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September 17, 2016

Mark Dantonio

Michigan State - 36, Notre Dame - 28

MARK DANTONIO: Great football game tonight, great win for us down here at Notre Dame and a great environment. Basically excited about our football team and what we were able to accomplish. Came down here and thought we needed to win on toughness. I thought we did that. We had to be able to run the football, we were able to do that.

Come up with some explosive plays. I think the three turnovers to one probably makes a dig difference in the football game, as well. I thought we played pretty solid on special teams other than that one kickoff return at the beginning of the game which was negated with the penalty.

Big win. We take it from here, start to develop an identity. Tyler O'Connor plays well, shows some moxie, made some huge plays. Donnie Corley huge catch in the end zone. Two-point conversion after it sorta sends us going. Big third quarter, great rally by Notre Dame, DeShone Kizer has a great third and fourth quarter, very poised. You don't count the teams out. You play a team the quality of Notre Dame you don't count 'em out.

Q. Mark, on the reception that kinda clinched it, the 28-yarder, was that called for that coverage or did he just read that right to get into that space?
MARK DANTONIO: I think they rolled up on cover two there, and he slipped it in there in the seam there, probably underthrown, but Corley makes a nice adjustment on the football, makes the catch, big catch, huge play, especially the way the momentum had turned.

Q. (No microphone.)
MARK DANTONIO: R.J. Shelton right after that, I think it's third and 4, I believe, breaks a tackle and scoots. He's done a nice job with that his entire career here, and, you know, I keep saying if we have a great to believe team, seniors gotta have their best years, and you saw an example of that right there. I thought that was sort of a game-winning-type play. Again we would have had to punt it down there, they would have had about 30 seconds left, but things happen, so we were able to seal it up.

Q. (No microphone.)
MARK DANTONIO: Well, both those guys, we felt like we needed to have some help in the defensive front a little bit. Jamal has played -- both those guys have played for us on the defensive line, so they know the system and we felt like, they would give us a little boost, so we got 'em in there and allowed their plays to take shape on offense a little bit and be able to make the move. I'm not sure how they played. I think Jamal played very well, I'm not sure on Brandon but it gave us added depth, which I think was a positive.

Q. That 16-minute stretch, end of the first half, the first 11 minutes of the third quarter, very dominating. Have you had a stretch like that since 2013 -- can you think of another stretch that you can compare it to and was that what you were waiting to see if this offense could do?
MARK DANTONIO: I can't think of that right now but a lot of points off turnovers, big run, very dominant performance in that area. Gotta close it out. Got tougher and tougher in the fourth quarter running the football but, again, you gotta give credit to Notre Dame and their coaching staff and the way they played, and they kept playing, and they fought their way back into the football game and were right there at the end, real.

Q. Mark, take me into a coach's head when they start making a little bit of a run and your offense comes out and stalls --
MARK DANTONIO: You really want to know that?

Q. I do.
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, it's tough. That wave starts to roll on you, just like it started to roll on them in the third quarter, and it's tough to stop, stop 'em. They get their momentum going, and they're making some plays and made some nice catches, had good coverage on guys a couple times, made great catches, great throws, but we found a way. We got 'em down on -- I thought a big play in the game was third and 4 we sacked them and made it 4th and 7, 4th and 8, so there was a puppet and we were able to keep the football.

Q. The rhythm of your offensive line (No microphone.) Can you take us through what you did?
MARK DANTONIO: That was their first game and we've had one game in six weeks so been making all along practice makes perfect. We've been workin'. We had a little extra time to work, and when you don't play well and people sort of write you off a little bit, you have a tendency to rise up a little bit. I think that's what we did. I think we came into this football game with something to prove, talked all along that we needed to measure up and I thought we did that.

Q. Coach, Gerald Holmes lost his grandmother recently, and he said it meant a lot when you gave him the ball in the fourth quarter to run out the clock. What went into that decision?
MARK DANTONIO: "G" lost his grandmother Friday, so that was difficult for him, so our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. As far as giving him the ball, you know, really he's a hot back, we're going to give the hot back the ball. I don't care who runs it, but he got hot, so we're going to give him touches. Not sure how many he got but both of them ran for over 100 yards.

