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Michigan State Football Update: Mark Dantonio - 9/4/19

Posted at 10:23 AM, Sep 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-04 10:23:39-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio [] held his weekly press conference Tuesday inside the Izzo Family Media Center at the Spartan Stadium North End Zone Complex to review No. 19 Michigan State's 28-7 win over Tulsa Friday night and preview this Saturday night's match-up with in-state foe Western Michigan at Spartan Stadium.

Mark Dantonio [] will look to tie Duffy Daugherty as Michigan State's all-time winningest coach as the No. 19/20 Spartans host Western Michigan on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7:40 p.m. in Spartan Stadium. The game will be broadcast on BTN, with Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play), James Laurinaitis (analyst) and Elise Menaker (sidelines) on the call. Now in his 13th season as head coach of the Spartans, Dantonio has 108 wins, just one shy of Daugherty, who collected a 109-69-5 record in East Lansing from 1954-72.

MSU opened the 2019 campaign with a 28-7 win over Tulsa on Aug. 30, improving to 12-1 in season openers under Dantonio. The Broncos defeated Monmouth in Kalamazoo on Aug. 31, 48-13.

Saturday's game marks the 16th meeting between Michigan State and Western Michigan. The Spartans lead the overall series, 13-2, including an 11-game winning streak that dates back to 1921. In the last matchup in 2017, MSU defeated WMU, 28-14, in a game that was also played during the second week of the season. MSU played in Kalamazoo for the first time in series history and defeated the Broncos, 37-24, en route to reaching the College Football Playoff in 2015.

MSU head coach Mark Dantonio [] is 5-0 in his MSU career against WMU, and his teams have outscored the Broncos, 178-79 (average score: 36-16).

Michigan State posted a dominant defensive performance in the victory over Tulsa. The Spartans held the Golden Hurricane to -73 yards rushing, a school-record low for a Spartan opponent (previous: -63 yards by Pittsburgh in 1950). That mark also tied a Big Ten single-game record (Iowa held Purdue to -73 yards rushing in 1989) and it's the fewest rushing yards by any FBS team since 2000, when Mississippi State held Florida to -78 yards rushing. MSU also limited Tulsa to 80 yards of total offense, the lowest output by a Spartan opponent since 2011 (Florida Atlantic, 48).

Senior defensive end Kenny Willekes [] was named the National Defensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and also the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his impressive performance in the season opener. Willekes scored his first career touchdown after teaming up on a sack with Raequan Williams [] and pouncing on the fumble in the end zone to give MSU a 22-0 lead with 4:49 left in the second quarter. Earlier in the second quarter, he recovered a fumble after a bad Tulsa snap to set up an MSU field goal. He also had a 1-yard tackle for loss in the second quarter and a 2-yard sack in the fourth quarter. Overall, Willekes led the Spartans with seven tackles, including 2.5 TFLs (6 yards) and 1.5 sacks (5 yards).

MSU is 12-2 against WMU in East Lansing, including a 9-0 record in Spartan Stadium. The series dates back to 1908, as Michigan State topped Western Michigan, 35-0, in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. After playing five times between 1908 and 1921, with MSU holding a 3-2 advantage in the series, the two teams didn't meet again until 1980.

Michigan State is 15-7 in night games at Spartan Stadium, including a 12-4 record under Mark Dantonio []. MSU defeated WMU in a night game to open the 2013 season, 26-13.

Now in his 13th season as head coach of the Spartans, Mark Dantonio [] owns a 108-51 (.679) record. Dantonio has won the most Big Ten Championships (three) and bowl games (five) of any Spartan head coach and also ranks first with 11 bowl appearances. He is the only active Big Ten coach to win multiple Big Ten Championships (2010, 2013, 2015), claim a victory in the Rose Bowl (2014), and coach in the College Football Playoff (2015). The second-winningest coach in school history with 108 victories, trailing only Hall of Famer Duffy Daugherty (109), Dantonio also ranks first in program history in conference winning percentage (.657, 65-34 record, minimum 10 games); tied for first in AP Top 25 finishes (seven); second in Big Ten wins (65), home wins (64) and AP Top 25 wins (21); and fifth in overall winning percentage (.679). Dantonio has 10 winning seasons in his 12 years in East Lansing, including a school-record 11 bowl bids.

