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]
Can you just kind of set the tone for what was said to the team about the stake incident Saturday and last night and if there will be any disciplinary action and how-
“No, there won’t be any disciplinary action.”
-and how you felt strongly about reaching out to Mark Dantonio?
“Well, Mark and I have known each other for a long time so me calling him and apologizing for something that really was overblown and had nothing to do with Michigan State- It had to do with commitment and staking a commitment for our football team.”
Do you talk to your team about making decisions like that?
“Yeah, you always do. Believe me, no one feels worse than Joe. And that wasn't the intent.”
Can you go over that sequence again at the end with Devin and Shane? Was it Nuss that put him in?
“We had talked about getting him ready to go in depending on the situation and Shane, we told him, ' Get ready, get warmed up.' Well, we get the turnover and Shane comes in. Well, depending on the situation we were going to let Devin finish the game, and part of that was you got the turnover and so Shane goes in. We wanted Devin. This is the last time he's going to play Michigan State. He's a Michigan kid and it was important for him to finish.”
Why did you fee like you had to issue a public apology?
“Well, I think number one to Mark and his team as much as anything because like I said, Mark and I go back a long, long way so that's pretty much it.”
Were you told to issue an apology?
Just on your own you decided to?
“Yeah, because Mark and I have done this in the past. We've called and, you know – when we've had some incidents in this game but that's the way we are because we have respect for each other.”
You said just a little while ago that the whole thing was overblown-
“I do think it was. “
But you felt compelled-
“Yes I did.”
Execution of the stake thing aside, does that prove that Joe Bolden takes this game seriously?
“I think we all take it seriously, and I think it was all last week our guys heard, ‘Well, you don't seem mad. You don't seem ready. You don't seem angry.’ That's all they heard.
Well, my point is emotionally our guys understand what this game is all about.”
Mark after the game on Saturday said that the stake was just a small example of the disrespect and the things that have built up from the programs over the past decades, I guess. Do you see where he’s coming from with the disrespect or arrogance that those players talk about with Michigan’s program?
He [Dantonio] had said also that it wasn’t the coaching, it was the program.
“That’s alright. Look, he’s the head coach at Michigan State.”
But he said nothing about you.
But the program overall…
Jabrill Peppers is another guy who was taken off the depth chart this week. Is there a reason for that?
“Well, he’s still battling some things and we'll see where it ends up. If he was out then I would have lumped him in with Desmond.”
Is there a reason he’s off the depth chart this week as opposed to-
“Well, he won't travel this week.”
In terms of the Indiana game, do you promote it just as Michigan-Indiana or is there kind of a backs-against-the-wall feeling in terms of making a bowl that you talk about?
“Well, and that's a good question, but we have not talked about making a bowl or not making a bowl. We have talked about this being homecoming. We have talked about, as a team, staying together [and] in the way they came in yesterday, the way they went through the day and all– I think there's a huge commitment from our football team to each other and accountability, so for us this is the next game and we've got to get ready for the next game.”
What kind of a transition is it going to be between Michigan State stylistically and Indiana?
“Yeah, and I think the hard part to figure out a little bit is they've had a week off. They've had obviously unfortunately Sudfeld getting hurt. They've had some quarterback – Covington getting hurt– some quarterback things that I know Kevin, he's a daggone good coach, good offensive coach, is figuring out so when you're getting ready defensively you're trying to figure out how are they going to play the game. Not from a schematic standpoint or a lot of those things but who are their playmakers. What will they be comfortable [doing] with the young quarterback in the football game?”
Overblown or not, whatever, but the stake, the concussion thing, all [are] things that have gone on that creates an appearance that you’re not in firm control of things going on around the program. Is that a fair assessment? I’m not asking if you agree, but I’m asking if that’s a fair assessment that there are some things that have slipped through your grasp here.
“Well, no, because number one I'm not the doctor or the head medical person who has anything to do with injuries and concussions and who's on the field. Do I regret, does Joe [Bolden] regret, the excitement and the emotion? I don't regret him having excitement and emotion about him going to play a football game with a bunch of guys that he's practiced with for two years.”
Did you know they were going to take the spike out onto the field?
“Well, it was in our locker room as something that happened on Friday night and did I know? Yeah, late I knew. And I'll take the accountability for it too. I mean, that's my responsibility.”
You guys said you haven’t talked about a bowl. What would you say are the team’s goals at this point?
“Beat Indiana. That sounds like a good one.”
