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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE

September 11, 2018

Mark Dantonio

East Lansing, Michigan

HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Good morning, guys. Basically, just post ASU, Arizona State, I thought first of all, I thought we handled the trip very well. Handled the time change. Handled the weather. Didn't have any problems with that. I thought we played with a lot of energy. Obviously we expected a tough game and expected a tight game and got one, really, as we went through it. I talked a little bit about the different situations, you know, that we've got to get better at, things of that nature, I guess on Saturday night.

But obviously not scoring in the goal line area, the red zone. Third down hurt us a little bit. Thought we played pretty well on defense. Didn't have a touchdown scored against us throughout three quarters of the game and then we gave up one late.

But the football team hung around, instead of being 20-3 or something like that, it's 13-3 and inevitably somebody is going to make a play. I think a little bit of that happened. Need to play better in certain situations. I think our football team right now is, you know, it's a tough deal. We gathered ourselves on the way home. Very proud of our team and how they handled things. Leadership is intact. Met yesterday reviewed the film, etc. Got to stay resilient.

I think, you know, when you have these type of situations and we've been in them before, they can go one direction: Either people get pulled apart or they get brought together, and it's my feeling that things like this forge -- your working together, forges unity, solidarity, perseverance and probably the most important thing, it forces action which, we need to take action.

So we'll sit a week. Coaches will be out recruiting this week, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. We'll work today and Thursday, and probably maybe Friday or Saturday, depending on which, and get back at it next week, play an IU game next Saturday, a week from Saturday at 7:30 at night. We look forward to that challenge.

I'll take some questions and we'll probably go from there.

Q. I asked you a week ago about protections, picking off blitzes, blocking schemes, that sort of thing and seems a lot of problems with assignments against Arizona State. What needs to change?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think we got pressure. We got pressure. We only were sacked twice, and that was at the end of the game. I think we could have avoided the sack and the ball could have been thrown. And they bring, as I said on Saturday night, they bring a lot of different pressures from different places, everybody does. They have a number of people up there that have given up some different things in coverage when they do that, but they are dropping deep -- especially Arizona State, they are dropping defensive linemen out there have and they are creating a situation where a defensive lineman -- you can point to so many different little things, whether it's a spot, a missed spot, you know, by where the ball was placed after a play or whether it was a missed leverage, whether we're ahead 6-0 and it's third and 20 and the quarterback scrambles for 15 instead of six, that's the difference in a 49-yard field goal and a punt.

So it's things like that, you go back and look at it and it frustrates you. You know, obviously third and eight, at the end of the game, where they are in a position to go down and possibly score, third and eight, we have an uncovered guy going to the flat. They pick us a little bit, we have a coverage blow and on top of that we have another situation where a safety turns on No. 1, which is, you know, not supposed to do that. But it's the inches.

So it's the little things that you look at that actually culminate to being very big things in a tight game and this game got tight. There's no other way to say it. It just got tight.

Obviously we don't want it to be like that. You know, you want to get out in front 21, 24 -- you have 28 points of opportunities in the red zone and come away with 13. So that is frustrating, but there are reasons behind that: Some of them are physical; some of them are mental; some of them are coaching errors.

The main thing I want to make sure is people understand, our people, the people in the tent, understand that this is all are our issues; it's not one particular group.

And again, you have quarterback decision, you have offensive line play, you have running back, pass protecting. I know on the last one that he was sacked and caused a fumble, the running back missed the blitz to linebacker and that was an issue that forced the pressure.

So it's not always the offensive line. Or somebody maybe covered down the field and he couldn't hold the football, so it's not always the quarterback or the running back or whatever. There's a lot that goes into this, and that's why, you know, football becomes such a complicated game and people talk about it all the time with all the answers. Of course, we've got all the answers.

Next question.

Q. Your favorite question. With Jake in particular, how did he come out?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I've always said if a guy is out for a while, I'm going to talk about him. So Jake is out for six to eight weeks. He's got a bone bruise or maybe a slight fracture in there. We're going to miss him.

Rocky Lombardi will be the punter, maybe Tyler Hunt. But we'll go on. Rocky, great athlete and he's punted before. He was our backup punter.

