I did not make this headline up
You were really animated in the fourth when the touchdown was scored. What were the emotions like?
“I mean, the one touchdown we scored, that’s a big play in a four quarter game. We’re always talking about competing and challenging, don’t worry about the scoreboard, play. Just excited that our guys had a positive thing happen to them. They fought and struggled and it would have been easy to throw in the towel, so I wanted to let them know that we’re going to be there, we’re going to encourage them, [and] we’re going to coach them. When we need to correct things we’re going to correct things and when they do good things we’re going to reinforce that behavior.”
You said after the Notre Dame game seven weeks ago that the offense was still in its infancy. We’ve seen some growing, but why is this team still struggling to find offensive consistency and what’s it going to take to get that with the window on the season closing?
“Sure. A number of reasons, and we talk about it. Same story, and I know I sound like a broken record, but when you look at what we’ve done the number one thing is turnover margin. You cannot turn the ball over three times and expect to win football games. We’ve talked about it week in and week out. At times we’ve limited that but we haven’t completely eliminated it the way we need to, so it’s a focal point every day and we talk about it and we do drills in practice to practice it. It’s something our kids understand. We’ve just got to get better at it.
“The other thing is consistency in performance. We see week in and week out guys improve. The challenge we’ve had is getting all 11 guys at one time to be doing the right thing at the right time. You can see it compartmentalized a little bit and maybe you have one time here where this group does it right and this group doesn’t do theirs right, so it’s trying to get everybody on the same page. We’re still working to find the right answers.”
You played Shane Morris for a play instead of a series or not at all…
“Yeah, we were in a situation there towards the end of the game we told Devin, ‘Shane’s getting loose.’ We were in a situation where we didn’t know where the ball [would be] if we got it back at that point in time or not, so Shane went in for the play. We felt like Devin needed to finish the game being that he’s from Michigan and [it’s] his last time to play Michigan State so we put him back in the game.”
[After THE JUMP: Mind games before actual games]
News bullets and other items:
Desmond Morgan will be redshirted, allowing him to return next season as fifth-year senior
Jabrill Peppers was removed from the depth chart and will not “travel” with the team, but has not been ruled out for the season
The stake thing, according to Hoke, was not meant to disrespect anyone. Hoke called Dantonio to apologize for it.
Devin Gardner will start against Indiana
The team’s goals are still out there (because the new goal is to take it one game at a time and beat Indiana)
“Thanks for coming. Obviously we’re very disappointed in the outcome and the results last week. We came in as a team yesterday. We looked at it. We were critical constructively with each other about what we need to do. The opportunities that we had, because there were plenty of opportunities to make some plays on both sides and that's something that we weren’t very – executing the consistency with it, we need to be better. There's always a great emotion in a rivalry game. I think that always happens and we’re excited about the opportunity to have those rivalry games but win or lose you've got to move forward from them, and I think that's an important part for us with Indiana coming here for homecoming, with Tevin Coleman coming here as the leading rusher in the country. We have to play a lot better against the run defensively than we did the other day. One injury update: Desmond Morgan we're going to redshirt this year and then he'd be back as a fifth-year senior next year.
When you talk about consistency, you seem to hit a lot of the same themes each week. Is there something about the message to your team that isn't getting through?
“Well, I… one of the big things this week, which was a little different, was that we had seven drops and we haven't done that. We've caught the ball decently. When you look at it, and as you look at it as coaches, we're pretty much consistent on what is a drop and what's not but we had some opportunities. You move the chains, you have an opportunity to keep the flow going better. You also if you execute in those things you have a chance to change the mindset a little bit of how a guy calls defenses against you, and so those are the execution things that we've been pretty good [with]. Did we run the ball well enough? No. The offensive line was good enough, though, if we execute in some other areas.
On Saturday night you said you were going to think about what was going to happen with the starting quarterback. Have you made a determination there?
“Yeah, Devin will be our starter. I mean, Devin had some good throws the other day. Some of them we've got to come down with. And on the shovel pass, Justice gets knocked off. It's a timing play and so it looks like he flipped it to the linebacker, which is actually what happened, but we get knocked off on the shovel and so the timing of that. We've got to be better mechanically when we had the fumble. You get a fumble and then you fumble it right back. It was an opportunity that we had. But no, he'll be the starter.”
