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November 6, 2018

Mark Dantonio

East Lansing, Michigan

HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: 6-3 right now. Looking forward to a run in November here, see what we can do. Big game this weekend against Ohio State. A game that sort of always point to a little bit, being from that state, the State of Ohio and then we've got many players from there, as well. Always have recruited down there and recruited well.

When you look at them offensively, it's a daunting task, I would say: You've got a quarterback that's thrown 32 touchdowns I think, and very few interceptions; 3,000-plus yards in nine games; two 600-yard rushers; a couple wide receivers that have caught over 50 passes; outstanding group of wide receivers. Their offensive line is pretty much back with the exception of one guy intact, sort of, and so they have got a lot of returning starters on offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, they are rebuilding a little bit with the loss of Bosa. That's obviously a big loss for them. But athletic, active, outstanding secondary, running tackle. I'm very, very impressed always with their special teams, and should be a great football game.

Looking for a great football game at Spartan Stadium and I'll take some questions. That's usually the best way to go.

Q. Brian described some lingering soreness that would kind of regroup, as he goes through the game against Maryland. You took him out after an interception. The game last year against Ohio State, the bearing that that has, where this goes direction-wise, your choice at quarterback, what's the push/pull analysis for you?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: We're going to look at our quarterback throughout the week as we always do and see how everybody is working, playing, etc.

Brian is our starting quarterback, I think you can go with that. That's the foundation that he's built here. I didn't see any velocity according relative to his arm strength. I think you guys push and point towards trying to get answers and push people towards those things. If he was hurt, he would not be playing.

Is he 100 percent? Nobody is ever 100 percent ten games into the season, but if he could not play, he would not play. You know, that 30-mile-an-hour wind down there at Maryland, the other guy wasn't throwing very well there, either; I'm talking about the opposing team. I think a lot of things go into that.

But I think has a foundation. As I said after the football game, though, not afraid to use Rocky. I think he made a big statement against Purdue in that football game, and I look at him as an ace reliever; and if we need to go to him, if we're not having success, then we will go to him.

Q. Obviously last year, 335 I think it was on the ground. How much of that do you guys -- the same two backs are back and you have a lot of the same defensive personnel. Do you really go back to that tape a lot from last year or do you look more at this year? How much does last year --
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: You look at everything. You look at the six-game study. We've got a six-game study, looking back to 2012, different things and I'm sure that they do the same. We also look at what Indiana did against us because of Kevin Wilson being there.

You know, you try to look at every imaginable thing. They do the same. I think they do a good job of coaching. They did some things last year that put us in conflict I think, some run/pass conflicts and things of that nature and then they broke tackles. Two good running backs, as I said earlier, and you know, they had their way last year.

So we need to play one play at a time and get ourselves focused and prepared but not too over energetic and play this game accordingly.

Q. With a lot of the same personnel, how much motivation is there for those guys to make up for what transpired last year?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I don't know. I think every game is really, as I said earlier, a couple weeks back, every game is sort of a new season, and you can look at every single game and build on it from the past and look to the future.

I expect our players to get ready every single game, regardless of who we play. It's too difficult in this league not to be prepared mentally and emotionally. You know, how high can you get?

I want our guys at peak performance at game time, whatever that is. Their peak performance, whoever that is, whether it's quarterback, defensive back, backup, whatever it is, I want them to be at their peak performance.

Q. Matt Allen not on the depth chart for the second straight week. Do you expect him back for this season?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, he'll be back this season. We'll see how it goes this week. Sort of day-to-day.

Q. And Josh Butler, a guy we haven't seen in a while and awhile back you had said he was getting close. Did he have a setback along the way?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: You know, I really don't want to talk too much about injuries other than to say they are day-to-day.

Q. And Josiah, when you see him Sunday or Monday?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: He's good. He'll be starting. He'll be starting at corner.

Q. His body -- he felt pretty good about --
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: He played well, yeah.

Q. When you get to six victories and the Bowl game is secured, it's kind of a two-part question. It seems like in this day and age, that more programs might benefit from, given the fact everybody is trying to win, make that Bowl eligibility, really, a very significant goal and objective.
But beyond that, it can be a little bit elitist on the part maybe of critics who sometimes say that team isn't worth going to a Bowl; that record isn't worthy of going to a post-season game.

