Nov. 3, 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 29-6 win over Michigan.
Michigan State moved up in the national rankings that were released on Sunday afternoon, climbing six spots to No. 18 in The Associated Press Poll, and five spots to No. 19 in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll. MSU is also ranked No. 17 in the Bowl Championship Series standings, up five spots from last week.
The Spartans (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) are in first place in the Big Ten Legends Division and will have their second bye week this Saturday (Nov. 9). MSU returns to action to face Nebraska on Saturday, Nov. 16 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. (time TBA).
The following is a complete transcript of Sunday's teleconference:
COACH DANTONIO: First of all, I just want to congratulate our football team. Great game, obviously. Big step in the direction in terms of the big picture. It was a Michigan game, that's big. But look at the big picture, we advance.
Obviously big points in the game probably is our ability to stop the run and pressure the quarterback, which is probably an understatement. Our third quarter stop after the turnover and then the fourth quarter pick by Darqueze Dennard. But our defense played outstanding, continued the pressure throughout the night. Great game plan. I think our players believed in it and they played extremely well.
On the offense side of the ball, you look at third quarter drive down the field that was executed to take us to 22 points. Then also big play at the end of the first half with the two minute drill. Then also the final drive, 97 yards, where we did not throw a pass and just sort of grinded down the field and had a couple of big plays obviously. Nevertheless, just took control of the game again.
So also want to recognize Nike with our Nike uniforms and with green on green. I think that got lost in everything last night, but Nike got that done for us and I appreciate the effort on their part.
So tough football game. I thought for the most part it was well played, and we're looking forward to a week off and then concentrating on Nebraska.
Q. What was some of the reaction you received from the win?
COACH DANTONIO: Calls or texts or anything? Yeah, a lot of them, obviously a lot of them. You know, I'm not sure how many, close to 100. Just a lot of people, a lot of Spartan fans that I know personally or coaches or family that I know, friends that I know. But the last 24 hours is pretty much, as I said it before, I just felt complete.
Q. I'm just wondering after watching the game film, there were some instances where players heads got turned and crunched, do you plan on sending any films into the Big Ten to review?
COACH DANTONIO: I think that - I'm sure if there are incidents that the Big Ten office will look at those things and make those decisions. I'm not going to make any decisions there. Obviously people are talking about things, but I'll let other people handle those things.
Q. I was wondering with all the emotion, you know, put forth for a week like this, does the bye week almost come at a good time to kind of let your hair down a little bit before you start focusing on Nebraska?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I guess it really does. I never really...I've said this before, you have a bye week, so you're planning for that week, so your plans are already set pretty much.
But I think from an emotional standpoint, it gives us a chance to sort of wind down a little bit and step away from football for a day or two. And then also get re-energized for the Nebraska game and get excited for that opportunity and that challenge. In many cases this is probably the perfect storm, I guess you would say, in terms of having a little bit of time off afterwards as well.
Q. I know you've got your 24 hour rule, but a few guys broke it last night and talked about Nebraska. Is this a case where you're glad that these guys have kind of stayed on track and have kind of refocused on the next big game ahead?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, that's fine if guys want to talk about Nebraska game. You know, it indicates that we have a bigger direction, that there are other things to accomplish, that our program is passed just winning one football game. We need to try to recognize the big picture. We talk about that all the time.
We have goals game to game, certainly. Because I think you have to make those goals before you can go further. But you also have to look at the big picture on things, too. We try to do that. We've talked about that aspect. We talked about that aspect over the course of a year, not just this last week.
So hopefully it's a sign of us handling some success and understanding that we're not there yet. We're still climbing a ladder.
Q. Noticeably yesterday when you guys went to some speed or some fast package, Joel Heath got some time at the nose. It seems like he got penetration. What were your thoughts on his play, please?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I think Joel Heath is a guy who's really coming. He played very well last week against Illinois as well. He's a big guy. He's a big 6-6, 275, 280-pound guy that can run. He's played inside some, but he's played defense more. But in a speed situation, when we put our speed on the field, which is four down lineman, he's definitely in there. I thought he had a great football game.
I thought Ed Davis did as well. He's a guy that's gone in our nickel package. He's a great athlete, came up with some great individual efforts, pressures.
You can really look across the board on our defense. I thought they all played very, very well and executed. The thing that was impressive to me after watching the film today was just the ability - just the running and hitting and relentless attitude that we had. They had a couple of plays, but they never really could get things going.
