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September 19, 2009

Mark Dantonio

COACH DANTONIO: Well, guys, that was a great football game, first of all. Went back and forth. Very proud of our football team coming back, continuing to play extremely hard. We came down here focused, a lot of energy. I don't want any of our players to hang their head.
I continue to say this over and over. This is a game of inches here. Whether it's a blocked extra point that later on all we have to do is kick a field goal with 30 seconds to go to win the football game from the 20 yard line or a missed interception they later go down and score, it's thrown up for grabs, like in the backyard, or an interception in the end of the game where we get pressure over the middle, getting the on-side kick and not doing anything with it, or getting the ball stripped out on the screen play for a fumble. We had plays. We left plays on the field. We can't do that against a good football team. Can't do that in an away game.
I was extremely proud of our football team. We go to Wisconsin next week. There's no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We can start the Big-10 play next week. We'll be excited to do that.
The main thing I think we have to learn from this is, again, it takes everybody. Everybody's accountable. But at the same time there's no one person to point the finger at. It's on all of us.
Again, I'm proud of our football team. Congratulations to Notre Dame. They played hard. I'm not taking anything away from anyone else. We'll push it forward.
I'll take questions.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH DANTONIO: I think he had eight catches for 121 yards. Played very well. Dropped the first one, then got back into rhythm. I thought Cousins played well with the exception of the last throw. Certainly played well. Keith Nichols came in in the second quarter, took us down for a touchdown, did some things very well as well.
Again, I think our quarterback play was very good. We can't turn the ball over at the end of the game, obviously. No one feels worse than Kirk. But that's the game, too. The game is played in a very tough situation sometimes, a lot of energy, a lot of pressure, a lot of things going on out there.
I thought our quarterbacks played well. I thought our young players played well. Capers played well. Did some nice things.

Q. Talk about how Notre Dame's offensive dynamic changes with Floyd out.
COACH DANTONIO: I guess he went out. I'm not sure what his injury was. They kept us off balance throwing the football, empty sets. We were down 13-3. We bounced back. Floyd is obviously a very good football player. I thought that Armando Allen played very well. Quarterback played very well. Got some big plays from Golden Tate. You can see the experience on this football team. They have 10 starters back on offense and you can see that work. But I thought they protected the quarterback pretty well, as well.

Q. Can you talk about that last play. What did you see on the last play, the interception? Did you get any chance to talk to Kirk after the game?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, got pressure. Not sure where the pressure came from. Forced him out of the pocket. You try to make a play throwing late over the middle, it's a little bit blind, you don't really know when it's happening. I think it was a second-down play. Probably just needs to ditch the ball. Line up and kick the ball if we can. Go to overtime if that's what we have to do.
Again, I guess I want to point at the other things. Great play by Notre Dame blocking the extra point. Probably the play of the game when you really look at it. If everything else unfolds as is, we're kicking a field goal to win it. We're not getting down the field without Kirk Cousins. He did an outstanding job. No one feels worse than he does about this. He will rise again. He will rise up.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH DANTONIO: Two good quarterbacks. Both guys have a lot of experience. I thought both guys played pretty well against us, kept us off balance. That's the thing that I felt that their offense did, sort of kept us off balance. Went to wildcat stuff. Allen did a pretty good job with it, hit the touchdown pass.
I thought Clausen threw the ball effectively. You know, could see that he was physically hurt a little bit. He kept playing, played through it, so he showed some toughness there. I thought he made some pretty good decisions. Other than the one deep route that should have been picked, he made good decisions. Ball was on the money, he played pretty well.

Q. Did you get a good look at the one where he overshot Caper?
COACH DANTONIO: The one that went through Rucker's hands, yes, back of the end zone, you're right. Not sure how close that one was because I was on the opposite sideline. You got to come up with the play. There's no secret there. You got a lot of people in this room. You got a lot of media exposure. But you got to come up with the play.
Again, I go back to what I said to our football team. I'm extremely proud of our guys because we came to play after a tough loss last week and we came together to play. We had that energy and we have to have it next week, as well. It has to be a consistent thing.

Q. You haven't got to see the film, but two weeks in a row the defensive backs have struggled. Is this something you can coach out of?
COACH DANTONIO: We're playing them all. We've got to keep coaching them. A guy has to make a play on the deep ball. That's what has to happen. We can't blow a coverage. Did some things in the flat, just bubbles and things of that nature.
Tough to answer that question without seeing it on film. There will be a lot of talk, a lot of instruction. Again, it's disappointing. Pressure, you got to get there, play coverage if you don't. We had our opportunities. Defensively as well.
Got to make plays. But, again, the energy level was there. The intent was there. The toughness was there. You got to make the play.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH DANTONIO: Got the lead, keep playing, finish, finish. I thought we came out second half ready to go. This is all a little bit of a blur to me. Did they go down and score? I'm not sure. I think they did. Yeah, they did very quickly. So must not have said anything good, okay?
But, you know, we responded. We came back. That's how I evaluate our players. Can you bounce back? There's going to be a winner, a loser in this game, but can you bounce back? Those are life lessons. We're teaching life lessons here, too. Nobody wants to hear that when you lose a football game. But can you bring it back? Can you get your momentum back? Can you reestablish a lead? Can you drive it down the field the last two minutes of a game? Can you stop and get the ball back? Can you do the things that you have to do from a mental standpoint to be successful? And we'll continue to work on that.
But we'll continue to grow with these things, too. We have players in positions of leadership that are relatively young, such as quarterback. So there's a growing. We have to grow as well, too. As I said before, I'm very proud of 'em.
Thank you very much.

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