Oct. 27, 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 42-3 win over Illinois.
Michigan State entered the national rankings this week following its win over the Fighting Illini. The Spartans are ranked No. 24 in both The Associated Press and USA TODAY Coaches Polls. MSU is also ranked No. 22 in the Bowl Championship Series standings, which were released Sunday evening.
The Spartans (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) will play host to No. 23/21 Michigan (6-1, 2-1) Saturday, Nov. 2 at 3:30 p.m. in Spartan Stadium. The game will be televised on ABC (ESPN2 reverse mirror).
The following is a complete transcript of Sunday's teleconference:
COACH DANTONIO: Pretty much everything we talked about last night remains correct. I think big plays in the game, obviously, the fumble recovery after we had gone down the field. First of all, stopping them for a field goal on their first drive. Also driving down the field, we fumble the ball in the end zone, then the big play by Shilique Calhoun with Marcus Rush recovering the ball leads us to seven points. We get that one back, which I feel like is critical in the game because you feel like you lost an opportunity.
Then after that the goal line stand and the proceeding drive by our offense makes it 14 3 at the half. Really the second half it goes all our way from the beginning really to the end with a big job by our defense, numerous three and outs. Great job by our offense controlling the line of scrimmage, scoring on almost every opportunity with long drives.
I'll take some questions and we'll go from there.
Q. There were some moments when it was clear you were going to put a backup quarterback in. When Andrew came marching out, I don't know if you got to see it, but Tyler was clapping and cheering him on. Talk to the kind of character Tyler has and the chemistry you have among your quarterbacks.
COACH DANTONIO: I think we've said all along, we have great chemistry on our football team. It exists throughout our football team. Certainly some of the things that Andrew has gone through this year, difficult for anybody to go through. So as I've said before, he's extremely unselfish, the way he's handled things.
I think just another example of Tyler O'Connor and his outlook and his response to what went on, as well. Just another great example of that.
Tyler O'Connor is going to be an outstanding quarterback, as well. We've got three good quarterbacks. Right now it is as it is. I thought Cook obviously played very, very well on Saturday.
Q. You said last night you would enjoy the bus ride and plane ride back. How quickly has the attention turned to the big game coming up this week?
COACH DANTONIO: Like it always is, we've done things pretty much the same. We will have our players in. We've met with them, watched the game film and graded it. We've worked out, lifted, et cetera. We'll have a team meeting here at 8:00 and review the special teams film, then move to the next opponent, which is Michigan.
It's pretty much the way it is at all times. Obviously we're going to get more involved here as the day goes on today, then beginning tomorrow. But there's no question it's a different type of week. We're going to try to keep it as normal as we can at this point.
Q. When you look at this defense, how would you describe the difference this year compared to last year? Obviously more pass rush, turnovers, scoring. Anything else that's remarkably different about this defense?
COACH DANTONIO: I think that our confidence level has risen up even more so than last year. Last year we had an outstanding defense. Very tough to score on last year. Had numerous rankings in rush defense, all these different things.
But I think we've become even stingier this year. But that remains to be seen because you have to play this out over the course of the year.
But thus far we've gotten more turnovers, we've scored, been very good on third down. We're getting sacks. We're pressuring the quarterback.
If you can say anything about our football team, we've got depth on our football team. You see our twos go in, we've got pretty good players in that capacity as well. See more guys playing as you look across the board. The experience level of our team as well. We didn't lose a lot of players from last year, and the ones we did, we've got their positions filled in. We have a lot of guys back with experience.
Q. Unlike a lot of coaches, you don't try and hide from this rivalry, pretend it's anything different. Where did you come up with this philosophy and why do you think it works that you're able to pump up rivalry week a little bit more and it doesn't seem to bite you at all?
COACH DANTONIO: I've always just believed as a coach that you embrace your rivalries. It's an opportunity to play in state or play a rivalry out of state.
You know who your rivals are. I've always chosen to embrace it. It's there. Why ignore it? It's important. Why ignore it? It's important to your program and everybody surrounding your program. I've always embraced it and I've always challenged our players to do the same.
