Sept. 21, 2013

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Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly

COACH KELLY: Let’s get to this. Go ahead. I know y’all need to get back.

Q. (No microphone.)

COACH KELLY: Yeah, it’s what we expected. Excellent football team in Michigan State. Physical, great defense. We knew it was going to be this kind of football game. Somebody was going to have to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter. We were able to get the touchdown and hold them from scoring one.

That’s the way I envisioned the game. That’s the way we called the game. I was telling my athletic director, I wanted to throw the ball so bad on those last few drives. But we felt like we wanted to put our defense back on the field and not give Michigan State, because they’ve been so opportunistic defensively, an opportunity to win the football game on defense.

That’s the way we constructed the game, found a way to win.

Q. How would you explain your team’s ability to consistently win close games?

COACH KELLY: Just tough minded group. We’ve got that instilled within our kids. The way we coach them, the way we go to practice, the way we work day in, day out. That’s the way we want them to play the game.

We talk about it. I mean, we came into this week knowing and respecting the way Coach Dantonio plays the game and his team. They’re tough and physical. We had to match that. We knew what we were getting into.

We talk about it and expect it from our team.

Q. Defensively, did you feel like you got some things cleaned up from the last couple weeks, tackling assignments, that kind of thing?

COACH KELLY: Yeah. As you know, we had been alluding to the fact we made some changes. We think it’s starting to come together. It’s hard for it to all be there in the first four weeks when you’re playing three Big Ten teams in a row.

You could sense it. The pass rush was better. We were on body a lot better. Assignment was much better. We gave up 30 yards, 45 yards in penalties that we’d like to eradicate. Definitely you could sense that that defense is starting to come together.

Q. Talk about your depth on defense, especially Kona’s game. You had two freshmen corners on the field late in the game.

COACH KELLY: We played a lot of freshmen on both sides of the ball. We were on the field a lot, as you know. If you look at the breakdown, I think it was almost 10 minutes there late in the game. Jarron Jones played quite a bit, too, on the defensive line.

Again, it’s kind of how we’ve put this team together, is that we need to count on the depth, especially in this freshman class.

Q. Offensively you mentioned you wanted to throw the ball there late, but chose to run down the clock. About this time or a little bit later last season, your running game started to kick in. Do you see any signs that it’s going there or is this going to be a different type of offense, different type of team?

COACH KELLY: Well, you can call it what you want. I’m sure Michigan State has different feelings. That’s all man to man. I know it’s quarter coverage. That’s how it’s talked about. That’s man to man. Those safeties are downhill. Those linebackers are in the box. Those are nine guys hawking the run game. It’s tough sledding in there.

You have to win throwing the football against Michigan State. You’re not going to win running the football against them. We missed a lot of opportunities in the first half. We missed the chances we had early on. Then the way the game went, you know, we were going to run the football.

They took a lot of time off the clock in the third quarter. We chose to play against the wind in the third quarter and take the wind in the fourth. We were just playing that game in the second half.

Q. The changes you did make to the lineup on defense, talk a little bit about the thinking behind that.

COACH KELLY: Again, I think if you look at their reps, I don’t have it in front of me, they all played a great deal of football. We’re just trying to get the right mix and the right lineup and the right guys in the right place.

But I wouldn’t say that we’re at that point where we’re definitely sold we have the 11 guys in the right place. We think we’re closer. We still have to do a little bit more work.

Everybody now knows what’s expected of them. I want to be careful what I say here. What we wanted to do more than anything else is let these kids know what our expectations of them are and how they play that position.

So they’re all playing at a higher level because we set some clear expectations. We saw that today.

Q. Is Matthias healthy?

COACH KELLY: He’s healthy.

Q. Offensively, you don’t throw or plan to throw to draw pass interference penalties. Is there an advantage offense there in some ways the way the rules are, where if you throw it up, your guys have a good chance of getting it?

COACH KELLY: Absolutely, no question. When you know that the quarterback is going to throw it back shoulder, the defensive back does not know where it is, you have an advantage in that situation. You’re going to get some pass interference calls when you put the ball in a good position.

Q. How would you assess the play of the secondary, specifically Matthias today?

COACH KELLY: I couldn’t talk about one particular guy as much as I could talk about overall we were much better. Our assignments were clearly followed through much better as a unit.

