Michigan State vs. Notre Dame
Sept. 22, 2007
Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio
COACH Mark Dantonio: Outstanding job by our football team today. We talked about it all week long about how this really started for us last year at this time when Notre Dame came to our stadium and had a great comeback and won. I think our guys have been suffering ever since then. We talked about it a lot. We've spent a year dealing with this, and our guys have been mocked, and our guys have been made fun of, and we lost coaches; there was a coaching change, and a lot of things happened.
So we internalized this and turned it to our favor today, and we came in here prepared to play and we were very, very emotional. We knew we had to weather the storm, and we knew we had to weather the storm early. We knew it would be an emotional time down here and we talked about it all week that we would have to weather the storm and push through that storm and our guys did that.
We fumble in the first series, came back down and scored. Can't say enough about our players, how they responded; the way they prepared; the way they handled the ups and downs of the game, which is what we talked about. We continued to keep our focus.
I thought that we were able to run the ball, and that when we did throw it, we had some success. We played great defense. Deke (ph) had another great game, not sure what we actually did defensively, but I know we kept them out of the end zone the second half. And give Notre Dame credit; they came to play as well.
We are very, very happy, and I can't tell you how proud I am of our football team. It's special. It's a special time in that locker room right now.
So, that's where I'm at.
Q. How talk about the third and 17 play, they hit for 19 yards, how big that was?
COACH Mark Dantonio: We had a lot of big plays and Thomas keeps coming through. He had a good catch, good protection and Brian put it on the money. Big play, like I said, we had two of them, we had a two and 11 for a screen play, and two times in the game where it was critical that we continued to drive through and get that and we were able to do that.
Q. Can you share your impressions of Notre Dame's quarterback, Jimmy Clausen? And also the pressure, they struggled with sacks this year and you're leading the nation in that. Can you talk about that matchup a little bit?
COACH Mark Dantonio: From my perspective Jimmy is an outstanding quarterback. I think what people fail to realize is he's a freshman, a true freshman and there's a huge learning curve when you're a freshman playing at this level. When you continue to play, as he continues in the fifth game, sixth game, the seventh game, there's a huge learning curve and you will find a guy that's going to go from here to there to there to there. He's not like a guy that's been here a long time. He'll be successful here. Notre Dame is a great environment to play in and they have outstanding players.
Q. Did you expect them to roll out as much as he did?
COACH Mark Dantonio: We felt like some other people had some success against us in spreading out a little bit, so we expected they would do that. I thought we contained him somewhat, but he was successful on a couple of those throws.
Q. Were you expecting Notre Dame to come out and try to establish the running game as much as they did, and your thoughts on Aldridge?
COACH Mark Dantonio: I did expect them to come out and do that because they have gone back to basics, and "basics" means you're going to try to run the football and establish who you are from the toughest point of view. And I thought they did a good job of doing that. They did run the football. They creased us a couple of times; they did a nice job. They had some different things that they did and took advantage of it, and you know, made some plays, so that's a good job by them. We will always adjust. We always seemed to be able to adjust and come back and stop the next couple of something. So we sort of always kept ourselves in front. We won the chain battle, I guess is what you would say, down/distance battle.
Q. The offense didn't seem to come out with authority in the second half, can you just tell us what you said at half time?
COACH Mark Dantonio: Well, our plan all along was no quarter. Our plan all along was to go after things and take it, not wait for people to make a mistake. Devon sets us up with a great kickoff return, and I can't remember the sequence of things, but we go down and we score. We got a chance to put it on them at the end there. We did miss the field goal but we had an opportunity on fourth and 1, another huge play.
You know, I can't keep the secrets all straight in my mind right now. I just know that it feels very good to come away with a lot of things going on in our mine; it was a road game, our first road game. We felt like it was a statement game. We felt like we had to make a statement for this program because of all of the things had a happened in the past year, so all of those things played a part into it.
We needed to keep our focus and discipline and be mature and we have been able to do that.
