Rutgers Postgame Press Conference vs. Michigan State 11/23/19
Interim Head Coach Nunzio Campanile: Obviously very disappointed in the result. I think our kids played really hard, just did not play nearly well enough on offense to have a chance to win the game. Combination of things: turnovers, penalties, ineffective throwing the football again obviously. I think they played with great effort the whole way. I understand our job is to win the games, not to play hard. Playing hard is supposed to be an expectation. But I am proud of their effort. I don't think you could fault them at all. I thought defensively we played extremely hard. I thought we played really well at times. We made some critical plays to keep ourselves in the game. We really could not do a whole lot on offense to give ourselves a chance to win the game.
Q. What went wrong in the first half offensively? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: Everything. We missed a couple opportunities in the pass game that really killed us. They're a tough team to run the football on. They mixed up some pressures, some different coverages early in the first half. Teams tend to challenge us a little bit more because the way we've struggled to throw the football. They don't really give some of the free-access throws you're hoping to get. We missed some throws that we needed to make. The interception actually was kind of a tough break. The guy was uncovered, tried to get the ball out quick. The kid recovered, didn't see him. Thankfully the defense kind of held them there. Didn't hurt us too bad. We missed some opportunities that I thought could have flipped the field a little bit.
Q. A guy like Zach (Venesky) who stuck with it, positive attitude, what has he meant to the program? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: Everything. A lot of those guys, they've really just kept competing. They love Rutgers. They love coming to play football together. They work really hard together. He's a special kid. He's been just a great personality. Even his situation as a junior, didn't look like he had a chance to play. Ends up as captain of the team as a senior. Says a lot about his resilience, perseverance. I'm proud to coach those guys.
Q. What did LeGrand mean giving that message to the team before the game, what does he mean to the program? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: Well, had a great message for the video this morning. It was just kind of telling the kids he was proud of how they played last week, this whole situation. To go out and compete, try to get a win today. I think he means everything. We talked to the kids a lot about his message, his amount of positivity, his attitude about his circumstances, tremendous. If we think we got it bad losing a couple football games, you look at the way Eric conducts himself. He's a credit to Rutgers, a credit to himself and his family. He's really a special guy.
Q. 0 for 11 on third down. Do you think that was a big issue? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: Yes, that was an issue. I mean, struggled on first down. We needed to throw it on first down. We didn't compete them. When we ran it, we didn't really go anywhere. Yeah, I mean, for us, we don't want to be in a lot of third-and-longs. If we're in third-and-long, we struggle to complete them, protect them. There's a bunch of issues there.
Q. Fourth-and-six on your 35, any thought to go for it? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: Not really. I think the worst call of the game was the fourth down call I made in the beginning of the third quarter. That was really a critical play. I called a terrible play. If there was a play where we needed to get it, that was it. But our defense was fighting really hard. We gave them enough short fields. Didn't need to give them another one.
Q. Was White a mismatch for you guys? Second half he did a better job. NUNZIO CAMPANILE: Very good player. Damon didn't play a whole lot in the first half. Him coming back and playing in the game, dealt with some personal stuff this week, missed a little practice. Thought it was the right thing for him not to start. He was totally onboard with that. He was a real pro about it. He'll be back out there this week practicing. I was really proud of the way he conducted himself through the whole thing. He's a great kid.
Rutgers Player Quotes Rutgers Offensive Lineman Zach Venesky On seeing his family for senior day: "It was a great feeling. [My parents] are two people who, if it weren't for them, I wouldn't be in the position that I am. So it was definitely a special feeling to get on the field and see them."
On sticking around through everything: "It's a big thing for me. I started something and wanted to finish it. It is something my parents always preached. There's no taking the easy way out. So it was definitely important to finish."
Rutgers Safety Christian Izien On defending wide receiver Cody White: "They put him in pretty good positions to make plays with the ball. We could have been in better positions playing the ball, but he made great plays today."
Rutgers Quarterback Johnny Langan On their approach to the game: "We were definitely motivated. Coming into this game, we thought we could obviously do a lot more than we did. We just have to move past this, take what we can from film and try to send the seniors off the right way."
On his play: "It's definitely something to learn from. There's always things you can learn from in a loss. We just have to keep moving forward."
Rutgers Running Back Isaih Pacheco On what gave them trouble offensively: "We just couldn't move the ball. Turnovers were also big in this game. As soon as you give the ball up, a play can happen and as soon as you get the ball back, another big play can happen. Turnovers are key, we just have to get our drives together and take advantage of our opportunities."
On their approach in the second half: "We just came out and made adjustments and kept working hard. We wanted to show our improvement and that we have heart. We're not going to give up and we're going to turn this thing around."
Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio Opening Statement: "You know things haven't been perfect these last couple of weeks and throughout every practice -- we came with energy in practice and worked hard to prepare for this football game. So the goal was as simple as 'Go 1-0,' We were able to do that. When you look at football game, Cody White has a tremendous day. Big catches, great catches, extra effort catches. (He) actually had one turned over and had the one pulled away clean in the endzone as well. (Brian) Lewerke was on target (and) ran pretty effectively. Elijah (Collins) runs for 109 yards. Defensively, we played extremely well, shut them out, 0-11 on third down. We knew we needed to contain the quarterback (Johnny Langan) because the quarterback is a runner. Credit to Rutgers, I think they are an improved football team over the course of the season, they play hard and they come to play. We took a step forward today so that was important. And we have a chance to play (for win) number six next week."
On getting the win: "We've had a tough stretch for (different) reasons, and today we started three true freshman offensive lineman side by side. We started a true freshman wide receiver in Julian Barnett and we had a redshirt freshman in Elijah Collins. We started five true freshmen on offense and that's uncommon, especially on the line with true freshman playing so it wasn't perfect. I think some of the things were done very, very well. (There are) other things you gotta look at and gotta be able to correct. We had some missed opportunities." On message to team: "(I'm) very, very proud of them. I keep talking about life's lessons and I guess in football that's what you do. Things won't always go the way you want them to go and they found a way to sort of get the monkey off the back a little bit -- our back a little bit. We haven't sung the fight song in a while."
On handling adversity: "Every single game we've come out fast and we have not been able to handle the adverse situations in the game as they progress through the game. I thought we handled adversity today and that was a big issue (in the past)." On what the win means: "5-6. You put so much into these things (and) you want them to go well. Sometimes they don't go as well as you want to go, (but) that's football, that's across this country. But you gotta rally back and I think as much as anything it's about what are we gonna do next. And today, that was the message to our team, "Okay, what are we going to do next."
On the defense's performance: "Over the course of time we've performed very well on defense here. But this year, it's a throw here, a throw there, a fourth and 17 throw, a fourth and 15 scramble. That's made a difference in two games, pure and simple. Then there's other things too. So you got to make plays. It's all so structurally set up. You have the right call on for the right play, so there's a lot of that. And then you got to be able to perform within the structure that call. Our guys came out ready to play. And really throughout the season, that's how they've been. We've got a lot of guys hurt. We had four offensive linemen out, with three or four more still sitting at home. That's eight offensive linemen we had out today. That makes it a lot more difficult to function. So, credit our freshman. Those guys played pretty good. Just to be playing and be able to make something happen."
On the plan at left tackle: "We had three guys play left tackle today. Devontae Dobbs played, then we gave him a break. Tyler Higby played, and AJ Arcuri played in the second half. We just didn't feel like his leg wouldn't hold up the whole game. So that was out of necessity. Devontae, he needs to get better, just like every young player. There's a lot of movement and a variety of different fronts that you need to block and different pressures, you have to be able to adapt. So it's not as easy, it's not just brute force and athletic strength. You got to go to the right place at the right time with the right technique. There were some great things he did good, things he did bad, things he can get better at. Experience is the best teacher that you have because game type situations are the key."
On the defense in the first half: "I thought we stopped the run very effectively and made it difficult to throw We pressured the quarterback, didn't sack him but did collapse the pocket. And that was the whole deal with the pass rush, make sure we try and collapse the pocket. It was more of a capture mentality with the quarterback and make it difficult for them to throw down the field and we did that. And then we had good coverage."
On the kicking game: "If he had about one more inch, he would have been three for three today. Instead he was two out of three."
On the receivers: "I thought Cody White played tremendously. He had some big catches. Tre Mosley had a big catch. C.J. Hayes had a big catch on third down. Even at the end of the game, Julian Barnett had a big catch. Those guys are growing up, and they will be very, very good players."
Michigan State Quarterback Brian Lewerke On getting the win: "A win is a win and it feels really good to get another one."
On his own performance: "The guys were getting open and I was able to hit them. I was able to tell what coverage they were in. Even when they were shifting around I kind of knew what was coverage they were in. The receivers were just getting open."
Michigan State Wide Receiver Cody White On his confidence: "Right off the bat my confidence was high and I just kinda keep building through the game."
On chemistry with QB Brian Lewerke: "Me and Brian (Lewerke) have always had a good connection. He's been able to find me even in areas where I'm like 'How did you fit that in there' but he finds a way. He's able to make plays for the offense."
Michigan State Linebacker Tyriq Thompson On mindset heading into the game: "We set a goal (to go 1-0) and we went out to go pursue that and we did that today."
On offense's long possessions: "It was definitely a boost for us on defense. I feel like we played a complete game as a team today."