We had to make some adjustments on some of their spot routes. I thought we did a very good job of playing a little bit more trail coverage. We mixed things up a lot better. I thought the guys were on body when we needed to be.

I think, more than anything else, assignment correct. We got our hands on the ball. That’s key for us.

Q. Then Corey Robinson’s play today?

COACH KELLY: He’s a big target. He tracks the ball so very well. Look, if you can keep the ball in a position where he can play six six, he’s very difficult to defend.

Q. The pass interference, as those started getting called more and more, was that something you tried to keep throwing those deep passes?

COACH KELLY: No. We want to complete them. We were getting pulled and tugged. We just felt like the only way you’re going to complete passes against Michigan State, as I mentioned to you before, it’s one on one, all man to man. You can call it whatever you want, it’s man to man coverage. Safeties are downhill, the backers are playing the run. On the outside it’s a one on one situation. They’re fighting for the football.

Q. Sheldon Day dressed today. Kind of an emergency situation guy?

COACH KELLY: Yeah, I would consider it. He could have played today. He would not have been 100%. We think we’ll get him at 100% next week.

Q. A lot of penalties. Neither offense played great. Talk about how an ugly win is still a win at the end of the day.

COACH KELLY: I would characterize it a little bit differently. I think both defenses really carried the day here today. I think Michigan State has a great defense. They’re very difficult to play against in so many fashions. I think 31 is probably one of the best corners that we’ve gone against, and I’ve seen them all. They’re just a very difficult defense.

I thought we played very well today up front, getting three man pressure and four man pressure up front. When you can do that, you can drop a lot of guys in coverage. I think the defenses had a lot to do with today’s ballgame.

If you would have asked me last week about what this kind of game was going to be, it wasn’t going to be a beauty contest. I felt like it was going to be this kind of game.

Q. Brian, did you feel like the interception on the half back pass maybe was somewhat of a turning point?

COACH KELLY: Any time you pick off a pass and a drive, it’s a definite momentum builder for your football team. Certainly any time you get a turnover… That’s why it was so important for us to not turn the ball over in the fourth quarter. I thought Tommy did a good job even when we scored in the fourth quarter, he threw the ball away when he didn’t get the look he wanted a couple times in the red zone.

Taking care of the football was an absolute premium. We did and they did not.

Q. Stephon coming in and getting that sack…

COACH KELLY: It was good to see Stephon Tuitt. He’s rounding into the kind of shape we all want him to be in. We’re getting that push. We’re seeing that from Shembo. We’re starting to see those guys really start to round into that kind of presence that we saw last year. It’s getting better.

Q. Kyle, he missed one field goal. Talk about the weapon he’s turned into.

COACH KELLY: He got the game ball for us. He flipped field position for us in the fourth quarter, which to me was as important as anything that happened today, pinning Michigan State back twice in field position that tilted the field in our favor and allowed them on a longer field.

You know, you never want a punt blocked. First one that we’ve had since we’ve been here. It was just a poor effort situation. Those don’t normally end well when you have a punt blocked. But he battled through it and came up with two great punts in the fourth quarter for us.

Q. To see Tommy under 50% completion percentage is a rarity. Seems like he was pressing in the first half.

COACH KELLY: He just missed open receivers, yeah. I mean, we had guys open. He just didn’t hit ’em. He’s not going to shy away from it. He had guys open and he didn’t connect.

This was not a hitch, spot, screen, bubble, high percentage game. This is grip it and rip it. That’s the kind of game it was. You’re going to hit big plays. You’re going to score some touchdowns. So throw the completion percentage out. You’re either going to make some plays or you’re not.

We had our chances to make some big plays and we didn’t cash in on them when we had our chances.

Q. Whether you pass or run, how important is it for your system Troy Niklas as a blocker?

COACH KELLY: That’s a good question. Very, very important. As you know, he is part of not only our blocking, but he’s a great tight end who can catch footballs for us. He’s also part of our protections as well.

Thought we did a very good job today of picking up pressures and stunts, gave Tommy a chance to complete a lot of balls. Obviously his percentage wasn’t where we want it to be, picked up some key third down situations when Troy was called in to block. He’s a guy that does a lot of jobs for us.