But overall, the rest of the season?
“Well, let's take one of them at a time. And that's what we’ve talked about.”
Given all the speculation around your status as the head coach here, have you recevied any kind of assurance from anyone in a leadership position, be it the president or be it Dave [Brandon], that there will not be any change made this year?
“To be honest with you, anytime we've ever talked, I think those things will be talked [about] at the end of the season. Have I talked to anybody about those things? No. I don't worry myself about those things. I'm confident in what we're doing and I know what we’re doing for 115 kids. Every day I know that. That's as important as anything to me. I feel bad and I do get angry, we had this discussion the other night, because they work so hard we've got to get over the hump and execute and have consistency as a team. But the work ethic these guys have put in… I couldn't ask for more.”
With that, how hard is it for you to shield your team? The talk has been out there for some time with people wondering if there is going to be a change.
“We educate them about what's important and what's not. I think because of how accountable they've been to each other and how they feel – I'm not inside their minds totally, but I think they've handled everything very well. No. Look, I've got 115 – and we look at it and it will be criticized as corny but they’re sons.”
Shifting to Indiana a little bit, big playmakers have hurt you this year. They have Wynn. They have Coleman. Cobb [MINN] and Langford [MSU] had their way [with you]. How important is it to limit the big play?
“Well, Wynn’s a very good playmaker. He's proven that over the years. He’s a guy who returns kicks. He also reverses. We know him pretty well because he's a Glenville guy, and he's a guy who's very athletic. Coleman, all you have to do is watch him. All you have to watch is one game, doesn't matter what game. He breaks tackles. He's got breakaway finishing speed, so I guess your question was do we not want to give up big plays? Or how do you limit it?”
I don’t want to say stress [not giving up big plays] because you do that every week but has it become more important or alarming? Lippett had a 70 yard touchdown. Cobb ran for 183, Langford for 177. You guys are getting chewed up by big playmakers. Is this week a week to where you’re really stressing it to where it maybe is more important than it has been in the past.
“Well, I don't know if that would be the right way to put it. I think I would put it [as] we always stress it. And we work on pursuit, we work on leverage, we work on getting off blocks and all those things. When you don't do those things, that's when bad things happen, tackling being part of it. Yes, there's always an emphasis on not giving up big plays.”
Now that you’ve reached this point in the season coming off a big rivalry game, how difficult is it to keep the team in the moment? Is it tougher now than it was before Michigan State with all the things swirling around?
“By the way they handled themselves, reacted, came in, worked out, all those things yesterday I would say no but I think at the same time even if you’re undefeated there's distractions that can come about that can screw you up, Yeah. We've got a third of the season left. We know that the first one of that third is this week and it's homecoming and it's special.”
MGoQuestion: You’ve often said that you’ve had good weeks of practice and that hasn’t always translated to the field. Do you anticipate making any structural changes to practice this week?
“You know, I've thought about that. We may do a couple things different.”
When you have that many drops in a game, what is that due to?
“I think it's like anything else. I think if your focus, intensity, and concentration on what you're doing isn't where it needs to be, I think that's a big part of it. Were they all easy? Maybe not, But it's like playing a double team. I'll relate it to a defensive lineman. If you're not focused and intensity on the blocks and leverage and eyes and where your hand placement is you're not going to play the double team very well. Well, we didn't do that very well either.”
What was Dantonio’s response to you [re: the stake]?
“You know, I'm not going to tell you what him and I talked about. Him and I, the one thing I can tell you, we have a lot of respect for each other.”
What happened to the stake?
“I have no idea.”
One more thing about the stake. Clarify here. You had said just a little while ago that you knew they were going to take it out before the game?
“Yeah, late. As I'm leaving the locker room –”
Before the game.
“I don't know if you've noticed but I always come out at the end because I want the seniors and the kids [to go first] so that's when I find out. I don't run as well as I used to so there isn't any way I would've caught him one thing I can tell you is Joe feels as bad as anybody. That wasn't the intent. There was no disrespect intended for anybody. It was a thing for our team.”
When the other guys have been out for the season you’ve explained what the reason was. With Desmond what’s the reason he’s missing the season?
“He had a hand problem.”
And it’s not expected to heal by then or it’s too late in the season?
“A little bit of both. Yeah. It’s 2/3 of the season done.”
Speaking of steaks, what is your favorite steak?
“Where from, or what is my favorite?”
Your favorite steak.
“Cowboy cut. Yeah.”