Oct. 16, 2010
Michigan State Football - Post-Game Quotes MSU vs. Illinois Saturday, October 16, 2010
Head Coach Mark Dantonio
Good tough football game today. I thought Illinois came to play. Our football team came out the second half and played extremely well, I felt. Turnovers were the difference, really, and special teams today - opportunistic offense. A lot of the things I guess Coach Tressell talked about at Ohio State when I was down there.
When you look at us really, as a football team, I felt the first half the momentum was in their favor. It was 19-11 possession time. Even though we sort of had given them those six points, with a couple of big penalties and the muffed punt, State still had the momentum. We had to be able to snatch that back and I thought we did that in the second half immediately with the three and out.
I really think that Kevin Muma did an outstanding job on kickoffs. He put a bunch of them in the end zone, which is huge. Their starting point was always around the twenty. Dan Conroy, with his kicks, was excellent. Four turnovers, big, huge, - I think it created a four- to-one turnover margin. Offense was just opportunistic with the big play to B.J. Cunningham, and then to get the drives down there, we stalled out a little bit and kicked the field goals. We finally found a way to run the ball a little bit in the fourth quarter
I guess when you talk about it, the thing I wanted to see out of our football team, was maturity. When you can handle adversity and come back the second half, you show a lot of maturity in that area. I guess we'll just congratulate them on that. Illinois has a good football team. They ran the ball effectively the first half. They played good defense and they are a well- coached football team.
On what being 7-0 for the first time since 1966 and beating Michigan last week means to him
I think it means that we're getting there. When we came here, we didn't want to win one year and out. We didn't want to be a team that won one year and then had three down years. We wanted to recruit with longevity. We wanted to recruit and have players come here as high school seniors and evolve. When you can do this, you're building a program. I think that's what we are trying to do. We want to build a program here that's based on winning. It's hard, very hard, in the Big Ten Conference, because it's very competitive. Even out there, it was 26-6 but that score is not indicative of the closeness of this football game. You feel good about it. When you talk about 47 years, I was 11. That's not a bad deal. I feel very, very happy for our players and our coaches to be able to do something that hasn't been done in a while. It gives you great satisfaction.
On what the standing ovation from the crowd meant to him
It was humbling. It was very humbling. I sit at the top of this program but there is so many people in this program that makes it work, from the assistant coaches, to the players, to the administration. It really takes so many people to be successful here. One guy doesn't get it done. It was comforting. I'm not sure it would have been like that if it was 15-10, but I love the Spartans and hope to be here for a long time.
On if it was Illinois' defensive front that shut down the Spartans
They have a good football team. I said coming in they had an aggressive, athletic front. Their linebackers are aggressive, secondary is aggressive. They committed a lot of people to the line of scrimmage. They did a good job taking away the bubble pass a little bit, but it hurt them on some other things. They moved the front some on us and they made plays. And credit to them. We have run the ball effectively for six games, but this game not as well. I do think that in the fourth quarter Larry Caper got the hot hand. He was the hot back today. When you have three guys that can make plays, it's a good thing. That was good for him. He continues to knock the dust off where he's at as a football player and I thought he played very well.
On his confidence level in his defense to make game-changing plays
Well we are coming up with turnovers and any time you are getting turnovers, good things are going to happen. Sometimes they come in bunches and I think it's a confidence thing. You start to get turnovers; you start to develop that attitude that they are going to happen for you. Last year, how many did we have right now? I think we might have twelve interceptions, I'm not positive. We are playing well. In fact, (Darqueze) Dennard played a nice game, for a true freshman stepping out there. Certainly Marcus Hyde and Johnny Adams and Trenton Anderson played very well.
On having a program with a history of a lot of let downs, how does being 7-0 feel now
I hope it speaks to maturity. Again, that's why we were able to win this football game. We were able to show a lot of maturity coming from what we did at half time and being resilient, sort of reaching back and doing the things we need to win, sort of regrouping. I feel like maybe I'm talking a little bit of out of turn here, but I feel like we have competed in every game we have been through. We might have won the games close, but we have competed and our guys have come to play. I appreciate that.
On the time-out situation in the first half
We didn't take the time out and that was my decision. Basically because there was a minute left and I felt like we hadn't been playing very well offensively. We needed to go in and we needed to regroup. It was 6-3, we didn't need to make a mistake, even though we muffed the punt. Actually, it was 3-3. So we needed to go in and regroup and come back out the second half. They had the momentum at that point. It just felt like, at that point in time that we would probably be coming off of our ten yard line and we would run the ball anyway, so I just let it run down.
