Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio spoke with members of the media on Tuesday during his weekly press gathering.
Here is a transcript from today's event.
COACH DANTONIO: Real quickly, recap Boise, I thought one of the things we did was fight through adversity. There is no question about that. We regathered ourselves at halftime, and came out and played a little bit better.
Defensively, I thought we played outstanding throughout the entire game, really. They really had one drive down inside into the red zone against us. Other than that, we sort of respond, but guys tackled well in space, covered well down the field. Got to apply a little bit more pass pressure probably, but we'll get that fixed up.
Offensively, great day by Le'Veon Bell, obviously. Controlled the line of scrimmage, ran the ball effectively, and Simms had a great day. I thought Maxwell played well. He had a couple of turnovers there which I don't think was his fault, but I thought he was in control. He had good leadership, he was calm, and he made good decisions with the football for the most part for his first game out in a big environment like that. I thought he played well.
We've got to get some things squared away which we'll work on this week. Special teams wise, big field goal from Dan Conroy, a 50 yarder. Other than that, we had a lot of young guys playing in our special teams, and I think that we were okay. But we've got to clean up some things there.
Biggest thing we have to clean up probably are penalties the unforced errors. We look for improvement the next game. So that will be the MO going into this. But we beat a football team that was 73 6 coming in, and I think the last four years they were 53 3, so good football team. They're going to win a lot of football games, but we need to continue to improve.
Thought the atmosphere in the crowd was outstanding. It was a tremendous atmosphere for us out there, and the crowd was great. Very loud out there, really something that even though we pipe noise into our practice, really something we could not even simulate. It was so loud, so excited about that.
The CMU game, it's an historic event up there. Coach Enos knows us well, obviously, having been on our staff, and they know the traditions. They ran the ball effectively. They have a great quarterback. Radcliff is a guy that's closing in on a lot of records up there, so he's an experienced quarterback with two great tailbacks in Tipton and Garland, an established offensive line.
It was a great win for them, and we'll get on them practice wise today. But I'm sure the atmosphere's going to be very exciting up there, and we look forward to our first road game.
Before I open it up for questions, I just want to congratulate our guys who made NFL rosters. That would be Kirk Cousins with the Redskins, Jerel Worthy with the Packers, Keshawn Martin with the Texans, Trent Robertson with the 49ers, along with Garrett Celek with the 49ers. And who am I missing? Those five guys and B.J. Cunningham was named to the practice squad, and with the Eagles, and I think those are all huge events in those individuals lives, and we're very, very proud of them.
Q. Linemen and fullback don't get a lot of attention. But it would seem to me Niko played well, as well as Jack, especially first start freshmen. Could you talk about those two please?
COACH DANTONIO: They're young players that made some mistakes, but for the most part they played well. We need to clean up the mistakes. But there is no question they'll run for 20 yards plus without guys at the point of attack. Our tight end, fullback and offensive line are a big portion of that, as well as our wide receivers blocking people in that secondary level. So I thought they did a nice job.
Q. Le'Veon was so good he got the Heisman hype in the first game. Do you take him aside and talk to him a little bit about that? Is he mature enough that you know he'll be able to handle whatever comes at him?
COACH DANTONIO: I think what we have to make sure we're not doing is don't drink the Kool aid around here. He's always come out and played hard. He's always come out and practiced hard. He's always tried to be a complete football player, so I don't think that's going to change whether he's blocking or catching the ball or running with the football. I think he would play on special teams if we asked him to, and I think that's the trademark of a good player.
So his attitude is in the right place right now. So hopefully he can handle things. We're going to find out. There is a lot of media around this, which is great.
Q. You've played friends in this profession before. But if you had your druthers, would you rather not play such a close friend who used to work for you?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, it's tough. I can sort of feel for the people that I have played against. Even when it's been the opposite, when I've been sort of there, growing up under them. Coach Tressel didn't like to play against us. So I can sort of feel that.
You want him to do well. You want Central Michigan to do well, but you have to take care of business on your side, so obviously you want to win. But when you get to games like this, you line up, you play, you get your football teams ready, and you respect who they are and you play on. Its one week, one day.
Q. What is the upside for you to play a game like this on the road? Obviously, there is some risk. But when this was presented to you, what was the discussion? What do you think you get out of this?
COACH DANTONIO: I sort of shrugged my shoulders when this was thrown out there saying that to me what we get out of it is an opportunity to embrace the state of Michigan, Mt. Pleasant, bringing commerce to that area. So we get an opportunity to do something for the state of Michigan, which is what we've always tried to do here as people and as individuals since we've come and since most colleges have that opportunity. Most colleges take advantage of that.
But in a bigger sense, in a stronger sense, we can put up or shut up, I guess, this that respect. We have an opportunity to do that sit back and not do it or take the opportunity to do it.
So we took the opportunity to do it as an administration, athletic department, and football department, to do something for the state of Michigan that would be valued, making it an historic event. So that's one of the reasons.
The second reason that I felt would be a positive for us and if we're going to play an away game, I'd rather play 60 miles up the road in state and make that our first away game of the season with the new quarterback at this point in time and experience that environment which probably I would imagine there would be a lot of Spartan fans up there as well.
So I think that's a good way to begin our road season so I thought that would be an advantage for us if you had to go on the road to go close.
So those are the two biggest reasons for us to go up there and make this decision at this time. You know, also I guess it impacts us when they come back in terms of the financial aspect of that. I think that's a positive for our University as well.
Q. How often have you talked to Danny? What are your conversations with him taking over a program that's struggled for years. What have you talked to him about building a program or staying the course, whatever you guys talk about?
COACH DANTONIO: I think those conversations are relatively private, but I talk to Dan whenever the opportunity presents itself. My message to him is it's not easy. You're building a program, there is change, transition, you've just got to keep doing what you believe and things will come to fruition.
Q. Dion Sims the other night, is that the glimpse of the potential you've seen for a few years and what he can mean to you guys? Do you also get the sense that Andrew feels comfortable with him, and he's the guy you look for on those big plays?
COACH DANTONIO: I think Dion is a tremendous football player with great skills. You saw those skills be taken advantage of last Friday, I guess. But I think Andrew has confidence in all of the players. It's just situations present themselves, whether it's the read that's take him there or the play that was called. In that case or the one case down here, he was flushed out and contained to the right, and Dion was to the right on a flag cut 7 route so that's where he looked. Some of the other things were more orchestrated to him. He's an outstanding football player and he'll continue to get better and grow.
Q. Is there anything Le'Veon Bell did in the off season to prepare for what obviously looks like an increased workload?
COACH DANTONIO: No, I think he's the same player he's been. He worked hard. He's been slowed by some nicks which is to be expected as you go through summer camp. He's always prepared well and played hard, going back to his freshman year.
He's done this for a couple of years, and he's going into his third year. The opportunity presented itself more maybe Friday night and he took advantage of it.
Q. What did you learn about Andrew in this game? During the game and how he's reacted the last couple of days?
COACH DANTONIO: I thought he was very composed. He showed good leadership skills and he rolled with things when things didn't go as well as he would have liked. I think those are characteristics that are hard to teach. Those are characteristics as a person, who he is as a person. You have to be calm at the quarterback position. You're not always going to be right. You're going to be questioned. You'll have guys drop balls, have balled tipped, have pressure, and you have to be able to roll with that and get back up and play. I thought he did that, and he never lost his composure in the game. That's him. That's him throughout, whether it was an opportunity to play, didn't quite come or had patience or whatever it was. He's been resilient throughout his time here. I think he'll continue to maintain that perspective.
Q. I know you're not a big Twitter guy, but some of your players in the Michigan game took to Twitter. Can you talk about that being an on the record thing, open. Is that something you concern about or address or is it all fair in rivalries?
COACH DANTONIO: No, I'll address that with our football team. I think it's disrespectful. I don't think that's something that we should be doing, so I'll deal with that on my end.
But the credit goes to the person in the arena. That's the way I look at things. Michigan has a tremendous football storied tradition. I didn't see much different when we played the University of Alabama a couple years ago, it's tough. Our guys need to keep their mouths shut. Is that blunt enough? Okay, I'm sure that will make headline news, especially those that aren't even playing.
Q. I have a follow up to that question.
COACH DANTONIO: Of course there would be.
