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September 10, 2007

Mark Dantonio

COACH DANTONIO: First off, first of all, I thought it was a great team win for our football team. We handled a little bit of adversity there as we moved through the game. You saw them come out, move the ball a little bit, do some things like that.
I'm going to break it down, though, I think as far as how we played, I think we played with great effort throughout the entire game and we played with toughness, two things that we consistently try and get out of our football team. And I think we did know what to do, which helped us play fast. Those are the three messages I constantly try to talk to our team about, and we did those things.
Our special teams, with the exception of that high snap, our special teams play was outstanding. Punt team reached all its goals, our kickoff team, you saw Boleski getting it down in the end zone, almost blocked two punts. Our kickoff return team played very well, as well, and even our field goal block team I thought did some positive things, and that, as well.
Offensively I think we came up with some big plays from Devin Thomas in particular obviously, and one penalty the entire game on offense I think is another message that's being sent to our players that there is focus there, and I think that can only help us.
Played very physical at the point of attack. As I said all week, I thought Bowling Green was a pretty good defense. They played square, they ran well. They've got good concepts. I felt like they would play, they would come to play and not be intimidated, and I think that's what we saw early.
As the game pressed on, especially as it got into the second half of the fourth quarter, I thought a huge time period in the game was when the offense took the ball, our offense took the ball and had about a seven- or eight-minute drive at the end of the game, primarily on the ground but got it done in the air, as well.
Devin Thomas made outstanding plays, two huge plays, and then was also involved in many other plays offensively in terms of kickoff return and he even had a pass breakup on the offensive end of the field, too.
Defensively gave up two big plays, never found them behind us so I thought that was a positive. When you go out and try to throw the ball 65 times, there is going to be some things happen to you. We adjusted to the speed of the offense as the game continued on. Three turnovers, eight sacks, stopped the run. I guess we had one defensive penalty, as well.
So from that standpoint, you know, they played I felt pretty well, very well as the game wore on is, especially in the second half. Although in the first half they were nickel and diming us a little bit.
But we did have some adversity with the turnovers on offense, we did have some adversity with them moving the football a little bit, and we kept our composure. If we can continue to do those things, I think we're going to be successful.
But all in all, I thought that our guys handled their situation and handled themselves well and we'll try to try and get better in terms of what we have to do and move this forward.
As far as the Pitt game, Pitt is a Big East opponent. We are familiar with them in terms of we've played them the last two years as a coaching staff. I think Dave Wannstedt does an outstanding job there. They're a 2-and-0 team right now so it should be a pretty exciting weekend.
If I were to look at their team right now, the strength, I think their offensive line plays pretty well, their upper classmen. They've got a young tailback. They've got a quarterback filling in for an injured quarterback. Turner is an excellent wide receiver, Pestano is good, as well. Speed at tight end, defensively, they're young at linebacker, but they've got some guys coming back up front, and they're a well-coached football team. So it'll be another challenge for us.
With that I'll leave it you to you guys and we'll take it from there.

Q. Will you just talk about the state of the conference? Are you surprised at all in the way the outcomes of some of the conference games in the non-conference season have gone?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, I think college football as a whole you see surprises throughout, especially early in the year. You find out, you have a preseason poll, and then as everybody starts to play you start to figure out who's where. I try to focus on our task here and not look around too much other than if I'm taking a nap after the game.
But I think the conference is going to be balanced, it seems, and people will play their way to the top. We'll see.

Q. You mentioned the one penalty. You already have the fewest number of penalties in the Big Ten right now. How have you gotten that message to stick so early with this team?
COACH DANTONIO: We've focused on it. We have focused on it and talked about it even all the way back in the spring, and we've done some different things to try and continue to focus on it I guess is what we'd say.
But I think it's a commitment from our players. I think they understand what we want, and I've said it all along. If you're not coaching it, you're letting it happen. So we handle it. There's going to be consequences if we have penalties in practice. There's going to be consequences in the game if we have penalties. That's not to say it will not happen, but at least we're making a conscious effort to stop it from happening, and that's all I can ask for, do the best we can. And I'm sure there will come a day when we don't do so well, but right now our guys I think are taking a little bit of pride in that, which is a good thing. We're not beating ourselves there.

Q. Can you talk about Nemo's status for the next game?
COACH DANTONIO: No, he's day-to-day.

Q. What were your first impressions of Devin Thomas, his work ethic when you first got here, and can you talk about how he's developed so quickly into a big play guy for you?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, you always have a perception coming in. You ask around about your players to try and get of pulse of who they are. And then as you said earlier, I met with every single senior and sophomore prior to spring practice. We went through winter workouts, he worked hard there. I think spring practice there was a lot of implementing new things.
Where you really started to see him play well was in summer camp, and he's taken that from summer camp and really just built on that throughout the season thus far. He works extremely hard. If you really watched him throughout the entire game, he's on our kickoff team, he's on our punt return team at times. You know, he's a kickoff returner. He can run down on a punt if we wanted him to. He's not just a wide receiver, he's a complete football player right now.
Those are the things that we're trying to hit home to our players, that you can impact a game in other areas, that just because you're -- Javon Ringer almost blocks a punt. We've got good players playing on special teams, as well, and they're making a statement.
He's doing a great job, and he'll be judged at the end of the season, so let's not prop him up too much. But he's doing a great job.

Q. Has SirDarean Adams worked his way back into a starting spot on a somewhat permanent basis, or is it still week to week?
COACH DANTONIO: I think it's still week to week, too. Jon Misch does some things, and this past game SirDarean -- he'd been a defensive back before, so it fit his mode a little bit better. But as we get into playing this game, it might be that the other guy plays more, but that's up to them, that's not up to us. We'll play the guys who are getting the job done and who are best suited for it.
The nice thing, though, is we are able to roll our linebackers in there a little bit and keep everybody somewhat fresh, and that's been a positive thing. You see Greg Jones in there playing, you see Eric Gordon playing, and then Kaleb is taking most of the reps at Mike, but Rouse has come in and played a little bit for him, as well.

