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October 1, 2011

Luke Fickell


COACH FICKELL: Won't open up with a whole lot other than to give a lot of credit to Michigan State. They came in here and outplayed us. And we knew it was going to be a physical football game. And we just didn't get it done. Questions?

Q. With the exception of the last drive, I know you probably haven't seen it that bad offensively, as a player or as a coach here, to hold a ranked team to 10 points and not get anything out of it, where do you go from here offensively?
COACH FICKELL: We're going to look at it as a whole team. Both sides of the ball we have some things to shore up. But we're going to take a hard look at it, both the quarterback situations and how you run the football. There's a lot of things we've got to do that doesn't put us in a good situation at times but we know we've got to be better.
I think it starts really with the penalties. I think we can't put ourselves in that negative situation to put us behind the count.

Q. Does it open it up to more quarterback candidates, though?
COACH FICKELL: We're going to have to continue to battle. And we're going to see who can compete and maybe those guys will get a shot here tomorrow. But it's hard to jump to conclusions just yet. We've got to see the whole picture and try and figure out as we move forward what's best for this program and what's best for that offense.

Q. Obviously a lot of things going wrong offensively, offensive line had some issues as well, you made the change at quarterback. What were the struggles Braxton was having where you didn't feel you could go on with him, and then Joe had some issues until the very end. Just address and how it all went down.
COACH FICKELL: Things were happening fast for them. They're going to get on you. Get after you. And they did a great job of it. I think maybe he didn't see the field real well. We thought we're going to have to throw the football as many people as they're putting in there and as much heat as they're bringing.
So we thought our best option was to go with a guy that probably could see the field a little bit better and maybe throw the football a little bit better in some of the formations or spreads that we needed to get into.

Q. I think it was nine sacks you guys gave up. What was the feedback you were getting from your offensive line and stuff? Some guys were coming free right up the gut, and what was the general feedback you were getting from your guys up front?
COACH FICKELL: Obviously they didn't do a great job. I mean, they were bringing -- sometimes they were bringing more guys than you could block. There's a lot of those things you've got to check out of and sometimes that's what we're talking about being able to see the field, whether it's from the center spot or from the quarterback spot.
We just gotta do a better job. That's ultimately what it comes down to. You don't give your quarterback much of a chance if he's getting sacked nine times. But that goes all around. If you can't run the football really well, then you put your quarterback in a situation that he is a sitting guy back there. Gotta give them credit. They did a really good job at it.

Q. You talked about maybe opening up the quarterback situation a little this week. When you try to pick a guy for next week, do you look at the guy who is going to help you win next week, or the guy who is going to help you win maybe three weeks from now, four weeks from now, a year from now?
COACH FICKELL: We make every decision for what's best for this program. And it's not on a week-to-week basis. We really believe we have to evaluate how we move forward what's best for the program. There's no short term. We can't take it like that as coaches. We can't think like that as players. We've got to make sure we're moving forward and what we think is going to be best for this team and this program throughout the rest of this year.

Q. You obviously know Mark Dantonio very well and the way he thinks. Did he do anything to surprise you in terms of the strategy, the quarterback, the run and that kind of stuff?
COACH FICKELL: I don't know. I don't know that they did a lot to surprise us offensively. They did a good job with what they did. Defensively you knew they were going to bring pressure.
The thing is once the flow of the game gets going and their pressure's working, I don't think they're going to stop. And that's probably the one thing that as you look back at it, we probably didn't do a great job of getting adjusted. But when you can't run the football and you don't run the football very good, you know, it really puts you in a bind that they can gang up on you and do the things they're going to do.

Q. What was it about the offensive game plan coming in that you thought would allow it to be successful? Was it, you talked about running the ball, did you think you would be able to come out behind the offensive line and run the ball?
COACH FICKELL: I think we have to go into every game thinking we can run the football. That's where the game is won. It's won up front on both sides of the ball, offensive and defensive line. Especially in Big Ten play, especially with two teams like this. And ultimately that's what we thought we had to be able to do at times, but we also knew they were going to bring enough pressure. We had to be able to spread it out and take some shots and hit some of those shots and that's what we didn't do, and that's what they did do.