Talk about the run defense and what specifically has to get better team like Indiana that’s running the ball really well.
“Well, first let's go back so last week. Not that I don't want to talk about Indiana, but we've got to do a better job at the point of attack, and that was a disappointing thing. There were some double teams that we've got to hold on to a little better so the linebackers can run. At the same point, we missed some tackles and opportunities there, so from that standpoint we need to play a lot better and the same thing for Indiana. Block schemes are block schemes and we've got to do a better job of playing those.
[After THE JUMP: I’m askin’ bout practice]
“Thanks for coming out. We had a great practice last night. Physical, tough, lot of energy, which you usually have when you’re playing in a rivalry game but I thought what we got done from an execution standpoint was positive. It wasn’t perfect. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a perfect practice, but there’s some things we’ve got to clean up obviously and some things offense and defensively you look at and don’t want to do as much. So that part of it- I think we’ve responded very well from the bye. That is always important. If you’re playing with speed and playing fast I think that’s a big part of it and that’s one way to gauge it. I think obviously we have great respect for Michigan State. They’ve earned that from how they [were] Big Ten champions and how they’ve played. We’ve got a lot of work to do to go up there, and we will be prepared and we’ll be ready to play on Saturday.”
How much of this game is about matching their physicality and bringing the fight to them, and have you done that do you think in the past three years?
“Well, I think we played physical. At times not as much as we’d like, but I think in any football game if you’re a team and you’re a competitor there’s got to be a physicalness to it. Obviously there’s more emotion driven when you’re playing a rivalry game and playing an in-state rival who’s an hour and ten minutes up the road. I think more of that comes out.”
I think the stat on this game is 41 of the last 44 were won by the team that rushed for more yards. There’s probably stats like that for most games, but is there something specific about this game that makes it even more important?
“I don’t know. I think, like you said, I think being able to run the ball because it sets up so much of your offense is an important part of it. I don’t think that’s too much different than what this is. Every year I think we’ve talked about rushing yards by one team and so when you look at it, yeah, there’s probably something to it a little bit.”
Jourdan Lewis: five games in you guys put him in the starting lineup and he has your two secondary picks. What did you see as a sophomore to put that much trust in him?
“Yeah, I think consistency. Consistency and technique. His competitiveness out on the field and in practice with whoever he’s trying to defend. Obviously he’s got the athleticism and he’s got some length to him. He’s not the tallest guy but he’s long-armed and has a real knack for the football. The consistency that he’s shown week to week is really what’s kept him in the lineup.”
Was there a play or something in practice where you guys were kind of sold?
“No. No. I think coming out of the spring we were excited about his development and what Roy [Manning] had done with those guys. I think that started it. Getting into fall camp we had some veteran guys, some more veteran guys I guess, that he competed with and he’s been the guy.”
[After THE JUMP: identity vs. tendency, physicalness, rivalryness]
Jake Ryan, Jack Miller, Devin Gardner
Devin, as an in-state guy and your last shot at these guys, how much does this one mean to you?
DG: “It means a lot to me, but it means a lot to me every year so I’m just excited to get to the game.”
For Devin again, last year it was safe to say you got beat up pretty badly in the MSU game. Is there a mental hurdle that you have to clear yourself to get yourself prepared for this one?
For Jake: they have a pretty decent running game right now. Good wide receivers. How much have you and the defense talked about limiting the big plays [and] not allowing Langford to do what he does?
JR: “Yeah, that’s what our defense needs to do. Stopping the run’s been huge for us this year and we’ve got to keep on doing it. Lippett’s been a good receiver and we’ve got to shut him down.”
Devin, we were talking to coach Nussmeier and he said that he felt you made the biggest strides in understanding defenses this year. Talk about how that’s come about and the benefit of that for you.
DG: “I think it’s been really big for me, just being able to see what I need to see out there and it helps when you know where you want to go with the ball. You have to have an idea where you want to go with the ball, and he brought a lot of different coverages that we didn’t really know about and we didn’t really understand how they were played but we feel like we’re doing a good job of understanding now.”
