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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 12, 2019
East Lansing, Michigan
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Disappointed with last week's game. Want to basically get on to the next thing but we need to finish. Turnovers hurt us. Put us behind the 8-ball a little bit, need to be able to respond.
It's Michigan week this week. Have to put that behind us and move forward. Got to have one focus as we move. We played well down there in the past. They have an outstanding program. I think when you look at them right now, you look at their defense, probably a Top 15 defense. Do a great job, what I call running the sled, getting their feet, being disruptive and getting their feet into people and running people back, so we have to be able to pass protect
As far as running the football, same type of thing. Have to be able to run it some. Can't turn the football over in a rivalry game. I think that's been our thing that we've got to be able to deal with more effectively. On the offensive side of the ball, you have four offensive linemen back. They are young at the running back position, experienced at the wide receiver position and quarterback position. They make some plays, create some loose plays with the quarterback, play well on special teams, well-coached football team.
So got to compete daily. Got to move forward here. It's a rivalry game. It's good for college football. It's good for the state. I've said many, many times over the course of time here that got to measure up in this football game. You're Green or you're Blue in this state for the most part, and this crosses families and everything involved with it. I'll take some questions and we'll go from there.
Q. Wonder if there's an update on Dotson, and same with Josiah?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, Josiah, I've always just tried to list people if we think they are going to play but if they are definitely out, I'll let you know. Dotson tore his Achilles, so that's a season-ending injury, so he'll be out. As far as Josiah, we expect him to play.
Q. I assume you never have a problem getting your team up more the Michigan/Michigan State game. Is it a special challenge this year with what has gone on the last few weeks for you guys?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: You know, I think that when you look at this football game, I think it's sort of become -- you really sort of throw the record out a little bit, pretty much like Coach Harbaugh said yesterday. There's been times where they have been 4-0 and we've been 1-3, yet have been able to find a way to win.
Those type of things have happened in the past. Right now, for me, my main consideration is our football team and getting them football game ready. We'll come in, compete, play hard. We just can't make mistakes to beat ourselves and I think if you look at our season right now and what's happened and what's transpired is we've beaten ourselves in some respects. Other times we've played good football teams. You're playing a good football team in this case, as well; you can't turn it over.
In the first five games, we had a very productive turnover ratio and in the last, I guess, four, it's probably been in the negative situation. That's what's hurt us. We've got 500-and-whatever yards offense, that type of thing, this past week, but the turnovers and the quick turnovers and the quick scores were the issue.
Q. The offense you talked about, I know there were turnovers and some missed opportunities at different points in the game, but overall you mentioned the 500 yards in the first half -- what positives do you take, especially how struggled in the games previously to put points on the board?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: We ran the ball effectively. Elijah gets 170 yards net, that's a big positive. That's some explosive plays. Lewerke had almost 150 yards rushing, 250 passing. Had some tipped balls that went the other direction, but a couple maybe dropped and then we had the one with the pi that was a little bit concerning that it was called. But there's another 50-yard gain taken away.
I think the thing you have to look forward, you have to take from a positive perspective in the Illinois game is, hey, we were productive and we had opportunities and we moved the football. The things that happened were from a negative perspective, were either they are making a good play or us, you know -- so they are hitting themselves in the foot.
I think you draw the positives from it that you can and you try to fall forward in everything that we're doing.
Q. I know we talked to you right after the game, but Brian got hit in the head there in the fourth quarter. Was he okay? Did you guys have to go through any protocol with him concussion-wise?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: No, we didn't go through any protocol. We looked at him very quickly. Just I asked him and he said he's good, and he motioned that to our trainers, as well, so he just went on with it.
Q. After the game was over?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: No, nothing.
Q. You mentioned the offense a little bit, Elijah had a breakout game in his first start, second career 100-yard game. Did you see anything different with him, or was it a part combination of him and the offensive line blocking better?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think it was the offensive line a little bit and he had good vision and broke through some tackles and ran through some tackles. He's a powerful guy, 225, he can run. He's deceptively fast. I think he's faster than he looks on the film sometimes. He's a 4-4, 4-5 guy.
Q. In terms of the identity of this program, where do you rate the Michigan game, how important do you see it?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: The Michigan game has always been a game that we've pointed toward ever since I've come here. I've said many, many times I didn't create that environment. I'm just trying to empower it or, you know, stay with it.