Q. With some of the veterans you do have on the offensive line, playing some other young guys, were you surprised the offensive line wasn't able to get it done that way?
COACH FICKELL: I'll hold judgment until I watch to see what really happened. But you wish you would have gotten a lot better. Now is it the line? Is it the backs? Is it the situation we're not putting them in the right situation, too?
Like I said, at times they're bringing in more guys than you can block. So sometimes that falls on the quarterback's shoulders to get the ball out. So it's a whole group effort, and we just gotta figure out how we get it better.

Q. I want to ask, do you have a feeling about predictability? It just seemed that, I don't know, maybe 15 first downs in the first half, you guys ran the ball like 13 times. Even on first and 15 you're running the football. Did that lend to Michigan State their ability to stop you and put you behind? You had third and long throughout the first half and just -- and Braxton just didn't seem to be in a comfortable situation. Was there a trust factor there with him to be able to throw it on first down, or what were you thinking, I guess?
COACH FICKELL: You were out there and the conditions were probably not the best. I know they did a good job at throwing the football. But, you know, with a young guy and the conditions probably weren't the best starting off thinking we were going to wing it around a little bit. And I think that's what hurt us the most, is when you rely on doing some things and it doesn't get done and you put yourself a little bit behind the eight ball.
Maybe don't give yourself the chances that you'd like to. So we're not going to point fingers and say the game plan this, that or the other thing. We just didn't do a good job executing. We know we've got to be balanced whether that's on first down, second down, in the personnel grouping or running or throwing. We've got a lot of areas both sides of the football we can get better.

Q. What are your realistic expectations of when the guys come back next week, the suspended guys, what --
COACH FICKELL: We're just going to try and focus on how to get better right now with what happened today. We're going to go and evaluate. We'll move forward with that.
And with those guys, we'll wait for Monday or Sunday when we're back in there and hold judgment and I don't have a real plan just yet.

Q. Your conference play isn't going to get any easier the rest of the season. What are you guys going to have to do going forward and improving on next week's game?
COACH FICKELL: We knew it wasn't going to be easy. It's part of the game. And we knew today wasn't going to be easy. And we've talked about it from the get-go that we're going to have to get better each and every week. And if we don't things won't be well.
But I got confidence in these guys that they've got a heart that's huge, and their guts hurt right now. They feel every bit as bad, believe me, as everybody, like me, and we'll get better and continue to get better and that's how we'll have a chance in this conference.

Q. You talked about the offensive performance today. What can you say about the defense and the job they did today and what they would need to do to get better?
COACH FICKELL: It ultimately comes down to outplaying the other team's defense. I think that's what we've got to look at. We didn't outplay their defense. We're not going to pat ourselves. We win and lose as a team.
Ultimately, that's what we always tell our defense. We've got to outplay their defense. They ended up with nine sacks and we ended up with zero. We had a few more turnovers but all in all it doesn't come out in your favor. So we'll find a way we can get better in that area, too.

Q. Is Braxton Miller still your starting quarterback right now?

Q. What do you want to see then, you mentioned the balance -- what do you want to see from the quarterback position this week as you go through practice?
COACH FICKELL: We want to see those guys get better. Their confidence level has got to pick up. But we gotta do a better job of giving them some confidence and having that ability to run the ball and do some things to put them in a better situation as well.
So it's focused on the quarterback, but really we've got to focus on the whole entire team, whether it's the offense and defense in general. Really the blame falls on a lot of times on the quarterback and the head coach, and we understand that. But we all know that we've all got to get better.

Q. Are you comfortable or less comfortable offering input offensively? Do you just leave it in the hands of Coach Bollman and his staff, or were there times today when you said: Hang on, nine in the box and we're still running the football?
COACH FICKELL: They know what they're doing. And I think it comes down to you got a plan and sometimes you've got to be able to adjust. And I think we probably didn't do maybe a great job at picking up some of the pressures and whether it's adjusting on the field or from the sideline.
But those are some of the problems that Michigan State posed. Like I said, you want to hold your judgment until you see if you even had enough guys in there to block them all. If you don't, then you've got to be able to get that ball out faster and somebody's got to make some plays. That ultimately is what the game comes down to.
When you really look at it, their whiteout made a big play on a ball thrown up in the air. To me that's the difference in the ballgame. That was probably my number one, number two note I had for what, the keys to the game. We had to play physical. I think we played physical. I don't know that we won the physical battle by any means. Number two it was big plays. It's about their tricks and fakes and different things, and ultimately that's what ends up probably being the -- I can think of two big plays. Obviously one was a touchdown and both were in their favor.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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