Sunday Football Wrap-Up
 
 
 
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Oct. 13, 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 42-28 win over Indiana.

The Spartans (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) will host Purdue (1-5, 0-2) on Saturday, Oct. 19 at noon in Spartan Stadium. The game will be televised on BTN.

The following is a complete transcript of Sunday's teleconference:

COACH DANTONIO: As far as how we played in the football game, it's difficult to play a team like Indiana because of the fast tempo, even though we practiced against it. As you roll through the game, basically you get a feel for can you get lined up, can you execute as a defense. Offensively I thought we did some outstanding things. Same with defensively.

When you look at our offense, a lot of explosive plays. I think we had five explosive plays, big plays. You had Bennie Fowler obviously hitting one, R.J. Shelton hit one, and then Langford hit one. But really two. But Langford's four TDs, great to see. We ran the ball effectively, I thought we passed the ball effectively. Didn't turn it over until the end of the game from an offensive perspective.

Have to eliminate the unforced errors. I felt like the punt drop was an unforced error. Even though there was sun you've got to get stationary to catch that ball.

When you look at our defense, we played pretty well against the run although the one play gets out on us. They had two big plays against us, and other than that we pretty much played very, very well. They just also scored on two short fields, which we have to turn them back on sudden change.

But overall very, very pleased with our win. I think we're getting better. We see more players, as I said yesterday, making more plays, different guys, which I think is a positive, and I'll just take some questions.

 

 

Q. I just wanted to ask you, halfway through the season, obviously you don't take any opponent lightly, but do you feel like the next couple weeks there's still another chance to really just get everything in sync, especially offensively, heading into the tough November you have coming up?

COACH DANTONIO: I think we take one game at a time. I think we learned that last year and the years previous. Purdue is our focus. I consistently talk about our maturity as a football team. Can we handle success? And the only way you can answer that question is by how you line up to play the next week.

We'll take it one game at a time. We're 5 1 right now. We are what we are. Good things are happening. We're getting better I feel.

Q. Bennie Fowler, after he went deep for a pass, he came out of the game grabbing his leg. How is Bennie doing?

COACH DANTONIO: He tweaked his hamstring a little bit so we'll have to see how he's doing, so we'll deal with that as we go. But we really don't talk about injuries too much. It was just a tweak.

Q. Until now or until the last couple weeks it's been obvious what you needed to work on offensively. The weaknesses aren't as apparent. When you look at this offense, what is the next step for it, and are there areas that you'd like to see more punch or something else out of them?

COACH DANTONIO: Well, I think we're doing some good things. We scored in the red zone. We didn't kick any field goals this week. We were 3 for 3 there. We're getting some explosive plays, we scored on some of those. Getting other people involved. On third down we were 10 out of 14 this week.

So we're doing some very good things, saw the quarterback create in the pocket, which is a big positive as well as run the ball a little bit. But I think when you look at us offensively you're always talking about consistency. We did some very good things this weekend, but you need to be able to just - I guess keep getting better, diversify a little bit. That's a tough question to answer because until you get ready to play your next opponent, you really don't know what you're going to have to do to win that football game. As you watch them you sort of figure out, hey, we need to do this, this and this to win. We need to change up this, this and this, so those type of things.

Based on yesterday, we need to control the ball. We had it 37 minutes. We had more plays than they did, averaged more yards per play than they did. Again, didn't kick in the red zone, had explosive plays, got off the field on third down, and overall played very, very well.

Q. You've obviously in the off season talked about the potential to play a lot of young guys, and you have been. Are you playing right about where you expected to play in terms of true freshmen, and how important are those freshmen and sophomores right now to where this offense has developed to?

COACH DANTONIO: Well, I think they're very important. We knew we were going to probably play a guy on defense at the corner position just because of the nature of who was coming in, and some of our experience with our backups, just that they were thin and there were a lot of different things that you do on special teams that require defensive backs, so Darian Hicks is playing.

I sort of felt like in recruiting Mike Geiger as a kicker that he was a guy that had the potential to play, otherwise we would not have taken him. So he's playing and he's done a nice job, especially last week, obviously.

You've got Delton Williams who we took the red shirt off of. I thought he had a big day yesterday and he gives us a different type of back. So talked about that yesterday a little bit, but he's been positive, and it takes a while to transition with the terminology and things of that nature.

R.J. Shelton is a guy that we've just seen be able to make plays, so we basically just rolled him in there and allowed him to learn, and he's getting more fluent. He was a tailback, so getting more understanding as a wide receiver every single day that he practices. He's got great hands, so he'll continue to move forward. And I think that's it.

I think that's probably where we thought we'd be, probably playing four or five, and that's a lot relative to where we usually are during the season.

Q. Two questions for you: We know when the offense does well the players talk about confidence and how success impacts them. I'm just curious because we don't get to see coaches up in the booth. You've been a coordinator, a coach for a long time. How does success change a coach a little bit?

COACH DANTONIO: I think that's a great question. I think as a coach you feed off each other, and there's no question about that. When you're successful as a coach, you see that, you see your team become more confident, and then they give you more confidence to call more different things, whether it's offense or defense, and then you just basically push things right back to the player. The more that they can handle, the more confident that they are in you, the better they'll do it, the better they'll do their job, execute on the field.

So I think you're exactly right. The confidence goes both ways. It's not like, oh, why are you calling that play? You're just saying, great play call. Same thing as the player, or a coach, we can do this with this player because he's executing. So there's more things you can do, and there's a lot more enthusiasm, I think, on both sides of the ball. I'm sorry, coaches and players, excuse me.

Q. He struggled obviously as a punt returner, but Andre Sims consistently doesn't get a lot of reps, but when he does he's making the big blocks, making a key catch. Would you talk about that?

COACH DANTONIO: Yeah. AJ is extremely consistent in his level of play. He knows where to go. He can play any of those positions in our offense, whether it's the X, Z, the F as a third wide receiver, and he goes in and he makes plays, you're exactly right. But we've got a lot of guys making plays right now when you look at Burbridge. He's got an opportunity to make plays and obviously Bennie Fowler and Lippett I thought was especially good and Macgarrett Kings. R.J. Shelton works in there. So you've got some guys making some plays, and that's a positive. Keith Mumphrey is another guy that maybe hasn't gotten opportunities recently, but he's another guy that's shown he can make plays.

So all along we've said we're deep at that position. It's a positive thing right now. They're making the catches, they're making plays, they're getting open, they understand the offense and confidence is growing, and I think that's a tremendous advantage for us right now based on where we're at as an offense. I also think that Connor Cook is developing his confidence. Every single game he seems to step a little farther forward. This game when he got pushed out of the pocket and he gunned it out on the run to his left, I thought it was a big time throw and play by him.

Q. Watching Indiana and just other teams in general, the way they bring in a second quarterback, you talked about doing that as much to get experience as to develop somebody else. Is there still a chance where we'll see some two quarterback just for the sake of building that depth and maybe offering a little different look?

COACH DANTONIO: Well, I think we worked that early in the season some, really to try and figure out who is the guy. But right now as we enter the Big Ten season we're going with the guys that...we're going to go with Connor Cook right now. That's not to say that Tyler or even Andrew Maxwell are not playing. It's just that I think right now Connor is being consistent. Every step he takes he benefits from because he's a young quarterback, and that's the direction we're going at this point.

Q. I was wondering, 10 penalties again this week. How frustrating is it six weeks in that penalties are still kind of an issue at this point?

COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I don't want to say alarming. It's disgusting. There's certain things that we can control and there's certain things we can't control in terms of penalties... Things are going to happen in the midst of things, but you've got to know when to pull off on a guy and not dump him out of bounds. You've got to know when not to be offsides on a kickoff. You've got to know that you can't hit a guy out of bounds from the backside where we had a clip over there on the sidelines. There are just certain things that are unforced penalties that we have to be able to handle. We keep coaching it, but that's ultimately players making those decisions and executing on the field. There are certain things that they are held accountable for that is execution. That is definitely one of them. So we've talked about it, talked about it after the game. We were fortunate to win. We felt good about the win. We did a lot of things to win the football game, but there are a couple different things that happened in that game that we can control. The punt return that was dropped. We didn't have to throw the ball at the end of the game. We could have lined up correctly on the big first run. Those things - we misaligned on the other deep pass and didn't get a reroute on the receiver at all, let him run right up on our safety, full throttle.

So there are some things we can control that take no ability, and if we do that, it's probably a 42 14 game. But a win is a win, not going to take that away. Going to be excited about it. But there are always going to be improvements a football team makes. With that said, there's always going to be mistakes made in a football game. That's part of the game, and Indiana has got players, too, so that's part of the game, and we understand that. I'm not mad at anybody, but you need to continue to try and chase excellence, and that's what we do.

Q. I think it's now three weeks in a row you guys have opened the second half with a scoring drive and put together some good offensive series there. What's been the key to those strong starts in the second half for your offense?

COACH DANTONIO: Well, I think we re-gather ourselves as a football team. I think our offensive staff has done a nice job adjusting things, and then it's execution on the field by our players. Again, you go back to the confidence factor. They come out in the second half. They're confident. We know what we need to do, and they've been able to do it to accomplish that.

I think it's sort of an asterisk right now behind what we're doing offensively. We've responded a little bit. I thought we did that yesterday. When they would score, we responded. When they went 14 14, we went 21 14, and big play. And I believe right before the half we got another one.

When they came back and scored the 21, we went ahead again. So I think we kept it to 14 most of the time throughout the game, the deficit.

Q. The Delton Williams Jeremy Langford dynamic, Jeremy's running has gotten better since Delton was introduced into the package. Is that good competition in a sense? They're both running the ball funny, but has it helped Jeremy? Has he been infused by seeing a young freshman come into the fire a little bit?

COACH DANTONIO: Well, I think two things are happening: Again, Jeremy is developing confidence. He's a guy that's not run the ball a lot for us here in the past three years. He's played wide out, he's playing corner, he's playing tailback. He didn't get many carries last year. But he's a very explosive player. So I think that enters into the picture. He's getting confident.

The second thing is he's getting some rest, as well. Nick Hill provides that, as well, and I would not leave Nick Hill out of the equation just because he's very comparable. He's not a different back than Jeremy, though. He's a little bit different, but we need a banger in there at times just to change the tempo of how we're attacking a defense.

And then I would say the competition is the third thing. You always want to have a competitive environment so your players know that they have to practice well and they have to come game ready, and when he stands back there at the tailback position, if we're going to hand the guy a ball 20 times, in my mind that guy has got to think he can go the distance with it every single snap. He's got to have that mentality, and we've talked about that mentality, and yesterday I think we got that.

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