Q. How important was it for Brian not only to throw four touchdowns but to make the throws?
COACH Mark Dantonio: Well, you've got to have great play from your quarterback. You've got to have great receiving on the other end of it, and I thought they did. You know, the catchable balls we caught, I don't think we had many drops, maybe one or two. But we got the protection we needed, so it's all involved.
But Brian is an excellent quarterback. You know, he's got vision, he's got a good presence in the huddle, and he makes good decisions at the line. He ran the clock very effectively and take us down to about one second, panics me all the time, but you know, got it done.
Q. Will you speak more specifically about your defense? Some three and outs early in the game when it looked like Notre Dame tried to get momentum; and in the third quarter, setting a tone, as well?
COACH Mark Dantonio: First of all we had a great scheme. Our scheme is built around pressure, so we pressure a lot. You know, our guys are active right now. They are excited about it. Coach Narduzzi is a very emotional defensive coordinator and he does an outstanding job with preparation, as do all of the other assistants there, and our guys play.
The name of the game is tackling and space, and we missed a couple of tackles and we'll continue to work at that. We had two DBs out and we'll play other guys and have experience in that area. We have a lot of different linebackers and play different defensive linemen, so we are building the program and using a lot of players and they are staying fresh and you can see that on the field.
Q. Is that the best (indiscernible) particularly with Shane and Martin out for this game?
COACH Mark Dantonio: I'm not sure of the statistics but I know we moved the ball. In tough times people are going to run it and we moved the football. I don't know statistically, but you've got two starting offensive linemen out and they came back and played very well, which is a huge boost, Mike Bacon came in and did an outstanding job at left guard and just kept playing. It's amazing what you get done, it's amazing what you can get done; when you're emotional about it and you're passionate about it, and that's where we were at. We need to recapture that passion next week and every single week, but this was a big one for us.
Q. Defensively, what were the adjustments you made from the first half to the second half?
COACH Mark Dantonio: Well, we basically settled our players down at half time and let them know a little bit of what we were doing a little bit, and then did certain things. We had quite a variety of different things that we can go to.
I think it comes down again to blocking and tackling. We're not going to sit here and say we conjured up something new defensively. We talked about what we had to get done. We were ahead 17 14 at the half, very close game, we came out, scored immediately, made it 24 14 and our players took over from there defensively.
Q. A little smile came to your face when you saw Hoyer cover the fumble and get it off to Davis there. Just talk about that and handling adversity.
COACH Mark Dantonio: That wasn't a recovered fumble, that was a trick play. That was a fake fumble. He waved the ball a little bit at the ground there. (Laughter) that's the big play. That's a called play. That is a called play. So it was an outstanding job selling it, and, you know, we've had that, we've practiced that thing since the spring. And every time, every time it gets us.
Q. Can you comment on the Big 10 race now? You've played four games, won them all and now you've got a team that has not lost a game yet.
COACH Mark Dantonio: We're 0 0 in the Big 10, that's all I can tell you. And like we talked about to our players, whatever happened down here, if we played as hard as we could, and did the best we could and brought it emotionally, I was going to handle that; we would all handle that.
But whether we won or lost, we were going to be 3 1. And I could tell you something, too, guys. I don't know who said it but there is a big difference between winning and losing. And there is no lose lose in this game.
Q. Is this the first week you had T.J. Williams working at cornerback and can you talk about him?
COACH Mark Dantonio: Yeah, we worked him at corner today and worked him at corner this week. I felt like we needed an athlete to go up and play the ball, he's got a lot of skills in those areas, and worked him in the corner and he did a nice job. We lost Weaver and Davis and Warrick; we had three starting defensive backs out. Kendell and Nehemiah made it back for the game, they practiced Wednesday and Thursday but they were a little bit hobbled but made it back so we worked T.J. in there, and he did a nice job. He's a very good athlete and you know, like I said, he was willing to do whatever and a lot of our guys are willing to do whatever.