Q. In the fourth quarter when the offense found a rhythm running the ball, what will you expect from your offensive line in the future?

COACH KELLY: Yeah, I mean, it’s like I’ve been saying earlier. You’re just trying to carve out an existence in the run game against a defense like this. You have to run it well enough to win the game. We ran it into the red zone to score a touchdown. We were third and short a couple of times. We just couldn’t convert.

You got to be efficient enough to win football games. That’s what I’m looking for in our running game, efficient enough to win games.

Michigan State Coach Mike Dantonio

COACH DANTONIO: Great football game, first of all. I thought very well played football game in terms of intensity and enthusiasm. Great crowd. All the different things you expect in a rivalry game like this. I want to congratulate Notre Dame in that aspect.

As far as Michigan State is concerned, get down in the red zone, you got to score touchdowns. Fact of the matter is they did not turn the ball over, we had to come up with turnovers. Had one off the PI but they didn’t turn it over.

Ran the ball effectively. Had our opportunities in the red zone. Kicked a couple field goals, missed one. You got to score touchdowns in those situations.

Very proud of our football team. Thought we played hard. Thought we had an opportunity to win the football game. Left some questions on the field obviously. But nevertheless, very proud of our football team.

We did what we had to do in terms of defensively I felt we played the ball the way we teach them to play the ball. That’s how they played the ball. Beyond that, I’m not going to have any comments on. That’s for other people to comment on in private.

But I’ll just take some questions. That’s probably the best way to do this.

Q. Went with the pass that got intercepted, came back and went a different direction. Talk about the play call with the Shelton pass.

COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, R.J.’s deal was my call. I made the suggestion on that one because I felt like we needed a big play. He’s got a great arm on him. The guy was covered. Probably should have just pulled it down and ran.

So that’s my call. I’ll take responsibility for that. But I felt like we needed a big play. We did drive it down the field. I guess a little lost in terms of what came first. We drove it down the field the first time, second half right out of the box there. Had to come up with a field goal.

The problematic thing is that we’ve got to score in the red zone, got to score touchdowns. You have opportunities to do that, but you’re talking about inches at times. That’s the thing that bit us last year. That’s the thing we have to get past.

Thought Connor Cook did some good things, but like a young quarterback probably wishes he had a couple back. Thought we ran the ball effectively. That was a positive thing. Langford and Nick Hill did a nice job. Those are two positive things.

Didn’t really turn it over with the exception of one turnover on the interception that you were talking about.

Q. Did you ever have that many defensive pass interference calls on you in one game?

COACH DANTONIO: I’ve been coaching 30 plus years. No, never. I guess that’s why we should stop talking about it right there.

Q. On the opening drive, punt block, missed the field goal. Do you think if you punched in there, it could have been a different game?

COACH DANTONIO: Got down there three times, missed one field goal, kicked two others, scored a touchdown the fourth time. Obviously, yeah, if you get it in, 17 13, 17 points aren’t going to win you many games, 13 is not for sure.

Credit Notre Dame’s defense some. But we’ve got to score more points. We drove the ball. I thought we controlled the ball pretty well there, especially coming out the second half. A number of times ran the ball effectively down the field. We get a bad play. Next thing you know, it’s second and 10. Caught a couple penalties on offense as well.

Got to be able to handle those things and play through the adversity. That’s what we have to be able to do. We’ll do that.

The thing I’ll focus on with our football team in the locker room, regardless of winning or losing, everybody wants to win it badly, got a lot of guys hurting in there, it’s non conference game, week off, then get ready for Iowa next week. It’s a Big Ten game.

Using this as an opportunity to play away from home in a great environment much like we’ll see in the Big Ten. Prepares us for that aspect of it. Prepares Connor Cook for that aspect and it also prepares some of our other young players for it as well.

Q. You put Maxwell in at the end. Was that a Connor Cook injury?

COACH DANTONIO: I think we put him in there just to try to change the pace. Felt like he needed an opportunity, should give him an opportunity.

Tough situation to put him in at. I felt like he was a little behind on some throws, needed to mix it up and see what he could do. Obviously didn’t work out. Hindsight is 50/50, whatever you say, 20/20, 50/50. That’s more like PI’s, 50/50.

