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November 11, 2008

Mark Dantonio

COACH DANTONIO: Just to wrap up Purdue University, this last Saturday, I thought obviously very emotional game for us, our seniors came out and played very, very well. We had our seniors' parents; thought that was a positive and created more emotion than normal.
Defense played very, very well throughout the entire game, came up with the score at the end of the first half, and you know, takes us to 9-2.
Offensively, probably took some points off the board there the first half, but I thought we played well enough to win the football game.
We are banged up, especially on the offensive side of the ball, we had some guys going in and out on the offensive line, as well as the receiver position. Special teams were solid. And our mind-set again was to basically stay in the moment.
So regardless of what was going to happen, we were going to continue to play the football game and get out of there with 9-2, which is what we did, and extremely excited about that.
In reference to where we are at right now, you know, we have this week off and gives our players a chance to focus on things academically. It's been 11 weeks since we have had any time, at all, other than Mondays, which is the day we give our players off. They are very, very extremely busy, so gives them a chance to focus academically. Gives us a chance to heal up. Our guys are running and lifting twice this week and practicing on set on Thursday, actually and Sunday, late.
And then we will get ready for Penn State, and I think Penn State game provides us with a great opportunity, and I've probably been saying that for the last four or five weeks; that you know, as we continue to win, the stakes get a little higher.
The opportunities get greater and that's what's happened to us, so we'll have an opportunity to play for a Championship Game, at least a share -- at the very least, a share of the championship on the following Saturday, so with that I'll just take some questions.

Q. Your reaction to the Iowa game?
COACH DANTONIO: My first reaction was: Iowa won.
I've been saying all along, every football coach that I hear talk about their football teams talks about how on any given Saturday, you know, they can win or be beaten, and I think there's a lot of parity in college football, you see it.
So it's not surprising; it's very difficult to win in an away environment. But credit Iowa, because Iowa withdrew some adversity and credit them for continuing now to play well.
In regards to Penn State, they will bounce back. They have an outstanding program and great leadership. So how it reflects on us, we just have to take care of our business. There are no guarantees on our end, so we just have to focus on who we are and what we have been able to do and try to continue to move forward.

Q. Piggybacking off of that question, a lot of us media members talk about the Rose Bowl and what that game meant; obviously there's the goal of Michigan State's but did you all -- was there a little bit of disappointment knowing that you don't control your own destiny, so to speak, for Rose Bowl?
COACH DANTONIO: I was telling everybody at our house, no, we want Penn State to win.
But you know, I went and got another sandwich. So we just -- you deal with what you can control. I've finally learned how to maybe do that as a person. I think the older you get, maybe you get a little bit wiser in that area, and so what we can control is who we play against, and that's about it.
So in regards to the Rose Bowl, that's our ultimate goal, and if we win next week, we move one step closer to getting there, however you want to look at it, whether it's a year from now or two years from now or three years from now, you can point back and say, we had an opportunity here.
So those are the things we have to focus on I think.

Q. A lot of people are saying this bye week could not have come at a better time; a lot of guys are beat up, but mentally, do you need the bye week?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I do think our coaches need a bye week, as well. It comes as -- initially, I didn't think this was the greatest time to have a bye week. But now, the way our season has played out, I think it's probably the best time in terms of first of all, with our players, we are nicked up, banged up, a lot of our players would make the game, almost all of them would if we played this Saturday.
But you know, we are going to be a healthier football team with a week's rest. I think for a football coach, you spend so much time day-in and day-out, we have not had a day off -- I take it back. We had one day off since August 4, and so we had a day off on Sunday, so I think that that helps you a little bit.
We have to sort of reformulate where we are at in terms of recruiting, do some different things outside of just this season, look at some different aspects of our program, so we have been able to do that as well.