Q. Only three penalties, talk about that?
COACH Mark Dantonio: Well we wanted to reemphasize the penalties. We had Carlton holding and a delay I think, and jumped off the side one time. So I did another great job at that and we just keep focusing at that and kept talking about it, you know, in between series, every time I step up to that huddle. Our guys were good. They came to play. I'm so happy for those guys over there. I can't tell you how emotional they are.
MSU Player Quotes
Senior LB Kaleb Thornhill
"Obviously, they scored first and we had to adjust a little bit and we just had to keep fighting. Eventually, we came up with some key stops and got our offense back in good position. They were able to execute and put some points on the board and help get us going in the right direction then to not give up any points in the second half was key. When you do that, you are going to be successful."
On Notre Dame's Performance:
"They have the athletes out there and there's no questions about that. They still have the potential to be a great team but it is tough to dig yourself out of a 0-4 hole. It will tell a lot about that team if they are able to dig out of it. It was a little unusual to see them run the ball as much as they did because we expected more passing according to our scouting report"
Junior QB Brian Hoyer
On His Effort:
"I put those first seven Notre Dame points on me but we were able to bounce back and put some points on the board. It's great to throw four touchdown passes but that all starts with the guys up front and they did a great job."
On Winning at ND:
"This is something I'll remember for the rest of my life. This is something I have dreamed up since I've been at Michigan State. It's a nice milestone"
On Continuing their Winning Streak:
"We've learned the hard way really. The last few years to start out 4-0 and 3-0 then to have it crumble from there so we are going to stay humble through the victories. Coach Dantonio always says we will judge this team at the end of the season and not right now."
Junior Wide Receiver Devin Thomas
On his role on the team:
" I just try to do as much as I can for the team, whether it's kick returns or whether I have to run down and play anything. Just getting the opportunity to make a difference- it feels good."
On moving past last year's ND game:
"It's something that's been on our minds for awhile. It was an emotional game. We knew there was going to be some adversity, but we went in and we got the job done today. Getting the opportunity to make up for that, for all the fans, for everybody that was involved in the situation... everybody's happy. We're going to enjoy this for a little bit, then we're going to move on to Wisconsin."
Senior TE Kellen Davis
On an emotional locker room:
"It was definitely an emotional win, especially for the seniors. For me, it's the last time I'm ever going to play Notre Dame, so to get a win here is special for me."
On burying last year's loss:
"This game last year was kind of the downfall of our season. We peaked here and then lost at the end of the season. It's kind of a vindication, or redemption for us, especially for those of us who started or played last year."
Senior DE Jonal Saint-Dic
On sacks and stripping the ball:
"It's so hard to get a sack in this conference. In the Big Ten, they pound the ball. Whenever they get a chance to attack the ball, they take advantage of it. It's a hard league. It's a big, physical league. And when I get a chance to attack the quarterback, I always try to strip the ball."
Junior RB Javon Ringer
On rushing for over 100 yards for the first time this season:
A lot of that credit goes to God for bringing me back from that knee injury. Like I have been saying for a long time, all of our success is going to come from how good our offensive line is, and today they played great.
On the win:
This is great, we just made history today. We did something that no other team has ever done before. This is something that we are going to enjoy for the rest of the night on the bus ride, and we will probably still feel good about it in the morning but as I can speak for myself and everybody else on this team, Sunday afternoon this game is done. This game is behind us. We play Wisconsin next week.
Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis
Q. What did you see that you could build from, and where did you go from here with this team?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: The one thing I was encouraged with was the play of our running backs. We went into this game saying regardless of what was going to happen in this game, we were going to try to run the ball and run the ball with some power. Even though we had a couple negative runs in the game, for the most part I thought Aldridge, and Nuss, for that matter and even Armando for a couple plays, a couple plays he had; and Travis runs the ball once and he scores a touchdown.
So I think the play of the running back, if I want to pick one bright spot in the game, that would definitely have been the play of the running backs in the game because there was some semblance of a running game. And I think that that's, you know, that's a start.
