑shirt freshman year.  So he played for two years, and in his last game he played.  Darian's a true sophomore.  He played some last year a little bit in and out, and then he started now for nine games.
So, yeah, he had a difficult game, but if he makes the decision and he grows from that, he will grow.  He'll be more competitive as he moves forward, and that's what he'll do.  He's a tough guy.  He'll survive.

Q.  Going back farther in the past to the 2011 Capital One Bowl when you played Alabama, the emotion was pretty much the same after that game.  I'm curious, do you go back and remind them, look what happened since that game?  We've‑got‑to‑keep‑forward thought process or you don't need to?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  No, I didn't point to that game because we had a total meltdown on both sides of the ball in that game.  This was not the same type of game.  This was a game that with that one call it's 28‑14 with 3 minutes and 30 seconds left in the first half.  And you don't know what's going to happen beyond that if we're kicking off.  Do they hit the 79‑yarder?  Do they not?  What's going to happen?  Does he throw an interception?  You just don't know.  You miss the field goal, and the next play is going the other way, as we've talked about now I think three times.  This is the third time.
I'm talking about things change, but we're in the football game.  It's 28‑24 late in the third quarter.  We have an eight‑minute drive and have to kick a field goal.  They go up by 11.  And we drive it down again.
So it was not that type of game in 2011.  The feeling, when you have big high hopes and you have aspirations, there is going to be big disappointment.  When you've reached and climbed a mountain and you can't climb that next mountain, there are going to be bigger disappointments.  The higher you go, the bigger the disappointment is going to be.  If we set our sights low, the disappointment level will be low.  So we got ourselves up the ladder.  Hey, we didn't make it, deal with it.  Be a man about it and move on.  And that's what we have to be able to do.  You know, I'm speaking for not just our players but for myself and everybody in our program.  That's just what you've got to do.
We've been there before and been extremely disappointed in games.  But that's going to happen when you take risks and put yourself in these situations and do this for a living or do this at this level or do this at any level, there are going to be disappointment.  Half the teams last Saturday, half of them lost.  So lot of people were disappointed.

Q.  Is that unusual for you to go back and look at film on Monday from the last game?

Q.  How many times have you done that?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  I can't‑‑ probably when I've been bothered.  I usually do that on big games, to be honest with you.  Games that have a‑‑ I did that with the championship game when we lost to Wisconsin.  There's always been big disappointments.  I've talked about when I was at Ohio State and we were 10‑1, going to go play Michigan.  If we win, we're in the National Championship Game again for the second straight year.  We don't.  We lose.  It's 28‑0 at half.  We're losing.  I watched that game a bunch, too.

Q.  I guess you can't say you've won at every Big Ten stadium for at least the next two years again.  But where does that rank in trying to accomplish that and get another one here this weekend?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  Yeah, that would be something that we'd want to try to do.  This is the first time down there, so there is change.  There's a little bit of, okay, what is the environment like?  I'm sure it will be very exciting.  I would expect there would be a lot of Spartan fans there from the East Coast.  I would think there are going to be a lot of people there that are going to make that drive to Maryland, whether you're from New York or wherever.  But we'll see.  So it will be an exciting atmosphere, I know that.

Q.  You mentioned, I think you used the term "Power Six".  I think you were talking about the College Football Playoff bowls and there are six of them now, including the two semifinals.  That is kind of the new BCS standard, I guess.  Is that kind of the goal to make that the Michigan State standard to become like you play Stanford that have been to four BCS Bowls in a row last year.  To reach that level where you're in that championship series bowl each year, is that kind of part of what you'll put out there for your team?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  I think the goal remains to win a championship in the Big Ten Conference, a division championship.  Our six teams or however they classify this, but New Year's Day bowls, those type of things.  That's the standard, I think, we're trying to set.  To always be a football team that's in the conversation.  I think we've been in the conversation now for nine weeks, ten weeks.  But I don't want anybody to feel bad for us.  We're still in the top 20.  So just win.  Just win, baby.

Q.  I don't know if you want to go here, but what did the film show you on the holding call?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  I don't think‑‑ I'm not qualified to speak on that, as my wife would say.

Q.  I know you recruited C.J. Brown a little bit.  What makes him so good, and how different are they without Diggs?
COACH MARK DANTONIO:  Yeah, I think C.J. is an exciting player.  He's got the ability to run the football.  He can create.  I think that's what makes him a very good quarterback.  There are going to be certain things that they just rely on him to do from a running standpoint.  Obviously throwing.  But I think it's when he creates that he becomes most difficult to defend, like most quarterbacks, it's when they take a bad play and create a good one from it, and I think he has the ability to do that.
Remains to be seen what they are without Stefon Diggs, but I do think that Leak is a very good player.  Long, No. 6 has become a go‑to guy for them.  Their corner, No. 4 Likely, is likely to have a decent game usually.  And he's got big returns, big interception returns, big punt returns.  So he's a guy that's been a playmaker for them on the defensive side of the ball and on special teams.  So it will be an interesting football game.  It will be the first time that we're competing against them, so it will be a challenge for us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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