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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 26, 2017
East Lansing, Michigan
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Good morning. Iowa game, big game, Big 10 opener. So excited about that opportunity. I think every year to have an opening football game and then the Big 10 opener, as well.
We've had great games against Iowa I think in the past. Really the last game of 2015 game, the Championship game, which was exciting.
4 p.m. start. Fox, again, national-type TV setting for our players. That will be exciting for them.
When you look at Iowa, I think they've been a very consistent program over the years. Coach Vance has done an outstanding job, the longest tenured coach in America right now.
Their personnel, when you look at them across the board, Nate Stanley is a Big 10 passer. You know all the stats and everything, I don't think I have to go through that.
I think with Iowa you get what you see. What you experienced in the past is genuinely going to be what you get. Fundamentally very sound offensively and defensively, special teams. It will be a challenge.
Bob Apisa will be our honorary captain. He's inducted in the Michigan State Hall of Fame this weekend. That will be exciting for his family. We'll look forward to hosting him.
Q. You mentioned about Iowa knowing what you're going to get with them. When you look at some of your personnel packages, not just against Notre Dame, but over the first three games, you see some 10, some 11 occasionally, but you don't see a bunch like you do with full backs and tight ends. Have you moved away from that from where you were when you got here?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I think it's all predicated on the success we have. When you put a fullback in there, you're going to pack the box. You have to be able to do things. Whatever personnel grouping you can be most successful at is where we tend to lean to. We've tried to become innovative, some of the RPO type things, I think that's noticeable. So that usually tends to have a different personnel package.
Collin Lucas has been our fullback in there. We've used some tied ends in there. So we've got it all still, we've just got to mix and match and decide what we want to do game to game.
Q. You look at Iowa, just watching that Penn State game, looked like Anthony Nelson, defensive end presents a unique challenge. What do you have to do on the edge with him with Cole and Luke?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Well, I think obviously you've got to get his hands down. He's a big, tall guy and everything of that nature. And he's a good player. Like I said, fundamentally sound. They're going to two gap their guys a little bit. And things of that nature. But he presents a challenge because of his height. But we played against big tall guys before. Cole, himself is a big guy. They'll be standing eye-to-eye, it will be interesting, because they're similar in stature, one is an offensive tackle.
Q. We talked about L.J. and fumbles and how you work on the ball security. Having that fumble last week, do you take a different approach with him this week or is it more mental getting him to --
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I don't know, he had that one covered up, both hands on it, defensive back makes a good play, as I said, there's a lot of things that can impact that play. That has nothing to do with him. But you can't also not make allowances for him, either. So you've got to hold on to the football. That's just the nature of it. And we continue to work ball security drills and try and make them as game like as we can. But there is nothing like the game when it's real contact, real physical contact, and you really can't simulate that totally in every practice. You can try. We certainly do try throughout the entire practice. But that's something we just have to do. We have to do that.
Same has to be said with our quarterback position, just have to handle the football, and can't turn it over. We've had other games like that in the past. I can look back to 2010 and say our Iowa game was very similar to that. In 2010, from a turnover standpoint. But we corrected it the next year. So you deal with those things sometimes I think in football.
You look at our last year's Notre Dame game it was flipped. We ran to 260, they ran for 57. They turned the ball over, we had one. We've just got to figure it out in that respect.
Q. With L.J. as a coach, going into this week of practice and into the game, are you eager to see how he attacks it this week coming off such a tough situation? Is it fortuitous at all I guess that Iowa is the opponent considering his big game two years ago?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: You know, I look forward to seeing how our team handles the problems that we've encountered. I'm not just looking at one guy. I look at the coaching staff, ourself, our team, and get ourselves ready to go.
So he's going to play hard, work hard, he always has. He comes to practice with a good mentality, works hard and a lot of our players work extremely hard. That does not guarantee success on the field. We've got to put into action what we learn and understand and hold things to be true.
Basic emphasis on football is hold on to the ball, don't turn it over. I don't know how many times I've talked about turnovers. Right now we are not good at that. We need to change that. That's everybody's responsibility. We'll coach it, but at some point in time players make plays.
Q. You talked about your guys turnovers, what about the ability to get turnovers from other teams. You guys only had two, I think --
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: It's gone unnoticed maybe to you guys, but not to us. That's the other part of the formula. So those have to come, as well. We worked hard at creating those. Sometimes they come in batches, sometimes you get hot. But those have to come as well. Those are the equalizing factors in a football game. I think that's how it gets lopsided at times. You look across the country, it's going all over the place. It always has been. We talk about what are the factors critical in winning in a football game. And we talk about that every single spring and summer practice and go over it again. Keys to winning. What's the keys to winning every week is turnovers. Ball security and getting them.
