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October 20, 2013

Mark Dantonio

THE MODERATOR:  I'll have coach give his opening thoughts on yesterday's game against Purdue and then we'll take your questions.
COACH DANTONIO:  Good evening.  Just to wrap up from yesterday, obviously excited about the win.  Takes us to 6‑1.  As you all know, we talked about that yesterday.
Thought our defense played very well after we adjusted early in the game relative to what they were doing, et cetera.
Obviously big turnover in the game with Bullough hitting Etling, and the scoop by Denicos Allen.  Five sacks, gave up two big plays, kept them out of the end zone.  Really playing championship‑caliber defense.
Usually as a football team, the focus by the media is usually on points scored.  We don't maybe get as many points scored, but the reality is we're playing really good defense.  Gives us a chance in every football game to be right there.
When you look at our offense, I thought we ran it well.  I thought Langford had a good day, had quite a few runs where he almost busted a big one.  Had significant gains.  Obviously have to throw the ball more effectively.
Lippett had a very solid game.  I think the focus on our offense, what we are doing very well is protecting the quarterback.  Zero sacks again, and no turnovers again.  That gives us a plus‑two turnover ratio, which is hard to beat a team when you're plus‑two.
Big play by Lippett to Gleichert on the reverse pass, obviously the throw‑back to Josiah Price prior to that.  So continue to work better in the other phases that need to be addressed.
Special teams, outstanding punting game again by Sadler, a touchdown‑saving tackle by him on the return.  Defense played well.  Kept them out of the red zone the entire day.  But other than that, special teams were pretty solid.
So we go to Illinois for a challenge, road challenge, an opportunity to go 7‑1.  As we go now, the stakes begin to get a little bit higher.
I do want to make mention we need to credit Purdue.  I think when you read some of the things that are in the paper relative to what's going on within your football team, you have an opportunity to react.  You got an opportunity, you tend to go one direction or another.
They came to play.  That's a credit to Purdue and what their coaches and players were able to do.
With that, I'll take some questions.

Q.  You mentioned you had to react to what they were doing.  Was it the big back or some other things you adjusted to after they opened up the game driving the field on you?
COACH DANTONIO:  It was the big back, then also a lot of the things that we had practiced we did not see.  So it's always constantly a little bit of an adjustment early in the game to see which direction people are going.
They opened up their splits a little bit, did some things.  I think from a consistency standpoint that gave them a chance.
I thought their punter did a great job putting the ball inside the 10 three times, made us go the long way.  The reality is an offense has a difficult time going 90 yards for a touchdown or so without explosive plays involved.  We didn't get those explosive plays till the fourth quarter.
Credit our offense in that fourth quarter.  We had the big drive for a touchdown.  Also with 6:40 on the clock, took the air out of the ball and ran it out.  Those were the positive things.
As I said earlier, ran the ball okay, got us into some short‑yardage situations.  Two penalties the whole game as a team.  That was a positive.  But we have to come up with some explosive plays.  Usually that's tied to the passing game.

Q.  Mark, with Langford's day yesterday, the games he's had the last couple weeks, I know you don't want to get into a situation where you have one guy doing everything.  Is he just playing so well right now that you feel like you've got to give him most of the carries at this point?
COACH DANTONIO:  No, we're really going to ride the hot back.  I don't care who it is.  The week before, whenever it was, Delton Williams was running the ball pretty effectively.  We went with him, gave him a large majority of carries.  Then Langford popped a couple.
I think if he can stay fresh and healthy, you're going to have a great opportunity to have big plays.  Nick Hill still enters into this.  He just hasn't had the opportunity to show his stuff lately.
Yesterday I felt like Jeremy Langford was hot.  He had probably five runs of 10 plus or more, is running very effectively.  I felt he would bust one.  I felt we needed that.  Stay with the hot back, especially in the second half.

Q.  People talk about the game slowing down.  Seems like he's seeing things, cutting more decisively lately.
COACH DANTONIO:  I think you're correct.  But I think it's also confidence.  He has the feeling right now when he touches the ball, he can go the distance.  When you have that mindset, great things are possible.
It's not to say the other don't.  But yesterday I really felt like he felt that.  I thought he displayed that.  The week before he did the same thing.
I think confidence breeds success.  When you have small things going well for you, bigger things are possible.  He's doing a nice job.  That does not mean he's the only guy back there.  We'll continue to play it as we go.

Q.  The sideline reporter, he mentioned before the game the wet ball.  Did that affect your game planning at all, keeping it out of the air a little bit more than you would have on a sunny day?
COACH DANTONIO:  I'm sure initially it did.  I felt like we sort of went down the field running the ball that first series when we did get the ball back.  Purdue had a little longer drive than usual, than we're accustomed to.
As the game played on, the ball was dry.  I don't think that had a lot to do with it.  I think we missed some reads and missed some throws, quite honestly.  But those things are going to happen.
We need to step back, regroup.  Again, I thought we played well in the fourth quarter.  We have to work our way through the problems when they do occur.
We won the football game.  That's the number one thing.  As I said yesterday, we didn't stub our toe.  When you look around the country, that happens.  We need to continue to just strive forward, learn from our mistakes, live in the present.