But I knew that if we were going to be successful here, ultimately that we were going to have to win down the road some and here at home and we were going to have to measure up every time we played that football game.
So that's what we put into effect; that we were going to measure up in this football game. I've been here 13 years. This is 13, so we need to do that again and it's a constant thing because you're going to compete against them in everything that we do, whether it's recruits in the state or everything on the field, or on the basketball court or whatever it is, the hockey rink. It's the way this is built here. You're going to compete against them in everything across the board and so that's the way I've tried to approach it.
Q. You said before the game last week that Noah would be the incumbent starter going into next year. Curious what you saw from him?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I thought Noah played pretty well for his first time out. He had nine tackles. I think he had a sack, maybe a pass break up. The one pass break up, probably prevented an interception, but hey, we'll go with it. I thought he played pretty well. He was confident and ran his feet on contact and he was aggressive.
The one thing that we talked about last week coming into the football game is we want to take initiative in everything that we were doing and we wanted to be aggressive in everything we were doing and I think that we did that. I think we did that with play calling and how we did and I think we did all the way down to the end in terms of how we played on the goal line.
Things caught up with us and it just didn't happen. There were too many technical things overall that would happen whether it's play on a deep ball or whatever it is that prevented that from happening. So very disappointed. It's one that I'll carry with me for probably the rest of my life, but that's coaching. Happened before.
Q. Do you feel any added pressure going into the game with how the season has unfolded? It's the latest you've played Michigan in some time?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, it's the latest I can remember. No, I don't feel any added pressure. I think there's always pressure in this game because as I said earlier, you're always trying to measure up.
So I don't feel any added pressure. It's a big game. It's always been a national TV game pretty much. It's always been a game that's had everybody looking at it and so it's always been one of those type of situations.
Q. The road team has had success the past five years. Is there anything special, maybe take us inside that bus ride down that, you've been able to harness or focus on; that when you get off the bus, you seem ready to play?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I'm not sure on that. You know, I just know that sometimes when you gather everybody around you and you go one place, one focus, you know, maybe you get a little bit more tuned in than it would be when you're at home and there's some distractions with family coming into town, or a little bit of things of that nature.
We try and get focused on everything that we're doing, home or away, but maybe there's a little extra on that bus ride, I'm not quite sure. But we want to win them all, home or away. It's disappointing when you lose at home but point taken.
Q. When you think of how much success that you've been able to have in your tenure here against Michigan, how much will you channel that this week and how much will you maybe make an emphasis to that to your team?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think what we say is that every game -- every season is a new season. It's a new moment. It's a new game. So there's new things coming.
But I think that what we can talk about is this is the history of the game; this is what has occurred. This is how we've won before. These are the things that have happened that have allowed us to win. You point to those things, I guess I can't recall, but it's a separate deal.
And in big games like this, what you do in these games take on a whole different meaning. You basically can become -- you look at Jalen Watts Jackson becomes a household name or Blair White or Javon Ringer or these type of things. You have these moments and you play on a large stage, you have an opportunity to set yourself apart in the legacy of Michigan State football. You have to take that attitude going into the football game, and try and build on it. Build a foundation.
But it's a tremendous, challenging environment down there. They are a very good football team and well-coached football game, so they are going to play aggressively and we need to match that. When I say measure up, we need to match their aggression, their intensity, that's all a part of it.
Q. Pregame last year there was the incident with Bush. When you go into a game like this, particularly going on the road, what do you tell your players walking into someone else's house?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: First thing you need to tell them is don't walk, run, okay, so that's what we'll focus on.
That's in the past in my mind. It's in the past. There's things have taken place and I said on a radio show this week, if you don't like confrontation, this probably isn't a good game to go to, because it's just the way it is. It's just the natural. You have guys that have played against each other in high school. You have guys that have played already in this football game, so it's a competitive environment, and the most -- the biggest thing that we need to do is have total focus on what we need to do at the right time, and not make mistakes and play, you know, just play hard. Play harder than hard.
So that's what we'll focus on, and as we've gown down there in the past, there's been great sportsmanship, so I look towards that. I don't look away from that. I look towards that.
