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September 17, 2011

Mark Dantonio


MARK DANTONIO: To begin with, I thought to come down to Notre Dame and play well we had to do a number of things: We had to travel as a team. I thought we did well in that area.
And we had to come down here with the belief. That belief remains intact and that will carry us through this football season. We also had to make plays that we had to defend. Those are things we had to do if we were going to be able to win. We had to sort of silence the crowd a little bit, we felt.
But defend, that means protecting the quarterback. That means playing on kickoff. Playing well on kickoff doesn't mean just playing on the defensive side of the ball, it means we've got to play well on special teams.
The one big kickoff return in the first half obviously was a huge play for us. I thought the guy got ambushed, sort of pinballed into another guy. And they were off to the races.
But obviously that was a huge play in the football game. We felt we needed to have one special teams play that would be explosive to help us win the football game and they got that play rather than us.
When you look at us collectively, we've got to establish a running game and be more balanced, I think, as an offense.
Defensively played very well the second half. Came up with some turnovers, two turnovers, actually. The third one was on a special teams play. But came up with some turnovers in the first half. But offensively we've got to do something with those turnovers as opposed to getting three points.
That hurt us there and we had field position a number of other times I felt around the 50 where we need to convert on those things and have more opportunities to score points.
Field goal at the end of the half, my call, didn't work. Three points. But I don't think that's why we lost the game. But I'll take the blame for that.
But our guys will continue to push. And that's the beautiful thing about being in conference, I guess, is that our conference still remains intact. All of our goals remain intact. We'll get ready to play Central Michigan next week and we'll look forward to that.
Congratulate Notre Dame on their win. I thought they played very well, especially on the defensive side of the ball. And I thought they ran the football in the first half, which I think was the key to some of their success in the first half. So I'll take some questions.

Q. Coach, first of all, could you tell what happened on that field goal attempt?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, they got some push right there on the wing side and they got penetration right there. So it knocked the tight end back, the guard back, and because of that it didn't go. He could not get around. Had he gotten around, looked like he would have walked in. But he didn't get around. End of story.

Q. You were very effective on the 8- to 10-yard passes down the field. What was the problem throwing the longer passes?
MARK DANTONIO: I thought they did a nice job defending down the field. They were in two-man stuff early in the game, played some cover two on the trick play, brought the corner one time and fell into that and sacked our quarterback.
But two things I think enter into that. One is we have to have protection to be able to throw the ball down the field. And then the second thing is the way the game played out in the fourth quarter, they weren't going to allow us to throw the ball deep down into the field. But I thought they played the ball well in the deep part of the field.
Cunningham comes up with I think 12 catches, one big one down the field. Other than that, he had a couple knocked off him. Would have been great catches. They were great plays by the defenders. Give credit to Notre Dame in those areas and congratulate them on some of these things as well.

Q. How big a concern is your offensive line right now? Burkland going down, can you give us an update on that? Is that a potentially season ending thing?
MARK DANTONIO: We'll find out more about Skyler tomorrow and be able to release exactly what's going on with him. But obviously our offensive line is a bit of a concern because we're relatively young there.
But I thought Fonoti came in and played pretty well. We can't have the penalties that sort of occurred in the fourth quarter. We can't have those things happening for us. And we've got to get a push and run the football.
But whether it's the offensive line or whether it's the tight ends or whether it's the full back, all these things enter into running the football. The same with pass protection. It's a running back potentially that has the problem with pass protection or it's a tight end, or it's a route problem or it's a coverage or whatever. Or it could be the quarterback.
So it all plays together. And there's no one group of people that's saying, okay, they can't run the ball so it's the offensive line. That's not really how it works in the real world.

Q. Mark, it's a little bit of a follow-up on Joe's question, but would it be primarily youth on the offensive line that you blame for not being able to run the ball? That's been such a problem here against good teams.
MARK DANTONIO: That remains to be seen until we see the film, probably, and see exactly what the problem was. But we had two inexperienced tackles. They're athletic, but they're young. And we said coming into this football game they're going to be young until they start playing more.
And when they start playing more, they're going to get better and there's a big curve. If you're playing with the senior there and you have a problem, I think that's more of a concern than if you're playing with a sophomore or freshman or junior college player because you know those guys are going to get better. They're talented athletes. And so I'm not concerned about it.
What I am concerned about is that we stay together as a football team; that we weather a storm. I think that's what you have to do when tough things come down the pipe at you. That's where we're at.
We'll weather the storm. Our guys are disappointed, obviously. Very disappointed. But sometimes these things happen. We have to pull together. We have to move to the next challenge.

Q. You talked about penalties, but up front a couple of them came from an experienced guy like Foreman, does anything surprise you about the discipline from your team today?
MARK DANTONIO: No. You know, we're in a two-minute situation, running a lot of plays, two-minute situation from the one-yard line. So we have to go 99 yards. And we're down on the field they're getting tired. Defensive line, they're rolling people in there on you. That's part of the factor of going two minutes -- really, for the last ten minutes of the game we went two minutes in that situation.
So they're going to get tired, but we have to shore up the areas where there was a problem. And obviously you're concerned about penalties or lack thereof on the other side. But you deal with it.

