Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio has had time to watch the film of Saturday night’s 36-28 win against Notre Dame and breakdown the good and the bad. He saw a whole lot of good as the Spartans improved to 2-0 on the season.
Dantonio spoke with writers on a conference call Sunday night to recap the win before starting preparation for the Big Ten opener next Saturday at noon (ET) against Wisconsin at Spartan Stadium.
Here are some of the highlights:
(On taking a step forward)
“After watching the film, I think we took a step forward as a football team, much like I said (Saturday) night. I thought it was a great moment for our guys, a moment they’re going to remember and we need to build on these things as we move forward.”
(On if the team is more confident now?)
“I thought we played confident in the opener, I just don’t think we played quite as well. I think that this was a national game, a marquee game, and based on Notre Dame and its ranking and us and where we have been and playing away and all those types of things. So I think we came ready to play, but we talked all week and the last two weeks about doing that. So we needed to do that on a consistent basis. That’s leadership that comes from within on our football team and I think that’s the kind of culture we have here. We’ll look to go farther but I think every step that we take is another step toward this process. You know, you don’t really form an identity on a football team until mid-year and then you finish it out. That’s my opinion. You finish it out at the end of the year and at the end of November and figure out who you were. We’ve always said that here and so we’re not jumping to any conclusions, I just think we played very well and respect how our guys played. We competed.”
(On the return of Jon Reschke)
“I think he played with a great deal of passion and toughness and, as you said, he was all over the place with the tackle for loss and the caused fumble and the interception and I think three tackles, three assists, something like that. I thought he played very well and I thought he provided a spark for us as well. But we had a lot of guys playing hard, so it was great to see and I thought we had a lot of guys playing with confidence.”
(On offense slowing down after building 36-7 lead in third quarter)
“From our standpoint, I looked up at the scoreboard. It was 36-7, you’re really not expecting that with four minutes to go in the third quarter. That’s not the type of game that we thought we would be involved in. Things sort of rolled. We got momentum and sort of figured that at some point in time that would be reversed a little bit and that we would have to hold up. I think that’s the nature of it, I think that’s the nature of both programs, they’re going to continue to compete and you saw that competition level come out in Notre Dame. They should be applauded for that. So we knew we had a game on our hands, they have a great quarterback who can go up top, those type of things, they were able to do that and they bounced back.
“Continuing on, I think what you try to do as an offense is not try to make a mistake and defensively try not to give them the big one, although that did happen. You’re also trying not to make a mistake and air it out and throw the ball all over the place, you’re trying to milk a little bit of clock off and as it got closer we had to just start playing the game, which is what we did.”
(On the play of DE Raequan Williams)
“Raequan, he’s a redshirt freshman, so this is only his second game and this is his first game in a national broadcast-type game. So huge play in the game I think at the end of the game where he has a sack and takes it from a third-and-2 to a fourth-and- 7, I believe. So he’s improved, he’s greatly improved from the first game, and like so many of our young players, they’re just scratching the surface. He’s a big, talented, very physical guy that’s learning how to play football at this level on a consistent basis, but I thought he played much better. That will pay dividends.”
(On being concerned about QB Tyler O’Connor’s aggressive running style and willingness to lower his shoulder into tacklers)
“I’m comfortable with guys attacking the situation. And he feels good about it, so I’m comfortable with it. I thought he made some good runs, some gutsy runs. I think he scrambled six times, but he ran the ball I think 10 times for 43 yards or something of that nature and was not sacked, so that’s a positive. I thought he made a huge play on the interception he did throw by making the tackle. He’s a physical guy, and he’s a tough guy. I think that plays to his positives and allows him to lead in that way at times as well.”
(On the play of the offensive line and LG Brian Allen)
“Brian’s done a great job, he’s an outstanding offensive lineman for us. I think that coach (Mark) Staten has our guys play a lot of different positions. I saw Kodi Kieler at center, I saw him at right tackle, I saw him at left tackle. Tyler Higby got in yesterday, a redshirt freshman. (David) Beedle played. Obviously, Brian Allen played right guard and he was playing center. Guys were all over the place a little bit in terms of where they were playing but I thought they played very, very well. We ran the ball effectively, I think for 260 or so, zero sacks. So I thought they got the job done, they were athletic doing it and we had a lot of explosive plays. I think we had seven plays over 20-yard passes and 15-yard runs. So when you do those thing I just talked about, your offensive line is playing well and you have an opportunity to win.”
(On play of CBs Vayante Copeland and Darian Hicks)
“I think they played pretty consistently, especially through the first three quarters. I think they scored on maybe their last series of the third quarter, so they had given up seven points. We had the one time where (Notre Dame QB DeShone) Kizer breaks contain on a run play and he flicks up the field for a 50-yard gain when we came off of coverage, but that was a little bit of a peculiar type play. So I thought they played pretty well especially based on the number of threats they were going to have throughout the game.
“The fourth quarter, hey, give it to Kizer. The guy threw the ball on the money. Hunter makes the one catch and they’re sort of off and running a little bit. They hit the tight end down the seam one time. They’ve got good players, too. They’re a well-coached football team, too. I thought our guys competed well and played pretty well. Can they play better? Yeah we can always play better.”
(On anyone standing out on film that he didn’t notice from field level)
“There’s a lot of that. I think when you watch the film you see exactly what people tend to do. On special teams, Matt Morrissey had a big day. From a defensive standpoint, I’ve already pointed out I thought that Demetrius Cooper played well. I thought Malik played very, very well. He got tired a bit, so he had to come out with a lot of plays in the game but I thought he played extremely well when he was in there. Then our group of linebackers played very solid. I thought the back end, we were tested a little bit. I talked about the corners already. I thought Cox played solid. Blew a coverage, which resulted in a touchdown but that happens sometimes with a fast-paced offense.
“Then on the offensive line, I thought played very well and you saw what Gerald Holmes and LJ Scott did. On the outside, I thought Donnie Corley made huge plays in the game for a true freshman. We talked about Raequan the one time. I thought he was an improved football player. Monty Madaris had another big play, so he’s remained consistent. I think I’ve hit about all of them.”
Kevin Goheen covers Michigan State for Landof10.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CincyGoGo