EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio held a media teleconference Sunday evening to discuss his team's performance in the 45-7 win over Jacksonville State.
The No. 8/8 Spartans (1-0) will travel to No. 3/4 Oregon (1-0) next Saturday, Sept. 6 to take on the Ducks at 6:30 p.m. EDT. The game will be televised on FOX.
The following is a complete transcript of Sunday's teleconference:
Mark Dantonio: Today is a work day for our players, so came off yesterday, I thought we came out with a fast start, obviously, on Friday night and tried to make a statement in terms of ready to play our first football game. Obviously there's always things you need to clean up, but for the most part very pleased with, as I said the other night, lack of penalties, only two turnovers, zero on offense, got three on defense, plus a fourth-down stop, and gave us a chance to experience a no huddle attack for the first time this year. We played a lot of players, played over 70 players, so that was a positive, gave up zero sacks and took a possession from them, had 38 minutes of possession and had a quick start. Pretty solid on special teams, and we'll go from there and I'll take some questions.
Mark Dantonio: No, I can't tell you a thing about those guys.
Q. I'd like you to tell us if you would, we've heard about everything that you were happy with and certainly that's understandable when you look at the stats, but maybe what did you come away concerned about?
Mark Dantonio: Well, you're always concerned when you play a no huddle offense that sooner or later guys run out of gas a little bit and you see that on the film, and that as much as anything would be concerning. That leads to missed tackles, that leads to people getting on top of you in the deep part of coverage, you know, getting knocked off the ball. So from a defensive perspective you continually have to address the conditioning factor, but this was our first game in that aspect. We played against this type of offense before, so you get better as you do it more often, but this is our first real test there.
From an offensive perspective, I thought we threw the ball very, very well in the first half. Second half used two different quarterbacks, Tyler O'Connor in the third, Damion in the fourth with a lot of different players that played with them.
I guess you've got to look at that and say I wish we would have scored a little bit more in the second half and controlled the line of scrimmage a little bit better, but ran the ball okay but not as effective as I would have thought we would, but credit Jacksonville State, as well. I think they do have a good football team. They hustle around, they make it difficult. The score may not be indicative of exactly how good they are because they gave up some big plays.
Q. How much of that Jacksonville State prep and what type of things can you take from that prep into this week to help prepare for Oregon?
Mark Dantonio: Well, I think you can take some of the aspects that they do are similar to Oregon's. Certainly just playing a fast up tempo offense and they're trying to go as fast as they possibly can, so they were going around 12 or 13 or 14 seconds, as well. So you get that experience of it, and that's a conditioning factor I think as much as anything as I talked about earlier.
But there's no question, as we take the next look to the next game, Oregon is very talented.
Q. Did you guys watch the Oregon game as a team, as a staff at all live last night? I know it was pretty late.
Mark Dantonio: No, I watched it last night at home because I have cable. It was 717 in case you wanted to know.
Q. I'm just curious with all the talk and attention about this upcoming game that has been going on through the whole off season, are you guys almost, I don't know if relieved is the right word but happy to be able to focus on this now?
Mark Dantonio: We'll talk about that more on Tuesday, but from my aspect right now, our aspect, this is an opportunity game. This is an opportunity early in the season to, number one, see where we're at as a program, go play a very good away team away, go play a very good team away from home, which is always going to give you a different experience. We've got to travel a long ways to do it, play in a hostile environment, which we're going to have to do later on. So you're going to get those type of aspects, as well, and we're going to use this game as a game to get ready for the rest of the season, just like we normally would.
Win or lose, you know, we still have a lot of football games ahead of us, and we have to understand that that's every bit as important as this one single game.
Q. I know it's been sort of a mild summer, a little bit hotter lately, but it's supposed to be low 90s out there. I wonder if there's anything you can do to prepare for that this week, and are you guys going to go out Friday or go out earlier than that?
Mark Dantonio: We will go out Thursday, and you can prepare to some extent, but I think it is more humid back this way than it is out there. But heat is heat, so we'll do our best in that area.
Q. If you would, please, talk about backup running backs. Obviously Nick Hill had a good game, you saw a lot of things, but could you talk about Gerald Holmes? I know you like the "it" factor on running backs and he seemed to really run well behind his pads.
Mark Dantonio: Yeah, I think Gerald did a nice job there in the fourth quarter. He got the ball moving. He got north and south very quick, put his foot in the ground, ran with power. That was good to see, and I think that when you do those type of things maybe more opportunities are around the corner for you. But you'd still like to see him show up in special teams, which he's not yet. He's got to become a complete football player.
I would say the same thing about some of our other guys. They're young, they're red shirt freshmen or true freshmen, and this was their first opportunity to really play. With more experience as they go, they're going to get more acclimated to the speed of the game at game time, and I think they'll be even better.
Q. A lot was made on Friday about the true freshmen. Looking back at the tape, how do you think those six guys looked?
Mark Dantonio: I think that Montae Nicholson played very well, had the opening hit on the kickoff, which was very impressive, and I thought he ran down well on kickoff and did some good things on special teams, and I thought he got a lot of snaps in the fourth quarter, so I think he took a big step.