Q. Michael Geiger, you put him in there, kicked a 42 yarder into the wind. Will he be the kicker moving forward?

COACH DANTONIO: Right now he’s the kicker. You don’t put him in against Notre Dame unless he’s the kicker. Took the redshirt off him, he’s the kicker.

He’s shown great promise throughout summer camp. Obviously wasn’t perfect in that, but it’s his time now. He needs to grow up kick.

Q. Jeremy Langford was looking to have some success today. Can you talk about what you were looking to get out of your runningbacks today, why Nick Hill and Shelton came in.

COACH DANTONIO: Shelton played wide receiver. He played wideout. R.J. was not there to run the ball.

Nick Hill, Jeremy Langford by committee a little bit. We played Riley a couple snaps in theres as well.

I thought Jeremy ran the ball well, almost busted a couple. Nicked up a little bit throughout the game as well. Hill did some things as well, moving the pile a little bit.

Nothing negative there in respects to that. But I thought they did a good job. Ran the ball for, what is it, 119 yards or so. We ran the ball effectively. Enough? No. Nothing is enough. When you look at the yardage, total yards we have 254, they have 224. That would suggest a lot of defense, okay?

Just keep working. Don’t have an answer for you on that one. I thought he played pretty well. I thought Nick played pretty well. I don’t think Jeremy is a guy we can give the ball to 30 times, not right now.

Q. Do you feel like you outplayed Notre Dame today, especially in the second half?

COACH DANTONIO: Obviously not. The scoreboard, we ended up losing. They did the things they had to at the end of the game to win the football game.

Very proud of our football team in how we came out and played. Wish we had some plays back and some situations back obviously. But proud of our football team.

Obviously Notre Dame won the football game, so you have to say they outplayed us.

Q. One nice grab by Lyles, otherwise the tight end wasn’t a factor. Something they were doing that took him out of the game or not part of the plan?

COACH DANTONIO: Not part of the plan. We probably didn’t get loose or whatever. Tough for me to say without seeing film and things of that nature.

But great catch by Jamal. They’re in the route progression, they’re in the read. Got to get open or whatever. Had a lot of things going to Macgarrett Kings a little bit. Proven to be a go to guy for us. Made a great catch. Almost came up with another great catch in the end zone.

Our tight ends will get busy by design. They always have been. Just continue to work it.

But they’re young players there, too, with Jamal Lyles and Josiah Price, those guys are young players.

Q. Not talking about any specific play with the pass interferences, but as you understand it, what is the cornerback allowed to do? What’s the interpretation of what you can have them do?

COACH DANTONIO: Cut off the receiver, have position for the ball, go up and make a play on the ball. He has every right to make a play on the ball. There’s bumping and pushing on both sides a lot of times. But you’re going up for a football. A lot of times to me, unless you want to get into a clinic here, which we don’t need to, they’re very close calls. I’m in agreement with that, they’re close calls.

They have a right to the ball. They can play the ball out of phase without looking through it. Swat the ball down. I don’t know. There are no video displays out there on that field. I can’t see what’s going on. You have a much better shot up in the box than I would have had. We’ll let that issue take its own course. You guys are all well written.

Q. (No microphone.)

COACH DANTONIO: No. It does not feel the same. I don’t know how it feels. You lose a close game, it’s tough.

Last year against Notre Dame I felt like we were completely outplayed. Defensively played pretty well, but we were completely outplayed. Couldn’t move the ball. It sort of became a 14 3, 17 3, 20 3 type thing. Got away from us.

I felt like this time we were right down to the end. I thought we competed and played right through it. I thought there was a lot of motion on our sidelines. I think we played to win. I’ll never apologize to play to win. That’s what we try and do at all times. I’m extremely proud of our football team.

But at the end of the day they do keep score. So we got to deal with it. We just got to deal with it. That’s part of growing up, too. That’s part of trying to be mature about everything we deal with.

In the end it will help us. In the end we’ll find our way through all this. I’m looking forward to playing Iowa in a couple weeks.

Notre Dame Players

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Tommy.

Q. (No microphone.)

Tommy Rees: They’re a great defense. Hats off to Michigan State for the way they played the game. We know every time we play Michigan State it’s going to be a physical battle. You’re going to have to claw and fight and get enough points up there to win the game.