You, from a coaching standpoint, I believe, see Bowl games as not only perhaps a testament to the program, but as an opportunity for kids who maybe have not traveled or had their horizons significantly expanded? Can you talk about that because it seems like it gets glossed over and dismissed too much.

HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, Bowl games, I think that's the first hurdle you try and clear, regardless of what program you're at, where you're at. I guess there's a lot of givens that, hey, we're going to get to that, but you know, still, when you get to the sixth win, there's a lot of meaning in that.

That means you're going somewhere, and I do think it's an opportunity for your young people to go and experience life in a different area a little bit. It's a reward for them. It's a reward for our staff, as well and it's a point of where you can jump to the next thing.

You get an extra month of practice, basically. I don't know how much you use getting better or how much you use just to try and get ready for your opponent, I'm not sure on that, really, sometimes, just depending on the Bowl game and the timeframe. I think it's a springboard to greater things. Even this year, winning six; now, can we win seven and then can you win eight and can you win nine. What is the pattern there, what can you do with what you've got.

And really, in November, we'll always try to work towards a championship, that's our goal but if that goal doesn't happen, you're going to point towards another goal and with every win, you go up -- I think you go up a notch in terms of where you're playing and the experience that you're probably going to have at that Bowl place and who you're going to play against.

At the end of the day, you want to represent Michigan State.

Q. With J.T., it seemed like he was there forever. Haskins is a lot different. He's not as mobile. How much does hit, not his inability to run, but the fact he doesn't do it as much, change what he does offensively and how you prepare defensively?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think they want to be balanced, even though they tilt towards passing, until this last game, at times, I think they do want to be balanced. They do have good running backs and I think that's what they will try and do.

A lot of these things gets tilted because of down and distances, what down and distance are you in relative to what you're going to do. That can be a little bit misleading, but I do think they want to be balanced. I think he's a great quarterback and has a great arm and he has great wide receiver to go to. They have a great scheme. He's been extremely productive.

If you look at productivity of their offense right now, it's a big task. It's a big challenge. So we're getting ready for it.

Q. I know you talked in the past a little bit, obviously for a big chunk of your roster, the Michigan game is a huge thing, but there's almost as many guys from Ohio, yourself and some coaches included. Can you compare what this week is like? We all know what Michigan week is like. Is this close?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: It's not just that. That is a part of it, but it not just that. In the past number of years, we've played basically for the championship in that game. I would say in 2015 we did and certainly in 2013 that we did and it had a major impact on, you know, in 2014, that team that one was probably going to go to the playoffs and that's what happened, they won the National Championship.

The other thing is if you're going to be the best, you've got to beat the best and at this point in time, you know, Ohio State is still the defending Big Ten Champion, I believe, so you've got to beat the best.

That's always been the target area I think throughout the years -- I'm talking about throughout the years, but every game has its own meaning. There's other games that have a big meaning for this program. You guys know that. But that's how we've sort of always sort of taken it as we've moved forward. It just a big games and it's always been.

Even when I was here before, it was a big game. It was a big game. Back in the late 90s, it's always been a big game for Michigan State, and if there's some natural rivalries in there maybe because we have some people from there, myself included.

I think the biggest point of emphasis is that it has meant so much to each program or to this program when we've played them there, there's been a lot on the line in those games.

Q. Can you talk about the number of yards they have been giving up, what have you seen from them on tape that's changed a little bit with without Nick Bosa?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: With him out, they are replacing three defensive linemen that are playing in the NFL. That's tough duty. Their linebacker, Borland, is coming off an Achilles' injury. So playing in and out -- a little bit younger secondary; talented, but a little bit younger secondary. They had I think three guys left from their secondary last year which was extremely talented.

Everybody's got a plan. In this day and age, everybody has a plan, so everybody's going to try and make plays. I think much like I just talked about, I think everybody gets ready to play, whether it's Ohio State or anybody else, they get ready to play.

We've got to look at it and say, this is what other people are doing, and they have had some success. The games have been closer. They are still 8-1. Everybody is acting like, poor Ohio State; they are still 8-1 and ranked in the Top-10. They are pretty good and they have got some playmakers up front.