Has that helped you a lot with pre-snap reads?
DG: “Yeah, definitely.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Two strong defenses here. I guess just looking at what Pat Narduzzi’s doing in East Lansing compared to what you want to do, what this team is capable of, how would you size up the two defenses and as a coordinator are you excited to see maybe those two units be the difference makers on Saturday?
“Well, the first question, how do you size up the two defenses; I mean, I don’t think you ever judge a defense until the season is over. I know you go game-to-game. I know we have goals each game that [are] how we want to play, the level we always want to have our kids play at. How do you judge a defense? Is it stats? Is it points? Is it points that your defense gave up? Is it points that the special teams gave up? Is it points that somebody else…I don’t think you judge it that way. I think you judge a defense by what they do game-to-game, do they do what they have to do to win the game, and how they finish a season, what they do at the end of the year, what it all looks like at the end of the year.
“As far as playing against…you know, I never play against a person. We’re playing- this is Michigan football playing their next game against an in-state rival and I’m excited about it and that’s really how I look at it.”
Michigan State’s been known for their defense in the past but the offense seems to have made great strides this year, putting up big numbers. How much better are they this year and how big of a challenge are they for your defense?
“Well, they’re a very good offense. They’ve done a great job first and foremost running the football. They’ve got some playmakers at wide receiver. They’ve got a very, very good tight end. They’ve got a good offensive line. They’ve done a good job, and it’s going to be a very, very good offense to go against and I think they’ve done a very good job on offense.”
Where have you seen Connor Cook improve?
“Well, Connor, he’s a very good quarterback. I think the biggest place you’ve seen him improve is he doesn’t get sacked. He seems like he gets the ball out quick. He seems like he knows where to go with it, and I think his maturity, his year-to-year, I think he’s a better quarterback. I think he’s a very, very good quarterback.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison watches some football, makes fun of some things, and scouts the Spartans]
What’s it like seeing this rivalry from the other side? Obviously you’ve coached at Michigan State. What’s the view when you had never been a part of it before [at Michigan]?
“Well, it’s one of the classic rivalries in all of college football and I’m very excited to get the opportunity to be a part of it and I know our kids are very, very excited about the opportunity.”
When you were at Michigan State what was it like?
“Any time you play in a game, whether it be an in-state rivalry game or a conference rivalry game and some of them are out-of-conference rivalry games, the important thing is the focus on the game itself and you can get caught up and lost in the things that surround the game. Any time you’re on either side it’s about the players preparing. It’s about preparing them the best you possibly can and giving them the opportunity to be in the right situations to play well.”
Any of those games stick out to you from when you were there?
“I think any time you’re a part of these games they all stick out to you. Obviously probably the one that was played right here [Ed.- he’s referring to Braylonfest] was one that goes down as a great, great football game. Really was.”
They obviously play pretty good defense. Without giving away what you want to do, what are the key things that they do that you have to combat?
“Well, I think when you look at them they’re an outstanding defensive football team. They do a really good job of stopping the run and they get guys and they commit to the box and they do a really good job of tackling. They tackle well. You don’t see a lot of missed tackles. And then when you do have a play you see their ability to make an adjustment and take that play away, so I think that the biggest thing about the game is we have to understand the plan very well. We have to understand how they’re going to line up in the different blitzes and things that they’re going to try and approach us with, and then we have to execute.”
In the past Michigan has had a problem with Michigan State bringing linebackers through the A gap. I wonder if there’s a standard way of dealing with that or is that a pre-snap read the quarterback has to make or-
“Well, when you look at their base defense that’s one of their base blitzes that they run against everybody that they play against. One of the things it does [is] it creates obviously pressure on the interior of your line and pressure within the quarterback’s line of vision. A lot of people that run that- I don’t know their exact philosophy but it’s to create problems and pressure in the quarterback’s lap so he doesn’t feel like he has a real pocket to step up into so obviously it’s a blitz that’s part of their base package and something that we’ll prepare for.”
[After THE JUMP: Why were the MSU coaches covered in glass after the ‘04 game and some strategy talk]