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November 6, 2012

Mark Dantonio

COACH DANTONIO:  Obviously, a tough loss for us.  I feel very badly for our coaches, our players, their families, and the fans.  Obviously, when you have a loss like this, it affects a lot of different people.  So you go in a lot of different directions as you think about things since then.
But when you analyze the football game, you have to look at it and say we had some missed opportunities, too many missed opportunities on the offensive end, on the defensive end, and in special teams as well.  You have to take advantage of those opportunities to win.
I felt like we had an opportunity to win when the football game, and we came away empty.  So when you break it all down, and I'm sure you guys will ask me some questions, the big plays at the end of the game, the inability for the offense to get a first down at the end of the game, you know, the snap, I thought we'd have pinned them down there inside the 10.  Sadler was able to do that quite often, has been.
But the snap coming back, and then the blown coverage on the first play put it's right back to where the ball was in the 4th and 10 play.  Playing two deep in the coverage back end, and it's just one of those things, I think where players need to know where they're at on the field a little bit more.  But inexperience at a couple of positions in that respect.
I guess what I'll do as we go into this, probably the best way to answer your questions and try to move on, but we'll go from there.

Q.  I wondered if you heard back from the Big Ten on any of these calls at the end of the game?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I've talked to the Big Ten Conference.  Obviously, those conversations have to remain confidential.

Q.¬† I spoke with an official yesterday who was not working this game but has worked your games in the past and asked him specifically if he saw those two plays, the Johnny Adams and the shoulder to shoulder that was called as a head‑to‑head he did.¬† He said the onus of the blame goes on the fact that they're constantly harped at by the people who sign their paychecks.¬† Better to err on the side of player safety than not.¬† He doesn't like it any more than you do.¬† My question is there coming a place where they're going to change the game of football‑‑ I don't know how I would say‑‑ but you're going to lose what's made the game great?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think that when you look at the game of football they're trying to err on the side of safety, but I think the game has definitely changed dramatically in the last three to four years based on all the evidence on concussions and past concussions, things of that nature.  So I think you see a lot more flags on hits out of bounds than you've seen.  Some of them, right, wrong or indifferent, I think you can't touch them.  Certainly I don't know how the interference penalty plays into that, but I don't know.
These are all tough things.  Things that go on in the game of football.  Needless to say, I'm disappointed in them, but what are you going to do?  It's not going to change the outcome of the game right now.
The one thing I can control and say is these are the things that we didn't do as a football team.¬† These are the things that we needed to do as a football team.¬† Then the other stuff that I can't control, I have to let go and somebody else has to control those aspects, but I can't control those.¬† So I'm best just trying to deal with‑‑ we have enough that we need to fix.¬† And I'm sure that everybody looks at their area of expertise, whether that's seeding people or getting people in the stands or whether that's writing.¬† You look at your expertise and say how can I do better and how I can critique it?¬† That goes on every single day.
It's not like people don't make mistakes.  We all make mistakes.  Some of them are more unfortunate times than others, in and outside of football.  How is that for a political answer today?

Q.  Could you evaluate your team going into the season and how they play in the fourth quarter?  How frustrating is it for you to see them make plays one week then the next week not be able to make those same plays?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think it's frustrating for all of us:¬† Players, coaches, fans, et cetera.¬† You can continually say about football, there are a lot of moving parts about football and lot of things going on in the game of football that you can question and sit and make suggestions on or coaches or coach on, or coaches can talk to the players as well.¬† But we've lost four‑‑ we've been involved in four straight football games that have come down to the last ten seconds of the game.¬† I don't know if that's happened in my career, four straight.
So you have to be at your best at the end of the game.  We were in the Wisconsin game and we won it.  We were not in the Iowa game.  We were not in the Michigan game, and we were not in the Nebraska game.
You have to be able to accept those facts and you can look at the interference penalty and say, well, we go to overtime or whatever.  But we still have to win the football game.  That's a group thing.  That's not just a player thing; that's a group thing.
All I can tell you is we come to play.  We compete.  Our chemistry is very good.  We have good young people.  Because you lose doesn't make you a bad person.  We're going to be ready to play, and get back focused and focus on our next deal which is Northwestern.  I also know that we need to get past this.
Today is a point where we get back on the field and start practicing and start moving forward in that respect.  Yeah, it's disappointing because you work so hard.  But you look at a lot of games around here.  Last year's game went to close games.  Even this year we won a close game against Boise, a close game against Indiana, a close game against Wisconsin.  Now we lost four.  The other ones were sort of close a little bit initially.  I guess it's part of it.

