Oct. 6, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio held a media teleconference Sunday evening to discuss his team's performance in the 26-14 win over Iowa in the Big Ten opener.
The Spartans (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) will host Indiana (3-2, 1-0) on Saturday, Oct. 12 at noon in Spartan Stadium for Homecoming. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
The following is a complete transcript of Sunday's teleconference:
COACH DANTONIO: First of all, sort of trying to remember what exactly I said yesterday, but exciting opportunity for us to go to Iowa and win as we did. Felt like it was a team victory.
So many players got involved in the game, and when you look at things relative to special teams, offense and defense, it was probably our biggest team win, certainly of the season, and the performance by all was our best performance, I think, as of late.
But you can break different things down. I'll let you guys ask the questions in those areas, but as I said yesterday, I felt like we sort of stormed the gates, and I felt like that was what needed to be done to get a win over there.
I thought Iowa was playing good football. They were excited about their four games that they had previously won. They were poised; they had a great crowd, and just the environment was outstanding. But our guys sort of weathered the storm a little bit and kept pushing through, and when adversity hit, we rebounded and responded, and I think that's really what set the tone for the game.
The enthusiasm on the side line was great and everybody was very much involved. We got some other guys involved in the football game obviously. But when you look across the board, we played extremely hard in all areas of our football team.
Q. You said yesterday a calm session would be enjoyable today. When you look through it, did you take anything else that sort of keyed the victory, maybe out running or anything else that you maybe picked up today?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah. I think that when you look at the way Connor Cook played, I thought he played extremely poised. He had good touch on the football. He moved in the pocket a little bit and adjusted his movement, his drop in the pocket. A couple times he moved out of the pocket. He had a big scramble for a first down.
So when you started watching - he had 277 passing yards, but the one interception was the guy tipped. He had a couple other ones that were inches off the mark or people weren't able to hang onto. So he very easily could have had a 300 yard performance.
There are other things you need to fix in a football game. There always is, but I really felt like our interior offensive line played extremely well, that we got Cook throwing to nine different receivers. Macgarrett Kings obviously had a big day as well as Bennie Fowler, but Burbridge was very solid as well, and I just thought we got great play from our offense. We ran the ball okay. Didn't run it for 200 yards, but we ran the ball okay. And that's a good defense that we were playing against as well, good front seven.
Q. You said a few weeks ago you needed a quarterback to seize this opportunity. Do you feel like with this performance that Connor has now done that, seized this position?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah. I do feel like that. I feel like he threw the ball effectively and was in control of the game. When he threw the one interception, he didn't get rattled. He came back and was resilient, and that's been basically his trademark sort of. He's been able to overcome - when there has been a problem, he's been able to go back in and play as if there hadn't been one. And I think that's key.
You gotta have a short memory sometimes in terms of a bad play or something, you gotta get back in there and keep battle battling, and I think he was able to do that. I thought he had an impressive game.
Q. What is Bennie Fowler doing right now these last couple weeks that he wasn't able to do last year or even in week one?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, I think first of all, he responded to the situation which is what he did last year really going into the Indiana game much the same, and he had a big performance in that game. But he's responded. He's attacking the football; he's catching the ball in his hands.
The run after catch, the reverse he hit last week against Notre Dame, I think he put his foot in the ground and was aggressive in his performance. And I think when you look at it, that's what he's doing. He's playing very aggressively as a wide receiver down the field in terms of making catches and such. And he's always been a big bodied receiver, and he can run, but he's not waiting on things to happen. He's making things happen, and usually when you have that kind of performance, your confidence continues to grow and you get better and better.
And he's got great skills, there's no question. So we'll look forward to those even going even further, but I thought he had a great game on Saturday, and the run after catch was impressive on a number of occasions.
Q. I was just going to ask a follow up on Bennie. Last year obviously when things weren't going well, he had to answer for it a lot. What has that done to him and how has it altered him personally having gone through the last, I guess, 13 months?