We've done that. We've done that here and other places that I've been. I think I've basically gotten that from the people I worked for. Jim Young, when I was a graduate assistant at Purdue, did an outstanding job in that. Obviously I lived it here before when I was at Michigan State. I also experienced it when I was at Ohio State. Not just necessarily with U of M, but with other football teams, as well, regardless of where I have been. When I was playing, the Clemson/South Carolina game. I've just been involved with them.
I think most people approach it the way we do. Maybe not as much publicly. I think times have changed. Everything is so media frenzied more so, it just gets more ink.
Q. Can you tell me after you guys judged and graded the film, is there somebody that had a quiet game as far as recognition but did very well that we didn't talk about?
COACH DANTONIO: I'm not sure who you guys have talked about. But I thought Keith Mumphery played very well. It was a great game for him to sort of get on track.
Saw our running backs, how they performed. All our guys played so well at the end of the game as we moved into the next phase of the game.
I thought Joel Heath was extremely solid and really flashed for us even when he was inside, which he's a younger player. Lawrence Thomas played, as well as James Kittredge. Good to see those guys playing a little bit and getting back involved. Those are positives in that respect.
Q. We've talked a lot about Connor Cook obviously. The evolution of this offensive line, is that as important as anything as you really move into the meat of your schedule over the next few weeks?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, without question it all starts up front on both sides of the ball. You have to at the very least be able to neutralize your opponent up front. Do you have to win all the time up there? I'm not so sure about that. You have to at least neutralize it and win at the line of scrimmage.
If you can do those two things on both sides of the ball, I think you've got a chance to win a football game, providing you don't beat yourself. That's usually the way it goes.
We've been very fortunate this year, winning up front this year on both ends.
Q. Back on the defense. Have you ever had a group with this many difference makers who were seniors who have played really four years? Have you ever had a defense, maybe going back to Ohio State, with guys that have played that much football at that high of a level?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, only that one time. Other than that, no. I would say statistically in this day and age, because you're 10 years past that (2002 Ohio State team), I think the offensive game, offensive football, has changed schematically and conceptually.
So, no. The answer is no. We're playing very well. Again, I always look at things at the end of the year and see how we played at the end of the year. We group all the statistics together after 12 games, how did you play. I think that's where the real measuring stick has to go. You have to play through all your opponents. It's extremely competitive and difficult.
Q. With Michigan having a bye week, you guys playing Illinois, when you play Illinois, are there things that you hold back? Can you really not do that in the Big Ten? Are you pretty much an open book?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, I think there's things you do relative to every game you prepare for. There's new little tweaks you do. I think that's the norm for most people. Even when we look at Illinois, what they showed us is different than what we got.
We look at those aspects and change a little bit as we move forward. But we just try to take them one at a time. That's what's most important.
Q. Illinois' quarterback was extremely mobile, able to break the pocket a couple times. Does that serve as kind of a good prep from what you might see from Michigan with the mobility of their quarterback?
COACH DANTONIO: Scheelhaase is a guy that can make things happen, just as much as when we see the next opponent here. We'll look at that aspect of it. Certainly Gardner has shown the ability to take it upon himself to win a football game. He's an outstanding player.
Q. We've asked you how you felt about not being ranked. I guess it wouldn't be fair not to ask you about seeing your team break into the top 25. A deserved honor or you shrug your shoulders, doesn't really matter to you?
COACH DANTONIO: I think our main focus is what's going on in our conference right now and playing ourselves to the end of the regular season.
I have been on football teams that have been ranked early in the season and faded out. Been on teams that never have been ranked and ended ninth rated in the country.
I think you play things out to the end and you have to understand that a lot of this is motivated by votes. If you just keep winning your games, good things happen.
Q. Can you talk about the evolution of Josiah Price.
COACH DANTONIO: Josiah is growing as a football player. He's an extremely hard worker. He's a redshirt freshman out of Indiana. He's one of those guys that would stay late and come early whenever he was at practice. But he's got outstanding skills and should be a great player for us the remaining of this year and then the next three years.
But you see him grow. I think that's probably very common for young players because the learning curve is so great that they're able to elevate their game every single week because they're getting experience, they're settling in, they're understanding the game plan better and better.
Game plans change every week a lot of times in football. You've got to do little things differently. They've got to be able to adapt and adjust. I think Josiah, he's growing.
But I think you're exactly right, he's going to be an excellent football player.
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