Sept. 22, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio held a media teleconference Sunday evening to discuss his team's performance at Notre Dame.
The Spartans (3-1) will have a bye week before opening the Big Ten season Saturday, Oct. 5 at Iowa (3-1), beginning at 12 p.m. ET.
INJURY UPDATE: In his teleconference, Dantonio said senior linebacker Jairus Jones will be out at least six weeks due to a knee injury (MCL) he suffered in the Notre Dame game. In addition, Dantonio said senior safety Isaiah Lewis had meniscus surgery on Thursday, Sept. 12. Lewis missed the Youngstown State game on Sept. 14 and played sparingly on Saturday at Notre Dame. Lewis is expected to be back full strength for the Big Ten season.
The following is a complete transcript of Sunday's teleconference:
COACH DANTONIO: Obviously very disappointed in the loss yesterday at Notre Dame. We need to continue to keep things in perspective. We're a 3-1 football team. We have an opportunity to sit this week and regroup.
When you look at the football game, I think you look at obviously things offensively, defensively, special teams wise.
Offensively we were down inside the 20, I think the 12, the 14, the 15, first and 10 four times, came away with one touchdown, two field goals and one miss. You've got to score when you get down there. I was impressed with the number of drives we did get down there with, but we lacked explosive plays as an offense, truly explosive plays. So those things are tough to go when you have to drive the length of the field.
Defensively, thought we played extremely well. Gave up really no big, explosive plays. However, we need to pressure the quarterback more consistently. Came away with zero sacks. Had an opportunity for the ball being on the ground, a turnover. We had two turnovers that were overturned, so that's disappointing when you see that on film. Nevertheless, you got to play it out. Got the ball on the ground a couple times. We've got to come up with it. Had another near interception as well. But I thought our defense controlled the line of scrimmage and played very effectively. Obviously, only give up 17 points, 250 yards, seven of their 14 first downs on penalties, you played pretty well.
As far as special teams, we missed the field goal early in the game, but we had a blocked punt, a momentum play. But we've got to come up with points there. But we made two field goals. The ball is on the ground two additional times when they punt and we don't come up with it.
When you look at the total game, the ball is on the ground with the blocked punt, three times on the ground, two turnovers that were overturned, that's six times we have an opportunity to come up with the football. Really of those six times, we came up with a blocked punt. Also got our hands on an interception, but it would have been a tough one.
Those are the things that are game changers, those type of plays. We had to go the long way for the points that we got, and not enough of them.
With that said, though, we need to look to the positive. I felt we controlled the line of scrimmage. We ran the ball. I was impressed with Langford. I was also impressed with Nick Hill. Got some tough yards. Langford busted some, got to the next level, got to make up a safety miss for a truly 50 yarder. Bennie Fowler had a good game, made some tough catches in there. Macgarrett Kings pulls down a great catch in the end zone from Cook.
Got to throw more consistently. We can't win a football game too often throwing for 140 yards. There were some good things to build on, playing in a tough environment, away game environment, with a lot of crowd noise, et cetera, is something we have to be able to handle as we go into this next part of our season, which is the Big Ten season.
I'll take some questions to fill in the blanks.
Q. You mentioned six potential turnovers. There were obviously penalties. How do you avoid your guys feeling a little snake bit?
COACH DANTONIO: Really after the one turnover we had, the interception we had, as I said yesterday, that's my call trying to create something. A little inexperience there. But trying to create. After that we drive back down the field, we don't get a touchdown, have to kick another field goal.
Later on in that series we have an opportunity with Dennard's pick off the end zone, returns us to the 42. Then Trae Waynes has an opportunity for a pick. Somehow he's called for interference at the goal line. But it's an opportunity for him to pick off the pass.
I don't know what to tell you. We just got to come up with them. They're bang, bang plays. Everybody has a job to do. Sometimes we're not ante ing up on our end or measuring up on our end, I guess I should say, as a player, as a coach. But there are a lot of parties involved in a game.
Q. Obviously it's a subjective call. Is it like an umpire's strike zone? Does it change from ref to ref? Are there discussions before the game?
COACH DANTONIO: I think there's always discussions before the game. But I think in general, this is a general answer to your general question, you look across America right now, what they're calling pass interference is pretty subjective, not objective. So it is a gray area, as you say.
But in the end, defensively you give up 17 points, you got an opportunity to win. That's what you have to look at, as well. We have to be able to overcome some of these things.
We blew coverage a little bit on the touchdown pass, their first touchdown pass. Sort of blow the coverage a little bit when we're pressuring. Again, these things sort of happen. You get caught up in something, you're not quite where you're supposed to be. Those things are going to happen, as well.
Q. With the bye week, are you going to be looking at maybe different people's assignments, whether it's players, coaches, reevaluating anything or everything?
COACH DANTONIO: I think we always reevaluate everything after every specific game, but at the same time I don't want to be the person that makes knee jerk reactions and makes decisions based on something that happened, for example, yesterday. I don't want to make a decision today on that nature. We have to look long term, how it affects this football team, and deal with it in that way.
Our coaches are also on the road recruiting, so this is a time to catch up a little bit recruiting. We also have a chance to practice. I think it's important that our players just sort of reestablish themselves, reevaluate themselves, we'll reevaluate our coaches, what we're doing.
But everybody needs to take a look and sort of put their foot on the ground, drive back forward, regroup, get ready to play Iowa. It's the opening of the Big Ten season. That's exciting.