COACH DANTONIO: I think, first of all, that he's been resilient. He's been mature in how he's handled things, and the first thing that he's been able to do, which I think is the key of being able to come back or being able to be a great player, is to really self evaluate yourself and your performance and you be the biggest critic of your performance as most people are in this world of sports. Coaches are their biggest critics, as well as the players. And he had a chance to look at himself, and he sort of re-established himself. He had a week to reflect, and he had a great week of practice last week, the off week. Even if it was two days, you saw a difference.
I think Tony Lippett did the same thing. I thought Lippett played very solid as well on Saturday as did Burbridge. Macgarrett Kings. I thought all four of those guys made some difficult catches, and those were key. A. J. Sims got involved with a big 20 yard catch. So again, you got a lot of different people in there.
But concerning Bennie, I just felt like he did a good job of re-evaluating his performance, and at some point in time you mature to the point where the criticism doesn't bother you, the lack of playing time or the perceived lack of playing time, even though I don't think it was very much. But the perceived lack of that kicks you into the next gear, and I think that's what's happened to him. And I'm sure he wants to play his best football.
We've said all along if our seniors can play their best football in their senior year, that we will have a tremendous football team.
Q. Coach, I guess on the flip side of that, you've been pretty aggressive with some personnel moves and we saw Delton Williams contribute. What would you like to see Delton do better as he moves forward, and just as far as your mentality as far as managing young running backs like Delton Williams?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, we felt like we needed to play three running backs, that we had to have three ready to play, and at that point as of yesterday we really had two ready to play.
Riley had played a little bit, but the transition to tailback, whether it's an injury or whatever the case, sort of stalled a little bit, and we saw some positive with Delton, and we also saw some positive with Gerald Holmes, but we opted for this decision in this regard.
But we went in the game saying we may play him or we will play him, and then at the end of the third quarter we made that decision. So I think now the case is that we know he's played; we know he will play, and I think it'll be more a sense of urgency to get him ready to play on his part and on our part.
But that first carry he was a little nervous. He had to reach for the handoff, and he sort of held it a little bit tenuously, but after that I thought he got it going a little bit. He had a couple of real nice runs. He missed one that could have went to the house, but missed the cut in there a little bit, but I think he's just a different type of back than Langford and Nick Hill, and I think you need that changeup. You need the changeup in there where you're not playing against the same guy all the time. Plus, you gotta keep people fresh, and if one guy gets hurt, then you have to go to an inexperienced guy. So it was good to get him on the field, and I think he'll just add another dimension to our offense.
Q. And to follow up, I'm just wondering if when you watch this game everyone looks at stats. But it seemed to be the best game performance as far as down field blocking by your wide receivers. Would you discuss what you saw on tape?
COACH DANTONIO: I think, again, it goes back to what we said to our wide receivers and about them, that you know, it's a very competitive situation out there because you got a lot of guys with skill, but you got a lot of guys that are in the mix. And I think a point of emphasis was the blocking and the spring, and it goes back onto what I said, we were going to storm the gates yesterday. That is the attitude we took, and that meant everybody playing up to their ability. I don't care whether you were blocking, on special teams, whatever it was. You had to - it had to be - it had to be a mindset going in there. Otherwise I didn't feel like we would be successful.
If we just had a mindset that we were just going to come in there and catch a couple passes, that wasn't going to work for us. We had win on toughness, and I think we did. I think we won on toughness, mental toughness and physical toughness.
Q. How important was that 46 yard pass? I know you mentioned big plays, and I know you knew the stat about not having a 40 yarder, but how important was it for you to hit a big play? And also, just how gratifying as you watched all the new players, it was Langford with the blitz pickup, new quarterback throwing the pass, relatively new receiver making the catch. Can you just talk about that play and its importance and the gratification you took from it?
COACH DANTONIO: I think the main thing I was focused on is explosive plays, that we needed to have explosive plays. If one occurred over 40 yards, that's tremendous, but the number of explosive plays down the field, Macgarrett Kings has the big one. You know, obviously, I think that's the one you were talking about?
COACH DANTONIO: And then Bennie Fowler has another one down the field.