Q. You had a very difficult first four
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Let me finish and I'll come over to you. I'm not going anywhere. I think the running game, if we can keep on improving the running game, it will improve the playaction game, which right now would be one of our best plays to be able to throw the ball down the field because I'm not throwing it as much as I've thrown it in the past. And playaction becomes more effective if we can establish the run. So we have to do more of the same, we do. We have to do more of the same.
Go ahead, sir.
Q. Would you just talk about Michigan State, your assessment of them and what you thought?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, first of all, I thought it was very classy of Coach Dantonio at the end of the game because he could have scored again. You know, he had us where our guys were pretty worn out at the end of the game, and if he really wanted to, he probably could have run it in again, okay.
But I think that I thought that that was a pretty classy thing for him to do after the game was over to put the bats away, and I told him that after the game. I mean, they are a physical team; to score 17 14 at half time, but the game could have gone either way at half time. Coming out of the gate, coming out of the lock room at half time, obviously it started at the kickoff return, and now they get the ball in plus territory and then they are in the end zone. Next thing we know, the game started to change.
Q. The training camp mentality, do you think you got the desired result from that today?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well it definitely helped for at least a half. This is the first time in a while where at half time, you know, you went in. And it was far from perfect now. At least we looked like a football team out there. We looked like a competitive football team going against a good opponent, and I just think our performance in the second half wasn't nearly as good as our performance in the first half.
Q. What did you tell the guys after this one?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, I started with that comment right there. I talked about how at half time one of my biggest disappointments this. At half time I don't talk for eight minutes at half time. I gather the coaching staff, we talk about corrections and then I try to make my biggest points of emphasis. I talk about three things. First of all, we had to start off on kickoff coverage pinning them back. How did I do? The ball ends up in plus territory.
Then I said, we have to get off the field on third down. How did I do? Convert a third and nine, and third and 17, and next thing you know they are in the end zone, okay.
And then I said we have to get a sustained drive so that the defense isn't on the field the whole day, and how did I do again.
So obviously, I know I'm not playing, I know I'm not playing, but still, all of my points of emphasis at half time, I hit the trifecta; I was 0 for 3.
Q. What's your overall feeling? You improve, but it's still a loss.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: A loss is a loss no matter what. I have to my perspective is a pretty simple one. My responsibility and my job is to get this job team to improve, okay. And when they rush for a couple hundred yards and rush it 50 times, it usually means that things are going well for the other team. Because when you rush it 50 times, it means that you're moving the ball, and I think that the quarterback goes, what, 11 for 24, but he throws four touchdown passes. Why is that? That's because they are running the ball so effectively that play action pass ends up being almost a slam dunk, like you saw the one down on the goal line. You're selling out to try to stop the run and next thing you know, there's a guy wide open in the end zone.
I do know this. I do know that after last week's game, the guys could have done one of two things, okay. They could have come in and thrown in the towel, or they could have come in slugging it out and they came out slugging it out, and you could see that from the start of the game. This wasn't a team that was anywhere close to packing it in, and I think that we'll continue to improve because we'll continue working on our mentality to see all of those things that we talked with, whether it be the kicking game which really killed us today; I don't have to say anything about that. You guys all saw it. I mean, the kicking game killed us. I wanted to play field position and punting the ball a whole bunch, and we had an awful day in that situation right there. Field position was awful.
To be honest with you, I came out of there in retrospect saying, you know, what calls would I have done different? And the only thing in retrospect I might have done different is not go for it fourth and one around the 50 yard line. But we had run the play twice for nine and seven yards the exact same play. I figured this is a situation you try to give your offense some confidence. It's 24 14, you know fortunately, it didn't come back to haunt us, and we stopped them and they punted the ball for a touchback, but it could have come back. It could have been a quick flip at the time. They had just scored and now it's 24 14. So I go for it at the 50 yard line, and next thing you know, it could be a quick seven right there. Then that move which would be the one thing you say maybe I should have just punted then that move would have hurt a lot more.