Malik McDowell, Craig Evans on the inside, you know, it's a little bit more of a grind in there, and the tempo, it was hot Friday evening, muggy, and the tempo in there, so you've got to learn to play at game speed on a constant factor, and it's about putting six or seven plays together, but I thought they did okay. For true freshmen they certainly - you saw Malik chasing a couple guys down and that type of thing, so he played with some effort there, but he's got to be constant.
Montez Sweat got a sack, limited role. I thought he did good on that particular play and played with effort. I thought Brian Allen for his first time played a lot of football after Travis Jackson went down and played like a freshman at times, but he's very, very solid. He had, just like any freshman being thrown in there, played 34 snaps, so being thrown in there in the midst of everything and having to understand the checks and do the different things, he's going to be a very good player for us, and he's going to get better and better.
And then Chris Frey, I thought, again, he showed up on special teams and he had an opportunity to play in the game, as well. I'm not sure how many snaps he got right off the top of my head, but I thought he played okay. But again, the conditioning factor, being able to put seven, eight, nine plays in continuous order and play at the high level, he's got to do a better job in that respect. But you can see he can run, he can tackle, he'll play with power.
Q. First of all, because of the one game under, have you pretty much made a decision now on those are your six freshmen, the rest you'll hopefully red shirt? Is that your plan?
Mark Dantonio: No, I would not say that. Injuries weigh into that, and I just felt like we need to hold - we wanted to hold Madre London. If we're going to play him, I would say that something has got to happen where that's going to be the situation that we will play him. But he's a very good tailback, but I don't really want to just play him for a couple plays. We've got to let things show itself before that decision is made, I think.
And then same with (Miguel) Machado, I think, the junior college player, which we could red shirt him, as well. But those decisions will be made during games. They'll be game ready. We'll see what happens as the games unfold, but they'll travel with us, those two guys. I'm trying to think of anybody else. Enoch Smith and David Beedle, I could go through all the freshmen, but right now I'd say the guys we talked about are the guys closest to playing.
Q. And the second part is because the game was not as close score wise, was Kevin Cronin's performance maybe overshadowed or would you talk about his performance?
Mark Dantonio: I thought he had a nice performance. I wish he could have hung it up after the 15 yard penalty, hung it up on the goal line there, but I thought he was very solid, and probably because of the nature of the game, it gets a little bit lost in the shuffle. But I thought our kickoff team played pretty well.
Q. Looking back at the offensive line, I know you said after the game you wish you could have run the ball better. When you watched the film, what did you see? What was the problem with the offensive line in the running game?
Mark Dantonio: Well, we lost Travis Jackson, we got penetration, they put a lot of people up there, they had a lot of zone pressures and things of that nature, and they hit some gaps. The players that they have, it's not a bad football team. That football team is going to win a lot of games. The players they had, the transfers that they had up there, you know, they're Division I players. You've got 6'7", 280 pound defensive ends and things of that nature. They held the point, and their linebackers played around it, and they ran and hit. When there was a gap and there was some running - a little bit of wiggle, running room, they made a play.
But again, it was 38 0 at half, so I think we performed pretty well, but Langford had a couple breakout runs, but got to credit Jacksonville State, too. They played hard, and when the score was bad, they continued to play hard, which you saw around America yesterday, and the score is not indicative of how people played. You can look at the South Dakota game against Oregon and say the same thing. Big score, but South Dakota played pretty hard.
Q. Just to follow up on that, I know it's early and the College Football Playoff is forever from now, but it seems already there's a lot of posturing and a lot of commentary. As far as where the Big Ten is at, did you feel good about the way the conference showed and the way Wisconsin showed itself against LSU?
Mark Dantonio: Yeah, I thought the Big Ten represented itself across the board yesterday, but like you said, it's two games in. Trying to make decisions on these things, like I said last year, we were nowhere to be found at this time of the year. I think it's all way too early to make assumptions on any football team.
Q. I know you wanted the players focused on Jacksonville State, but as a staff did you have to do any prep in the summer in advance for Oregon just given how good they are?
Mark Dantonio: We always do advance work on every football team that we play in the late spring and early summer. That's just what we do. So naturally because Oregon was an early game, just like all the early games, and it was a new opponent, we spent additional time.
Q. Do you devote more time to a team that is obviously of that caliber and one that you don't face every year?
Mark Dantonio: I don't say that we devote more time, but we certainly don't devote less.
Q. Would you please talk about R.J. Williamson's performance specifically and Darian Hicks after you got to watch film and watch it a little more closely?
Mark Dantonio: I thought Darian played pretty solid and had a great pick, and he's just getting his feet wet, really his first time playing all the plays that he played, and he kept up with the tempo.
I think R.J. played okay, but again, he needs to play with the tempo. It's putting those plays in consecutive order. But we run a lot in the secondary. We don't ask our secondary to be passive players. They're active players, especially the backside safety. Those guys are involved in every aspect of run and pass, and they've got to be supremely conditioned, and again, it's the first game out and it's a no huddle offense, so we're going to - you cannot simulate that. It's very difficult to simulate that an entire football game. He played a lot of plays. He played a lot of snaps because we left him in there in the third quarter. He's a good football player. Does he have to play better? Disappointed he didn't come up with the pick when it was tipped. Disappointed in the missed tackle down on the goal line that led to their only touchdown, but we're trying to be perfectionists.
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