On what happened at halftime
Coach Narduzzi was getting in there a little bit. I think all the coaches were. And then what we just talked about - that they had the momentum, we needed to snatch that back. The score was 6-3 - it wasn't 20-3, but 6-3 - and we were very much in that football game. I think our players expected more. We needed to do the things we needed to do to get back into it and it had to start with defense. We were doing things defensively, I felt or we felt as a coaching staff that was taking us out of position. It was things that if a guy wouldn't line up right or we would get a penalty and again the concern in this game was the penalties. But we'll keep working and that will be a challenge for us next week.
On him saying at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago that he had a feeling about this team, and whether that still holds true
Absolutely. As I talked to our football team this morning, I knew this football team would be special. The things that we had to go through last season, whether it was the close losses or the 1-3 start, or the event, however you want to determine it, at the end of the season, or the guys not being there for bowl practice or bowl games that went into the winter conditioning program. I felt like the guys that were there were all in and they were getting great leadership from the ground level. I have said that over and over. Our players are leading right now. When you can get your players to lead and your coaches don't have to lead on the field, good things can happen. And I think that's happening.
Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi
I was obviously happy with the win. I was not real excited at halftime - I thought we were sluggish in the first half; we literally had two long, 12 or 14 play drives. I thought we did some good things, we just did not make plays in the first two drives of the game. And on third down, we just did not get off the field. WE came in at half time and cleaned some things up, and the boys came out to play the second half like championship football.
On how the defensive end position is progressing
I need to see the tape. The important thing is they had 282 rushing yards, and we stopped the run and took away some things that they thought they had coming into the game. Our defense coach did a great job getting those guys in position to make plays - that is the key to the game.
On how freshman Darqueze Dennard stood up to the challenge of today's game
The guy is a playmaker. He got picked off - he and Trenton (Robinson) bumped into each other on that pass but the guy continues to make plays. Then he knocks the ball out, causes a turnover, a big play, the guy never quits on the ball and makes plays. That is what he has done all along, and if he did not get picked on that play he would have made a play. That is what corner backs do is make plays on balls. That was his first start, that is a puppy out there playing field corner in Big Ten football game. He was not in there against Florida Atlantic or Western Michigan, he was in there in the Big Ten Conference lining up against Big Ten receivers playing football. We have got ourselves another corner we know for sure.
On how the defense played the game
Our coaches are doing a great job coaching and our players are doing a good job believing in what we are doing and how we are doing it. The kids are making plays, there is no magic to it. I think we have got great leadership on our football team, and they have to believe in what they are doing and they are making plays - and that is not what we were doing a year ago. There is no magic and no new defense. All of that three four stuff, you guys have not seen any of it. It is guys doing what they are supposed to do when they are supposed to do it.
On his halftime speech
I would not say rah-rah speech, I was really ripping their tail. Telling them to make a play and that is about it. There were no adjustments for sure, just do what you are supposed to do and get cranked up.
Offensive Coordinator Don Treadwell
I was really proud of the way our young men responded, needless to say it was not one of our better-performing first halves. But the true test of a championship-type team is certainly working through adversity; and then when you are backed up against it, being able to answer - and we were really pleased our kids did that today. They came back out the second half and were able to settle them down a little bit at halftime, if you take out some of the penalties and some of the things that were self-inflicted that we did, we probably would have had a little more success in some of the drives that we did have. Obviously red zone continues to be a focus for any team, whether we come away with touchdowns or field goals, we must have points and we did that. [Dan] Conroy has been tremendous for us this year. I believe in third down, which is not one of our strongest suits, we were probably close to fifty percent today, so that helped us sustain some of the drives. And then you could see by the attitude and display by the players when they came out to second half that they were not going to be denied and I think that made a big difference. And as Pat [Narduzzi] said - we have got great leadership within the team, not only at the top with Coach Dantonio, but the players really stepped up. On concerns with running the ball against Illinois
Our hats are off to Illinois. We have said all along that this is one of the toughest teams that we were going to play, up to this point, defensively. They showed that today, they are extremely good against the run. We knew that and we wanted to try to keep them off balance a little bit because of that. But the neat thing about their defense is not one player, they collectively play very well together and we knew that would be a challenge and it obviously showed itself out there at times today.
Head Coach Ron Zook
Obviously there is a disappointed group over there, and as I told them - I don't think, particularly in the second half, we played well enough to win. That's a good football team [MSU], and without looking at the tape, to me, it is the best team we have played to date. They are a good football team, very solid. We told them it was going to be a physical football game, which it was. We told them it would be one of those games where there would be jawing back and forth. I was a little disappointed in the fact that we retaliated a couple of times, but I think we will get that corrected. But still there were a lot of good things, but we just couldn't get anything going in the third quarter. The turnovers made some things happen (for MSU).