Q. Do you continue with the training camp mode, as you said, this week?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Yeah, the only difference, we're doing it again tomorrow. We're not stopping. But the only difference is unlike last week where we didn't even watch the tape, we're going to come in and watch the tape. It's just that their weight lifting part of the day that normally takes place, that will get replaced. That will get replaced by practice, but they have already been told that. And I don't think they are going to be jumping out to buy the papers or anything tomorrow.
Q. With the way Michigan State owned the second half, is there a talent gap between these two programs, and if so, why?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: You really can't worry about the talent gap because Michigan State, you know, that was a nice, decisive win for them and a great second half. It was a very competitive first half. I mean, would you have asked me that question at half time? I'm just saying, at half time, you might not have asked me that question.
But as the game turns out, that's a fair question to ask. I can't evaluate that now until after I've gone in there and given it a good, long look, because it would be premature at that point. I don't know if it's because they are playing so good; we are playing so bad; I don't know if it's talent.
I do know that I never make a rash judgment until after I get a good chance to go ahead and evaluate it the second time around, because during the game you really can't see it the same as when you see it tomorrow morning.
Q. Can you assess Clausen's performance and the decision to take him out after three quarters?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think Jimmy was playing so solid. I didn't think he was bad. I didn't think he was good. You know, because we are about ready to go into a different type of mode in a game that he has not had as much repetition, which was a version of no huddle, try to pick up that odd or scramble package that they have; the pressure, I didn't think he would have enough familiarity in doing that at that time. And so I won't let a guy who isn't more veteran at trying to run that package, that's the reason why I did that.
Q. Can you talk about playing Clausen three quarters?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, going into the game, especially for anyone who has been around this week, I've said the game is just going to be the guy who is going to get the ball.
We went into the game to be honest, he carried it 18 times; I would have liked to give it to him about another five or ten times, but just the game didn't warrant me being able to that. And I wanted to get Robert into the mix because he brings that even bigger body than James. He's 15 or 20 pounds heavier than James. If you're going to try to play a slug it out mentality, you'd better have a couple of big bodies that can handle it.
Q. How do you feel about the play of your offensive line?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, the good news and the bad news, okay, the good news is that we ran the ball more effectively. That's not just the runners. Obviously the offensive line is involved in that mix as are the tight ends and the fullbacks, okay.
The bad news is I still think we had some problems, some fundamental problems in blitz pickup, which discouraged me because they weren't outnumbered situations, okay. There was only one time where, you know, there was a sight adjustable ball and we threw the ball away. There were a couple of times where you have enough guys to block you, and just we need to get some things fixed if we're going to be able to throw the ball down the field.
Q. Any comment on the history made in the first 0 4 start in program history?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: To be honest with you, I'm just worrying about my team and I'll be worried about critically evaluating last week's game and getting ready for next week's game. That's all I'm just doing. That's the way I do every week. I mean, records to me are not the critical factor. I live in one week entities. You guys all know that. That's never changed, okay, and it never will change.
So I'll critically evaluate this game and then get ready for Purdue. I'm not worrying about the record. I mean, do I to want? That might be a tad bit rhetorical. I obviously want to win.
But right now I'll worry about evaluating today's game and see where I think all of the problems are, seeing how many of them I can fix, and then try to give us a game plan and try to be, you know, go to West Lafayette and give us the best chance of winning.
Q. How do you guard the guys from some negativity from coming away?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: It can't be any worse than the last couple of weeks. I mean, for the players it's going to be more of the same. I think that for those guys, okay, the one thing you have to guard against is really the opposite of what you're asking. What you have to guard against is them starting to just go off the ship. I'm not saying people quit, but I mean, psychologically, I think that it's important to make sure you keep guys on the same page right there.
More than even physically I think psychologically it's the most important thing. We worked on that in the locker room after the game. I don't wait until tomorrow to work on that aspect. That's one of the first things I talk about when we get in the locker room.