The following is a complete transcript from Tuesday's press conference:

HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: First game, 28-7 win over Tulsa. Obviously first game, we've got things to clean up, but we start 1-0, that's always the big push, the goal. We look forward to Western Michigan coming in here.

Defense played outstanding, as I said, on Friday night. We've got some things to clean up on offense. Too many mistakes. Too many situations where we start in the hole right off the bat, whether it's a holding call, or an off-sides call on first-and-10.

Special teams, probably a mixed bag in that case. I thought we played extremely hard, but made some mistakes at penalties, but had some positive things. Matt Coghlin [] goes 4-for-4. Some different things going on there in terms of intensity. Had a couple returns, those type of things. We've got to eliminate the penalties.

We look forward to Western Michigan. I can say this, football is a game of effort, toughness and knowing what to do. Half of our team figured that out, half of it didn't. We will make sure that other half gets it figured out this week. That's my message to our football team.

With Western Michigan coming in, I think they have a very good football team based on last week, what everybody has seen coming out of the MAC. (WMU quarterback Jon) Wassink is an outstanding quarterback, makes all the plays, makes the throws. Got a good group of receivers. (LeVante) Bellamy is an outstanding tailback, with the way they run the football, it will be important to shut that down.

On the defense side of the ball, a lot of movement. (Drake) Spears at linebacker is very active. (Ali) Fayad at defensive end, is a powerful guy, quick, disruptive. We'll get ourselves ready to play.

I'll take some questions.

Q. With all the things on defense and special teams, how important is it to get more push up front from the offensive line? I think the tailbacks were 30 carries for 67 yards.
MARK DANTONIO: Not good enough. We've got to get on the right people. As I just said, you've got to know where to go, you've got to play with effort and toughness. Too much of that to me was lacking.

I'm going to call it as I see it up here right now, going to send a message to our football team. We have a long season ahead of us. We can play much better than that.

I was disappointed in the effort when I see guys running routes that are not at full speed. I see guys blocking at the point of attack, throwing a shoulder in there, not addressing a defender, can't happen. We've predicated ourselves on being tough here any way you cut it.

That message is going to get sent, whether it's public or not. I'm sure nobody appreciates us running the ball for 67 yards (68 yards), especially the guy in charge. We'll fix that.

Q. Going back to the offensive line a little bit. Any update on Cole's status or where you feel...
MARK DANTONIO: Cole (Chewins) needs to practice full go before he can play. He's sort of in and out. I don't really don't like to talk about injuries, but he's in that situation right now where he's got to practice full go before he can play.

Q. With AJ (Arcuri) not playing...
MARK DANTONIO: Not talking about injuries.

Q. Less about that, but more about what that did in terms of shuffling the line for a guy who had been there.
MARK DANTONIO: We shuffled guys around a little bit. Matt Carrick [] got his first start, which we talk a lot about 'The Fog of War.' We had Colonel Berris in from the Marines, talk to us this spring. He's exactly right: Playing will not survive contact.

At times you get out there, and you have great intentions, I'm not saying our intentions are bad, we didn't get on the right people or we lacked in terms of physicality. This game demands that.

We have a devotion everyday in our staff meeting, and today Chuck Bullough [] put on a video of Buck Nystrom. This game demands that. It's different than tennis, it's different than basketball, different than any other sport, maybe with the exception of rugby. This game demands that.

We need to get that, not from one side of the ball, from all sides of the ball. Not from one guy, but from all 11 guys on the field at every specific time. That's my message.

Q. There seems to be a local panic about the offense. Your tone today suggests that's not an overreaction. You're concerned about it, too.
MARK DANTONIO: Well, I'm not in a panic situation about it.

Q. You are concerned about the offense?
MARK DANTONIO: I'm concerned about our defense, too. I'm concerned about every aspect of our football team. When we see something that's not going correctly, try and adjust and make corrections. I'm not going to come in here and sandbag it or anything like that. I don't think I ever have.

We need to get busy. You guys can all tweet that out (smiling), modern society.