Q. Taking you back ten years to the Caper overtime game, what do you remember from that day and that game? Do you see that as an important point in the rivalry to set up this last decade?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: What I remember about that is I think we were ahead 20-6 and they rallied back and all of a sudden it started pouring and then we went to over time and we picked a path and then Larry had a touchdown run, broke a couple tackles and like so many games, you know, that hinge on one play, it's over like that (snapping fingers) and all of a sudden, the game's won.
But I remember that we were 1-3 going into the football game and I believe they were 4-0, I think. So just gives you an indication. Get yourself ready to play hard. We played hard in that football game.
I've gone back. You tend to look at things from the past and you go back and you look at certain things, especially in the last four years here since Coach Harbaugh has been there, you want to look at things they have done, that type of thing. But you spend a little bit of time looking in the past, too. I think it's good to have a little bit of history there, but got to focus on the moment.
Q. When you have a rough season like this, obviously speculation, people talk about the program, where it's headed and where you're headed, if anywhere. Do you think about that in do you feel the need to say anything to either fans or people about where you are going forward and where this program is going forward?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Well, I got asked this question by -- I had our freshmen together yesterday and I always have our freshmen together this week for me to talk with them for a couple minutes, because I want them to understand how important they are in the program on the busiest day of the week, of the year. Busiest week of the year; that I would take the time to go talk to them.
So I said, "Any questions?"
And one of them said, "Coach, how do you handle the criticism" and whatever from all the different people.
I said, "Hey, when you're the head of a program, you're in something big, and things don't go well that, person is going to be criticized, and that's part of it."
But what people need to understand out there is I have as much information as I can to do the job that I'm doing and I'm going to try and do it with our players in mind and we're going to work hard and we're going to always stay positive and we're going to rise above it and that's the only thing that I can do.
I can continue to rise above it, or I can take another direction and starting to below that, and I'm not going to go in that direction. I'm going to keep working towards winning and handling our football team and that's what I do.
So I don't really worry about the things I cannot control. I can't control what you say or what you say or what you say. I can only go forward in the best fashion I can. The best fashion I can go forward is by being positive and take a positive direction in everything we're doing and continue to move ahead.
Q. You can control your future. Do you contemplate your future going forward during a season like this?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: No. I get ready for the next game. I live in the present.
Q. A couple quick things -- JD and Nick Samac -- do you have any plan at this point of where he's going to be long-term --
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: They are starting. That would be a pretty good indication they are playing. I thought JD played very, very well. I thought Nick Samac played very, very well. Both those guys are true freshmen, and we also started two freshmen wide receivers. They had a couple drops or bobbles but they played pretty well, as well.
To get better, you've got to play but they are talented guys. So we started four freshmen this past week out of necessity, but I do think that the two offensive lineman are good players and going to continue to play. We'll probably get some guys back here soon. Sooner than later.
Q. Also wanted to ask, with Michigan, I'm sure you've probably seen the whole scope of their season. What have you seen that's changed over recent weeks?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Turnovers. You know, cutting them down. I think that's a significant part of every football game. Playing well defensively. They had a couple games early in the season where probably they didn't play as well as they wanted to, but they have overcome that and they are playing full throttle right now. Be a challenge going down there. Good football team.
Q. Jim said yesterday they were on high alert for trick plays. Do you save anything extra for this game and how much prep work is done in the summer, and in light of that, with the game being this late in the season, how relevant is some of the stuff that you did maybe in the summer?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, you know, we spend time for every time that we play in the summer, trying to get some gist of where things are, but things tend to change relative to personnel or what they are doing. They are a little bit different this year maybe than they were last year on defense in terms of coverages and things of that nature and their blitz packages.
I think everything that you do is somewhat relevant, but then you have to take your information from the latest sources, too, because things change throughout the season. So I'm not sure if I'm answering the question as far as trick plays or not. Might be a couple but there always is this knees type of games.
Q. We know the terms "big brother" -- now people think it's more derogatory to say "little sister" in this rivalry. Do you tell players what things to avoid talking with the media this week knowing everything is going to be under a microscope?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I really haven't. I've chosen to try to be respectful towards the rivalry and take -- I sort of take the high road. I think our players have tried to do that, as well. I'm sure there's something going on always. But that's the nature of this game a little bit, too. Like I said earlier, you don't like confrontation, best stay at home. You need to get yourself ready for it. It's coming.