Q. How much of a concern is it or how do you guard against maybe I you kind of answered it there; do you worry about the players getting accustomed to losing, getting comfortable?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I take them out of that comfort zone. That's an honest answer. I take them out of that comfort zone. I don't allow that. I'm not one of those guys and you all have been around those type of guys where losing is okay. Well, I'm not one of those guys, okay. I've never been a finger pointer, either. So you have to make sure that there's a fine line between how you deal with things.
But it's never going an it's okay to lose; whether you lose by one or whether you lose by 17, it's never okay.
I think the most important thing for them is they know what my demands are going to be, and they know I never change. Some of you who know me very well, on the field or in the classroom, know that I'm probably as consistent as you'll ever see far as how I handle situations whether they are good or bad. And I think that they know what my expectations are. They already heard them in there and I will follow up on it, starting tomorrow.
Q. When there is no payoff, however hard they are working, how difficult is it to convince them that they are working toward an end, working towards something when there is no payoff?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: They have to believe there's going to be a payoff. I mean, you keep on working until there is a payoff. And at this point, you know, there's been no payoff. You keep on working for next one until there's a payoff, and there's going to be one. You know, hopefully it's against Purdue.
You know, what you have to do at this time right now, this 24 hour window that we're dealing with right now, first of all, you address them now, and then as soon as you get in tomorrow afternoon, you have to do two things at the same time. One, make sure they understand that things that happened bad are not okay.
Two, start taking the things that were good, okay, and growing from those so that had we talked about that niche or core that we talked about this week, that has to grow. That has to grow.
Q. This is the first time Jimmy has faced as much adversity, with your conversation with him on the sidelines after the game, how would you evaluate how he's handling that?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: It one long conversation with him. Evan was going to come in to run that package right there, and I just explained to him the development of a quarterback. That's really what our conversation was about. It was really about the evolving and development of a quarterback.
Because when you're dealing with a kid on the sideline like I said last week, he doesn't show those far away eyes. He doesn't show any of that. He shows disappointment, but doesn't show those far away eyes. But you need to explain to him how the development of a quarterback is really in three aspects, okay, and one of them is leadership, okay. One of them is mental and one of them is physical, okay, and they are all part of the process.
Q. Do you feel like he took a step forward today?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: The biggest thing you look for in a situation like this, is how he's going to handle when things aren't going great. It's easy to be a quarterback when things are going well. I mean, you're the one that everyone wants to pat on the back and give you all the credit, okay. But when things are not going well, it's a lot tougher test. He's far from being the problem here. We have a whole litany of things that are involved in being the problem, okay. But he'll continue to develop the way he's been developing he'll continue to get better, and positive things are ahead for him.
But just like every other position, it's important you understand, it's not okay when things don't go well. I'm not going to be a pat you on the back, don't worry about it, things are okay type of guy. I'm an analytic person; go look at what the problems are, see what we did, see what we did poorly and then try to go from there.
Notre Dame Player Quotes
Junior NT Patrick Kuntz
On what keeps them coming back when there haven't been wins:
"I've never been one to give up and I'm trying to do the best I can in this situation and trying to be as positive as I can."
On training camp perspective:
"It definitely helped out. We were a lot more physical today than we were in the first three games. We just didn't play as physical as we could for the entire game."
Senior DE Trevor Laws
On seeing a payoff:
"We just want to have fun out there and play with each other, win games. I want to enjoy my last year with my friends out there and do the best we can."
On how tough this last week was:
"It was tough. It's not going to get any easier this week. We just have to find a way to do better."
Senior DS Tom Zbikowski
On extra negativity:
"We're not going to worry about it, just keep playing. Keep getting better every week and keep working for a win."
On searching for answers:
"It's tough now obviously with four straight losses. We need to get back to work and keep working to get better and hopefully get a win. We need to keep working for Purdue, that's what we have to start looking forward to. We have to put everything in the past."
On the seeing a payoff:
"We want to win, there is nothing more that we want than a win. I could care less what the score is or what type of win it is that's what everyone is looking for and that's where the payoff is going to be."
