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September 15, 2013

Mark Dantonio

THE MODERATOR:  Coach, your thoughts on yesterday's game.
COACH DANTONIO:  First of all, I thought it was a good win for us.
Obviously our offense jumped out and played extremely well, when you look at the possession time, and I didn't realize yesterday how we had the ball for 14‑plus minutes in the fourth quarter.  So not only did we play well in that first half but we sort of controlled the tempo of the game as it continued on.
So we go to 3‑0.  Connor Cook with four touchdown passes to four different guys and really, 200 yards passing and really, a little more‑‑ one series beyond a half.  So that was a positive with ten explosive plays, which ‑‑ the thing I believe that we had been lacking, and numerous players got involved with that.
So we caught the ball in traffic, protected our quarterback.  We were able to run the ball pretty successfully, as well.  And defensively, when you sit down and you look at the film, to give up 172 yards, good things are going to happen; that's No.1.
But then, you know, they have two broken plays, really, that become explosive plays for them on ‑‑ one of the quarterback transitions and creates; good job by then.  But nevertheless, their broken plays, then one option run.  So loose plays, but other than that we played outstanding.
Still need to square up our special teams a little bit I feel.  We fumble another punt, had a big kickoff return, but we did down the punt inside the one, once again; Sadler did that, and we had three big punt returns and two‑for‑two on some short field goals.  So those were positive indicators.
But, basically, I'll take some questions.  But we're ready to go to NotreDame and get on the road and do those things.

Q.  Can you please talk about after watching the film how the offensive line graded out and about Jack Conklin, please?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, our offensive line played well.  Jack Conklin had a winning performance as we would categorize it and continues to grow.  He's only in his third game playing.  He played right tackle and played left tackle as the game transitioned on.
But doing very, very well.  Our quarterback got hit one time, zero sacks, and we were hit one time.  We had balance.  We had balance, almost 270 throwing the ball, and maybe almost 272 maybe passing it.  So those are positive things when you see that.  So balance, offensive line played well.
I thought Jack Allen played well.  You know, he's not really practiced‑‑ and practiced once last week, but prior to that‑‑ this week he practiced the entire week.  Played well at center.  We continue to get great play from Treadwell, and then Dan France was very, very solid and Donavon Clark I think probably had his best game as to date.

Q.  Following up on that, how close are you to being able to go full time with Fou on the right side and Conklin on the left side, would you be considerably better off when you can get to that point?
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, that remains to be seen as you move forward.  You know, Donavon Clark has been solid in some situations.  You know, he's still a young player.  Fou is dealing with a slight injury, and then he missed a lot of summer camp.  So the best guys are going to play.  That's all I can say.  As we move forward, the best guys are going to play.
And you've got to be able to‑‑ especially as we move into our schedule, you have got to play firm into our tackles.  You have to pass protect and do the thing you have to do, but you have to play with power, as well.
Clark is a powerful guy and Fou is a powerful guy and we have the ability to move Dan France out there and Conklin, so we have four players that can play in those situations and so we can move them around a little bit.  So I think that's a positive thing.
But we have to put the best players on the field and make that decision based on how they are performing game‑to‑game, I believe.

Q.  Just wondering how you evaluated the play calling yesterday, and also just what you make of that dynamic with Bollman and Warner now after three games?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think play calling was very, very good.  We didn't want to go in the bag and just run the football at the beginning of the game; nor, did we want to not pass it in the second half, because I felt, especially, that Tyler OConnor needed to have some opportunities to throw the football.
So we mixed it up.  I thought we spread the ball around to numerous receivers.  When you look at the guys who had catches for us, Macgarrett Kings had a great day; Lippett has four catches, but tight ends were involved.  We got the ball to Burbridge, as well; Bennie Fowler, as well.
So, you know, it was positive I think in terms of what we did.  We did some things a little bit different and then we still had some things yet to do.  But I thought it was well done.
As far as play calling on game day, it's the type of situation where we use Jim Bollman is more a little bit of a consultant between series, information, suggestions; I think one person has to call the game.  You can't have one guy call one series and the other guy call another series or somebody interject in the middle of a sentence.
So one guy has to have the floor.  Coach Warner has that, and I thought he did a great job.

Q.  Curious, you talked about the punt returning.  Are you going to continue to look more at Macgarrett Kings and maybe Nick Hill as you move forward?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I think we have got to do thatbased on ‑‑ I mean, Andre does a great job catching the football, but you can't turn it over.  We've done that the last two games.  So that just can't happen.  So we need to send a message to our players that you need to execute.  He's had some good run backs, punt returns.
I thought Macgarrett Kings was close to breaking his 15‑yard punt return.  Nick Hill did a nice job, as well, with an 18‑yard punt return.  So we have got guys that can do it, and we'll let it work its way ‑‑ work its way out this week in practice.
I'm not saying we are going to go from Andre, but I think you have to give other people opportunities and keep an open mind this week.

Q.  Obviously you've won the first three games.  At the same time, have you been able to ‑‑ even though the offense struggled a little bit the first two games, are you able to stay vanilla so far through three games?
COACH DANTONIO:  There's always going to be something a little bit different for every game regardless whether we are playing them or him playing us, whoever it is.  It's just the way that things go.  You want to try and think about players, not plays necessarily at all times, you've got to get the ball in your players hands, and I think that you have to create balance and you have to test the defense.
So when you look at defense, everybody is structured a little bit different.  They have different players, different concepts that they use, different pressures, and you have to go about attacking those things.
So things are going to change somewhat, but I think we also need to understand and not lie to each other here, that the basis of who we are, the foundation of who we are is probably sort of set in some ways.  There's only so many different ways you're going to run the football.  We can keep trying to be creative, but you've got to be able to run it.
So we've been a base power team, and we'll remain that.  But obviously we're moving a little bit to some one‑back things and some different things that keep things interesting and keep us trying to be innovative, but again, you have to attack the defense.

Q.  Listening to Brian Kelly earlier, he was talking about some of the advantages of his team being tested against greater competition early.  What's the flipside?  What are the advantages of playing some non‑traditional, non‑BCS conference schools?
COACH DANTONIO:  We're going to line up next Saturday against NotreDame.  We'll find out who's who.  How's that for a statement.

Q.  Is there an advantage that even though you've had guys hurt, you continue to have more depth develop on the offensive line, just because of all the young players you've mentioned?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, we've got, I believe, eight guys who have started for us on the offensive line.  You know, you can only play five.  But that's been‑‑ that's been a positive for us, because we've played them and there's nothing like game experience.  We're also playing some young guys, so they are benefiting from that, like Jack Conklin.
So we've got some depth.  Kodi Kieler played.  I think he'll be an excellent player for us down the line.  Big, strong 320‑pound offensive tackle; so he got his first taste of real ‑‑ real time, I think.  And it was important; we played our twos the entire second half, and that was important for us I think to recognize that as we move forward further.
I think Donavon Clark, Clark and Conklin played a little bit more just because of their youth; but other than that, the other guys were all young players.

Q.  Connor Cook did well.  Can you give us your evaluation of Tyler OConnor, how you thought he did, please?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think that he played‑‑ I think he played above average.  I think there's some things that he needs to do a little bit better at.  However, I was impressed with a couple of his throws, and he seems calm.
Like I said before, you know, all these guys, it's his first real time he played the entire second half.  He had 11 plays last Saturday.  I thought he played more within himself, made better decisions, and you know, did some nice things.
The throw to Tony Lippett was on the money.  The throw to Jamal was a little behind him; got a couple other opportunities he might have missed in there.  Made a nice run on the scramble, but I think he was in control of the huddle and that's as big as anything.

Q.  Do you expect Taiwan Jones to be available this week?
COACH DANTONIO:  Probably too early to talk about that.  He's working out today, though.

Q.  When you look at your defense in general, how would you evaluate the first three games?  What needs to get shored up here for this test ahead?
COACH DANTONIO:  Just like everything, there's always going to be small mistakes, whether it's on a route that the flap player turns up.  You've got to ‑‑ Demetrious Cox has to turn and cut him off; should be an interception, but it's inexperience.  He's a redshirt freshman, as well.  He's got him covered, but he doesn't cut him off and look for the ball; he sort of relaxes for a second.  It's things like that; it's Micajah Reynolds, should be in a shade or should he be in a G over the guard, based on the call.  You know, things of that nature.
We can always play better.  I think there's not one player out there that thinks they are hitting on all cylinders, and that's a positive, because we've been successful thus far defensively.  You know, still pointing out, hey, somebody scores ten points, you want answers.  You know, if they score 17, you demand answers. 
But we have got a very good defense.  They know what they are doing.  Isaiah Lewis obviously didn't play this week so it was an opportunity for RJ Williamson to play more full‑time, so that benefits him.
So we just continue to build our depth and build our experience as we move forward.  Those are positives.  Again, I think our defense is playing outstanding, and we'll need for them to play outstanding throughout the entire year, and that's just the way‑‑ that's our makeup and that's what we should be doing.

Q.  As far as the running back situation, I know that they all did some good things.  Is that a competitive situation as far as who starts, or is that still Langford?
COACH DANTONIO:  It's a little bit maybe more competitive.  I thought Nick Hill had a good game, but again, we'll work through practice this week and see where it's at.
But it's sort of been by committee and Langford is the guy that's probably got the most touches.  Been pleased with Langford but I'm still waiting for that 70‑yard run.  Maybe it will come this weekend.  Still waiting for him to bust one.

Q.  You mentioned about having to get some guys some look at punt return.  Did Andre, with his play at receiver, maybe earn some more reps in that position?
COACH DANTONIO:  He's been limited a little bit with a foot injury for a little bit, so he has not played as much.  So I think our receivers, based on what they did this last week will probably stay status quo and Andre will rep in like he's been repping in.  Got to hold on to the ball.

Q.  After seeing the film, can you just talk about the tight ends, I know Pricecaught the ball.  How is he doing as far as controlling the blocking there?
COACH DANTONIO:  I thought he did better.  He's a redshirt freshman, again, really playing in his first game, so it's a great opportunity for him to play as much as he did.  Big, solid, kicks the ball well.
Jamal Lyles has got work on Saturday, which is a positive because we just moved him over there, and I think he'll be a quick‑bodied guy. 
       So it was good, those guys were able to catch the football.  I think they had five catches between them, which is a positive.
We need to get that position up and moving and make them a target, and we were able to do that to that extent.  They need to be able to handle the C area; it will be a challenge this week with NotreDame's guys.  We're going to find out more about them this week.

Q.  Just a final question, if you can just put the NotreDame rivalry into perspective and what it means to you personally.
COACH DANTONIO:  Great rivalry.  We'll talk a little bit more about it on Tuesday, but great rivalry, and a lot of respect for NotreDame and what they have accomplished over the years.  You know, there's a lot of‑‑ there's a lot of tradition with Michigan State and NotreDame.
I think it obviously traces back to the 60s, and really even before that, because NotreDame were actually the first people that gave Michigan State an opportunity to sort of get on the map when we were moving from that, I guess‑‑ what's the word I want to use, the Michigan State‑‑ as our brand was growing, I guess is what you would say.

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