Q. When I watched that seven-minute drive again, it looked like Roland Martin did a good job, kind of saddled him. It looks like he's playing some of the best football he's played. Also, Pritchett at fullback, can you comment on those two guys, the role they had down the stretch?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, Devin, we sort of ran the fullback position by committee. You've seen Hawken have a pretty good first game. I think McPherson came in there and was solid the first game and then maybe played a little bit too much this last game. Hawken was a little backed up so we used Pritchett, he did a nice job, and I thought in talking with Coach Enos yesterday, really felt like he played well.
I think our entire offensive line -- they're getting on the right guys for the most part and they're playing physical, and I think Roland took a big step the other day. He did a nice job, as you mentioned.
We like where we're at in terms of how we're playing physical, we like where we're at in terms of our intensity. Now, it's not a perfect world, it won't always go right. They've got some times where they're going to have more people down in the box than we do or whatever, play selection or whatever, they just do a nice job defensively. But we're making plays. I thought Ringer ran the ball very well. He made some things out of nothing a number of times just with great cuts and great acceleration and power.

Q. What type of different look does Pitt's freshman running back give them compared to their starting tailback?
COACH DANTONIO: I think McCoy is a little bit more like probably -- you know, he's a little bit bigger guy. Howling is a little bit of a scat back, more that form. Most of them catch the ball pretty well, and there's been times where they've used both of them in the game at the same time, even this early, so I wouldn't be surprised to see some of that. But just a little bit different tempo, a little bit bigger. But in actuality he reminds me a lot of Ashton Leggett, the way Ashton runs for us. He's a good back, he's got some speed, and he's confident.

Q. Do you find any similarities in what you do offensively and what Pitt does offensively?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, there are some similarities. They want to run the football and establish the run. They want to go up top and get the big play. There are similar concepts there, very similar in a lot of respects. And then there are other things that we differ in. I can see that, yeah, a little more like us, which goes back to when you have to play so many different offenses as you move through the season, you know, it's good that we at least -- we have worked against power football, and that's what we want to try and do. We'll see if we can stop it.

Q. I know it's early in the season, but being 2 and 0, have you been able to look back on your film and relax a little bit about anything, or are you still kind of in that mode where you've got a real --
COACH DANTONIO: Relax (laughter)? I think it's important we stay grounded in terms of what we have to accomplish here and understand that the games are going to get more difficult as we move forward, and that's a part of it. When you play in this conference, it's a long year, and we've got to stay healthy.
But the fact that we went out and played two games as we've had -- you know, we're learning a little bit about ourselves, and that's what I think we want to find out, you know, who are we as people, not just as players but as people, how do we handle different situations, and we learn a little bit more about each other as we go. So we should get better in that respect.

Q. Do you see an identity in your team starting to emerge yet at all?
COACH DANTONIO: After two games? No, not yet. I mean, I don't know. I've never really thought of it like that. Hopefully what we'll be known for is that we play hard, that we compete, and that's the most important thing. If we'll just do that and not back away from a situation, you know, I'll be happy and we'll take what happens. I know there's going to be some -- this is a game of -- football is a crazy game. The ball is going to bounce and different things are going to happen, and they've got guys on scholarship, too. So we'll see how it all works out. But I like the way our guys are approaching things.

Q. Can you comment on the game plan that the coaching staff and Coach Narduzzi put together to contain them? Like you said, only two plays over 20 yards; the week before they had nine plays over 20 yards.
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, Coach Narduzzi and the staff did a great job. You know, he's played them before, which helped. I think one year they played them twice in '03. They played them during the season and the championship game, and they won both of those. We played them once at Ohio State, so they were at least -- there was at least a little bit of common ground there in terms of how to approach them.
We did a great job, we pressured them. We didn't get there early because he was throwing the ball on rhythm very well, but I think it started to take its toll in the second half. We'd cover him sometimes but it kept him off balance, what do you call it, and our guys tackled well down the field and we limited some throws, and even those it's frustrating at times, catching the flat there, I think we got the job done in that respect. So he did a great job, great adjustment at halftime.
This is what we are doing and we need to fix these things, so it was a little bit more going back and saying, okay, this is what we've done, this is where it's at, now we're going to stay the course with these things and sort of settle ourselves down a little bit.

Q. You know one of the common things is teams show their greatest improvement between week one and week two. Do you think your team showed a great deal of improvement?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, I guess you'd like to say that if we hadn't turned the ball over and not missed the field goal, you know, maybe you'd say those type of things. But I think we find out a little bit more about ourselves as we go, and this was -- that first game we were up 42-3, and we ended up playing a lot of different players. So this was a full game for us, and I think we found out -- we were tested. I think we were tested a little bit. I think B.J. did a nice job doing some other things and he got a couple of breaks along the way, if you know what I mean, so I like the way our guys responded. I think that's as big as anything, how are you going to respond when things get difficult.
I think if you continue to respond like that and you can make it through and be successful, then you start to have an identity of being able to do that, and that builds confidence in your team, and if we can do that, good things can follow.

Q. You addressed a little bit about staying grounded this week. Do you have to do any ego checking with this team this week?
COACH DANTONIO: I'll let you know. I don't think so. We pretty much are business at hand over there. But I think they've taken a mature outlook on things thus far because I think they've been there before. They've been 3 and 0 before, 2 and 0. They've started fast before. So I think the older players are sort of setting the tone in that area in terms of they've been through that, been there, done that. Let's see how we respond now.
As most people understand, things can become very critical very quickly.

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