Q. Getting the two touchdown passes you got, especially the game winner, felt like it took more of an effort?

Tommy Rees: Obviously we weren’t as efficient on offense as we wanted to be. Michigan State did a lot of things to challenge us offensively. We found a way to get the ball in the end zone there twice. We were down in their area. Proud of the way we fought.

But we know how to win close games. That’s something we’ve done for a while now. I think all the guys understood what it took to close out a close one.

Q. Tommy, Coach Kelly talked about Michigan State, the way they play their cornerbacks. Is that something he talked to you about a couple years ago or…

Tommy Rees: That’s something we’ve had in the game plan. We know we’re going to get a lot of man coverage, one on one matchups. Their corners are aggressive, they like to play physical. Just giving our receivers a chance to put the ball where they can go make a play, if it’s not complete, try to get a PI. That’s something we’ve worked at throughout the year, really going after the ball. If we’re not going to catch it, try to expose if they were getting held out there.

Q. (No microphone.)

Tommy Rees: Yeah, we needed to take our shots with the way Michigan State was playing. Obviously we want to hit those. But we hit a few of them early. Missed a couple big ones. But we found a way to get the ball in the end zone at the end. You need to be more efficient. But that’s what you kind of expect when you play Michigan State.

Q. (No microphone.)

Tommy Rees: He’s a sure handed, trustworthy guy. He had a big game today for us. We have all the trust in the world in him. Somebody that really prides himself on his ability to catch the ball. I think he showed that today.

Q. (No microphone.)

Tommy Rees: We have a lot of work to do. We need to be more efficient. We’ve had moments where we’re not taking advantage of things. If we continue to work, take it one week at a time, put enough points on the board to win games…

Q. Lots of penalties. Neither offense ever really got going. Was it the ugly game you expected?

Tommy Rees: Yeah, you never want to expect that as an offense. We knew it was going to be tough and physical. If we could have thought about it, probably want to hit some of those deep balls early. For us, finding a way to win, we’re comfortable grinding games out like that.

A win’s a win. It’s hard to win games at this level, especially against a good opponent like that.

Q. Oklahoma in here next week. What do you have to improve?

Tommy Rees: Have to be more efficient on offense, take advantage of opportunities. We’re going to go back, look at it, get a game plan ready, go out and execute it.

Q. (Question regarding momentum.)

Tommy Rees: It’s a big win. Every week we’re going to have to be ready to play and be prepared to play good competition. It’s our job to go out there and execute and find a way to win close ones.

Q. (No microphone.)

Tommy Rees: They’re aggressive all over the place. They’ll stack the box, try to take away your run looks. Really challenge you outside.

Their corners did a good job of playing man. We missed some opportunities, but we had guys open. We had some big plays that we took advantage of. We found a way at the end of the day to put enough points to help our defense win the game.

Q. We asked coach about close wins. He says they coach it. How do you keep going to the well?

Tommy Rees: It’s the way we prepare, the way we’re coached, kind of the mindset of the team. We’re comfortable in those close games knowing what it takes, when we need a big play. Obviously we’d like to put more points on the board. Michigan State has a real good defense. We grind enough drives and points to find a way to win that game. Battling in those close ones, it’s exciting to win those.

But we’ve done a good job preparing and understanding what it takes to win those games.

Jarett Grace o Jr. o Inside Linebacker

On the defense’s improvement from last week’s performance…

“It definitely was an improvement, to say the least, especially playing a Big 10 opponent but at the same time, there is a lot room for improvement still. But that’s just going to motivate us going into next week.

“I’d say we just had a little bit more discipline this week when compared to the previous weeks. Also there was a challenge this week playing Michigan State. They’re a big team, and we know what they’re going to do, so we really prepared for that challenge.”

On this week’s practice leading up to the game …

“We drilled down tight. In practice if things weren’t done perfectly, or if a guy didn’t do his job, we repeated that and we drilled until it was completed to perfection. It was a definite grind this week.”

On the progress of the defense thus far…

“For me the biggest progress is feeling comfortable out there. I do think that progress is showing itself, but I think it has a ways to go also. As you can see, we were confident out there; we were having a lot of fun. Guys were making plays, and I feel like that’s the biggest thing, we just have to keep working and let our game flow.”