Q.  Seems like defensively we talked about a lot of different guys, secondary, defensive ends.  Max Bullough seems to have been under the radar lately.  We've almost become so accustomed to how good he is, sometimes we forget about him.
COACH DANTONIO:  You know, Max is such a controlling figure for us relative to getting us in the right defense, making checks on the field, bumping people over, handling the pass game in coverage.  He's a blitzer, a tackler, a fitter.  He's got to fit his gap.
You can fit a gap and the ball can bounce because you're in that gap and somebody else makes the tackle.  A lot of that's happening out there.
It's not that he's doing his job, that if he doesn't make a tackle he's not doing his job.  This is a very gap‑oriented defense.  It has a domino effect where the ball tends to bounce.  That's the way most good defenses are built, that you're going to cancel gaps inside and the ball bounces.  When the ball bounces, your outside backers or safeties tend to make more tackles.
You have to have a guy that can play that gap, be physical and firm.  He most definitely does that.  Then he's also very good, you know, when it is his time to scrape and make the tackle.
But it's all orchestrated and all very much responsibility driven.

Q.  You mentioned looking around the country, putting things in perspective.  What goes through your mind when you see another ballgame that's 63‑46?  When is the last time you were ever associated with a game that was that high scoring or would that not happen in one of your games?
COACH DANTONIO:  We haven't had games like that.  But as I said yesterday, if we win a high‑scoring game, we win a high‑scoring game.  You take that as a win.
I think it's very tough.  People play to what you need to play to sometimes.  I think it's very tough to win in any conference these days.  People are well‑coached.  They have a plan.  Their players execute a plan.  People get hot.  Things can happen.  Momentum and enthusiasm create a lot of different things for you.
I watched the game.  Obviously a lot of big plays in the game.  But it can go either way.  Doesn't make one game bad or the other game good, it just can go either way.
I think the bottom line is you look to win the game and move from there.  At the end you're trying to get a record, final record.  That's what you're looking at.

Q.  Is it frustrating for you, clearly you can look at the polls and see that the teams that are scoring in the 40s or 50s are the ones getting votes?  Is it frustrating?
COACH DANTONIO:  I just make that sort of assumption there.  As I said yesterday, if we just do our job, it will all shake out in the end.  If we win, we move up.  If we lose, we move down.  That's pretty much the way it seems like throughout.  You just keep playing.
So I think the focus, again, has to be how do we handle success.  Be mature, get yourself ready to go, have your focus when we go to Illinois to play Illinois at Illinois.  It will be a tough challenge for us, and we'll move from there.  That will always be our mindset.  We're right in the middle of the season going into our eighth game now.
The bottom line is, how do you play the end of October and then through November.  As I said, the stakes get higher and higher.  That's a good thing for us and it's exciting for us.

Q.  An injury question.  In terms of long‑term concern, is there any for Fowler or Burbridge?
COACH DANTONIO:  No.  That's all you're getting out of me (laughter).

Q.  You have a championship defense.  I know you feel you have the talent on offense to win a championship as well.  The way they're performing now, not just yesterday, but holistically, do they need to step it up to win a championship or do you feel you can win one with the way it is right now?
COACH DANTONIO:  I look back to 2002 when we were able to win one there.  We can win one if we play effectively together as a team, we play off of each other and with enthusiasm.  Our special teams have to be good as well.  We've proven we can play well on special teams.
It's a total team game.  We have to feed off each other.  I think it's very, very important we feed off each other.  We don't point fingers saying this guy is getting it done, this guy is not.  We move forward together as a football team.  If we do that, great things are possible.  That's what we'll do.

Q.  Is Tyler O'Connor your number two quarterback?
COACH DANTONIO:  We'll make the decision as the week progresses.  Depends on the situation in the game.  Really depends on how that week of practice has transpired.

Q.  Would it be fair to say that you if someone would have told you at the start of the year from a health standpoint, from a progress standpoint that you'd be where you are right now, are you pleased with where your team is at heading into this last week of October?
COACH DANTONIO:  You know, I'm pleased with our football team, that we will play.  We will come to play.  Again, I'll credit Purdue on a lot of things they were able to do.  They came to play as well.
Our mindset is right.  Do I wish we were 7‑0 right now?  Do I think one got away from us?  Yeah, I think it did.  I think we were in position to win the football game.  You can't dwell on that.  You just have to play everything else out and move forward.
Right now we're 3‑0 in the Big Ten Conference.  We said that was our main focus, is to play our conference games, win in our conference, and everything other than that was leading up to the conference.  Our goals were to get in that championship game at the end of this season.  That's where our goals remain.  Right now we're transitioning in that direction.  So this next one's big.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

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