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September 12, 2015

Mark Dantonio

East Lansing, Michigan

Oregon -28
Michigan State -31

COACH DANTONIO: Very exciting football game, and you know, I watched these Fast and Furious movies every now and again and that's what it reminded me of. It was up-and-down, a great battle out there.

Great environment, tremendous environment here at Spartan Stadium, and this is the place to be, there is no question. Ask our players, people ask me about the Rose Bowl and things of that nature, I've always said, it's a special place, special people at a special time and that's what this win was, too.

We talked about it coming into the game that this is a life moment and these are opportunities that you have to make good on and you just had to do your best. You just had to do your best. And if your best wasn't good enough, that's fine. Things happen out there. You're not making all the plays, but you have to do your best and you have to over-achieve, play with energy, play with character.

You know, I'm not sure, maybe we had two penalties -- two penalties. So played very well in that area, did a lot of really, really good things and have some things we need to do a little bit better. That's the nature of it.

In my mind, this is a steppingstone game. This is a game that plays dividends at the end of season, and this is a game that promotes this brands and this program and it's exciting for everybody involved. We need to continue on. We have Air Force next week.

But very exciting. We had balance on offense. Defensively came up with a lot of fourth down stops, and went for it I think four times, maybe more -- six times, on fourth down. Got plays done at the end of the game. Come up with two big stops, one on the goal line and then one midfield and then, really three big fourth down stops and just kept playing.

But not a perfect game by any stretch but we kept playing and give Oregon a lot of credit. They are an outstanding football team with outstanding skill. They give you so many multiple offense formations and create adjustments, and on the defensive side of the ball, they are strong up front.

Our two running backs ran very well. Could have played the other ones but just went with two, and I thought they played extremely well with big plays. Cook plays very well, Burbridge, Kings, RJ Shelton, all big plays at some point in time. So it was exciting to watch and be a part of. So I'll just take some questions.

Q. Do they all count one or is this more like one and a half?
COACH DANTONIO: No, I think they all count one, I really do. But for 24 hours, it's a little bit bigger.

And then maybe at the end of the season, it pays you dividends and moves you forward when people talk about strength of schedule and that nature. But doesn't do you any good if you are not winning and playing well after this fact, either.

Q. For those of us that were here and not watching by broadcast after the game, you had a message to recruits about coming to Michigan State. How big can this game and atmosphere play into all of that? Obviously you addressed it on a national stage?
COACH DANTONIO: I don't even know what I said -- excitable.

I just think this was the place to be in this state today. Very exciting atmosphere. Spartan Stadium was rocking and great crowd, great crowd, great football game, right down to the end, and very, very exciting.

So you know, I just think it was a great atmosphere, and we knew it would be. It had everything coming into the football game, game day, national TV audience, two good football teams that were ranked in the Top-10. It had it all, so it delivered. The game delivered in terms of its intensity, and as I said, it was fast and furious out there. Things were happening at a very fast rate.

Q. One of the things in this game that may go unnoticed were the substitutions. Can you just talk a little about who was responsible for coordinating that, and just how important and how huge that was for this game?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, we work on those things. It's not the first time we've played an up-tempo offense. We've got to work on those. We played nine defensive backs in the game. We played six linebackers. We played eight defensive linemen minimum, I think maybe nine defensive linemen.

But it was coordinated because we work on it in terms of, hey, when you've got -- I asked our players, hey, you've got to get lined up, your knees bent. You've got to adjust, okay, to the new formations and things of that nature on the fly. You've got to be able to move and you've got to play hard. Got to play hard.

So that was our intentions to do those three things. So with that, you have to substitute, because you're going to get gassed out there as fast as they are moving.

Q. Every team has its own identity after two games of the season. What did you take away from this team's identity with the counter-punches and punches back?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, I just think we are going to play hard. We're going to battle you and as I said before, we're going to stand in there and keep playing.

You talk about handling adversity, you talk about continuing to play through a moment when things are not going so well, we were able to do that tonight and that's got to become a trademark. I think it has become a trademark for this program. It's part of our culture and we have to continue to be able to do those things.

You know, after a big punt return to go down and score immediately following, that was huge, because when they were about to seize the momentum, we took it back. And those things are huge in a football game, because momentum swings both ways.

Q. On the fourth and sixth, wondering how much you debated on that play and how important was that to get the offensive going again?
COACH DANTONIO: I just thought it was a little long for a field goal and a little short for a punt. I got a lot of faith in Connor Cook and our passing game. I knew we would protect him and that he's going to throw the ball very effectively. And Burbridge in this case made it, but any of them could have made the catch.

But, you know, we knew we were going to have to take chances in this football game, calculated risk, and we were prepared to do that. We knew we had -- we want to win the football game, so you had to take chances to do that.

Q. Your running backs played well. Could you talk about that in-depth and will it be more of a two-man rushing attack going forward?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, we'll see how we go, how we practice, how we go. I think we are have four very good running backs but it's tough to get them all carries. And you want to get them moving, and we had about 192 yards rushing, some were on very big plays the consistency may be lacking a little bit at times but some very, very big plays, and I thought we ran through tackles.