Tommy Rees o Sr. o Quarterback

On Corey Robinson’s performance as a receiver…

“He’s a sure-handed, trustworthy guy. He had a big night, and we have all the trust in the world in him. He’s a guy who really prides himself on his ability to catch the ball, and I think he showed that today.”

On the offense’s performance at this point in the season…

“We have a lot of work to do, we need to be more efficient. We’ve shown glimpses of being very good but we’ve also had moments where we’re not taking advantage of things. I think if we continue to work, get better and take it one week at a time, we can find ways to put points up on the board and win games.”

On the team’s expectations for the game…

“We knew it was going to be tough and physical, and we wanted to hit some of those deep balls early, but for us it was about finding a way to win. We’re comfortable grinding games out like that. A win’s a win, and it’s hard to win games at this level, especially against a good opponent like [Michigan State].”

On preparing for the Oklahoma game…

“We just need to be more efficient on offense, take advantage of opportunities and get better. We’re going to go back to the tape, look at it, get a game plan ready and go ahead and execute.”

KeiVarae Russell o So. o Cornerback

On the similarities between this game and last year’s meeting…

“We had the same mindset as we were watching the game from last year, and Coach emphasized that you have to dominate. They’re going to block at you, and they’re going to go their hardest until the whistle. They’re going to do whatever it takes to win, so we had to do the same thing.”

On preparing for Oklahoma…

“We have to watch the film on Monday and see how much better they can get, like with all of the plays where they got 10 or more yards, we’re just going to watch how we can eradicate those plays. We just have to keep bringing out the best in each and every player. We had penalties where we should’ve been off the field, so we have to just be more disciplined.”

Kyle Brindza o Jr. o Kicker/Punter

On the difficulty of fulfilling both the punting and kicking duties…

“It’s hard, but for me I’ve been doing it ever since I was a sophomore in high school, so for me it’s just another day at the job. But to be able to go out there and do that for the team is something special to me.”

On staying focused after the blocked punt…

“I’m a confident kid. One missed field goal or a shanked punt or a good kick-off is behind me. Coach will get mad at me, but it’s already behind me. I know what I did wrong and the next time I know not to do it wrong.”

On receiving the game ball…

“I was very caught off guard. When he started talking I was like, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure?’ But it was a blessing for me. When Coach called upon me and my team called upon me, I was glad I could do my job.”

On his mindset throughout the game…

“Go out there, help out the team. And I was glad I was able to do that today.”

Carlo Calabrese o Sr. o Inside Linebacker

On the defense in general…

“We did what we were supposed to do. We practiced a lot and we didn’t have a lot of mistakes tonight. It was a positive day.”

On the close score…

“We just play our game. We knew this game was going to be a tough physical game-we knew it was going to come to that. We just grinded out and came out on top.”

On the offensive struggle…

“I don’t think it was a struggle. We just knew their offense was a big physical offense, and we knew we would have to go out up front and stop the run and we did that.”

On the game in general…

“They are a big physical team, and we knew that coming into this game. Our defense had a great game and everybody saw that.”

Zach Martin o Sr. o Left Tackle

On what the close win says about the team…

“Our will and our pride to go out and play. Years before, we haven’t gotten wins like this and it really says something about the character of this team and the kind of philosophy that Coach Kelly has brought in here. We saw it last year and we see it this year too-that we find a way to win games. It’s just the way the program is moving in the right direction.”

On Corey Robinson

“He’s a great player. The great thing about him and a lot of the freshmen is they just do whatever they can to help the team. That’s the way you want every freshman to be. You want someone who competes and who really is willing to do anything to help the team, and he is really a prime example of that.”

On the physicality of the game…

“It’s a big rivalry. Since I’ve been here, the game’s always been very physical. They’re a well-coached football team-we’re a very well-coached football team-so it comes down to physical toughness out there. We made some plays when we needed to, and our defense came up huge.”

On the close win…

“We just find a way to win. You can never be perfect, but we want to strive for that. At the end of the day, we’re winning football games and that’s what counts.”

Cam McDaniel o Jr. o Running Back

On the close win…

“We embrace every victory that we get because we know that it’s hard fought. We knew this was going to be a tough game-we didn’t know how close it would be, but we knew it was going to be tough. We were going to have to work physically, and that’s what we did today.”

On preparing for Oklahoma…

“I think we are just going to build off of the momentum, and 10 home win games straight is huge for us, and we just want to establish our identity. It’s our house, and we want to make this place a tough environment to play in. It’s our home and we want to make sure we establish that-we’ve been doing that successfully and each win kind of builds that momentum.”

On the physicality of the game…

“I’ve just got to give a lot of credit to the offensive line and the receivers for doing what they do when they had to do it. Even on passing situations and having to fight through the friction, but we just grinded it out when we had to.”

Bennett Jackson o Sr. o Cornerback

On being in position to make plays…

“I mean in the past we were in the right spot, we just didn’t finish the play. I feel like this game a lot of the times even throughout practice we worked on finishing the play and running to the ball. All four guys in the secondary and you know at the end of the day today we just executed well. Our guys were in on the ball.”

On rotation in the secondary…

“It was a rotation of the safeties, a lot of it was if guys were gassed on one play a guy would come in for a quick breather. But it was definitely a benefit if a guy goes down. I know I had a helmet issue and I had to come out, but just having those guys be able to come in there and compete and give you that quick breather is definitely a benefit. It helps us out a lot, but it also gives them experience.”

On halfback pass thought process…

“We were in man, so we don’t have any responsibility on the back, we just focus on the guy, which they did a great job of doing and you know we played it well.”

On the pick being a coincidence…

“I mean well you put a little air under the ball, and you know the secondary Matthias Farley played it great in the air and won the battle for the ball. I wasn’t surprised we did a great job of stopping the deep passes.”

Corey Robinson o Fr. o Wide Receiver

On getting better as a freshman…

“Be fast and be quick as opposed to just have extra weight and not get stronger. Getting strength as opposed to weight is my number one concern right now.”

On jump ball scenarios…

“You just got to be super confident and go in there knowing that you have to make this catch to help your team win. Everyone is counting on you to make this play. So you’ve got to prepare yourself mentally; it’s just as hard mentally as it is physically. You have to make sure you impose your will on the defense. Even if they hover you, you still have to make the play.”

On confidence now as compared to first coming in…

“I am a lot more confident now. Every day in practice when you make one play, two plays, three plays, it really helps out. Especially with the corners we have in practice and to come out here with great corners too, and if you can do it out here, then yeah, it really helps.”

On adjusting to pass interference calls…

“I cannot worry about it. I am just trying to focus on winning the one on one matchup. So I cannot worry about the officials are doing. I just try to do what I can to win the matchup, and whether or not I get the call, I have to catch the ball, regardless.”

Michigan State Players

Michael Geiger – Fr. – Kicker

On getting the opportunity to kick today…

“Well, I come with the mentality that I’m going to take every opportunity that I can get. So, I prepare like I’m going to play and after [Kevin Muma] missed the kick, we had a little discussion with [Coach Dantonio], and I knew from that point forward I had to seize the opportunity.”

On today being his first game…

“The last field goal I made the crowd was probably, at the most, 5,000. Maybe less. I couldn’t tell you. It was an all-star game. This was definitely an incredible atmosphere to play my first game in. I’m thankful to come away with two field goals.”

On his first kick tonight…

“It’s almost like you’re not thinking – you’re not conscious. I was trying to just focus on what I had to do. I knew the snap and hold would be there, and so I was just focused on splitting pipes.”

On kicking 42 yards into the wind…

“It was difficult. I was looking up in the student section. It was my first time kicking towards them. I was definitely excited for the opportunity, and I knew I had the leg from 42 in the wind.”

“It was pretty close. I didn’t get my best ball, but I was confident in what I was doing, and thankful for the opportunity from that distance from [Coach Dantonio].”

Jeremy Langford – Jr. – Running Back

On the last drive…

“It’s tough. We don’t really like losing as a team, but we’ve got to finish drives early in the game to get us ahead. Then, the outcome is better.”

On the game in general…

“It’s hard because we played tough as an overall team, but like I said earlier, we’ve got to finish drives. We can make the long drives, but we’ve got to finish and get touchdowns instead of field goals.”

On his role in the game…

“The coaches rotate all of us. We all play hard – really hard. It’s emphasized through the week. It’s tough because we all play tough.”