Q. The offensive line, I think it was four different groups that you got in there in the game. Was that by design or in the middle of the game, let's give this a shot? Was that predetermined, multiple groupings?
MARK DANTONIO: I think we got eight guys or seven guys we played in there in different ways. So we moved people around basically according to what (offensive line coach) Coach Bollman wanted to do. Wanted to give everybody opportunities, whether it be guard, center, whatever. I think we maintained who our tackles were.

Q. We saw Ryan Armour [] get carted off the field. Now we see Jude (Pedrozo) is listed as long snapper. What is it like taking a true freshman walk-on, and putting him in that position?
MARK DANTONIO: Ryan was a true freshman walk-on at one point. So was our previous snapper. That's pretty much the way we've done it. You've got to come and prove it. We lost Ryan Armour []for the year, he is out. It's a tough injury. But he's recovering mentally from it. He'll have to have surgery, so it's season-ending.

Jude is a guy that maybe it's a little bit - he was the heir apparent. He's a good snapper. We recruited him with that idea, that he would be the guy. He's just going to have to pick up the slack a little earlier.

He went in and snapped very well. He's done very well in practice. I have no concerns in terms of how he's going to do. I think he'll be outstanding.

Q. Obviously we're talking about execution, guys playing hard. There's a lot of talk in the offseason about changes to the offense with (offensive coordinator) Brad (Salem) coming in. What would you say to people that watched that first game and felt like they saw the same offense they've seen before?
MARK DANTONIO: What I would say is people see the product, they don't understand the process. They see football is a game, and 'run that play again, the one that gained 20 yards.' Running backs have to break tackles at times. They have to be able to run through the smoke when there is something. They have to be able to block at the point of attack.

Football is a game of repetition, like I keep saying. You're not going to just say, 'Hey, let's run that play, nobody else has ever run that play before.' I don't think that exists in this sport.

People that believe that, are a little bit naïve. As I said earlier, this is about hard work and execution in terms of you've got to --I'm holding our coaches accountable as well in this, it's about play selection and play call, we need to do a better job in that as well. I'm not shying away from that responsibility.

But at the end of the day, there are only so many ways to skin a cat. At the end of the day you better skin the cat. There's another good quote for you. Let me write that down (laughing).

Q. Elijah Collins [], did you see a little bit more spark from him.
MARK DANTONIO: I like Elijah. I thought he ran well. I thought Elijah ran well. He'll get more touches.

Q. Anthony Williams?
MARK DANTONIO: Anthony will be able to play for us. I don't know, the term I use is nicked up. He needs to get himself squared away, he may be available this weekend, he may not be. Depends how his week goes.

Q. We mentioned Collins. You had (Laress) Nelson go out there, (Jalen) Nailor. Do you look to get speedier guys out there? Route running, you weren't happy with that.
MARK DANTONIO: We'll look to play more guys, give everybody opportunities.

You guys good? Enjoyed this one. Sure everybody did (smiling).

Q. Running backs, are they doing a good job running with the play that is blocked, or is that something that is still in progress in dealing with young running backs?
MARK DANTONIO: At times. At times. It looks like they're in flow, at other times they were causing the problem as well. It's all inclusive. No one guy gets it done, no one guy does not get it done. It's all inclusive. Bottom line is that we need to get it done.

I was very impressed with our crowd on Saturday night, also very impressed with the enthusiasm of the crowd. Should be a great game day atmosphere this next week.

Also think before I walk out of here all irritated, I think our defense played outstanding. A lot of takeaways, very difficult to run the ball on, very difficult to pass the ball on, and really covered all the bases.

When you look at it, we had nine three-and-outs, seven sacks, took the ball away from them three times, blocked a punt, had a safety in addition to that, scored a touchdown. All you could ask for. So they played outstanding.

We have the tales of two halves. As I told our football team yesterday, you have the good, the bad and the ugly. The ugly was the penalties. We talk about penalties over and over and over again. Some of them are forced penalties, a PI (pass interference) or something like that. Sometimes a holding call. Some of them are unforced. We have to limit the unforced penalties, jumping off-sides. We had too many of those that put us immediately in situations.

There were some good things on offense. We had an 18-play drive, but we have to finish. We were in the red zone two times on fourth-and-one. We have to get the 1-yard. Like I said, you get the one yard, score the touchdown, that game is 42-0, 42-7. Everybody feels happier.