Q. I think Jim is the fourth head coach from Michigan that you've seen during your tenure here and I think he's been here now the longest. In your estimation, how has maybe their program changed since he got there in 2015 to today?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think he's done obviously a great job. He's won I think ten games numerous times. I think we are 2-2 against him right now. Our games have been close, relatively close. The one in 2016 were close -- the last one was relatively close until they hit that 80-yarder. He's done a great job. He's recruited extremely well.
Michigan has always had great players. I think they are doing a great job defensively, offensively and he's a good football coach. The guy is a Hall of Fame football coach, whether it's the NFL or whether it's in college so you can expect them to play well.
Q. Yesterday he called you a master motivator. Can you describe Coach Harbaugh and how he game plans?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Two words: Intense, and I would say intense. So I think he does a great job. I think he's truly committed to every single play on the football field. He's going to think outside the box. He's going to do different things. You have seen him in the past do things that create adjustments for you, and then you're going to have to adjust within that football game. Is extremely competitive, intense. But you know, I think most coaches are.
Q. I meant to ask you after the game the other day, you talked about Noah a little bit earlier. We saw him in space. What is the philosophy at linebacker especially with the middle?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: We want to take Antjuan, you put him in the middle there. We didn't really talk about him last week, but put him in the middle because of that position being so productive traditionally in our defense and so we wanted to put a guy in there with leadership qualities, not that Noah doesn't have them but he's on the field a lot for us and played a lot of football for us and then put Noah and allowed Jeslord Boateng to play, as well.
So those guys sort of split that position. Noah and put Antjuan back outside and then Tyriq can go inside and we can play chase client. We have a myriad of ways to present different linebacker situations in there as to who would be identified as the Mike linebacker.
Q. The rest of the year --
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, would he have got to be flexible. We've got to be flexible but we have to have productive players playing and I think that Mike has traditionally been a very productive player on our defense.
Q. You said you talked to your freshmen yesterday. Will you have an opportunity to do the same thing with your senior class? This seems like a group that's been around and had some impactful games and their last chance against Michigan.
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, we'll have that opportunity and also the opportunity to talk to our leadership counsel, which is made up of primarily the senior group. They will send me the message. I listen a little bit more to them.
Q. I guess coming off that game here, you mentioned earlier that there's going to be one that's probably going to stick with you. What points in particular were the ones that you maybe personally and as a coach felt most frustrated about?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: In the game itself?
Q. The game, the outcome, how it all transpired.
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Well, don't get me going, because there were quite a lot of opportunities. The game could have been put away early, so we made some mistakes and prevented that from happening. You've got to give Illinois credit. We wanted to make the quarterback beat us and he made some throws and No. 9 hooked up with some throws, but there were some technical things from a technique standpoint that needed to happen that didn't happen, whether it's collectively as a -- as a coverage or -- or as an individual.
So those things hinge on things. There were some calls I think from an officiating standpoint that were troubling to say the least. I'll just leave it like that. You still have opportunity at the very end with the goal line stand or even driving down the field, it's third and four, we don't make it, make the field goal.
Fourth and 17, defensive back is caught on the outside, as opposed to being on the inside with leveraged points, middle field safety needs to play over the top of that guy, he was told so. He moves to the middle of the field and center rolls, which he's a step away from making the play. There's a lot of different things like that, missed tackle on the 20. I could probably keep going for a half hour, but I try not to. Just distance myself there.
There's some things schematically and decision-making on coaching and I take responsibility for that. I should have said run it on the second and five from the eight, but again, I look at it and say, hey, we are staying aggressive, trying to score, and -- but went off a guy's shoulder pads. Makes the catch.
Q. You guys are not where you wanted to be, but how different would the trajectory of the season be moving forward with a win against Michigan?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Every game makes the year for us right now. Every game is significant. We have two games left guaranteed to us so every game is significant. This is one that again we need to measure up on and then we have got to let this one go. I've always tried to say, okay, what do we do after Michigan, what do we do after a tough moment, what do we do after a tough loss, how do we respond.
That's been a measuring stick as well for us, because that speaks to us about growth as individuals and talks to us about maturity as people. Long-term that's what athletics to show you, how to compete and how to move through processes, whether you win or lose.
After this football game, we need to recollect ourselves and go to the next one and then to the next one and so that's what we'll do.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports