Penalties and turnovers were two negatives in Michigan State’s 28-13 win over the Furman Paladins, according to head coach Mark Dantonio. The Spartans had two turnovers and 120 yards of penalties in the game, keeping the overmatched Paladins in striking distance for the entire game. Next up, after a bye week: Notre Dame.
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Good morning, guys. First off, 1-0 versus Furman, so that’s positive moving forward here.
A lot of things happening in the first game that you’re trying to control. I thought our football team came out and played hard, that’s No. 1.
No. 2, obviously we had too many penalties when you look at 120 yards worth of penalties compared to LJ Scott rushing for 107 yards, I thought he had a great football game, that’s a lot of yards, especially at inopportune times for us, and really told the story of the game as we proceeded through the whole football game.
When you look at us offensively, I thought we ran the ball effectively. Because of the penalties we didn’t have the ball as many times as we wanted to in the third quarter, but we scored, things like that, with the time that we did have it.
Two turn overs, minus 1 in the turn over margin, which affects the outcome of a football game, so we were able to overcome that, as well. So the penalties and the turn overs really makes the game a little closer than maybe we wanted it. Give Furman credit, I thought they played very well, had a good plan going into the football game.
Look at us defensively, I thought we played solid against the run. First time in 13 years we didn’t have a play over 15 yards or a play over 20 years. But we have 60 yards worth of penalties, that gives them first down on a number of occasions, obviously. So keeps drives alive.
From that standpoint the game’s in the books. We watched it with our players and as coaches a couple of times. So we look for improvement there.
I thought offensively Tyler O’Conner probably a little nervous initially, but got off after that start, I thought he played pretty well. Three touchdown passes. I think he threw the ball effectively, threw the ball with velocity, didn’t hold back, and played aggressively. Got to hold on to the football, can’t have mistakes with the football in our hands at any point in the game and that’s No. 1, the ball is on the ground too often.
Where we’re at right now I think we have a week off, which is a little bit different, probably more different than we have in the past, we use it to our advantage as we move forward. Look forward to Notre Dame. And I’ll take some questions.
Q. Could you please update us on Ron Burton?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, got sort of — don’t usually talk about injuries, but since it is to a coach, yeah, Ron had an emergency procedure done on Friday morning, so we worked out our defensive line coach on Saturday. Coach Snyder moved down to the sidelines, he sort of handled the defensive line. He’s a long time defensive line coach, as well.
I don’t think there’s any question that affects your staff and affects how you do things. So I didn’t really think it was appropriate to talk about it, but since you asked. He’s doing well and he’s back with us and everything. Sort of an emergency surgery. But I think that rule that they talk about you can’t talk about things, I think that applies, whatever that is, HIPAA rule, doing well, though.
Q. You referenced the bye week coming at a strange time. How differently are you approaching this week, and maybe as you would in other years?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, it’s tough. It’s been a question throughout the process, you know. I think we’re the only team in America that plays as a bye the second week of the season, and then plays a Power 5 team that next week.
So there’s not a lot to compare to that. But we use it as a positive. We’ll get some guys, first of all, healthy. Secondly, our players are really in school for the first time this week. You know, last week was a chopped up week. So they can get themselves grounded in that respect.
Third, we can get out and recruit a little bit on the weekend. So that’s a positive.
Fourth thing we have to do is maintain our game conditioning. I thought we were in conditioned in the game. We have to maintain our game conditioning aspect. So we’ve got to work this week hard. And there’s always risk a little bit with that. We don’t go live or anything like that, but you have to work your players as if you had a game from the conditioning standpoint. We’re going to work hard doing that throughout the week.
And it also gives us an opportunity obviously to get ahead a little bit from a film and schematic standpoint on Notre Dame, things tend to change week-to-week with programs and who you play. But it does give us a chance to watch their personnel, what they’ve done thus far and what they’ve done last year.
Q. When you look back at the tape and you watched Darian Hicks, especially, on the edge, there, what was your assessment of his performance? And kind of going back the last it few years, it seems like when teams do attack they have to find one guy to go out and seems like Darian was the guy?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I think they did go after him a little bit. I thought he played well. I thought he played very well. I thought he covered. Numerous pass breakups. Two very questionable interference calls, I’m not saying they’re right, I’m not saying they’re wrong. They’re close. They’re bang-bang calls. And he’s playing the ball as best as you can play it. But it’s one of those things. This game is — no doubt this game is a game of inches, in so many respects. I’ve said that over the years and you see it every single weekend. I think that was one of the times, incidents, that we’re talking about.
I thought he played well, and he’s going to have — our corners, the way we played, they’re going to have that every week.
Q. You mentioned looking forwards Notre Dame possibly getting a look at the film. Did you get to watch any of that Texas game?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, we made sure we were done watching the whole game. It was a great football game. And obviously watched the tape of the game the next day check, coaching tape. So it was a little bit different.
So you get a different perspective when you watch it over and over, click on it, see whether it’s coverage blown or you see whether it’s mental mistake or physical mistake, leaving the scores or either way. So you have an opportunity to do that, so we invested our time in that and other things here with Notre Dame this week.
Q. Wondering what you saw when you looked at the tape some of the runs up the middle, what did you see on that?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, you know, again, things we hadn’t practiced. Things that are new. Got to adjust. Basically they trapped, the first one they trapped Malik, an influence trap. And they hit that one.
And sometimes it’s the defense you’re in, structurally, as well. They create a different gap a little bit. On the option, they broke out the option in the fourth quarter a little bit, backwards diving into the box. Things with a young player that you’ve got to get straightened out from a coaching perspective, as well, that you’ve got to get straightened out. Things that can be alleviated, things that can be fixed.
But Furman had a good plan. They came here to play and you see the result of that. I think everybody usually does that. That’s why I never sell anybody short regardless of what people say or think, that’s why you play the games.
Q. How do you make it an advantage that you saw Notre Dame play against a top flight team. And have to use a lot of plays that goes into overtime and you see what they’re going to do in critical situations and have the extra time to game plan for them?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: You hope that carries over. The nature of it is they go into something different. The biggest thing you can watch is tempo, especially when you watch the game on TV. You can figure out the tempo that they’re using. You also watch personnel, just in terms of ability and you get a feel for it schematically. We played Notre Dame numerous times since we’ve been here, really since Coach Kelly has gone, I think it was ten, maybe the first year.
So those are things that we have to adjust as we move forward. I think it gives us a head start. How does that play into the game, itself? The game gets played on the field. So it’s about diagnosing things, recognizing things and making plays. That’s how you win on the field.
Q. How much game planning goes into having the film on Notre Dame versus Texas, and then having them against Nevada, their week two opponent as you look at your bye week coming up?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: It’s about what offense they run, what defense they run, the opposing teams. Texas runs a little bit of a 3-4, 3 deep coverages. Offensively, Texas is a little bit different than we are offensively.
Again, you use things relative to personnel, I think, but I think long-term you’ve got to figure out who they are relative to who you are. And how they play you, too. So there’s another book on that. You’ve got to look at all these different books that you have on an opponent or they have on you, and you try to figure it out the best of your ability.
But again it gets down to the game and a missed tackle, a missed play on a ball, you know, a completion, you know, a run after contact, those type of things. Those are the things that win football games for, I think.
Q. On the offensive lineup, I think you were going to play with six guys maybe rotating in there some good stuff, some bad stuff. How would you say that unit kind of performed for that first game?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I thought they played very solid in there. You saw a lot of good things. Offensive line is still involved, there was pass protection, running the football, those type of things. Also I think that tight ends, the fullbacks are still involved and wide receivers are still involved and the running backs are still involved and the quarterbacks, all are involved in the running game and the passing game. So that all plays a part of it. I thought Prescott Line played very, very well in the game. He’s a football player.
Q. On the defensive line, you didn’t use about seven different guys, did you want to go deeper, do you feel you can go deeper later in the year?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I think we want to see where the young players are, we didn’t want to play those guys without fully playing them a lot of plays. So we’ll see how — again, this week is an advantage, when you look on the our young players and trying to get them extra reps and seeing if we can bring them forward, bring them along.
But I think on our defensive line, I thought Kevin Williams did I a nice job, obviously Malik McDowell played extraordinarily well, great effort. Big guy, rushing passer, doing all the things that you wanted him to do. But the biggest thing was I thought he played with a lot of effort, and he was our defensive MVP, and had a lot of production, as well. So that was a positive.
But I don’t know, there’s always things that you’ve got to — there’s are things, what we have to do is transition better from run to pass, when there are run action and then it’s a pass. And we’ve got to be able to transition more.
And I thought we needed to come up with more sacks. We had two. But we need to sack the quarterback more often than that. Good plan by them, keeping us off base, run, pass options.
Q. When you looked at your offensive and your defense on both sides of the ball could you tell us what you were most pleased with and maybe something that shocked you. I know you won’t tell us the negative.
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I think that most pleased with how we ran the ball and continued to recollect ourselves on both sides of the ball when things didn’t go quite well. We just sort of maintain a workmanlike approach to it. I thought our sideline needed to be a little bit more emotional than maybe it was. But we had a workmanlike type attitude. And when things happened negatively, that first down, keeping the drive alive or a holding penalty down on the five yard line, we recollected ourselves and we made a play.
So that was a positive. And I also thought that Tyler played well, especially probably three-quarters of the game, which coming out as the quarterback, they did some good things. Things that I’m relatively displeased with were the penalties, shocked on the penalties, but, again, some of them are unforced. I mean really none of them are unforced because we didn’t have off sides, we didn’t have procedural penalties, they’re down the field penalties that we’re playing football and they get called.
But there is a discipline to that, as well, and we have to play within that discipline. So I guess it would be that and the ball is on the ground too much. We threw one pick and lost a fumble to a red shirt freshman. But the ball is on the ground, and there’s too many things that could happen with that. I would think that — I would guess that probably most of the time we win the turn over margin battle and we didn’t this game. And the penalties in that is, again, that’s why the game was a little closer than maybe it would have seemed.
Q. Going into this bye week, a little more injuries, more nicked up than you thought you would be after one game?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I wouldn’t be talking about injuries. Trick question.
Q. There is so much praise for you and Tom both how well you’ve run your programs across the nation. With Tom going into the Hall of Fame this weekend, your thoughts on him receiving such an achievement?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I think that’s a huge award. It’s an honor, it’s a very distinguished award. Fortunate because it is a bye week I’ll be able to go to that, so that is something I’ll be able to look forward to.
Tom has been always more than just a basketball coach, he’s been a mentor, friend, a great supporter for us, for myself, my family.
So it goes beyond the winning and losing. And I think at the end of all this he’s getting honored for his wins. But he’ll be defined by many more things beyond that at a later time. But a great accomplishment, and not many people get those opportunities. Well deserved.
Q. You have talked about wanting to use three running backs, and you ran two of them on Friday night. And the impression from LJ was that you were going to just run two. Is that — can I get some clarification?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I think we go with the productive player and the productive situation at every time. I’m never going to say we’re not going to use three. If we can get people in rhythm, I think that’s good. Guys come out — we didn’t want to have three guys come out with eight carries a piece, or even nine a piece. We wanted to make sure that we somewhat had the majority.
The other thing that when you look at it, we only had 58 plays, so we scored very fast. I think that’s another thing in the football game, we scored extremely quickly the first series. And then three and out. And then, you know, things started to get a little bit more difficult.
But because of the nature of the third quarter with fumbling on the first play — second half offensively, and because of the penalties on defense, I think we had the ball like six plays in the third quarter. We didn’t have many plays. So that’s the nature of it. You don’t have that many plays, you don’t have as many people running the football.
But I think we ran it 30 times, 35 times or so. So that was a positive. But short answer to your question, I think we used all those guys. And Williams was playing, I could see him using him as the tailback. We’re deep in the fullback position. That will be a positive. That will be useful in the future here.
Q. I know you hoped (inaudible) situation would be resolved by now. Wonder if you got any feedback from the issue?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: I would expect to hear something this week. So I would expect that there would be a positive outcome. But, hey, you never know. That’s all I can basically say about that. And in the meantime he is able to practice, so he is practicing and going to school and those type of things.
Q. Just wondering, I don’t want to say the lack of playing true freshmen or not, but is there a process in mind you have when getting those guys in game action, still trying to maybe hold them back and think about those red shirt opportunities?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Just don’t want to play guys unless we’re going to play them throughout. That’s the biggest thing. Because the number of plays — really, it was a slow moving football game last week. They only had I think 64 plays, we had 58. There was just a lot of time in between snaps it seemed like.
So we’ll play the freshmen when they’re ready to play. We have an outstanding group of freshmen. But I don’t want to put them on the field and take away the redshirt. I want to legitimate eyes if we do redshirt, I don’t want to say he got hurt and he didn’t really get hurt. Their time is coming. This will be a big week for them. We’ll have an opportunity to look at them more fully. Players need to be functional. And functionality, I think, is relative to who else is in your program, too. If you’re deep in a certain position and you have people that are functional that play the a high level that are two’s, such as maybe a corner, you see Austin, who is going to be a very, very good player for us. He’s redshirted. Same with probably maybe D.J. Vance, Kenney Lyke, maybe not so much. But those are just examples.
Other opportunities would be for players if there is not as much depth at that position of the but as I said earlier, we have a good football team. We have a foundation of players that are at deep as maybe we’ve ever been. And so putting those 70 travel team players in perspective, putting those people on the bus together it’s going to get very, very tight in terms of who goes and who doesn’t go. We’ve not had a lot of a transition. As of late we’ve had a couple of guys leaving. They’re leaving as a result of the situation itself, as well. Let’s just be straight up.
But we want to play those guys and get them reps if they’re going to continue to play throughout the season. We have a couple of guys that that may be the case.
Q. Look at the linebackers, obviously Riley played a fairly good game. What is your opinions on Frey and Dowell, and also the play that Byron Bullough made at the goal line kind of crashing in and making that one play?
HEAD COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, Andrew Dowell I think had the play of the game on his pick, after he flipped it the other way immediately. After we fumbled the very next play they made the pick, great pick, big play in the game. Great effort. Got to know where to go sometimes. And that’s coaching and that’s also experience because the game changes and you have to adapt. You have to adapt to things you haven’t been coached on throughout the week, because they show something different.
So that’s a big part of it. But I thought he played very, very well. He played with a lot of effort and I think he was involved in a lot of tackles, a lot of production.
And Chris Frey, same thing, more experienced, played very well.
Byron came in there, Byron has a big play, talking about Byron. Byron had two big plays, one down at the goal line and one on the third and one. It’s good to see him as I younger player to get involved in that capacity. He played well.