On the injury of freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase
I think he just had the wind knocked out of him. It wasn't one of his better games so far, and I think you are going to go through that with a first year player.
On the interceptions
I think that they just read him (Nathan Scheelhaase), sometimes Nate can zero in on a couple of receivers. He was so excited, and particularly earlier in the game I think he was throwing the ball extremely well. There was good protection, and then at the end of the second half I think he might have been looking around and still looking downfield, when he should have been looking at who was coming. Once again, he will get better and better at that.
On the run defense stepping up
They were playing hard, and they were playing physical. The coaches put them in good situations to make things happen. For the most part they played well. We asked an awful lot of them, and they weren't able to produce quite as much as we would like. Overall, I think they did pretty well.
On the ability to get pressure on junior quarterback Kirk Cousins in the first half compared to the second half
They made a few adjustments as well, and I don't know exactly what they did. But we were going with the same things we had done the first part of the game. We didn't play very many plays in the first half, so I thought we would be fresh. The turnovers were a big thing, and big plays take the wind out of you as much as anything.
The 48-yd touchdown pass by Michigan State
It was a couple of things, the mike linebacker has to try to help, the corner has to stay in the middle third [of the field], and Terry [Hawthorne] hasn't seen that in a while. Terry was in there, and we didn't get to him [Kirk Cousins]. It was a combination of all eleven guys not exactly doing what they needed to do.
On the fumble by junior A.J. Jenkins
That was a freshman mistake, just get on the ball. Those are things that we learn from and get better.
His thoughts at the halfway point of the season
I think we have lost to three pretty good football teams, three teams that are all ranked. We think and [the players] think that we can compete with anybody else that is left on our schedule. But still we are going to have to go do it. We are going to have to go play, one week at a time. Next week is against Indiana and that is one of those games that are always a barn burner. It is our homecoming and we've got to be ready to go.
The play of junior defensive tackle Corey Liuget
Corey has been just getting better and better the last few weeks. Not only the way he is playing, but with his leadership and his voice. He is talking in the locker room, in the huddle, and is vocal on the practice field. We are proud, and once again it just carries over.
Halftime play calling
They said that it was at eight seconds (the game clock), and I wasn't going to take a chance. We took too long getting the play called, number one. That is something that Nathan (Scheelhaase) is going to get better at. They called a timeout and we thought it was at twelve seconds, which would have given us the opportunity to throw it in the end zone. But they put one second back on the clock, it was at seven and then it was eight, and I wasn't going to take a chance. I thought it was important to get three points there at least. If you throw one in the end zone great, [but] if you throw one and don't have a way to stop the clock... I think you just take the points.
The play of Michigan State
Number one they are very well coached, number two they are just very physical guys, that is just kind of the way they play. They have good athletes, their quarterback does a nice job of running their offense, and defensively they have the ability to make stops.
Michigan State Player Quotes
Junior quarterback Kirk Cousins
On what was said during the locker room at halftime
I think that was a great football team we were playing, and they had a great game plan against our offense, especially early. We just knew we had to outlast them through the game. We've been a good second half team, if you look at our completion percentage in the second half of games and our ability to run the ball in the fourth quarter. We've been good in the second half. Our coaches have done a good job of making adjustments to what the defenses are doing against us, regrouping and getting a good plan going into the second half. They got the ball first in the second half and our defense held them. Our defense played very well all day, and our offense really fed off of our defense's energy and the turnovers they created.
On how it feels to have double digit wins this year as opposed to many of last year's down-to-the-wire games
Last year I think our defense sort of fed off of our offense's ability to score, so we had to constantly be scoring. This year you see some times where our defense is making stops and that's energizing our offense. Again, what we're doing right now this year is we're winning as a team. It's not one area that's winning games constantly week after week. Every element of the game is contributing somewhere; our field goal team, our kickoff team with Kevin [Muma] putting it into the endzone, turnovers, running the ball at times, we're converting third downs, throwing the ball. When we have to make plays right now, we're making plays.
On when they realized today they needed to rely more on the pass than on the rush
Well, we always are going to try to keep pounding at them and wear them down, but we knew that they had a tremendous defense. I think that the outside didn't quite understand how good Illinois is because they lost to a Missouri team which is currently undefeated and they lost to an Ohio State team who is the number one team in the country. They played both those teams very, very tough. So we knew we were going to have a dogfight in here, and that's what it ended up being. We just knew we had to outlast them and we were fortunate enough to do that. But you have to credit Illinois. I think they are going to have a very good season. They are a program on the rise, and I think they will be bowl eligible at the end of the year.