Q. Last year you saw Dayne Crist run this offense for the Irish. What did Tommy Rees bring this year that you noticed from last year?
MARK DANTONIO: I think Dayne Crist did a great job last year as well. I think both those quarterbacks can function very effectively in this offense. You've seen them both function very effectively.
Sometimes guys make a mistake and you gotta -- they're certainly more qualified to answer who should be playing quarterback than I am. But I think both those guys are good football players and both those guys have the ability to function well and lead from what I've seen and win football games.

Q. What happened on the kickoff return?
MARK DANTONIO: What happened on the kickoff was -- it's not an illegal block but a guy coming to ambush a guy. So he's coming from the far sideline and coming to hit a guy, hit him in the front. He pinballed him into our contain guy. So they took two-for-one right there. I think our safety got caught up in the flow a little bit. So our safety, there was a safety on the kickoff, wasn't able to fold over.
They got Isaiah. Sort of sealed him off a little bit. When they knocked down the two guys with one guy they were sort of off and running. They made a nice cut and got the edge.

Q. Earlier in the week you talked about attention to detail and how important the little things are going to be in this game. And it seemed to play out. Is that something that you'll look to clean up?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, you always look to clean those things up. But I also think this is a game of football. We can have a great play called and execute it to that level almost nearly perfect. But if a guy gets a hand in there or they do a good job because they have the defense, the correct defense called or they do a great job executing their defense, then things are going to happen.
And, again, credit Notre Dame in terms of what they were able to do. I thought they played hard. And they made plays. They made plays on the ball down the field as a secondary, I thought. They got a push out of their defensive front. Cousins was on his back a lot after throwing the ball.
So they were applying some pressure and that takes an effect on a guy. If you hit the quarterback 20 times in the game, I'm not sure how many times he got hit, but that can take an effect on somebody. So those things happen.
If you look at why it is what it is, I guess, you look at we have three turnovers. We're down inside the 10 twice and we come away with nothing on those. One of them is mine. Another one is an interception. And, you know, so those things are happening. We have to obviously omit those, clear those up.

Q. (Off microphone)?
MARK DANTONIO: I thought we lost the edge a couple times. Lost leverage, leverage would be if an outside position player needs to be outside and not caught inside. But we knew what they were doing. I felt like always when you're functioning against an offense like this, it's a no huddle, spreads you out type attack. It takes a little bit time to adjust to that as the game continues on.
So an adjustment to it, you know that first series we have a chance to get off the field a couple times. I can't really remember. But it's how the offense is coming, and how rapidly it's coming at you. You have to get used to that. Played much better in the second half. But, again, we have an opportunity to shut them out really I feel in the second half. And they make a couple of plays and then they throw the fade.
So make a couple of plays, there's a couple of calls, whatever. There's always going to be plays that you wish would have gone our way or something like that. But, again, you just have to deal with what really happened, look at what really happened, beyond looking at this -- because you don't really know. I'm on the sideline. You guys are in the box. But find out what really happened and then clear those things up.
And I think if we do those things, we're going to have a good football team. We've got guys who can make plays.

Q. On the third and one, when Cousins went long, can you explain your decision process for that?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, our MO thus far on third and one has always been run it. And we felt like the tight end on the corner route was there, and it was there. He went to the post on it. But, again, he did not have time, I don't feel, to look. But the tight end was open on it. And we're trying to get in the game make big plays. On third and one, so we took a shot. Calculated risk, I guess, to some extent but took a shot and it didn't work.
Sometimes it's there. Could have converted it. It would have been a great call. I challenge our coaches to be playmakers as well and try to make plays and that's what we're trying to do as a coach.

Q. The fact that they were 0-2 coming in, did you sense that Notre Dame played with any special desperation?
MARK DANTONIO: Oh, I don't think desperation -- desperation is not a good word for it. I think they played confident. I think they played enthusiastic, energized. They played hard. And some bad things happened for them, too. We just couldn't convert.
So it's the way the game's played. And credit them and what they were able to do. Credit their defense, when they had sudden changes going in and making a play and stopping, whatever, so those things are going to happen. But I don't feel like they were -- they played two good football games where they had every opportunity to win that football game. Turnovers hurt them in those games.

Q. On the fake field goal, can you give us the design of that play how it was supposed to work?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, the way it was supposed to work was supposed to be solid on the right side and not get any penetration, shovel pass back to (indiscernible) and we were going to fold it on the backside, outblock the wing. Outblock the tight end, pulled the wing up through, because they stepped outside on it and allow him to go get the safety. Probably should have done it from the 20- or 30-yard line. But now I'm telling our secrets, so...not a secret anymore.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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