William priss such is a guy who is a walk on from Florida and we'll see how he works out. May walk out there fresh, who knows. But Rocky has the ability. He needs to wear the right shoe and take the brace off and work a little bit but he's an outstanding athlete. I feel comfortable with the quarterback back there, we'll have a guy back there who understands pressure.

Q. With LJ and David Beedle, anything long term with them and was Tyriq Thompson an injury situation?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I don't think that -- I do not think that those are long-term issues. I don't anticipate them to be long-term issues.

As far as with Tyriq, we left him at home because he got into a situation and I felt it was warranted that we leave him at home. He rejoined the team yesterday.

Q. You had a couple new starters, Brandon Randle and Beesley. Could you talk about how they performed? And also, what did it do to the defensive end rotation to be down a man and what did that look like on film?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, first of all, I thought Brandon Randle, you know, continues to get better. Played a lot more plays. He's very instinctive at times. Shows a great athletic ability and then at other times, he needs to be a better pass rusher in one-on-one situations because he has that type of ability.

But I thought he took a big step forward. I think he's going continue to be a good player for us. He's a young player, and so with young players, you see a big learning curve as they go. But I thought he played hard. He was athletic and made some plays out there.

As far as our defensive end, I thought Jack Camper played a lot, played well, Beesley (ph), as well. To only get 30 yards of running game production, so played well against the run. You know, we need to continue to work the pass rush aspects of it that kept us off base when we brought pressure. You know, either blocked pressure or got the ball out. They tested us deep quite often. I thought we played the deep ball very well with the exception of probably two plays. One was interference at the end of the game, and one was a great catch by the wide receiver for their only touchdown, but it's challenging.

Q. With LJ out, what did you see from those two guys? Not a lot of opportunities from either, but did you like what you saw from them?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I thought that, first of all, I thought Weston got in there. I felt like he was the first guy in. He didn't get an opportunity to run the football.

We put La'Darius in there because he sort of suited what we were running a little bit. I thought he had a couple big plays, or nice in there, first down running and then a great job by Brian on the option and pitches it out to make the first down. Both those guys are young players and both those guys are talented players.

Depending on injury issues, we'll see how it all works out or how the reps will continue. Certainly right now in practice here, we're going to find out a little bit more about them.

Q. Just from maybe the trip standpoint, the travel, health, everything, do you think the bye week comes at an ideal time for you guys?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: You know, you always sort of take it as it comes. I think really the biggest thing on the trip was the time change and takes it out of you a little bit, especially coming back. We got back about 8:45 I think in the morning Sunday morning.

I think we were very well represented out there. Want to thank all the Spartans for coming out to Arizona State, West Coast and Arizona and people from back here. We had a tremendous showing, and all the people that stayed up till 2:40 to watch. It was a late game. We had to flip our physical clock. We had to wear compression tights, a four-hour long flight, hydrate 24 to 30 hours, and I was pushing water like you can't believe and Gatorade.

Then, you know, the weather, it was 104 temperature at game time. You know, there's a lot of things that we needed to control. I thought we did that. I thought we had energy on the field. I thought we came to play. I've always said at the end of it all, if our guys play hard and play confident and play with each other and play confident, don't point fingers and play hard, you know, whatever happens, I'll handle it and so that's what we'll do. I'll handle it.

So we'll get ready to play. We'll be fine. All of our games are in front of us. All of our goals are in front of us. I said earlier to our team yesterday, our focus is, everybody wants to talk about whether we get into the playoffs or being in the Big 10 Championship game or winning a championship but before you can do any of those things -- in the past, we've stumbled our feet a little bit coming out of the blocks and regained ourselves and we've played well. That's what I'm anticipating and that's what I expect and that's our players' expectations.

Q. We saw some buzz on Twitter about Blake getting a scholarship. Is that true and if so, what led to that decision and what have you liked about him?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I have a couple scholarships, an opportunity to give those, and Blake has been with us for I think it's been two years. This is his second year as a redshirt freshman. He's a tough guy from Howell, Detroit Catholic Central. He was a wrestler. He reminds will he a lot of Connor Cruz from Howell, played a lot for us, played the last couple games in there and he's done a nice job and he's been firm and he's been athletic and he's battled you. He has a huge upside and I just thought it was warranted, so yes, that is the case.