Sophomore LT Sam Young
On the "training camp" mentality coming into today's game:
"We were able to establish the run game physically. We took a step forward. Obviously we're not there yet, and like Coach Weis said, the physical training camp mentality continues. It's only going to continue to help us."
On whether to focus on what was done well or what was done poorly:
"We look at both. We've got to look at the things we did positively and build off them, and we've got to look at the things we did poorly and learn from them. We're in a rut right now and we have to dig ourselves out, and this is the only way we can do that."
On his experiences in dealing with adversity:
"I've been in this position before, when I was younger [before high school]. We've got to keep fighting, that's the only way we're going to get better."
On whether the team will "keep fighting":
"Our team has a lot of competitors. I'm not worried about players giving up."
Senior C John Sullivan
On the "training camp" mentality coming into today's game:
"I think it's pretty evident that it helped the team today. We got the running game going in the first half, really for the first time all season. You have to play two halves, and we didn't really do much in the second. But this is definitely a step in the right direction."
On leading the team by example:
"I'm going to try to focus on the positive things that we had today. If we can focus on those and build upon those, and have that continue throughout the entire game next week, we'll be more successful. We have competitors on this team. We came out today and fought, and that's what we'll do again next week."
Junior FS David Bruton
On Notre Dame's 0-4 record:
"This is tough. It's hard. You don't expect to go 0-4, especially playing at Notre Dame. It's the first time I've ever been 0-4 in my football career, so it's tough."
On the offense's improvement:
"We [the defense] were getting excited with every long run, the touchdown runs, the physicality of the offense. We were getting pumped up on the sideline, and getting ready to make another stop."
On intercepting MSU quarterback Brian Hoyer in the end zone:
"I was just reading [the quarterback]. Coach told me that I would get one. I was just reading the quarterback and I made a really good break on the ball. I did just like we do in practice and went for the ball at its highest point."
On the multiple personnel packages used by the defense:
"We've got little wrinkles like this. It's beneficial for rest and for different personnel groups and formations. We've got to get better at everything, not just with the wrinkles, but on regular defense."
Q. James, the mixed emotions of playing well individually, but still a fourth loss to start the season, how do you feel about the game, can you talk about that?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: Well, it's always good to have a good game but it's not good enough. We have to get back and practice tomorrow, keep trying to see what we can do.
Q. Do you feel better about yourselves than walking off the field in Ann Arbor?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: We tried to work on the running game and the play of the line and we are kind of getting some things together now and things came together I mean, we've got some things to work on.
Q. Can you talk about getting in a rhythm, being over 100 yards, had to feel good to get the carries and then get the yards?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: Yeah, it felt good, but it's not good enough. We've got to do more. So we're going to go back to practice tomorrow and hopefully get better, plugging away.
Q. You guys have had so many hits against you; it has to be nice to have positive yardage.
JAMES ALDRIDGE: Yeah, the offensive line has been working at it, and it's always good to have some positive yardage. All credit goes to the offensive line this time.
Q. What was it like being a running back this week with all of the extra tackling and physicality in practice?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: That's what we lift weights for, so we can do it ourselves, for that type of punishment we get, and we don't want to sustain any injuries really.
I'm feeling all right, and I'm guessing all the other running backs feel good.
Q. (No microphone).
JAMES ALDRIDGE: I guess feeling after a loss we did some good things with you we feel we didn't come out with a W. We have some more things to work on.
Q. (No microphone).
JAMES ALDRIDGE: We're taking small steps, we're taking steps in a better direction. Hopefully we can take more steps and things will come together.
Q. (No microphone).
JAMES ALDRIDGE: That's what we're here for, I go to school to play football, plain and simple. Whatever Coach says, goes. That's all you've got to do.
Q. Did you feel like you were finally able to get a rhythm today, and how important is that to you to get some carries back to back?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: Well, like I always say, Coach calls on my number, that's when I go in. And I got my numbered called today and I did my best to take advantage of it.