As I said yesterday, if we're 4 0 right now, everybody would be jumping up and down. We're 3 1, a little disappointed today. The fact of the matter is, next week is an even bigger game and the following week after that it gets even bigger. As we go now, they become even more significant games.
Q. Just wondering if you still think that was the right call to put Maxwell in at the end of the game, whether or not Cook is still the number one quarterback moving forward?
COACH DANTONIO: Those things are tough to evaluate because, as I said, hindsight it 20/20.
I thought Maxwell had a chance on a second down play or a third down play. He throws it a little bit high, but Burbridge has both hands on the ball. You got to make the catch. It's a 50/50 catch, but if he makes it, we're on the 40. Maxwell has done a good job in two minute situation before.
Connor had not played as well the two previous series, and that was a decision that was made by us as a staff. I stamped my approval on the decision. It shows that I still have belief in Andrew Maxwell, which is important. You have to do the best you can with the time you have on the field, whether that's in a two minute situation or the 58 minutes preceding that two minute situation. Obviously you want to play the guy who is going to be successful. But you don't ever know that. I just felt like a change was warranted at that time.
Q. After the game Connor Cook talked about he wished you had the faith in him to let him go out there. He wasn't being negative, just that he wished you had. Is there a concern when you go to Maxwell at the end of the game like that, with a young quarterback, that you hurt his confidence?
COACH DANTONIO: I would hope not. I put him in the game. We started him. We had confidence coming out of the last game. We put him in a big game against Notre Dame and kept him in there for 58 minutes. That's significant confidence. He struggled at times throughout the game and we didn't lift him. I think that's important to recognize that fact.
We're not in conflict. I'm not in conflict here. I don't want our football team in conflict. At the same time, you know, we're coaching. We're coaching for the next play. Right, wrong or indifferent, we're doing the very best we can do to have success for our football team. That's the decision we made.
Q. What was your evaluation after watching the film of how he played? Is Connor your number one quarterback?
COACH DANTONIO: First question is how he played in the football game. I think, first of all, it's fair for him to hear that from his position coaches and talk with him very specifically in terms of what he did very well, what he needs to do better at.
He's a young quarterback that's still maturing, that is in his first big road game. I thought, with all things being said, he did a pretty good job. It takes a lot of things for a quarterback to be successful. It's not just him. It's the receivers running the routes, it's being able to establish a running game, being able to protect for him. I thought he had pretty good protection. But you've got to be consistent, as well.
I think the fair thing to do is for him to hear it from his position coaches and not to air this publicly. But I think he is still our number one quarterback. I think he continues to get better. He's a young quarterback. He's a redshirt sophomore. I think he continues to get better and at times shows his ability to be resilient on the field and had composure on the field. But there's always a consistency to things.
Q. Mark, you mentioned the offensive line a little bit. It seems like there were a lot of different combinations in and out during that game and they still played pretty well. What do you think about that unit as a whole?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, we started Jack Allen. Travis was hurt last week. He got the reps and everything. We started Jack just because of the physical nature of the nose tackle relative to the size of Jack Allen. Got about 20 pounds on him. So that's what we did. But Travis played in there. I thought he played pretty well.
We also started Fou at the right tackle with this being a big away game, a lot of the different things. Felt like he was able to come on. Conklin played a lot. Clark played a lot. Connor Kruse came in for Dan France. I think he had a head issue maybe with the helmet or something for a couple plays. Not sure quite what. We had a lot of guys play in there.
Again, I thought they played pretty well considering the competition and the environment. It was extremely loud there, as you guys know. I thought they played pretty well.
COACH DANTONIO: Isaiah Lewis, if you can believe it, had meniscus surgery last Thursday, the Thursday before, to take out a piece of meniscus because his knee locked up. So he got back, he was able to get back and practice with us on Wednesday.
We need him for the Big Ten season. We didn't know if he would have the recovery speed seven days, eight days after he had surgery, the makeup speed. We played him at the star, which is our fifth back. I thought he played pretty well. He probably could have played in the game at safety, but we felt like we needed to hold him.
R.J. Williamson is a very good player. Basically a starter for us. I thought he had a good game as well. But it was just the nature of the situation at the time. But, you know, credit Isaiah Lewis for coming back. He told us he'd be back that day, and he was back. He's a true warrior.
Q. Jairus Jones, I don't know if he was injured or if it was a personnel decision. How is he doing?
COACH DANTONIO: I don't normally talk about injuries unless they're long term injuries. Jairus has an MCL right now, so we're going to lose him for the next six weeks. He's been playing very, very well and did an outstanding job, too.
Q. I know you're going to work on everything, but as you hit the reset button for this Big Ten season, what are things that maybe people could look for that might be a little different, things you'll focus on?
COACH DANTONIO: Obviously, we're not going to talk about the things that are going to be real different. I think the things we have to correct are our consistency in our passing game. We've got continue to try to push our running game forward. I think we're getting pretty good play from our offensive line in the running back situation.
Defensively we've got to continue just to stay really where we are. If we would have sacked the quarterback three times, had two turnovers, we'd be feeling outstanding today. That's the only element that's missing. Other than that, I think we're playing tremendous on defense.
The bottom line is, how do you play in the red zone, sudden change situations, how many points do you give up. We've been very stingy in that regard.
Special teams, we've got to, with the emergence of Mike Geiger, work towards getting him in another big game, shore up some things from a special teams perspective. It's great we got a punt blocked. We were looking for a big change, and we got it.
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