Q. Looking at the defense this year versus last year, I see an elite pass rusher this year in Calhoun, and then your ability to take the ball away. Would you see those are two of the biggest differences between this year's defense and last years, even though you guys put up some good numbers last year as well?
COACH DANTONIO: First of all, there's always room for improvement, and I think the first thing that we do collectively as staff and as players is we always look to improve.
When you look at last year, statistically we were very, very good. Not a lot of people scored on us. We didn't get the turnovers that we had the previous year in 2011 and we didn't get the sacks. Usually sacks really put you behind the eight ball a little bit.
We're getting both of those aspects more this year, certainly yesterday. The sack total was, you know, big in the outcome of the football game. The interception by Darqueze Dennard in the red zone was very, very big. Definitely took points off the board one way or another. Those are two big aspects that we are doing better this year.
Q. Is there anything else that jumps out to you that has allowed the unit to go to the next level?
COACH DANTONIO: I would say those are the two things we worked on that we know we needed to improve on. So I think we're getting that production.
COACH DANTONIO: Damion Terry did an excellent job throughout the week, made us miss, ran the ball down the field on occasion. He did an outstanding job. He's going to be an outstanding quarterback for us. He's 230 pounds, 6-4, that can run and move. We've said that before. There was a reason that we had him in his quarterback race. So he has talent.
As far as Gerald Holmes, (he) did a great job. I thought Nick Tompkins did a nice job as well, you know, simulating the running back. But the running back was really never a factor in this football game. The guy we had to stop was the quarterback. He was the guy that was making it happen for them. We sort of set our mind that that's what we had to do.
Q. Was he live or more live than a normal week?
COACH DANTONIO: He was live. He was not live Thursday. He was live Tuesday and Wednesday.
Q. You talk a lot about stats, but there were two sacks in particular that came to other players because one Marcus Rush read a screen he dropped back into coverage, and the other forcing his quarterback to back to go the other direction. Would you talk about Marcus and the plays that he makes with his brain that maybe necessarily don't show up on the stat sheet, please?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, he's very instinctive player. Plays hard, gets off blocks. He runs Gardner down one time after getting off a block, I think, when Gardner - I think maybe he's running almost to a first down. And they got to the fourth-and-1 and Darqueze hit him. Rush comes from behind and almost strips the ball out.
He just gives great individual effort. He's a gamer. He's one of those guys that seems to be in the right place at the right time. He's extremely intelligent in how he plays. He was up against a good offensive tackle. There is no question about that at times. I think he had a great football game. He comes to play every week.
Q. Are you guys blitzing more on defense this year?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, we're a pressure team, so we're going to pressure. But I think we're getting better pass rush collectively from four guys. Rush, as we just talked about, is very, very good. And then Shilique Calhoun is good. I think Denzel Drone is a very good player as well. When we do put speed on the field, as was indicated before, Joel Heath becomes a factor. Damon Knox is playing very well. He had a sack in the game or at least a no gain on a pass play. He played very solid in there on the three technique.
Our front four is playing well, whoever they may be. Backers are playing well, back end is playing well. So there is nobody that you can say I wish I had somebody else in there and that's a positive.
Q. I know you cannot speak specifically about any recruits, but could you talk about the recruiting weekend, the Spartan Fest, with 100 guys on campus and what that says about the direction of the program and what you took from this weekend's recruiting visits?
COACH DANTONIO: First of all, Curtis Blackwell had some very unique ideas that we had not tried before, to set up everything along with, you know, the rest of our people in recruiting.
But, you know, I really felt like Spartan Fest and the things that they had, people catering in the food for people to be able to buy. Some of the things we did were unique. Obviously the big football game in the Midwest, a lot of people wanted to come to it and see it. We had a lot of guys there, a lot of recruits there. We had some unofficial visits here as well. It was a big day for a lot of us, not just on the football field but also for a lot of young men that were seeing Michigan State for the first time or seeing Michigan State for the fifth time. It was just a big day for everybody involved. I think they got a chance to take a good look at the game environment.
Some guys were able to be there for meetings earlier in the day or to watch whatever we did before the walk, just to sort of be around a little bit prior to the game. So I think it was a positive for a lot of different people.