But, again, over time, over ten years, I think we're something like 54 and 6, plus two turnovers. I think in the big years we're 34 and 2. We recognize that fact and study it. And try to figure out how turnovers happen or how they generally occur and we systematically look at NFL and all these other games where turnovers occur, what was happening.
And so we're coaching it. We're trying to drill it. But, again, players make plays. You've got to play with reckless a band on, I think, on the football field and the ball has to come out. Sometimes it gets tipped, sometimes stripped, sometimes mishandled. So it's all of the above.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Josiah Scott, his first three collegiate games, what you've been impressed with or what you'd like to see more of him?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Josiah is a mature individual, he works hard, he's tough, can run, got great ball skills. He plays the ball back to the ball very effectively. And he reminds me a lot in terms of how he presents himself and how he handles himself of Darqueze Dennard, especially that Darqueze was a true freshman. And that's admirable. Thus far he's been great.
Q. I know you said on Sunday night that there were no long-term injuries, but we didn't see Grayson Miller this past weekend. Were you expecting him to play on Saturday?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: This past Saturday? Can't really talk about injuries. It's not a long-term thing.
Q. Same about Joe Bachie?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Same answer.
Q. So here's my other question. When you're coming off a loss, especially a first loss, do you get better practices? Is there more attention to detail?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I think that there is, by nature, but I also think that when you're coming off I a win you get the same. You get what you emphasize. We've always had good practices. I even go back to last year. Our practices were very good and we had great mindset coming into each game, as evidenced by how close the games were. And then something would happen.
Our guys come to practice, I've been very impressed with our group this year in terms of how they come to practice mentally, not just there but in the meetings and their want to. And that goes a long way, and their energy and things of that nature. They like playing football. We have a young football team, so a lot of this is new to a lot of guys, or even for a lot of guys playing with as much -- Brian Lewerke played last year, but he's playing more now. There's a newness for a lot of our players, and I think that carries them in a lot of ways.
Q. You have three big power backs that were recruited as power backs, all three of them are good. And downhill runners. And you told us before the season to be successful you needed to utilize them. Mark, they're lining up in RPOs, five yards next to the quarterback, those type of things, not seven yards where they can get a downhill burst, do you think that's hurt you a little bit?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I think we're doing both. If you want to are track how many RPOs, there's a certain number if you look. I think we're doing both those things. But a lot of times things get predicated on down and distance, as well, and the situation you're in. When you need four series to get back to the game you can't -- the game changes. The game changes on you. And you've got to be able to adjust. So that's what we had to do.
Q. Over your time here you've obviously had a lot of program-type wins, statement wins. Going back to that one two years ago in the title game, how big was that and how impressive was it to see what L.J. did as a freshman at that point?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Well, you know, it was impressive. How big was it? Put us in the playoffs. Put us into one of the top four teams in the nation. And I think it's, what, the second year. Was that the second year for playoffs? So that was -- and it allowed us to become Big 10 champions and that was a great defensive football game, great drive at the end of the game. L.J. was impressive. True freshman. A little risky when he reached out to reach farther one time, the ball could have come out but it didn't and everybody celebrated. So sometimes it doesn't catch up to you until it catches up to you. But he's been a very good back. He's been productive, as well as the other guys have, too.
So all three of those guys are good football players, Madre London, Gerald Holmes, L.J. Scott, they're all good football players. They're all great people and work hard and come to work at practice. All I've ever asked our guys to do is compete. So you're not going to see me screaming on the sideline after a guy drops the ball. Just compete. And our guys are going to do that. We've got to hang on to the ball. That's the nature of the game of football.
Q. You've been home all season. But do you have any comments about the comments that were being had yesterday when Coach Harbaugh brought up that there should be a stricter standards for visiting locker rooms. Have you had any of the issues that he was claiming, what he had against Purdue. And do you believe there should be some sort of higher standard in that regard when your team goes on the road?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Really I'm here to talk about our football game, not locker rooms. I can tell you that our locker room in the past was not very good. We put stalls up. But our locker room right now is a $29 million locker room. I think it will fit the bill. But I'm not here to talk about that.
Q. Can you evaluate I don't remember seeing a lot of David Dowell, how is he coming along and if he's in the mix?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I think our first two games we played pretty well. I think this past game we were inconsistent, got tackled.