Q.  With a play like Darqueze's and Johnny's when they got the penalty and they're in the spotlight like that, do you have to talk to them about letting that go?  Do they have those short sighted memories about playing defensive back?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I'm sure they're going to remember those as part of your experiences.  But your experiences in dealing with problems should make you stronger.  Your experience is when you fall down, should make you stronger, inevitably.  That's the only way I can look at it.  Here's what we did here.  We're gaining experiences at the end of the game in crunch time.  The more experiences that we have, the stronger that you're going to get.
It's not like you're falling apart.  We've not done that.  I don't think those players are falling apart.  They're getting stronger.  They're going to recognize that sometimes life's not fair.  But you get back up and you play again and that's a part of this.
I don't know.¬† Athletics in general I think parallels a lot of things in life.¬† I've often said that.¬† But you have to be able to regroup.¬† You have to experience disappointment and be able to go past disappointment, and that's what hope gives you and move on.¬† As long as you do that, you can stay healthy.¬† If we start beating ourselves down and start blaming each other, and carry this to the next game‑‑ we've done a great job letting it go and going forward.¬† We've done an outstanding job doing that as a group.
I have a lot of respect for the way we've handled things.¬† Sometimes‑‑ it's not easy to win, first of all.¬† But when you are winning, everything else sort of comes together.¬† Everybody's happy and patting you on the back and praising you and everything else.¬† We've had those experiences.¬† A lot of times it's tougher when you have to regroup and you're being surrounded by skeptics and criticism, it's a lot tougher.¬† You need to be able to handle that end of things too.¬† That's part of athletics and part of what we do.¬† You have to be able to handle that and inevitably I believe that it's going to make you stronger.
Your biggest challenges‑‑ I tell our players all the time‑‑ your biggest challenge will not be making an NFL club.¬† It will come the day you get cut.¬† That will be your bigger challenge or the day you get fired from your job or lose your job.¬† Not fired, lose your job.¬† In this day and age, lose your job, much more difficult.
That's part of it.  We've experienced both ends of the stick here.  One week earlier we're on top of the world.  This year, this week we're crawling out of the gutter.  It's the same people.  We'll get up and go again.

Q.  Something along those lines, sports psychology has gotten bigger usage in recent years.  Is that a resource you find valuable, and something that your players potentially use as difficult as the season has been?
COACH DANTONIO:  I'll probably be teaching it here before it's all over.  Yeah, we talked to our sports psychologist a lot.  Ask him how to handle different problems.  Get different viewpoints on different things.  But it's the old adage that it's the warrior or the person in that arena that's really experiencing all of this.  And really, you don't know.  You don't know about sorrow, you don't know about all these different things that go along with life until you experience it firsthand.
So nobody can really know how that felt on that field except for people that have gone through it on that field or in other areas of life.
You feel bad.  You understand that.  You feel bad.  But you don't really know the depth of it until you experience it yourself, and that is the way it goes, I guess.

Q.¬† Your leadership role is probably more important now than when you were 11‑2 and playing in bowl games.¬† Do you have to kind of talk to yourself about your reflection of the team and you can't hang your head between your legs?¬† Is that going to be tougher to do today given the circumstances of the last week and what's going on here the last month?
COACH DANTONIO:  I'm going to have my moments.  There is no question.  Like yesterday in the shower as I was getting ready to come to work.  But I think it's very important that the person who leads, whether that's your quarterback or your leaders on the team or your head coach, position coach or your strength coach, whoever it is, I think that in a time of disappointment, that they're the ones that need to be able to step up and say, hey, everything's going to be fine.  We're good.
We've done that here, so we'll continue to do that.  But it goes without question after the game I was hurting.  But you regroup.  It all comes back.  I know some people may not like to hear this because it drives all of this, but it is a game.  It is a game.  You compete.  I've always said it.  I said it in here before.  You compete and do the very best you can.  Then you let it go.  You have to, because it will eat you up if you don't.
So you get your guys ready to play.¬† We've done that.¬† We've got to make plays on the field.¬† We can't have undisciplined penalties.¬† That entered into this as well.¬† Obviously, we've got a chance to go up 31‑14.¬† Maybe the game's over, maybe it's not.
It was pretty good, credit Nebraska.  I thought it was a great football game.  Had a lot of respect for Bo Pelini and the way they played the game and how they've played because I've watched them.
But sometimes you've got to move on to the next challenge.  Got to wait until next year in that respect, in Nebraska's respect.
I still believe we're 5‑5 here.¬† We've had four really, really tough losses, and one other one that's tough to swallow as well, I guess.¬† We still have a chance to have an opportunity, a good football season, regardless of what you read or what you hear.
I was talking to Josh Rouse today.  He's one of our graduate assistants.  He compared this a lot to the 2007 season.  I would probably agree with that.  We've got good young people, and they're young in certain areas.

Q.  When you see two offenses or defenses that are statistically similar for 50 or 55 minutes and one like maybe your 2002 defense, won all the close games and another one doesn't, what is the difference?  Can you coach it or teach it?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Well, it's execution.¬† Sometimes it's the breaks.¬† I'm not talking about execution offensively or defensively, it goes both ways.¬† I remember in '02, it's 4th and 10 against Michigan.¬† They're on our 20‑yard line.¬† They run a double seam, and he throws it over the guy's head and Will Allen picks it off.
I remember playing in Cincinnati, and they've got four downs on the 10‑yard line and Mike plays the wrong coverage a little bit.¬† Not the wrong coverage, but the technique's not right.¬† Gets a hand on the ball, tips it up, and Will Allen intercepts it, and on and on it goes because there were plays like that throughout the whole season.
Who is to say if the guy doesn't tip it up in the air down here on the 38 yarder, if he just throws higher and it comes off his hands, that it doesn't go into one of our defensive back's hands, he's a hero.  Just the way it goes.  That's execution.
You have to give Nebraska credit.  They executed.  We didn't do a couple things correctly, and that's our bad.  But he did execute.

Q.  Can you talk more specifically about what you didn't do well on those last drives Saturday?  And against Michigan as well, it looked from the outside like your pass coverage was a little soft.  You don't want to give up the big play in those situations, but at the same time, your defense plays pretty tight coverage throughout the game.
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, in regards to Michigan, we were in a tight coverage, very tight coverage.  Denard Robinson moved to his left off the scramble.  Gholston had his hands up, moved left.  He got the ball out quick, and they broke the pattern off, broke it off vertical.  Had he to face up Denard.  If you really watch the film, if he holds on to the ball, there's a chance he pulled it down and races around the right side.  So our linebackers have to face him up because of his ability to take off and run rather than wheel in with Dileo and carry him up.  Because he had hit the play before, the backside safety jumped down on the first crosser.  If he throws the ball on time they're all covered.
In respect to this one down here, the first play because of our safeties being out, Kurtis Drummond is out, RJ Williamson is out, Jairus Jones is out.¬† Mitchell White's playing a position he normally doesn't play in the back end there, and he lines incorrectly and doesn't give himself a chance to play the fade.¬† It's just a simple three‑deep coverage.
We're rolling up inside, controlling the wide receiver to force him out so they can't get out of bounds and stop the clock, and he just has to play the outside there.  He lines too far inside.  He has to roll over, spin back to play the route, and it's disappointing.  Nobody feels worse than Mitchell.  But he hasn't had all those reps at that particular position.  It's just the nature of where we're at at the safety position.
We don't want to play Demetrious Cox.  Wouldn't be fair to play him at this time with three games left in the season to take his red shirt off.  So that's where it's at.  He's a senior.  He has the most experience in that situation.
We go to 4th and 10.¬† We jump off sides.¬† If we stop them, it's 4th and 5 now.¬† Undisciplined, but regardless of that, they hit the fourth down pass.¬† They run a double‑seam route.¬† Talked to them about rerouting the seams at 10 yards depth, should be able to vision and break one‑third the distance the ball's in the air if you're doing it correctly.¬† Means if the ball's going 21 yards, you should be able to move 7 yards, et cetera.
Ball is thrown down the seam to Tyler Reed, right on the money, reroute should be at 10 yards.  Reroute is at 6.  No. 20 Denicos is overextended on the reroute, so he can't pack it back.  He reroutes, but it's 6 or 7, and he can't pack his body back in the seam which is three yards outside the hash.
Now we're getting technical, okay?¬† It's three yards outside the hash, which, if you look at this, my seam is the weakest part of this shirt.¬† So if you rip it apart, that's where it comes apart.¬† In three‑deep coverage, the seams are the weakest areas of the football field, and he hit it's right down the seam.¬† Safeties are aligned two deep, and the reroutes should be at 10.¬† But the safeties are aligned two deep.
Do I think to 20 seconds being on the clock, and Mylan Hicks is playing for the first time, really, and in a gut‑wrenching game right down the stretch.¬† He's lined at 25 yards deep, and he's pushing in his back‑pedal.¬† So not only does the ball get caught, it's not tackled immediately right there.¬† Isaiah is probably deeper than he should be, but both those guys miss the tackle.¬† He gets down, I think as I remember, I think he gets down the sideline before Hicks makes the hit and it's a 38‑yard gain.
So there it is.¬† You've got to switch up coverages on people, and with 30 seconds to go and they're on our own 42, you can say hey, listen, blitz them.¬† If you blitz them, you don't get home, not good.¬† You can say let's play base defense.¬† If they throw it over your head, not good.¬† So you play, tighten it up and make sure that you're 5‑under, 3‑deep, and make sure you keep that quarterback in front of you so he can't scramble with it and create, which he is extremely dangerous.¬† And that's what happened.

Q.  Do you believe you're only as good as your seniors and you'll have seasons that reciprocate that.  Several of your seniors are having disappointing seasons.  Is that why you think maybe the team is struggling this year?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† First of all, to me struggling is cashing it in.¬† You lose a close game, to me, that's not struggling.¬† That's the game.¬† That's people making plays.¬† That's inches away.¬† We're inches away from being 9‑1, 8‑2, inches, seconds.¬† So we've rallied back every week and played and played hard.¬† So I wouldn't say that we're struggling.
When you look at our seniors, you know, Fou is out, disappointing.  We lost our center.  I can on go through all the injured guys.  When you look at our seniors, there are not that many seniors, really.  We've got a young offensive group.  So on the defensive side of the ball, we've got a couple of seniors, but not very many.
I don't know.¬† Maybe the lack of the numbers of seniors.¬† Sometimes when you win 11 games in back‑to‑back years, people sort of take it for granted that you're going to continue to win 11 games.¬† Maybe we could. ¬†You know, with a little this, little that at the end, different call, different decision by a coach, maybe by me.¬† If I go 4th and 2, and we get that one, I go 4th and 1 on Michigan, maybe we win.¬† Maybe we don't.¬† I don't know.
Those are the things that you have to ask yourself, the tough questions you have to ask yourself.  But I don't think that our seniors are having bad years and saying, oh, we're losing because we're seniors.  I don't think that's the case.
We have to make a play down the stretch.  Sometimes it's the call, offensively or defensively.  I know that everybody's got a hand in this.  I know that on Saturday we could have won the game by getting a first down.  We could have certainly won the game by stopping them.  That is the same situation in Michigan.  That is the same situation in Iowa.  Ohio State was a little bit different, and there are your four games.

Q.  In basketball at the end of a tight game in regulation coaches will try to foul their way back into an advantageous position.  Would you ever consider when you have less than 10 seconds or whatever it is to just grab everybody, take the foul, and put the onus on the other team to either go for the short touchdown with no time on the clock because you can't end the game on a penalty, or to force them to kick a field goal and send it into overtime?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† You mean a foul?¬† Just grab on to their receiver?¬† I haven't considered that.¬† But, you know, Steve, I don't know.¬† I guess‑‑ I never considered that one.¬† But I will say that we've taken a different look at different things such as the last play and how to play it, the kickoff, how to play it and different things, try to think outside the box on some things.
We certainly thought that way when we were taking a safety to let the clock run out, but I've never really been in that situation.  Like I said, there are so many different situations in the game of football.  There are many, many unique situations.  That's not a bad idea.
But the game, they'll have to kick the field goal in the end.  If we lock on to them and cover them up, they throw the foul.  Glad I come to these.  You got to understand things are going very, very fast out there.  You've got 15 seconds to make decisions and those type of things.

Q.  I'm curious about the one specifically on Johnny and Darqueze's return.  I'm not real clear on the penalty where they say hit him when he wasn't out of the play, but Johnny runs across the goal line with Darqueze.  But I guess as a coach and teaching during the week, how do you tell a guy who to hit and not to hit?  It seems kind of unclear what a player should do.
COACH DANTONIO:  It's unclear.  It's unclear I guess you have to make a decision.  Do you think he's in the play or not in plate?  You can make a case of 80 runs down, first interception.  It's a touchdown on the first one.  You can make a case to Johnny that he's the first guy in the end zone.  So he could have possibly run him down because he cut back three times.  Had to stall his feet and accelerate.  So you could make a case for that.
As I've said before, I can't get involved in that other than ask from a critique standpoint and satisfy my own initial frustration.¬† I can do that.¬† But I can't go beyond that and say‑‑ because it's not going to change anything.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think the basic idea is if he's not involved in the play, you're not supposed to hit him, but the game is football.  So it's difficult to assess those things especially when you're making split second decisions out on the field very rapidly.  I don't know the answer to that question.  Again, I'm just trying to be political up here today.  I don't know.

Q.¬† So we can recreate the rest of the final drive‑‑
COACH DANTONIO:  What's that?

Q.  The timeout you took, was that related at all to having the young guys out there that hadn't been playing as much?  Also the blitzes in the last two plays, kind of reminded me of that Ohio State game where you were a defensive end coach here, is that something in a situation like that where you typically would do to go after them?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I sort of felt, first of all, that the timeouts were two‑fold.¬† One we'd know what formation they were lining up in so we could look at that, two, we could settle our guys down a little bit and just say, okay, here's where we're at.¬† Here's what's going on.
We talked to them about the reroutes of things, talked to them about how to play that coverage a little bit.  In retrospect I didn't say don't lineup too deep.  In the last play down here, Coach Narduzzi called the first one, the pressure, and I called the second one.
I just felt like we had a chance to get home.  We were sending one more guy than they had to block.  So you're going to have a quick throw.  You're going to have a guy that's going to have somebody in his face.
The coverage, because it was so close down there, they pick routes and different things and wanted to make a throw quick.  That's what I decided to do.  We've got to reengage.  The tight end block, so the guy with the tight end needs to reengage and blitz and he didn't.
Again, it's selection of plays and I'll take responsibility for that and it's execution.  Tough deal.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
COACH DANTONIO:  I'm going to find that out because I'm not sure.  I don't know when that exactly starts at the goal line.  I thought it would have been at the 20.  Again, things happen so quickly.  I'm upset about the call.  Before I know, it's just a good example of don't worry about the call, that's done.  Concentrate on the next thing.
I'm upset about the call, and then it gets marked off.  The next thing I know, ball snap.  We've got the call in, ball snap and it's happening very fast.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
COACH DANTONIO:  No, we put that behind us.  We watched the film yesterday morning with their players at team meeting afterwards.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
COACH DANTONIO:  Very quiet.  Very quiet.  It was very quiet.  You've got to be able to move on.  I went to Trinity on Sunday, Trinity Church on Sunday.  Used to go to St. John's, but Pastor Williams talked about some things and one of the things he talked about is there's got to be presence and suffering.  Everybody has to suffer together.  Along the lines of that, no pity.
So we've got to get on with it, move past it.  I thought it was very relevant to my situation.  A couple other things there too.  But I thought it was very relevant.  So, move on.
Life's not fair.  It's just not.  So why worry about it?  Just keep on going, doing what you're doing, and things will even out.  Eventually, things will even out.  Things come in cycles, things come in bunches.  We pick the ball off three times, got a chance.
You want to talk about it being a game of inches.¬† We've got a chance to scoop the ball right out of here for a touchdown.¬† They almost scoop it for a touchdown.¬† We have a chance to fall on it.¬† We don't fall on it.¬† They fall on it, and it's a 15‑yard gain.¬† I think they score on that series.¬† We run the ball back for a touchdown.¬† It's called back, they bring it back, it's 3rd and 6.¬† We're right up the gut.¬† 3rd and 6, got a chance to sack them.¬† Don't sack them.¬† Scrambles, got a chance to catch them.¬† He runs out of bounds 1 yard short of the first down, it's 4th and 1.¬† They get it.
Next play, he makes us look like it's not very flattering the way we tackled that next play, so I'll leave it at that.  But, yeah, we watched the film.
So if we make the play on 3rd and 6, they're punting.  They're not going for it on 4th and 1.  4th and 1 at that point in time is different than 4th and 2 at the other point in time.  So it's different.  You have to lean on your defense.  Your defense is the number one defense in the conference.  Your punter can put it down inside the 10, you have to say they had minus four yards deep offensively, I guess, from what I heard.  In the third quarter, they had minus four yards.  They really had only one play in the fourth quarter.
So you have to feel like, hey, we can stop them.  You can't go for it on 4th and 2.  You just have to go 30 yards to get a field goal.  You just can't do that.  You have to play the dynamics of what you're doing and understand the percentages.
I know there is a chance we could have gotten that 4th down.  I was looking hard at it.  Believe me, nobody wanted to go for it and end that game more than I did.  But common sense tells you you've got a better chance to punt it down inside there and make them go 90 rather than 30.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
COACH DANTONIO:  We're critiquing Michigan State, we've also looked at Northwestern, and we're currently watching Northwestern.  We'll practice for Northwestern today.  We'll recruit the rest of the week with our coaches.  We'll get back on Sunday and have a full practice on Sunday.  Take Monday off, and go Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, so we'll be prepared.

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