Q. Might there be a shut your account off?
COACH DANTONIO: Shut your account off? I didn't know there was such a thing. Is there a shut your account off that I can just throw a switch? I don't think there is. It's America.
But there are consequences that go along with that. I'm not going to say there's not free speech in our program, but I think that I'll say what I've said all along. You can't be prideful. You need to approach this game with humility. When it becomes personal, that crosses the line.
So, again, shouldn't have to be talking about this. So there will be another message.
Q. Football question on Dion. Where is he as a blocker? We've seen his skills as a receiver?
COACH DANTONIO: He's 280 pounds plus. Depends on what he has for breakfast. You know, so he's obviously he has the tools to be a good blocker at the point of attack. You play against some good people, needs to get moving.
In my mind, in order to run the football you have to get movement in the center area, the center box, and you have to get moving in the C area which is where the tight end usually is at. So we ran the football pretty effectively.
Got to get the running back into the secondary to get that thing started. So I thought he did a nice job, obviously, doing that. But there's always room for improvement.
Q. Before we hear from Andrew, you talked about the drop balls earlier. Taking everything into account from the blocking up front to the receivers, where is the passing game right now and how close or how far away is it from where you want it to be?
COACH DANTONIO: From my perspective, we probably have eight guys that have got to that have an opportunity to play at wide receiver. I think we've gotten it to that point that we have eight guys. They all have talent. They have to be consistent. That is the message now.
Who are those guys? In the past, Keshawn might have dropped a couple balls out here and you'd go about your business. He'd fumble two balls I think in the Michigan game last year. But he caught two touchdowns, so it was sort of overlooked. So you just assume that the guys playing for you are going to make plays.
So you can't say, hey, this guy dropped the ball, we're going to give up on him. You can't do that. But at the same time, you have other individuals that have to get opportunities to show what they can do. And those opportunities are going to come in practice this week or in the games early in the season.
But we've got to find our guys, our four or five guys, three, four, however many it is as we go through these next three games and we have to feel confident that we can throw to our wide receivers. That is part of it. Our wide receivers have to catch it. If you watch the game, Andrew's throwing some fastballs. There is no question. He's got an arm, a live arm, but you've got to catch it. Got a couple guys that are a little farther along than other guys. But at this point in time, nobody set themselves apart. So we've got to let them play.
They have talent. There is no question they have talent at that position. More talent than we had last year top to bottom. But we don't have the guys that can go in and say this is the guy. Hopefully, we'll find out in the next three or four games, but that is the importance of the success of the program over the long haul this season. I don't think I'm letting anything out of the bag there.
Q. Had you played a near flawless game, the win would have probably come more efficiently than it did. Even Lou Holtz said he was more impressed by Boise than you guys.
COACH DANTONIO: Another press credential.
Q. Going forward, what are the advantages of winning a game like this in this manner in terms of
COACH DANTONIO: It shows we can win a close game and we can respond to adversity. It shows when things aren't going quite well, we can get back on track. We have some young players out there playing, so we're going to make some mistakes. There is no question about that.
But Boise's a good football team. There are a lot of football teams that struggled this past weekend, and, you know we'll take the win and move on.
Q. In all of the invisible mornings you like to talk about. For these young guys that you talk about who aren't playing, do you cite what Le'Veon talks about during the year so maybe when they're not playing, they can embrace even more to have Le'Veon type moments?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I think you could look at that and say this is the example. This is what hard work brings to you. Just keep persevering through things. But we've got a lot of good football players on our team. There is no question about that. But guys have to rise up and play. To that level, things are going very fast on that sideline, especially in the Boise game. A big crowd, very loud, media, national spotlight, game changing back and forth, whether it's a fumble or an interception or get out on the field for this, responding from coming out situation.
So there is a lot going on there where there is a lot of anxiety coming into the game, I'm sure. Everybody anxious, not so much anxiety, but anxious. So there are a lot of things that you have to juggle to be able to play well. But like I said, we'll have a week of reflection. We'll move forward.
Q. You've had a lot of success over the last couple of years in close games, 7 points or less. What do you attribute to that? The team has had success and they know how to do it? Or might it be a little of your message to them each and every game that there's going to be adversity no matter what game you're in and they're going to have to overcome whatever adversity comes towards them?