But, again, when you look at -- just how things roll sometimes, too. You had a week off, didn't play a football game. So it's early in the season, you're not able to tackle. You become a better tackle when you tackle better running backs as you go through it, and more consistently you're going active and live the better tack letters you are. So maybe having a bye, maybe that hurt us a little bit in terms of tackling and space a little bit. We'll find out a little bit more this week. But we've got to be able to tackle space in the perimeter, and especially in this day and age, you have to do that. When you take a week off sometimes that limits your ability to get those reps. And the next time you're doing it is two weeks later and maybe you suffer a little bit. But I'll give him a little bit of a hall pass there. But we've got to tackle more consistently.
Q. I feel like the longer we're in this, it seems like every team that you have, good games are close games, and Iowa certainly being one of them. They beat you on that last play a few years back. And they lose this past weekend. And then the final play they lose last week. What's the team's mindset like when they go through something like that, losing on the final play, does that affect them at all?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I don't know. I can't answer that. I would not say -- use that as an excuse coming in here, if that was our situation. I don't think I ever have. I don't think teams have that mindset. I think they get ready to play the next game and they get ready to compete and that's what Iowa about will do. As far as when we lost games on the last play, it gut punches you, but you get up and play the next week.
Q. Realizing you have a running quarterback that changes things a little, he's 30 some percent of your rushing game, can you get more out of your running backs?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I think we need to. That sets the focus. Did we run the ball effectively this last week? 52 of it was on that quarterback sneak. It was well designed, and he took off. But, again, the game changed. So at halftime, take that 52 out of there, you've got about 50, but the game changed on us because of the turnovers. So 355 yard sounds good, but the game changed. So it's the nature of how the game is played, I think.
But I've said all along that we've got to get our tailbacks going. And we have to.
Q. What are your thoughts on next week's game against Michigan, being a night game for the first time ever?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Just focused on the task at hand. Focused on the present. Deal with that next week.
Q. Talked at all about being the first time ever in 110 years or ever playing at night, being completely unique?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: We played at night in other places. The lights are going to come on. We're going to play. I really haven't looked at that. I just noticed we're playing at 7:30. And more importantly we're playing at 4, that's this week.
Q. Along those lines, this is a team that with a young nucleus that kind of needs to operate on that one week at a time vacuum. How do you get them to do that, stay focused in the moment and not worry about the past, not worry about the future?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I think our guys do a good job at that, I really do. First of all, young people are very good about letting things go and concentrating on exactly what's in front of them. They're much better at that than looking a week into the future or two weeks or three weeks. They're much better focusing on what do I got to do today. And I think that's probably just the way the generation is, or most people are. We have to make sure that what we're doing today on Tuesday affects Saturday.
So today what we're doing on Tuesday is the most important thing, and that's the way we've got to handle things. And I think from a maturity standpoint our guys have done a good job of doing that thus far. We need to play a little bit better. We need to hang on to the football and not make mistakes that are correctable mistakes. Some of them are forced errors. Notre Dame has a good football team. And they played well. They didn't turn the ball over and they played well. And they need to be congratulated for that. Some of the mistakes were our mistakes. That's football. Across the board, if you look at any game we've ever played or ever is going to be played, you are going to have some things that are correctable, and it some things you is say that's a good play.
Q. When you guys were evaluating Brian Lewerke when you started recruiting him. Did you look at him as a dual threat guy, or did you see him more as a passer? And what are some of the things when you look at pro-style quarterbacks that jump offer the screen to you guys?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: He did a good job running the football. I didn't know he was that dynamic. But I told you a couple of weeks ago, his dad keeps telling me he's pretty fast. But I think that's a dynamic that he's shown once he got here. But I think you saw a little bit of that in high school, but not as much.
In terms of pro-style quarterbacks, I think you always want to find a quarterback that can create. And whether you're creating with your decision making abilities or with your feet, almost every quarterback we have, not almost, every quarterback we have is an excellent athlete. It's just relative to who they're playing against sometimes that athletic ability trumps the defensive athletic ability. You have to make plays with your head, arm or feet. But you've got to create in this day and age in college football. Nothing is going to be perfect, there's too many pressures, too many different scenarios that you're presented with.
Q. Kirk Gibson said he took a 5 a.m. walk and was so fired up, that I happened to be with him on the sidelines right before kickoff. Did that passion come through to the team?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, he did an awesome job. His sense of humor came through. And he videoed it. So they saw the video of him. He ran a route in the end zone, but you could sense his energy and his commitment to Michigan State and his, I guess, his passion for being a Spartan. His passion for being a Spartan. It carried through. I thought he did an excellent job. Great job.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports