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September 1, 2013

Mark Dantonio

THE MODERATOR:  I'm joined by Coach Dantonio.  We'll begin with his comments after looking at the video, and then we'll take your questions.  Coach, your thoughts after watching the film from Friday night's game?
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, different type game on Friday night with certainly with the weather the way it was.  It became, I guess, a four‑and‑a‑half or five‑hour game contest as you went through it.  But, obviously, when you look at the things and you look at their defense, our defense played outstanding.  Quite a few three‑and‑outs, scored twice on defense, comes up with four turnovers.  Numerous sacks, shut down the running lanes, and played very well against the pass as well.  So really only two big plays against us.
When you look at really the hidden yardage where our offense starts as opposed to where their offense starts, because of the field position relative to the punts and positions that our defense gave us the ball, the hidden yardage was 300‑plus yards, which is a huge amount.  If you look at our offense, obviously, I felt like we had missed opportunities.  Need to be more consistent throwing the ball, and I think running the football.  I think we can play better.  What I saw were a couple guys dropping the ball where they have not dropped them earlier this fall camp.
We need to play better in that area, and it's 26‑7, and it becomes 33‑7, pass to score instead of a fumble, you would feel a little bit better.  But, nevertheless, you look at that aspect of the game, and I feel like it has to be improved.  We need more explosive plays and we need to be able to throw the ball down the field with more success.
The special teams a little bit, Mo two for two.  We've got a great punt return from A.J. Sims, puts us in great field position.  Also we've got to get a little more consistent on our snappings, which is uncharacteristic for Taybor Pepper, but I thought Sadler played very well, and punting the ball down inside the 20 six times, which lends to that hidden yardage aspect of the game.
But, all in all, we count it as a win.  They all count one.  We have to play better as we move forward, and we look for improvement this second game.  But I'll take questions, and we'll sort of go from there.

Q.  I'm just curious after watching the film, are you still planning to go with Max, is that going to be your rotation moving forward here?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think first of all, those decisions are made in house, and will be shared with the players involved as we move forward.  I'm not prepared to answer that question at this point in time.

Q.  Everyone saw the drops, but looking at the receivers, what about after you watch the film, the route running, the blocking, another aspect of that position?  How did you evaluate their performance in those areas?
COACH DANTONIO:  We asked our players.  They played a great effort and great toughness.  Part of that was missing, I felt, on Friday night by that group, and we will challenge them this week.  We certainly have knowledge because we have experience, but we need to create more plays down the field, whether that is catching the ball and moving with it or getting loose down the field.  So I'll leave it as that.
But we can play better, we will play better, and I was disappointed in the outcome as well as everyone else.  Some catches were tough catches to make, other catches were defended somewhat.  Need to do a better job of separation or route running, and there were quite frankly a number of them that were dropped.  So I call it as I see it.  But our players understand that they need to play better as well.  I'm sure they recognize that fact as well.

Q.  After you got a chance to look at the offensive line the way they were stacking the box, Langford got a hundred yards.  Can you tell us what your evaluation is of their performance, please?
COACH DANTONIO:  I thought Jack Conklin, for his first time out played pretty well.  He's a red‑shirt freshman, starting in his first game.  I'm sure he was a bundle of nerves before the game.  I thought we did a nice job of protecting our quarterbacks.  They weren't hit very often.
So it starts with protection and giving them enough time.  So I don't think that they were particularly rushed that many times.  I mean put in the situation where they were hit after the fact.  That's positive.  We did run the ball, but, again, we need to have more explosive plays.  We're not lacking for the three‑ and the four‑ and the five‑yard runs.
You didn't see a lot of negative yardage runs, which is a positive.  Disappointed that the linebacker ran through on power a number of times, so we need to get that fixed up.  That may be a little bit‑‑ that was more probably a structure, which is a coach's problem, not a problem relative to our players or who they were blocking.  So that's got to be fixed, especially the one on the fumble.
For the most part, I thought our offensive line played well enough.  We've got to create the plays that go the distance.  I thought our blocking on the perimeter was suspect as well.  Then our tailbacks got to make plays in space and got to make those three‑ or four‑yard gains become 10‑ or 15‑ or 20‑yard gains or farther, which they're capable of.

Q.  You had one pass play longer than 14 yards, and I think that was a drag that Bennie turned up the field.  How do you stretch the defense more?
COACH DANTONIO:  You look at offensive football and you ask yourself passing game‑wise, what type of passing game are you?  Are you a horizontal passing game?  Do you stretch the field vertically?  We went up top sometimes and didn't hit them.  We had one, two plays, one to Bennie and one to Macgarrett Kings, but that's what I talked about earlier.  We need more explosive plays down the field.  They have to be created either with a catch or by design or something.
But there is no question that we that that has to happen.  That will be a subject we'll address this week.

Q.  I know you do tell us if there is a season‑ending variety of injuries.  Is that a concern with Isaiah Lewis?
COACH DANTONIO:  No, no, more of a muscular thing.  No.  We'll anticipate him being full‑go this week.

Q.  You mentioned Sims (Indiscernible) seemed early on (Indiscernible) was a lot of that because of the weather or were you happy with the way he bounced back?
COACH DANTONIO:  Are you saying ball judgment from Sims?

Q.  Yeah, sorry.
COACH DANTONIO:  I think that was the case of a little bit of the weather.  It's difficult to judge the ball back there.  He's been very good really throughout the 2012 season.  He has the big one‑point return.  Some of the punts were sort of short and they were a little bit out and they were bouncing.  I think probably a good rule of thumb is you probably never take the ball in the second bounce.  You take it on the first bounce.  I think a couple of them hit two times maybe.  I know one did.
Obviously, as much of a concern was the muff on the kickoff.  It was bouncing around, and we touched it before it went in the end zone.  So those things can't happen.
We talked about the need to play superior special teams especially in your early games, and we'll have to again refocus ourselves in those areas.  But some of this is decision making, and another is (Indiscernible).

Q.  Would you attribute some of the issues between the quarterback and the receivers to the splitting up the reps in practice?  I know a lot of teams will only run one or two quarterbacks in practice.  You've been running four for a while.
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, you're trying to get guys reps and you're trying to find out who, and you're trying to give yourself a competitive situation there.  I don't really think that was the problem on Friday night.  I didn't see that as the problem.  I think you're correct in the fact that you do not usually work four quarterbacks.  We have worked them, but our guys are getting a lot of throws and we've worked a lot.
Then we have two‑and‑a‑half hour practices in fall camp.  Everybody's throwing, everybody's catching, everybody's getting reps.  We're coming out of camp and going into our first game where we really worked in practice this week.  We've really only worked two quarterbacks throughout Tuesday, Wednesday‑‑ I guess, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  We worked two quarterbacks, but with those two guys.  The other two guys did not get as many reps throwing to our ones and twos receivers.

Q.  To follow up with that, I know you kind of fixated the substitution patterns, but would you have liked to have seen Riley Bullough get more work, and do you anticipate he'll be in the rotation more in the future?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think I look at him as a starter right now for us, but it's his first game as a running back.  He's got to be a tailback.  He's got to run like a tailback.  So he's got to cut.  He's got to burst.  He's got to explode like a tailback.  We need to see evidence of that as every game moves forward.
I felt like as the game progressed and it became 26‑7, that Nick Hill deserved an opportunity to show what he had.  So we wanted to get him carries, and I think he did get ten carries.  But I felt like it was important to recognize to give him an opportunity because he played last year.  I thought Nick Hill went in there and did a nice job.  So we're always going to ride the hot guys.  When you get the ball in your hand, you've got to make something happen with it.

Q.  I was just wondering about the decision process to play Darien Hicks as a true freshman, how he went about saying he had what it took to play a true freshman.  At this point in time, would you like to red‑shirt the rest of the class if possible?
COACH DANTONIO:  First of all, in regards to Darien Hicks, we felt like he had a great summer camp.  He's explosive.  He can run and jump.  He's got great ball skills.  He's proved to be a very fast learner and show toughness.  In the game on Friday night, it's under the lights, it's his first opportunity to play.  He needs to be more consistent.  I think he ran out of gas a little bit to be honest with you.  He played a number of snaps, deep‑ball snaps at corner.
But he has excellent skills.  So the feeling was that he deserved an opportunity to play.  We had him on the first kickoff team and because of what he's done, so we felt like we were going to play him.  That was a decision we made as a staff, as a defensive staff, as a secondary coach, Coach Barnett, Coach Narduzzi, and I was on the same page with them.
In regards to our freshmen, we're going to play people right now who give us the best opportunity to win at all positions.  Doesn't mean everybody's in agreement, whether you're inside or outside the program, but we're going to do everything we can to put the best players on the field.
Too early to tell right now how many freshmen we would play or if we'd play anymore freshmen.  I do think there are some very talented freshmen involved there, but it's a big change going and playing in the college football game in the environment with the exposure, et cetera, than in high school and practice is a step up, but it's still not the game.  So you've got to make that transition.

Q.  Just wondering what you saw on the tape from some of the young guys up front like Knox, Scarpinato and some of the other young defensive players who got on the field, and Davis, guys like that?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I thought Damon Knox played very well and was strong at the point of attack.  Is starting to show signs of really solid play in terms of what we expected when we recruited Damon.  This has been his, I think, third year.  So he's starting to play, I think, very well.
Scarpinato, tough, grinder, shows his toughness, and anchors a point.  Ed Davis misses a pick.  It would have been a third touchdown, but I think Ed played throughout on special teams, and he did get some reps.  He played okay.  But, again, he can play better because he is talented.  But I'm trying to think of some young‑‑ Demetrious Cox, first game playing.  Looked like he played in his first game.
So I think that goes with playing as a freshman sometime, even a red‑shirt freshman.  You have higher expectations than what they show when you get on the field.  I was disappointed in our twos that they allowed the touchdown at the end of the game.
I will say this and I'll credit Western Michigan, they are a well‑coached football team.  They do some things defensively.  They'll just hold a jersey here and there interior to buy your offensive line or not to get off on the next guy to go up to the next level.  I thought they were a well-coached football team, and I thought they were extremely competitive in this environment.

Q.  Can you give us a short encapsulated look of South Florida, just quick impression?
COACH DANTONIO:  I haven't watched the film yet.  But just dealing with ourselves right now, that's what we do on a Sunday.  We watch them, make decisions on who we are and what we're doing.  I have watched them just for a couple of minutes.  But they lost to McNeese, and I'm sure they're disappointed in that aspect of it.  But I'm sure they're bouncing back, and they look very athletic and they can run.

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