Q. (No microphone.)
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I expect Donnie to have those type of games. He's a great football player. He's worked himself into basically a starting role, I would say, starting role, semi-starting role. Big catch in the end zone, pulled it away from a guy, and big catch at the end of the game where he's got to adjust to an underthrown ball. Two big plays, and I think he had one other. He's that type of player. He is that type of player. We've got a lot of other good players that are going to make plays as well, but this was his time at this point in time.

Q. Mark, early in the game you go for it on a fourth down in your own territory, you go for two, very aggressive. Can you talk about those two decisions and also the -- trying to think in terms of taking your foot off a little bit as you look at the clock in terms of how -- when to stay aggressive, how much to let up?
MARK DANTONIO: Oh, yeah, it's 39-6, you're saying let's just play good defense not give 'em big ones, and let's milk the clock a little bit, and that's pretty much what we did until, you know, it got within 15, and then we had to play the game a little bit. We still ran the ball, took some time off the clock, but I thought we had to play the game so went up top on Dancer, on that last third down and, hey, thought we played pretty well, going up top, we played pretty well.

Q. (No microphone.)
MARK DANTONIO: You know, it's early in the game, we came here to win. Our MO was we came here to win. I kept saying it the whole time, we came here to win, just win. You have to take a calculated risk.

Q. You said in your opening comments you're still looking to develop an identity. What do you think it is right now and what do you hope it will be?
MARK DANTONIO: We were able to run the ball, we've had big plays. I thought we played well defensively. We certainly took a step from our first game, and we came down and we played a good football team away from home in a great environment, and on a national TV, national stage, and you gotta be able to measure up in those times. Lights come on, you gotta be able to make big plays when the lights come on, big time. And I think most of our players, whether it's this game or other games in our schedule, they sit here and they dream about these opportunities.

These are life moments for our players, so they will remember this when we came to Notre Dame and we did this, and we won. This is a life moment for them, and this will be a great experience that they will draw on I think for the rest of their lives. That's the way these big games are. Whether they're at our place or whether they're away or a Big Ten Championship game or a bowl game. So we can build on those things.

Q. What was the conversation on the sideline (No microphone.)
MARK DANTONIO: On my sideline?

Q. Yeah, the offense --
MARK DANTONIO: We just needed to get a first down. We knew we needed to get a first down. You could play it either way. Hindsight is 20/20. The way they were playing defense, if they would with punted it right back to us, we would have punted right back to them. They would have got the ball with two minutes to go. So you can't fault that decision. These are tough decisions you have to make, split-second decisions, but if it's the opposite way -- the game is over if they don't win on fourth and 7, so that's what they decided to do. It was working for them.

Q. (No microphone.)
MARK DANTONIO: Tyson played in there, and I'm not sure how he did but he probably played a lot of plays, and we had to roll people with their no-huddle offense a little bit, and I thought he played hard and pretty well.

Q. (No microphone.)
MARK DANTONIO: Well, you know, I think when you are a coach you always look for things that you can take advantage of. They had some people down, they're playing with young players in the secondary, we thought maybe we could throw the ball effectively. But we also -- we have pretty good tail backs, so we also needed to continue to have our identity and be not just be a "pass-first" team.

We gotta be a 50/50-type team, and I think we tried to stay balanced for most of the game. We were probably pretty balanced until we were up 39-6, and I think it weighed heavily toward the run, then.

Q. Not everybody rises to the occasion on big moments. What was it about these younger guys not to be phased by the big stage tonight?
MARK DANTONIO: We got good players, they dream of these opportunities. They're not afraid to step out into the light a little bit, that's where they're playing early. We got good seniors, our seniors have always carried us, Tyler O'Connor, big game from him. He's a senior.

So you look at other different things that went on out there. It's stuff to see -- say these things without seeing the film, but I thought our guys played very confidently, even -- at the end I'm not sure if their coach was confident, totally, okay, but that big wave was rolling. We found a way and our guys kept playing, and we said we gotta play the game, play the game. Can't go into our pockets. We gotta continue to play the game, and I thought we played plays at the end of the game which allow loud us to win.

Q. Did you see indicators over the last two weeks, and were you surprised at all by the way some of them performed?
MARK DANTONIO: No, we have good football players and we have a good team, so we've got to form an identity as we move forward.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach.

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