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
On Notre Dame's Performance:
Junior QB Brian Hoyer
On His Effort:
On Winning at ND:
On Continuing their Winning Streak:
Junior Wide Receiver Devin Thomas
On his role on the team:
On moving past last year's ND game:
Senior TE Kellen Davis
On an emotional locker room:
On burying last year's loss:
Senior DE Jonal Saint-Dic
On sacks and stripping the ball:
Junior RB Javon Ringer
On rushing for over 100 yards for the first time this season:
On the win:
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?
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
Go ahead, sir.
Q. Would you just talk about Michigan State, your assessment of them and what you thought?
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?
Q. What did you tell the guys after this one?
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.
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?
Q. With the way Michigan State owned the second half, is there a talent gap between these two programs, and if so, why?
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?
Q. Can you talk about playing Clausen three quarters?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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 training camp perspective:
Senior DE Trevor Laws
On how tough this last week was:
Senior DS Tom Zbikowski
On searching for answers:
On the seeing a payoff:
Sophomore LT Sam Young
On whether to focus on what was done well or what was done poorly:
On his experiences in dealing with adversity:
On whether the team will "keep fighting":
Senior C John Sullivan
On leading the team by example:
Junior FS David Bruton
On the offense's improvement:
On intercepting MSU quarterback Brian Hoyer in the end zone:
On the multiple personnel packages used by the 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?
Q. Do you feel better about yourselves than walking off the field in Ann Arbor?
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?
Q. You guys have had so many hits against you; it has to be nice to have positive yardage.
Q. What was it like being a running back this week with all of the extra tackling and physicality in practice?
I'm feeling all right, and I'm guessing all the other running backs feel good.
Q. (No microphone).
Q. (No microphone).
Q. (No microphone).
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?
Q. Did you know going into the week that you were going to be more or less the guy?
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?
Q. Did you feel strong there to the end?
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?
Q. Is there a silver lining?
Q. Are you starting to think about next week, and that you've got to something to build on here?
Q. You and Robert, can you talk about that?
Q. On that 43 yard run, did you get caught by the lineback?
Q. Can you talk about that run?
Q. How do you feel right now personally?
Q. Maurice, do you even love practice when you guys are struggling?
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?
Q. Your game, what was going through your hard? You were all over the field.
Q. From a defensive standpoint, how much do you think that the training camp mentality helped you guys this week?
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.
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?
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?
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?
Q. Where do you see the payoff; can you see that or where do you see that or where do you look for it?
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