Q. Did you know going into the week that you were going to be more or less the guy?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: From the reps in practice (inaudible) I tried my best to respond to the situation.
Q. Coach said he wanted five or ten more carries but it didn't work out. You both kind of bring that strong (inaudible) to the offense to counteract how do you feel about that? Could you have carried the ball ten more times?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: If he called my ten more times whatever Coach said, goes.
Q. Did you feel strong there to the end?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: Yeah, I feel fine, yeah.
Q. Is there a weight off your back being able to finally run the ball, and as a team you were able to the first three games?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: No, I mean, it's always room for improvement and it's not good enough where we can go get a victory.
Q. Is there a silver lining?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: A couple. We lost, so we have to keep working. No matter how many people, how many yards, this, that, we lost. So we've got to keep working.
Q. Are you starting to think about next week, and that you've got to something to build on here?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: Yeah, we've got Purdue. We're going to practice to beat Purdue. Short term memory, that's what we're going to work on.
Q. You and Robert, can you talk about that?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: I think it naturally picked up. He kind of had him by himself and I think Jeff's probably I'm guessing. You know we're just going to work on things that we developed naturally.
Q. On that 43 yard run, did you get caught by the lineback?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: I don't know. I did, too.
Q. Can you talk about that run?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: The hole opened up where I tried to kick it outside. We ended up getting it off to the end, so that's always a about thing.
Q. How do you feel right now personally?
JAMES ALDRIDGE: I'm down. I mean, you know, can't really worry about the 0 4 start because it's week by week. People are going to look at the record but we are working each day to get better. So, I mean, just really got to have a short term memory and keep working.
Q. Maurice, do you even love practice when you guys are struggling?
MAURICE CRUM: Yeah, definitely, it's hard but my love for game; find me another game, I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't try to hard to work every day to get us to where we need to be.
Q. It's strange, we're talking about the running game improving and some little steps, but this team needs some big steps, how do you accelerate that process?
MAURICE CRUM: It's that fundamental and we've just got to go back to day one and just work out all of the kinks and get it around the same page and just go hard.
Q. Your game, what was going through your hard? You were all over the field.
MAURICE CRUM: I'm just trying to win. That's how I want to play every day. So, I mean, I come with that attitude and I'm just trying to do my part, that's it.
Q. From a defensive standpoint, how much do you think that the training camp mentality helped you guys this week?
MAURICE CRUM: I think it helped us out a lot but we still need more. We still have more work to do, that's evident, but I do believe that it did help us.
Q. Talk about just the start that you guys had, it had to be encouraging at half time to see 17 14, we're in this game, we have a shot.
MAURICE CRUM: Yeah, definitely, that was a positive for us, and I mean, this has been a long time since we've played the game and it's been that way. So for us that was a positive.
Again, we had a letdown and for us to win, we can't have that.
Q. Talk about how hard it is to grade the second half because it was so disappointing. In your evaluation, was it them, or was it you?
MAURICE CRUM: For the most part all credit to them. They played an excellent game and their backs hit the holes and they made the plays and when they need to make the plays.
I think the difference was that we didn't make the plays that we needed. Getting off the field, coming up with turnovers, we just didn't make the plays that we needed to. All credit to them. They did had a they were supposed to do.
Q. Did you anticipate the emotion that they had, after last year?
MAURICE CRUM: Definitely. I was not expecting this to be a flat game regardless of what happened last year. This game is always going to be like an emotional game for both sides of the football.
Q. Can you just talk about being a defensive player, game four, seeing your offense finally get its first touchdown of the season, what that was like?
MAURICE CRUM: Definitely, it put smiles on everyone's faces, because that's all we're trying to do is get better and try to win. As we see ourselves progressing, that's always a great plus.
Q. Where do you see the payoff; can you see that or where do you see that or where do you look for it?
MAURICE CRUM: The payoff for us, it comes in putting in your work throughout the week regardless of how hard it is and whatever you've got to go through. The payoff for us comes Saturday. It's coming out and performing to the level that we know we can play at.
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