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September 22, 2007

Mark Dantonio

COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: Outstanding job by our football team today. We talked about it all week long about how this really started for us last year at this time when Notre Dame came to our stadium and had a great comeback and won.
I think our guys have been suffering ever since then. We talked about it a lot. We've spent a year dealing with this, and our guys have been mocked, and our guys have been made fun of, and we lost coaches; there was a coaching change, and a lot of things happened.
So we internalized this and turned it to our favor today, and we came in here prepared to play and we were very, very emotional. We knew we had to weather the storm, and we knew we had to weather the storm early. We knew it would be an emotional time down here and we talked about it all week that we would have to weather the storm and push through that storm and our guys did that.
We fumble in the first series, came back down and scored. Can't say enough about our players, how they responded; the way they prepared; the way they handled the ups and downs of the game, which is what we talked about. We continued to keep our focus.
I thought that we were able to run the ball, and that when we did throw it, we had some success. We played great defense. Deke (ph) had another great game, not sure what we actually did defensively, but I know we kept them out of the end zone the second half. And give Notre Dame credit; they came to play as well.
We are very, very happy, and I can't tell you how proud I am of our football team. It's special. It's a special time in that locker room right now.
So, that's where I'm at.

Q. How talk about the third and 17 play, they hit for 19 yards, how big that was?
COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: We had a lot of big plays and Thomas keeps coming through. He had a good catch, good protection and Brian put it on the money. Big play, like I said, we had two of them, we had a two and 11 for a screen play, and two times in the game where it was critical that we continued to drive through and get that and we were able to do that.

Q. Can you share your impressions of Notre Dame's quarterback, Jimmy Clausen? And also the pressure, they struggled with sacks this year and you're leading the nation in that. Can you talk about that matchup a little bit?
COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: From my perspective Jimmy is an outstanding quarterback. I think what people fail to realize is he's a freshman, a true freshman and there's a huge learning curve when you're a freshman playing at this level. When you continue to play, as he continues in the fifth game, sixth game, the seventh game, there's a huge learning curve and you will find a guy that's going to go from here to there to there to there. He's not like a guy that's been here a long time. He'll be successful here. Notre Dame is a great environment to play in and they have outstanding players.

Q. Did you expect them to roll out as much as he did?
COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: We felt like some other people had some success against us in spreading out a little bit, so we expected they would do that. I thought we contained him somewhat, but he was successful on a couple of those throws.

Q. Were you expecting Notre Dame to come out and try to establish the running game as much as they did, and your thoughts on Aldridge?
COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: I did expect them to come out and do that because they have gone back to basics, and "basics" means you're going to try to run the football and establish who you are from the toughest point of view. And I thought they did a good job of doing that. They did run the football. They creased us a couple of times; they did a nice job. They had some different things that they did and took advantage of it, and you know, made some plays, so that's a good job by them. We will always adjust. We always seemed to be able to adjust and come back and stop the next couple of something. So we sort of always kept ourselves in front. We won the chain battle, I guess is what you would say, down/distance battle.

Q. The offense didn't seem to come out with authority in the second half, can you just tell us what you said at half-time?
COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: Well, our plan all along was no quarter. Our plan all along was to go after things and take it, not wait for people to make a mistake. Devon sets us up with a great kickoff return, and I can't remember the sequence of things, but we go down and we score. We got a chance to put it on them at the end there. We did miss the field goal but we had an opportunity on fourth and 1, another huge play.
You know, I can't keep the secrets all straight in my mind right now. I just know that it feels very good to come away with a lot of things going on in our mine; it was a road game, our first road game. We felt like it was a statement game. We felt like we had to make a statement for this program because of all of the things had a happened in the past year, so all of those things played a part into it.
We needed to keep our focus and discipline and be mature and we have been able to do that.