Q. Follow up on that, obviously this was a nationally televised game and just watching ESPN's College Football Final, there was a lot of talk about Michigan State. You guys jumped six in the polls. How big of a weekend is it for you personally? I know you're on to the next one, but to have that sort of weekend, to get that type of exposure, what does that mean to you personally?
COACH DANTONIO: For Mark Dantonio? I guess it would mean that we're heading in the right direction. I try not to evaluate things too heavily until we get to the end of the season.
At the end of the season, we look to see, okay, what did we accomplish? Did we accomplish our goals? How short were we on the goals? How did we do?
And in the meantime, there really isn't a lot of time for me to sit down and say let's go become and watch that again. I watch the game film of this one and I'm done with it. Move to the next one. For me to watch Michigan tomorrow is not going to help us beat Nebraska unless there is a point of interest there that would help us beat Nebraska.
So that's the way I've sort of been built through this process. I'm not going to get too low on the lows and I'm not going to get too high on the highs. I'm very excited about the win, as you can probably tell. I was very excited. After yesterday, it's time to get back to work and move forward. That's what we have to do.
As I said before, the only thing I could feel was like everything was in order yesterday, as far as I was concerned. At the end of the day, it was all in order.
Q. Aaron Burbridge got on the field, I didn't really notice it. Was it a case of playing it safe with him?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, a little bit of that, a little bit of that. He hadn't been able to practice full go. There was a couple of instances last week where he sort of - he couldn't go full go. He couldn't extend himself.
I just felt like our other guys are playing well. I leave that up to our coaches. Coach Samuel felt that way, our trainers sort of felt that way, so we had to hold him out. He did play some. He played early. But after that we sort of went on what he said. We sort of said, okay, just get ready for the next one.
Q. Yesterday in your postgame press conference, you got emotional about being humbled to be the coach at Michigan State. And then you got a question and moved on from it. It was an important thing for you based upon your emotion. Would you talk about what happened yesterday that triggered that in you? I know you're appreciative for the job, but what was it that triggered that emotion, please?
COACH DANTONIO: I guess when I got asked the question, did you recognize that they were all clapping for you. You know, that's humbling. You know, I'm just - I've always just thought of myself as a coach. I coach guys, I coach players. I was assistant coach and then coordinator and now I'm a head coach. I just see myself as a coach. To get that recognition from Spartan fans was meaningful.
The players make the plays, I think you got to understand that. But I sort of was taken aback by the question.
Michigan State University has tremendous tradition. There have been outstanding players here. I get on the sideline and see Plaxico Burress, Julian Peterson on the side line. Javon Ringer is on the sideline, Greg Jones, guys that I've had interaction with throughout my coaching career either before or now. There's many others that I probably didn't - I'm not even bringing out. Flozell Adams was the honorary captain. A lot of people, a lot of coaches have been here. I think back to some of the coaches that have been here in the past, and to be recognized in that respect is humbling.
Q. Michigan plays Nebraska next week, and as far as the Legends division goes, it would appear that a Michigan win would do more for you. Is there a part of Mark Dantonio that could be rooting for Michigan next Saturday?
COACH DANTONIO: Oh, I don't know about that. I would just say I can't lose.
Q. How did Demetrius Cooper do on scout team?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, great job. We're trying to figure out who could we use as a guy that could emulate him because he is outstanding tight end receiver, big bodied guy that can really run. We moved Demetrius Cooper, and he did an outstanding job. He is that type of guy. He has that kind of athletic ability, which is scary because he reminds me so much of Julian Peterson. When you see him next year, that's what you will compare him to.
Q. Is the play of the corners in this game being overlooked a little bit?
COACH DANTONIO: Our corners always are going to be put sometimes on an island, whether it's just to make the one on one tackle or to defend in press coverage. They do an outstanding job. Every time I talk to a scout, they are talking about Darqueze Dennard. They are looking at No. 15 (Trae Waynes), and I'm saying hey, hey, don't look too hard in that direction. They're talking about those guys and how we have two of the best corners or the best corners or two of the best in the conference. They have a lot of responsibility out there. The ball is not thrown out there too often, but when it is you expect them to make plays. I mean, that is just the nature. The corners have to make plays when the ball is thrown up. They have got to be able to tackle. You are going to notice if they don't make the play, that number such and such, you know. As was yesterday, when we play made a play over top of a Michigan defensive back, obviously it's noticed. It's tough out there. It's tough duty.
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