Q. Some guys like Otis said we are preparing for the biggest game of our lives. How do you guys want your guys to handle things mentally? Do you want them thinking much about football? Could you just talk about that?
COACH DANTONIO: No, I think what we try to do is just say, hey, you're off, we'll get you back into football Wednesday in terms of going back and looking at certain aspects of the Purdue game or watching the entire Purdue game as a unit or as a position group.
Get them back into football tomorrow, practice on Thursday, start thinking about Penn State on Thursday. But it's a big football game, like Otis said, but to me, it's the excitement that that game will bring for them, long term, when they look back at it. It's what they have been able to accomplish long-term when you look back at it, what they have been able to do in a year's time since last February when they started this journey, this year.
Those are the exciting things, and I want our football team to have fun with this, to be fresh, and you know, I used to work with a guy who used to always say, better fresh than ready. So we'll find out if that holds true.
I want them to be excited and have fun with it. There's enough pressure in this game to undo certain teams. I don't want them to feel the pressure. We are going to go over and play with great effort and toughness, and we're going to see what happens.

Q. There's already a lot of talk about how Michigan State cannot win this game, and they are already giving Bowl projections on who is going to play in the BCS; do you want your players to hear that? Do you want them to shut it out or something you just don't pay attention to?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, I'm sure they hear it. I mean, I hear it. So I think you have to use that a little bit as a way to help you focus a little bit more. But I think that we've all seen now, if the game were, you know -- there's a reason we play these games, and all of the predictions and those type of things. Probably what I should do is go in and read the preseason magazine to our players and see where that's had us.
So there's a reason you play. There's a lot of parity. We have players, our players will play with confidence, and we won last year and played very well; the year before that, the 2006 at the tail end, played very well over there, had a chance to win it.
So I'm sure we won't lack for confidence. So we'll go from there.

Q. What have the last few days been like, you were at the basketball game and got to be human, got to be at that sort of thing; have you had time to reflect on what you've been able to do in the last two years these last few days?
COACH DANTONIO: No, you know, with our family, you sit and you talk about the year and it's been a great year. I guess haven't had a lot of time to reflect.
But you start comparing it to other years that you've had where you've been successful, and you know, those are the things that -- that's why you coach. You coach for the players' relationships and that type of thing, but you also coach to be successful.
But in answer to your question, at least I don't know if we've really had that much time to sit back and reflect on what's happened thus far and really, as I continue to say throughout the season, whether we've won or we've lost, I think the evaluation of this football season comes after; and we are a work-in-progress and we'll evaluate where we are at the end of this whole process, which will be after the Bowl game. And I think that's the time that we'll sit and reflect and look back at this year, because a Bowl game provides you with so many different experiences, that you'll remember for a long, long time, as well.

Q. In the life theory that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, do you think the pain of last year, as you look back, even the gut-wrenching Michigan loss, has helped put this team in the position where they are now to play for a championship?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I definitely do. I think that without great adversity, there can be no great success. I really believe that. It helps you become stronger. It helps you see things more clear when you have problems. There's no easy road to the top in regards to what your chosen profession; and I think when you struggle a little bit, it makes you stronger.
You are able to have a little clear direction maybe and I remember sitting in here talking, maybe it was after the Ohio State game saying when you have a passion for what you're doing, you may get knocked off course, but you'll find your way back on to that, and I think our football team has done that. Last year's seniors, gave us great leadership in tough times, and where they could have folded at times, they never allowed that to happen.
Our seniors, then current juniors, were part of that leadership and they have done an outstanding job in that area as well, just continuing to push through. It's not always easy, if you don't have success out there, this is a media -- high-profile media-type place, and so I'm sure they hear things positive and negative about themselves.
So it's tough sometimes, but they have been able to push through it, and I think that last year has made them stronger, and the focus on finishing has definitely helped us as well.
The margin of error is so great, or so small, the difference in -- I've said it all the time, the difference between success is the inches, not the miles, that separate us. It's the inches that separate us.
Thanks a lot, and it's a good week.

End of FastScripts

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