Q. How important was it for Brian not only to throw four touchdowns but to make the throws?
COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: Well, you've got to have great play from your quarterback. You've got to have great receiving on the other end of it, and I thought they did. You know, the catchable balls we caught, I don't think we had many drops, maybe one or two. But we got the protection we needed, so it's all involved.
But Brian is an excellent quarterback. You know, he's got vision, he's got a good presence in the huddle, and he makes good decisions at the line. He ran the clock very effectively and take us down to about one second, panics me all the time, but you know, got it done.

Q. Will you speak more specifically about your defense? Some three-and-outs early in the game when it looked like Notre Dame tried to get momentum; and in the third quarter, setting a tone, as well?
COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: First of all we had a great scheme. Our scheme is built around pressure, so we pressure a lot. You know, our guys are active right now. They are excited about it. Coach Narduzzi is a very emotional defensive coordinator and he does an outstanding job with preparation, as do all of the other assistants there, and our guys play.
The name of the game is tackling and space, and we missed a couple of tackles and we'll continue to work at that. We had two DBs out and we'll play other guys and have experience in that area. We have a lot of different linebackers and play different defensive linemen, so we are building the program and using a lot of players and they are staying fresh and you can see that on the field.

Q. Is that the best (indiscernible) particularly with Shane and Martin out for this game?
COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: I'm not sure of the statistics but I know we moved the ball. In tough times people are going to run it and we moved the football. I don't know statistically, but you've got two starting offensive linemen out and they came back and played very well, which is a huge boost, Mike Bacon came in and did an outstanding job at left guard and just kept playing.
It's amazing what you get done, it's amazing what you can get done; when you're emotional about it and you're passionate about it, and that's where we were at. We need to recapture that passion next week and every single week, but this was a big one for us.

Q. Defensively, what were the adjustments you made from the first half to the second half?
COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: Well, we basically settled our players down at half-time and let them know a little bit of what we were doing a little bit, and then did certain things. We had quite a variety of different things that we can go to.
I think it comes down again to blocking and tackling. We're not going to sit here and say we conjured up something new defensively. We talked about what we had to get done. We were ahead 17-14 at the half, very close game, we came out, scored immediately, made it 24-14 and our players took over from there defensively.

Q. A little smile came to your face when you saw Hoyer cover the fumble and get it off to Davis there. Just talk about that and handling adversity.
COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: That wasn't a recovered fumble, that was a trick play. That was a fake fumble. He waved the ball a little bit at the ground there. (Laughter) that's the big play. That's a called play. That is a called play. So it was an outstanding job selling it, and, you know, we've had that, we've practiced that thing since the spring. And every time, every time it gets us.

Q. Can you comment on the Big 10 race now? You've played four games, won them all and now you've got a team that has not lost a game yet.
COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: We're 0-0 in the Big 10, that's all I can tell you. And like we talked about to our players, whatever happened down here, if we played as hard as we could, and did the best we could and brought it emotionally, I was going to handle that; we would all handle that.
But whether we won or lost, we were going to be 3-1. And I could tell you something, too, guys. I don't know who said it but there is a big difference between winning and losing. And there is no lose-lose in this game.

Q. Is this the first week you had T.J. Williams working at cornerback and can you talk about him?
COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: Yeah, we worked him at corner today and worked him at corner this week. I felt like we needed an athlete to go up and play the ball, he's got a lot of skills in those areas, and worked him in the corner and he did a nice job. We lost Weaver and Davis and Warrick; we had three starting defensive backs out. Kendell and Nehemiah made it back for the game, they practiced Wednesday and Thursday but they were a little bit hobbled but made it back so we worked T.J. in there, and he did a nice job. He's a very good athlete and you know, like I said, he was willing to do whatever and a lot of our guys are willing to do whatever.

Q. Only three penalties, talk about that?
COACH MARK D'ANTONIO: Well we wanted to reemphasize the penalties. We had Carlton holding and a delay I think, and jumped off the side one time. So I did another great job at that and we just keep focusing at that and kept talking about it, you know, in between series, every time I step up to that huddle.
Our guys were good. They came to play. I'm so happy for those guys over there. I can't tell you how emotional they are.

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