So both of them resulted in touchdown catches, and you know, it's big. And I said all along or we said all along that when we do hit stride with our offense, there will be a little bit of - we'll flourish, and I think that's what'll happen. We'll become more confident. And you know, confidence breeds success. There's no question in my mind if that's the case. The more comfortable your quarterback gets with himself and the offense and really playing at game speed and game situations, the better everybody becomes, the more confident your players get to catch the ball down the field in 50/50 catches or tight situations. We almost came up with another one with Tony Lippett, but was inches off.
So we've gotta test the limits in those areas and we'll continue to do that, but as you said, a lot of players getting involved, doing good things. Great blitz pickup by Langford to create that. And then Cook moves a little bit in the pocket on the one and just enough - bides just enough time to get loose on a blitz.
Q. Does that change the way defenses play a little bit once you've popped a couple of those big ones over the top and the catch and run?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, when you max up a blitz, it's high risk and high reward. So if you've got an offense that can handle it with the blitz pickup by their blockers, then it becomes easy because you can run up on a defensive back, as you saw Macgarrett did and cross him over and lose him, if you can protect.
So it's either that or you hit a quick slant or something like that if somebody misses a tackle. So there's a lot of risk involved in it. That's why you don't see it as much, but there is reward with it as well if you can get home, home being the quarterback if you're defensive coach. Home being the end zone if you're the head coach.
Q. You mentioned about Riley. Is he going to transition back to defense now or do you feel like he can still add something to this offense at running back?
COACH DANTONIO: No. I think it would be more difficult for him to transfer position back to defense right now, although he has a mindset for it and he has the background of it. But I do think that we played him at fullback some, what we call our pony sets, so I think he'll be become more of a factor in those things and two back sets as the F.
He can always go in as a tailback as well so giving us a fourth or a third and a half. And then also I think he can compete directly with Trevon Pendleton who's done a nice job, but we were one deep at that position. Now at least we're two deep.
Q. You guys have been trying to find offensive answers here for really for a season and a third. A game like that, is there a different feel going on? Was there a different feel building today?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I think there is. Our defense is playing extremely well. We are a 4-1 football team. I think yesterday we had some big plays on offense. We found some consistency. Still not there yet. Still could have pushed it through in the red zone with some third and shorts or a fourth and short, those type of things. Those things have to come. So there's still different things, but we moved the football.
We had probably close to 400 yards of offense, over 400 yards of offense with one turnover. So you know, good things can happen when you get those type of results. So we'll look forward to our football team moving forward in that area. But we're not at the end game here, but I think we saw positive movement, and you know, that was what we were looking for.
Q. I was wondering if you had any reaction today to the news that Don Treadwell was fired. I know he's a good friend of yours. I just wondered what you thought about that.
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, he's a very good friend of mine and you know, I was saddened by it. There is no question about that. And I think as we said the other day, I think we live in a fickle society. It's all about winning. I think that Coach Treadwell is extremely disciplined, strong leader. He's extremely caring. He's resilient. He's a man of faith. He has all the attributes of being a leader for his football team. And when you let go a person - this is the one guy that I know that's had this happen that I have a personal relationship with, but you don't strengthen your football team when you do that. You weaken it. You disable them in some respects. What's sad now is the team will be down two coaches because I believe they let the offensive coordinator go as well, and the players will suffer now and the discipline within the team will erode.
So when you make a decision like that, it affects a lot more people. Coaches spend their entire day, 365 a year working on trying to make things work, and some people see the results on the field. Maybe they don't see the results in the classroom. Maybe they don't see the results in the type of people they have in the community or the results that they see from a coach in that community. But I know Coach Treadwell after being with him for seven years as our offensive coordinator. The people at Michigan State know Coach Treadwell in the fact that he was our interim head coach when I was unable to do so, and I think he did a tremendous job, not just with the X and Os, but with the controlling of people and the way he handled himself. And it's sad when you see a statement that leads to the effect of just concerned about making the team better and then you lose the person that's supposed to be able to do that, because I know the players respect him. I've seen how our players have handled him, the long term respect that he's had. So it's sad. It leaves a void in the leadership at Miami in my respect. I'm sure the AD won't be the football coach this week.
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