COACH DANTONIO: I think that's an example of not example, but it's based on what's been done here in the past. When we first came, we lost a lot of close games in 2007, we won them in 2008. We lost them in 2009. Won them in the last two years.
So a lot of the heavy lifting has been done to get to where we are now as a program, that's been done by the players in the past four years.
Some people, especially our young player who haven't played yet, they're benefiting from that heavy lifting. I think players play, coaches coach. We can send that message all we want, but I'm sure that's sent across the nation.
But the players have to believe in themselves. They have to be able to get up. That is part of responding to a situation, I think, or to adversity. Talk about it, try to present it a lot. But until we do it on game day, until we do it on game day, you don't know who and how your leaders are going to be. I felt like we found something out about ourselves a little bit on Friday night. Our guys responded, our leaders responded, and we pulled it together and we won.
The defense shut them out in the second half. They had some huge plays on defense. Our offense played better in the second half. Even though we didn't get on the board until the fourth quarter, we took the ball with 6:26 left and controlled it and sort of just willed it. Made huge plays down the stretch in the last two drives. I think those are things that we can build on. So I think it's a confidence thing, and we need to continue to be able to do those things.
Q. A number of guys were around in 2009 when you lost to Central. Even though they struggled the last couple of years, does that help in terms of a team respecting another team?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I think it does. We'll talk about it and present the facts and what happened that game and hopefully learn from some things. But it's going to be a great environment up there, don't kid yourself. It will be a live environment up there from everything I hear. So it should be exciting for our players to play away. There will be a lot of Spartans there as well accident but a lot of Central fans there as well. So it will be a great match up.
Q. Carries for a running back are like miles on a car. Le'Veon had 44 carries in the first game. Is there an optimum level that you're shooting for?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, until he gets a flat, I guess. I don't know. We wanted to get Nick Hill involved and Larry Caper involved as well. We're trying to win a good football team and give ourselves the best opportunity. He was hot. I've said many times here we're going to ride the hot back. Doesn't mean he's hot every game. If Larry or Nick are hot, they'll be the ones riding the ball more often. So we're going to ride the hot back. We've always done that here.
Q. Since this isn't a fresh injury, can I ask about a lingering injury? Is there an update on Skyler, and are you concerned this could go deep into the season?
COACH DANTONIO: Update on Skyler is he's close to returning. And I think Treadwell is close to returning as well. Burbridge is returned.
Q. You guys ran the ball very well the other night. I was wondering what you thought of your offensive line play in terms of pass protection. Seemed like sometimes Andrew was under more pressure than you would hope?
COACH DANTONIO: It's a week of reflection, that's my MO this week we can play better. I think all of our offensive linemen realize they can play better. We played better, we have to play better.
Q. What about Burbridge? He's back. You still want to red shirt him, I assume, but is there any chance he'll be considered?
COACH DANTONIO: He's one of the eight that we're talking about. I would say we'll see how he progresses in practice this week. It's too early to say. I think we have to give him an opportunity to show what he's got because he didn't have that opportunity in the summer.
I would say the same thing about Madarus. They have to have an opportunity to show. We have to evaluate that in practice reps. So we'll try to do that to the best of our ability. But we'll try to win, and if he takes us to that level, that's what we're going to do.
Q. The six that you talked about earlier with Kings and Burbridge, are those the eight?
COACH DANTONIO: Yes.
Q. Coach, Joe Kellogg, the guard from Boise State commented that he's played a lot of good front sevens, but yours was the best he's faced. Can you talk about your front seven and your thoughts to this point?
COACH DANTONIO: I thought we played well up front against the run. They did a good job protecting against the quarterback. But Boise last year when I watched all their film, gave up eight sacks the entire season. Four of them I think the quarterback just fell down and took the sack. He didn't get pressured. He just sort of tripped on something. So they protect the quarterback very well, that is built in for them.
But our guys up front can play. They need to continue to try and improve. I think we can make improvement there as well. We haven't played as well as we have in the past at certain positions.
Again, you're nit picking saying what can we do to get better, which has always been the MO here. But I thought Max Bullough played very, very well, and Denicos Allen played very, very well. I think those are the two guys from the front seven that played extremely well.