Q. And could you give an evaluation on Tyler versus Allen at center through the first two weeks and what your thoughts are there?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: You know we try to make Tyler center. Want to always try and play our best five.

But with that being said, it's difficult sometimes to transition to the center box, and you saw him -- you saw a couple times what happened to him. Things got disrupted, and when you can't control the center box, if you can't control the nose with the center box, it's difficult to run the ball. Especially if you're running things where a guard or somebody is pulling, and there's disruption, and you saw that happen.

I thought Matt played better. He was more firm in there. He's been a center longer. So you know, we certainly have to try and figure that out as we go and that's win of the things we figure out in the next couple weeks here.

But it's not from a lack of trying or lack of a will, but he's snapping the ball and he's probably not stepping -- when you catch on a zero knows who is coming out of his stance that I think knew the snap count and anticipated it, got off on the ball, things become a little more difficult. So we need to bury the snap count in that situation.

Q. Is Ken Mannie okay? He look like he took a really big shot.
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, he took a shot. He took a shot. Had to be X-rayed on -- during the game, but yeah, he's okay.

Q. The three straight night games, completely out of your control, but is that something that's going to -- do you think it takes a toll or maybe you have to adjust scheduling?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Well, you know, like I said, we'll line them up and play. There's only certain things you can control and most of it you cannot; let's just face it, okay. Whether it's on the field or off the field sometimes, just, you know, in terms of these type of things.

Having a night game, as opposed to a day game. We're just going to play them when we're supposed to play them and get excited about an opportunity to do that. Third straight night game, two of our scrimmages in the summer were at night knowing we would experience this, so we'll prepare ourselves accordingly.

Q. Is this the downside of the playoff era we're in, the four-time playoff era, you lose a game and everyone is going crazy; you lose two games and your season is over. Is that unfortunate?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Well, I guess, yeah, that's the world we're living in. You know, that's just the world we're living in I guess. Like I said, my temperament is focus on what I can control. I wish I could say, hey, you know what, we missed a couple plays up, we're coming back out there Friday night. But that doesn't happen.

You've just got to line up the next opportunity that you get and it's no different than life. Everybody just points to sports and they want answers. But you know, it's no different than anything you go to in life. You stub your toe, you've got to get back in the ring and you've got to get back in there and do what you're supposed to do and change the results. If you feel sorry for yourself, you're going to be chasing bad times.

But you get up off the matt and you go. We did that last year. Really, if you look across the board, if you look at 2013, Notre Dame game, got up and won the next bunch. If you look at 2014, Oregon State game, Ohio State game, and won the rest of them; and even last year, the Notre Dame game.

So you need to understand how to play through a little bit of the pain, too. That's all a part of this. These are all life experiences that our players get. Some you're going to win. Some you're going to lose. I don't want to be philosophical up here, because everybody wants you to win and everybody wants you to be upset if you don't.

I can tell you for the last 48 hours and today included I'm watching that film saying, if this, or if that, or if that; that's the nature of coaching. So we are all very upset about this. Because you feel like one got taken away from us that I thought we were in control of, somewhat in control of, not totally.

As well as we played defensively, we only went three-and-out one time out 11, but we played well enough to shut them out for three quarters other than field goals. It got away from us, one side or the other, and you've got to deal with it. So I will deal with it.

Q. You mentioned about the Blake scholarship and others. Have you given out any other walk-on scholarships?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I gave Ryan Armour a scholarship yesterday, as well.

Q. Going back to the hit on Jake, did you get an explanation of why no flag was called on that? Was it the penalty, the false start?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah.

Q. Or could they have called something on that?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: They could have. I got an explanation. But I don't -- you know, I'm not going to go into that. I'm not going to -- I'm not going to make excuses. I'm going to certain myself with the things that we can control and I can control.

But I got a very clear reading on that, yeah.

Q. They goofed up?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I don't want to go into that. I don't think it's -- I don't think it's my business to go into that. That's not my business. I don't ref the games. They are doing the very best they can do, I know that.

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