Q. I remember early last season when Joe Bachie was still coming into his own, somebody asked you if you were surprised by his production early and you said you weren't based on his preparation level. Is that what sets him apart as a linebacker is just his level of preparation?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, you know what, I go back and I look at all the players that we've been around in the past years.

And not to disrespect anybody that's been here, but Chris Spielman to me is a guy that when I was at Ohio State as a graduate assistant, he was coming in as a freshman. That guy was watching film every day. That guy was playing 100 miles an hour on field during practice. He had good motor, good skills, great skill-set, as well.

And I see that in Joe Bachie. He's got a great skill-set. He's an athlete in a variety of sports, I've said that many times, and also he prepares and he gets himself ready to go. And he's a great leader, as well. People sort of follow him or he rubs off on people, however you tack it.

Q. What's your hope and expectation for LJ the rest of the season?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: We have to see where he's at in terms of his injury, and sort of go from there. He's only played in four games, so there's a possibility of redshirting him. So we have to look at those different things as we go and we'll see how it all shakes out and I'll talk with him this week and we'll see what happens.

Q. The possibility of a redshirt for him, is this sort of the beginning of that discussion with him?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Well, if he plays one more game, then that's not a discussion anymore. But we have three meaningful games left, and you know, a Bowl game left, so really, you have almost a third of your season left to play, a fourth.

Q. When you were down on that staff in Columbus, the '98 game, what stands out to you about that game? What do you remember?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: That was -- I remember going down there and they were undefeated. I remember Julian Peterson had four or five sacks. I saw Julian last week, and one time he lined up on the wrong side and just sort of twisted from there and sacked a guy and caused a fumble and he didn't start that game. Robaire Smith went down with a broken leg in that game and we put Julian in. He had a career day.

Renaldo Hill, who is now coaching for the Dolphins, picks off a pass in the end zone at the end of the game on fourth down to secure a win. But I thought we played very well and pressured the quarterback and stopped the run pretty well.

On the offensive side of the ball, Gary Scott had a big punt return. Bill Burke had a big day. I can't remember who caught the balls down the sideline there but somebody did.

I did remember a little bit.

Q. Because of your time at Ohio State, will that school always hold a little bit of a special place because of the time you and your wife had there?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, you know, because the people that I know there, really, as much as anything, the people I worked with and for. I was a graduate assistant there.

You know, sort of everything that really has been accomplished in my coaching career has sort of spun off of that. I mean, Jim Tressel, I went to work for Jim Tressel; I went to work for Glen Mason; I went to work for Nick Saban. All of those guys have Ohio State roots.

And then I went back as the defensive coordinator and won a championship, part of a championship; and all of the people that I shared time with there.

So it's really, does it become the place, or does it always become the people that you're sharing that place with? For me, it's always been about the people. Same thing here. This is about the people that have come here and been a part of something greater than one person, and sharing that experience with them.

But I would say that, and then, you know that state has special meaning in that case.

Q. Do you still talk to Tressel?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I talk to Tress. I get a little nervous before games, so I give him a call, yeah.

Q. I know you don't want to get ahead of yourself obviously but you talked about setting your goals for specific things. Obviously winning the Big 10 Championship is first. This stretch right now -- if you do set goals, is there a reasonable goal for you guys to look at the Rose Bowl and say that's what the next step is, that's what we can do?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: This is a strange football season. A lot of people have lost. There's a lot of two-loss teams and quite a few three-loss teams right now. I would guess, if you can't win the Big 10 Championship, which that's -- I guess mathematically, there's still opportunity there but the next thing is there, can you go to a Big Six Bowl; can you be 9-3. Well, you know, you've got to win this one if you're going to do that.

So the first one up is to win seven, like I said and we'll do our very best to do that and get ourselves ready to go and then try and take the next step. I think that's what November is. You know, it's always been about that. It's always been about if you can win this one, what happens next and there's a little bit bigger thing to play for as you move forward. I think you can look across the conference right now and that's the case with every football team there.

Q. Curious with Bryce's punting at Maryland, how much did you see the wind affecting him? What's the punting situation overall and how important will field position be?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: You know, he punted well with the wind and he punted poorly against it; that ought to tell you.

You know, I think he tried to drive the ball and then got up on him, and in that wind, he probably had to drive it a little bit more. But he's working at it, and we'll certainly work towards that. But you know, for a third punter during the season, he's doing an outstanding job.

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