I thought both those guys performed very, very well, and LJ Scott, two touchdowns tonight, and that was exciting for him as a true freshman. But we've been saying all along, we've got good players and they have got to find an identity. So it's exciting to see that. And again, we have others, as well.

Q. You've been waiting for this from Aaron Burbridge for a few years, probably since that freshman year. Can you assess what he's giving you right now?
COACH DANTONIO: Big play wide receiver. He's got great ability to catch the ball in traffic. He makes the 50/50 catches, as I said, that we always have to do, becoming a go-to guy. He's always had great talent. He's been limited a little big with a couple injuries along the way, but he's always had great talent. And we've had great wide receivers here in the past two years, so he's really picking up where we left off.

I think our punting game, we did have the one return but I thought Jake Hartbarger did an outstanding job punting the football. He put it through right placement and hung them up there. We out-kicked our coverage -- as did I -- where's my -- I didn't do that (Laughter). But I thought he did an outstanding job.

Q. The passing, it seemed to have an old-fashioned Spartan element to it, that George Provos would have loved, pounding the ball and the running backs wore them down a little bit, didn't they?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I thought we did. I thought we ran through some tackles and got on the perimeter, made some things happen.

But you know, we need to be a balanced football team because I think that's what wins football games for you, when you become two one-sided one way or the other, you're going to struggle.

Right now, that's what we are offensively. And you know, Kodi Kieler went out, I thought Machado came in and did a nice job. I thought Benny McGowan did a nice job. Got Donovan Clark out there a little bit. So that was exciting to see. But the biggest thing, if you take away anything from this game, was the electricity on the sideline and in the stadium and just the attitude that we were going to get it done. I think that's as big as anything and things were coming fast out there, like I said.

Q. So much talk about all the big offensive play of the game, the last few years, defense has been your calling card. What does it say about this unit that at the end of the game, they come up with the big play?
COACH DANTONIO: Big play. I think we sacked Adams four times and got a way a number of other times. I thought played pretty well on third down, third and fourth down, combined there, because they went for it I think six times on fourth down.

You know, made plays, missed some tackles. I thought we made plays and I thought they were sound, we were sound in what we were doing. We played fast. And if you're playing fast out there, you sort of let the chips go where they fall. Good things happen. I can't really pick out a particular guy. I thought we got great play from our front four.

We got pressure on the quarterback with four, and we pretty much, you know, Freeman is an outstanding back. I think he had 192 yards. He got one out of there. He's a good football player. But we made it definitely to run the football.

Q. I asked you earlier in the week about progressions of your team as the season goes on, you always seem to peak towards the ends of the season. Connor Cook says he feels the progression is right where it needs to be; do you agree with that?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I agree with that. We didn't play as well last week as we did today. We need to continue to get better. Played against a very high-quality team this week; not that we didn't last week. Just saying we took a step forward.

And we look to play our best football in November. I think that's what we've always tried to do. I think that's what wins championships for you, will put you in those opportunities. But we need to continue to progressively just play, and there's some great football teams left that we have to play, there's no question.

We have got ten games left, and as I said, Air Force will bring a whole new dynamic here next week. So it will be exciting and a challenge to prepare for them.

Q. What you did to prevent schematically the big plays, that was an issue last year. If you could talk about the prolific goal line stand, you don't see too many of those in college football.
COACH DANTONIO: No, you don't. Especially in this day and age where there's a lot of one-back sets and things of that nature. Just outstanding play by our football team in that regard, and great defensive call.

And then also, just as far as -- what was the first question? Oh, big play, we knew we had to eliminate the big play. They had robbed us in everything last year and created some different dynamics with that, picks and things of that nature.

So we worked extremely hard on that. They still had some big plays but it was a little bit tackling and their skill players and things of that nature. I thought we played hard. We made them line up and keep playing, and that was the thing we needed to do. And really, limited them from a points standpoint until that last one. That's a low point output for them.

Q. Can you comment on your offensive line and specific linemen?
COACH DANTONIO: I think our offensive line played well. Didn't give up a sack. Gave Cook enough time to throw. I thought we ran the ball effectively but we sort of stalled a little bit. We big plays in the running game.

But from a consistency standpoint, maybe we need to do a little bit better. Some of that is youth with the running backs. Other part is, hey, they have got good players, too. They have got very good players.

So it just goes back and forth but we split it and we had some very big plays running the football. I think if you look at the consistency of it, the last series before we stopped them on fourth down, five-yard loss and bounce and things of that nature. But you live and you learn, we keep moving forward. And bottom line is we won the football game, so that's very exciting for everybody.

Q. You said on the sideline there was an attitude you were going to get it done. Did you feel that same feeling last year when you were up at the half at Oregon, and what led to that confidence?
COACH DANTONIO: I think last year was new territory for us. We were going to Oregon. We were coming off the Rose Bowl. We were going to Oregon in our second game, long flight out there. Didn't really know the football team. Didn't really know their football team. Didn't really know the environment.

I think the experience of having played them and then playing in our home environment, you know, probably worth three points, which is what we won by. But it's a great football team. I have got a tremendous amount of respect for how they do their business; and I'm talking about how they go about their business and their skill level and what they do offensively and defensively and special teams. They are going to make you work for everything you get and they are going to keep playing, too.

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