On the emphasis throughout the week to not allow the team to let-down after the big win in Ann Arbor
Well I think the biggest thing are the two words we've been saying: "Humble and Hungry." We have to stay humble and hungry, and we've really said it since camp. It's even more important now with where we stand at 7-0 to stay humble and hungry. That was the cry all week, and it's going to need to continue to be the cry. Honestly, if you look back since Coach Dantonio has been here, we haven't had let downs after Michigan. We won two-straight games after the Michigan loss in '07, we won two games in'08 after we beat them and we won two games in '09 after we beat Michigan. Coach Dantonio has done a good job making sure we avoid a letdown after playing UM.
On what Coach Dantonio said to the team at halftime
Really it was just an adjustment thing. We go into X's and O's with our position coach and our offensive coordinator and talk about what we're doing well and what we can do better. Coach Dantonio just said we have to keep fighting. He said what we've done so far in the first half has more been us not getting the job done than them beating us. We knew we needed to just keep chipping away, keep fighting and that we were going to be all right in the second half, because it wasn't stuff that they doing to beat us; it was stuff we were beating ourselves with.
Sophomore Cornerback Johnny Adams
On having more success in the secondary this season
We are communicating more and we have just taken it upon ourselves to just go out there and get better every day.
On Freshman Cornerback Darqueze Dennard's debut performance
Darqueze is a great player, we knew he was going to go out there and have a good time, have fun and make plays.
On the 7-0 start
Well 7-0 is great and now we're got to keep pushing, keep going.
Sophomore Kicker Dan Conroy
On how he's been able to perform so well throughout the season
Really having two years under Brett Swenson, just the mental aspect of putting everything that he taught me into place The more practice, the better you get.
On what Swenson taught him
Just to stay focused and stay composed. Today it was weird, I was the most relaxed I've ever been, almost to the point where I was getting a little too relaxed. I had to double-check myself and stay focused, I have a job to do here.
On if the goal posts look to be farther and farther apart
They look the same. I'm not going to get ahead of myself. But when I do go out there I feel confident and I'm happy where I'm at right now.
On how quickly he has gone from non-scholarship player to history-making Spartan kicker
Dream come true, really. I was the biggest Spartan fan growing up, and I didn't want to get complacent with just being on the team. I have just always kept pushing myself.
On what 7-0 feels like to the team
Everyone's attitude is positive and through the roof. Everyone is just really excited. Coming out at halftime, there was just that mentality of like "Let's go, let's step this up, let's do what we've got to do and take care of business." We are very motivated and driven. No doubt in my mind that we weren't going to lose that game.
Junior wide receiver B.J. Cunningham
On the defensive performance today
The defensive really stepped up big today, they did a really good job especially with the turnovers and fighting for the ball. They really had our back today and helped us to execute in the second half.
On staying focused
We just have to go back and look at the tape and see what we did wrong. We have to correct things and come out and do what we have to do and execute, and do what we do well.
On his touchdown catch
Both the defenders bit on the corner route, like last week when we threw the corner to Mark [Dell] and they both bit and I was open on the post for a touchdown. It was really exciting and a big momentum changer. It brought the offense up, and we were hyped and ready to go - from then on we were just rolling.
On being 7-0
We are going to embrace it for now but after tonight and tomorrow comes it will be in the past and we have to get ready for Northwestern next week.
On the lack of the running game
I was a little bit surprised but like I said we knew they were athletic in the secondary, linebackers and defensive line. We fought through that and came out with a win in the end.
Senior Linebacker Greg Jones
On the performance of the secondary
The secondary was doing a great job early and never really lost their confidence and we're starting to see it now. I tell them every game that if the ball is in the air I think it should be ours. Not disrespecting the other team, but I think that's the mentality they have to have and I think they show it every game.
On the success of the defense
Not only the defense but the team as a whole, guys are putting in time in the off season and doing the little things right and that's what it takes. It was tough in the first half but we stuck together and talked about our mistakes and we made it happen.
On Darqueze Denard's pass interference call and performance today
I told him that was the best coverage I've ever seen and not to worry about it. He smiled a bit and was ready to do it again, and he's been like that all week. I expect the best out of him and he performed well. He didn't seem nervous but I could tell he was more prepared. He was talking with the coaches more, listening and being alert and he did what it takes.
On what was talked about during halftime
There was a lot of noise but eventually we got together and realized our mistakes, realized what they were trying to do to us defensively and the offense came out with a totally different mentality and they did their job.