“I think I ran hard. I think I’ve got to break a couple more tackles to break and get the long runs and help us out on offense and score touchdowns.”

Max Bullough – Sr. – Linebacker

On the talk on the sidelines throughout the game…

“It’s frustrating. Even if you think it is or isn’t, it’s frustrating to have those penalties to begin with, and like I said, we had a chance to win the game at the end. That’s really what it came down to, and we didn’t capitalize. That’s what we should focus on because that’s what we can control.”

On what they can take away from the game…

“I think you have a young team and guys make mistakes and guys need to learn on the road in situations like this. I think that’s one of the positives that comes from playing this game and playing in South Bend.”

On Michigan State’s physicality…

“I thought we played well. They didn’t really run the ball much on us. I don’t know what the numbers were, but I think we played well on defense. I think the offense ran the ball well. I think overall we played pretty physical.”

Macgarret Kings, Jr. – So. – Wide Receiver

On mentality of offense…

“Very confident. All our quarterbacks can come in and get the job done no matter which one it is, but we made strides today in our offense, all our goals are still in front of us, it’s just a tough loss today.”

On need for a quarterback change as a change for the offense…

“No, not at all, just trying something new throwing Andrew [Maxwell] out there. We made strides today as an offense, and I felt like we did pretty good moving the ball at will, moving the ball during time of possession, so I think we did pretty good.”

On seeing pass interference calls…

“It’s tough calls, it’s tough games, and things happen.”

Darqueeze Dennard – Sr. – Boundary Cornerback

On good calls and bad calls…

“That’s not my job to do, I just continue to play, me and Trae [Waynes] both. We just play how we’ve been coached, tough and physical, and that’s how we’re going to keep playing.”

On expectations of playing Notre Dame…

“They had two great receivers, TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels. They’re good players, and we came in the game knowing they were going to take shots and Notre Dame was going to challenge us, so we had to make plays.”

On getting explanations for interference calls…

“No I’m pretty much not worried about it. At the end of the day, we had a chance to win the game and we would still make those plays to win.”

On being taught to face guard…

“It depends on what kind of ball it is, how quick the receiver looks, it goes off many things like how we read and react. There’s no face guarding in college, so it’s legal, and we’re just going to keep playing.”

Jack Conklin – RS Fr. – Offensive Tackle

On the coaches’ plan for last drive…

“We just wanted to make plays and be in the position we wanted to be to score the game-winning touchdown.”

On reflections from game…

“The biggest thing is that we know that we can move the ball, now we just have to finish. It’s tough–we know we can win the game, but it was a hard-nose game and we just ended up on the wrong side.”

On what coaches told players before last drive…

“He said we have a chance to go down in history to try to beat to Notre Dame. We just had to get to the line fast, keep everything moving smooth.”

On reactions to passes falling incomplete and having no control over it…

“I just have to believe in my receivers, and I just have to know that the next time they’re going to catch it, so I just cover the line and I trust them.”

Tyler Hoover – Sr. – Defensive Tackle

On how his team played …

“I’m proud. I’m proud of our offense; I’m proud of our defense. The fact we have so much growth and so much area to improve.”

On how his team played in response to the refs…

“When it comes down to it, we just got to make plays. It’s not the refs. It’s going to be us, all the time. There’s no reason to get into the refs. There’s no point.”

“It’s obviously tough, but again it comes down to making plays and just being in the right position. The calls are the calls. No one change them and that’s the way the game goes.”

On if losing feels wrong…

“Yeah. All we can ask is our guys to leave it all out there and if they do, we are going to grow and get better.”

Fou Fonoti – Sr. – Offensive Tackle

On the long drives…

“Coach always says we aren’t going to have big plays right then and there; it definitely takes times and when we start getting that groove…it just didn’t connect. It’s unfortunate.”

On how if he feels his injury…

“Right now, definitely. It’s just games like this and nicks like that, you just have to suck it up and go.”

On the outcome of the game…

“It’s definitely tough. We definitely left it all out on the field; we gave 100 percent effort; we did a great job in defending that. We got to be willing to accept the fee and know that are goals are definitely in front of us.

“It’s tough to accept, but in the past two years we haven’t been playing so well, so coming out here today and losing by just four points, we can just see what we got to work on.”