It is what it is. This is a result-oriented business. I understand that. We have to make sure that we're pushing forward in that endeavor. I've got to send a message, okay? Sometimes I get a little irritable before I walk into these press conferences, so I take it with me. Sometimes I get irritable walking out, okay? (laughing) Take that with me, too.

We're going to get it right.

Q. Left tackle, obviously Kevin (Jarvis) had his first start. How did he grade out for that? Can you go into the philosophy of maintaining your two tackles with him and Jordan (Reid) versus switching the guys on the interior.
MARK DANTONIO: I think Kevin is an extremely strong, physical type of guy. I thought he played okay. I thought he played okay for a first time out there at tackle. He had two holding calls, which sort of negates his play.

I saw a lot of holding calls to be quite honest with you, across the nation this past week. Also I guess I would add that we're 1-0. There are a lot of people out there that are 0-1. A lot of people wish they could have played poorly a little bit and still won. That's the message, as well. We won the football game, and we won the football game decidedly, I felt.

But you're chasing perfection, and you're always trying to get better. So that's what we have to do. You've got to be solid at the offensive tackle. He gave us that opportunity to do that. With AJ (Arcuri) out at the time, Cole (Chewins) out at the time, that was the best-case scenario. He had been working there for 10 days or so.

Q. With a win this weekend, you would tie the school record for victories. Are you able to appreciate the road you've taken to get to this point, what that milestone would mean to you?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I've taken the road less traveled (smiling), okay? No, you know, I'm trying to get better. I've said that, I've talked about that before. I believe that's something that a lot of people have worked to do. When we get there, we'll get there.

Q. Defensively, obviously you kind of know what you're getting from Kenny and Joe, Raequan, guys that have produced consistently. To see the way Jacub (Panasiuk) played, how important can it be for the defense that you have another guy?
MARK DANTONIO: Jacob has done a great job I think, conditioning himself, getting himself ready this year. He's dropped about 20 pounds. He's much quicker. His technique has improved greatly. He's now a junior. I think he played extremely well.

It's really hard to point to anybody on defense who did not play well. They all graded at winning level. I thought Xavier (Henderson) played very well. Antjuan Simmons [] played very well. Those are some of the guys that are newer, our new inserts into our starting lineup.

Defense played well. They need to continue playing well, set the tone.

Q. Coach Perles talked about playing a MAC school, all kids that think they should be on your roster, and they have extra motivation. How do you talk to your guys about that?
MARK DANTONIO: I think our guys will have motivation this week. What do you think? (smiling) We'll be motivated. I agree with you, they're going to come and play hard, they always have. They always have. I've got a great deal of respect for the Mid-American Conference, in particular Western Michigan, what they've been able to accomplish.

Q. You didn't really go overly deep with the defense. A lot of the starters played a lot of snaps. How much of that is based on trust with that with those guys versus some of the backups? At defensive end with (Jack) Camper out, do you envision that staying three man?
MARK DANTONIO: First of all, we only had 20 snaps in the second half. They only got one first down. Sort of hard to play a lot of players because they were going three-and-out a majority of times, which is a good thing. We'll play guys as we get to it. Jack will be back soon. We've got other guys we'll be able to work in there. I know we just played three.

Q. With the returners with Jalen (Nailor) seems to be the kick and punt return. What did you see from him in the game, in camp? Also, with Josh Butler [], the two PI calls, were those concerning to you or the way defensive backs play in the system being aggressive?
MARK DANTONIO: First of all, Jalen is an exciting returner, exciting with the ball in his hands. I thought he had a pretty good return game this week. Called back with the penalty. I thought our punt returns were pretty good. We blocked a punt. We had two aggressive penalties, but they were penalties.

As far as Josh Butler [], probably the one mistake in the game was the late hit by Kenny, which gave them the opportunity. Otherwise we would have been off the field. Ball went up, stacked the receivers. Got a chance to make a play on it, a little out of position on it. Interfered on it. They still make the catch.

The other one was a case of a little pushing both ways. He went up, simultaneous catch, they awarded it to the offense. They did call a PI on that one, as well.

Those are things that are going to happen. Those are plays in a game that they just happen. You've got to take that. But I was impressed that he played it aggressively. He's got good deep ball judgment. We just have to continue to play. Things like that are going to happen because we're going to play people.

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