On giving Darqueze Denard advice playing as a freshman
I remember being a freshman and hearing people yell at you and it doesn't really help so much. Darqueze is a quiet guy who keeps to himself and I talked to him and he responds very well.
On enjoying these type of games
I do in the sense that, looking at this team we felt they were going to pass in the linebacker area. We felt like the run was schemed to pick on the linebackers and I told my guys a week ago that this is our game and it going to define us.
On being 7-0
It feel truly amazing, I think going through these past few years it was rough. I feel like we've been playing together as a team and we've been able to enjoy it a whole lot as a team.
Sophomore defensive end Tyler Hoover
On feeling like he could make an impact this week
Well, we are always working hard at practice, so you get to a point where you are always hungry.
On overcoming challenges on defense today
You just have to push the pocket. Once you practice it you can get it. Once we stopped the run it went well and we were able to stop the quarterback.
On the philosophy of this team
Coach always says be humble and hungry - that's how we played today.
Junior safety Trenton Robinson
On being 7-0
It feels good but we have to go into every game as 0-0. We have to stay hungry.
On his outlook of this season
I saw everyone have one thing in common. Everyone is different, but we all have one goal. We all want to accomplish something great.
Sophomore defensive tackle Jerel Worthy
On being 7-0
It's something we can't really focus on right now. We have Northwestern so we have to go in and look at the film, and make a game plan for those guys.
On hobbling off the field before half time
I got clipped a little bit. I came back out just fine though.
On the overall defensive game plan
It was just getting good penetration. Just go after the quarterback and do not allow the running backs to make plays.
Freshman cornerback Darqueze Dennard
On what was going through his mind before the game
What was going through my mind was not to be nervous and just play my techniques, listen to my teammates and play ball.
On whether he was nervous
I wouldn't say I was nervous. I was anxious since Monday when they told me I was going to play. It feels good to be a part of this great defense.
On his forced fumble and fumble recovery
What happened was that me and Trenton [Robinson] ran into each other. I was just trying to make a play and make sure he didn't score, and I knocked the ball out.
Illinois Player Quotes
Illinois Junior Defensive Tackle Corey Liuget
The opportunity of the game
It was a great opportunity, they're a great team - you can't take that away from them. We didn't play to our capabilities, but we played pretty well today.
On the run defense
We just come to the ball. Every day in practice we learn how to play as a defense, and as a team. We just look to get better every day.
On his individual performance
We all were inspired. I was trying to keep everyone's energy up and keep us going. I didn't want us flat out there in the second half. But, we did pretty good against a team that averages 37 points a game. We just got to come back Monday morning, get better and learn from it.
On Michigan State's protection of Cousins
It seemed like they started sliding protection more to the field than the boundary (in the second half). So it definitely made a difference for them in the second half.
Junior Running Back Mikel Leshoure
On Nathan Scheelhaase's performance
He needs to just keep getting up, and just keep playing, especially as a freshman. Those guys are a good team, though. They were fired up and wanting to stay undefeated. Just got to tell him to keep playing and keep doing his job.
Sophomore Cornerback Terry Hawthorne
On the MSU touchdown to take the lead
I expected somebody to be running down the hash. But I just can't react [in disgust] like that, that's bad body language on my part. I've got to trust in my teammates to be where there supposed to be. It was just hurtful that nobody was down there in broken coverage. I just have to go back and learn from it and get better.
On the defense in the second half
That's a good football team, and every play counts. You just have to try t o get them behind the sticks and get them in a position they're not comfortable in.
Freshman Quarterback Nathan Scheelhasse
On Michigan State's performance
That's a really good team and you got to give them a lot of credit. We knew it would be tough all week, and I thought they were one of the best teams in the Big Ten, and maybe even the country. But I thought we put ourselves in a position where we were able to compete with them and able to do some things, but just didn't capitalize at the right time.
On leaving the game injured
Yeah I just got the wind knocked out of me. Greg Jones grabbed me and flung me on the ground. I was trying to breathe and just couldn't catch my breath. It was just kind of some internal breathing- type stuff.
On the interceptions
On the one that was over the middle, that safety came down pretty well. Their defensive backs did a good job of reading our plays and reading what I was doing, and on the first two they were able to make pretty good plays. On the third one it was a play that I thought we had, and was there, but they just hit my hand so it was frustrating. We have a lot of speed at wide out, and were able to get by them a couple times, but on that one I just wasn't able to get them the ball.
The second half of the season
We've played a pretty tough schedule, our three loses are to solid teams, all ranked in the top 25. That was a really sound team that we played just now. I thought they played a heck of a game and really did things right. But I don't think anyone in our locker room has their head down or anything like that. We'll have a lot of confidence moving forward.