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News and Notes from Michigan State Spartan Football

Players from this team live literally all around the country and many went to either their home or the home of a teammate as they relax today. This is a chance for us to update you on news and notes around the program.

Mark Dantonio felt like the OSU win hinged on three things. He said they were:

1) “…Obviously we played very, very well on defense. I think we came up with six and a half tackles for a loss and five sacks from our linebackers alone, so nine sacks. But a lot of things you guys already know about defensively I think statistically, but we played with an air of confidence, I felt, and we played with tremendous effort. I thought the game plan was very good obviously, but it takes players to execute that game plan, so when it comes right down to it at the end of the day, our players made plays. Huge play with Darqueze Dennard pulling the ball from Kevin Smith on the 2-yard line and coming up with the interception, probably one of the plays of the game certainly defensively. We played very, very well.”

2) “Offensively I thought we controlled the tempo of the football game. If you look at it, we probably needed to score a couple more points and I'm sure we left points off the board a little bit. Credit Ohio State with that, but I thought we moved the ball. I thought Cousins' passes were very crisp, sharp. Cunningham had another big day. I thought we ran the ball effectively enough to sustain drives, and we were able to get the ball and move the football I think numerous times throughout the day and sort of control the tempo of the game I felt offensively. If you look at our offense relative to their offense, tempo went in our direction in that area.”

3) “…special teams wise, huge play by Mike Sadler early in the game to prevent us from having a missed opportunity, bad punt situation. Probably the play of the game special teams wise. And then Conroy with his 50-yard field goal was really the difference in the game at the end.”


Mark Dantonio closed practice to the media prior to the OSU and mentioned his team and mindset in doing so. Again reinforcing that he has questions about their ability to deal some of the mental edge of the game he let them enjoy their Nike Pro Combat Uniforms this week and stated for doing that, “They're off to a great start with the pro combat jerseys on this week to sort of get used to those a little bit, take the adrenaline out of it, I guess, hopefully for ourselves a little bit, but just get used to wearing them.”

Mark Dantonio is obviously a football coach, but each time a player commits to play for him he makes the promise to treat that young man like a son. He makes the promise to the parents and the kid. With that in mind he talked about what he wanted from the players this weekend as they unwind. “I do want them to deflate a little bit. I want football to be fun. I think sometimes you continue on and on and on. You've got to be able to step back and recognize how really privileged you are to be involved in it, and so -- and I think that's a little bit for the coaches, too. You need to go recruit, get on the road, do something different.
We're not playing Michigan this week. We don't need to be all jacked up this week. We need to be enthusiastic and have our adrenaline running next week, and I think if you start too soon, sometimes you can die out. So we're sort of saving ourselves a little bit. We want to come out of this week very healthy. But we do ask them to take the time.
Hopefully they can go home and watch a high school football game this weekend. That's why we're not practicing Saturday morning. I want them to be able to go home. Hopefully they take advantage of that.”


We have talked at Spartan Nation for a long time that the continuity in the Dantonio staff has had a great impact on his success. He cited it as a reason for the success of his defense this week. “…Statistically we're very, very good right now. I think the continuity from within our coaching staff and the continuity in terms of our players just developing in a system has allowed that to take place, and what's probably most impressive to me is we played a lot of players in a number of games, a number of the early games, but our twos come in and they play very well, as well. They're being able to play at a high level, as well. So that's been a positive for us, and I think that's why statistically we are where we're at.”


Perhaps the most telling things from Dantonio this week (on field football wise) when he was asked about the play of Kirk Cousins. I won’t edit down his answer. Here it is in its entirety. “I'm not concerned about Kirk at all in the effect of how he's playing the football game. I think he's got -- if you were on that field on Saturday and saw some of the throws from the sideline, he was -- I mean, he had great velocity on the ball, he was putting it right on the money. So I'm not concerned at all in that area.

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What I would be concerned about is just people's mindset as you move forward, pressures that people are under playing in front of 105,000 people, national TV, all these things that a quarterback comes under. We have to be able to deflate as people. And he does so much in the community. There are very high expectations that he places on himself, and I think people have very high expectations of him, whether you're a head coach, assistant coach, coordinator, fan, whatever, and that can wear on a person sometimes, and I want him to have fun.

Hopefully that's the only thing that I see that needs to be corrected. He does a great job managing our football team. You're taking the ball from center every single play. That's every single play the quarterback has to make a decision; do I run this play; do I run that play; do I stay with the play called; do I change the protection; what blitz, what coverage am I looking at; where do I throw the ball relative to this coverage as opposed to that coverage; do I have to throw hot, where my hot receiver is; if they bring pressure we can't pick it up because the numbers are such that a back may free release or these different type of things. What are my steps in terms of handing off the football; do I hand my hands up under the center; how am I taking a shotgun snap.

There are so many things that a quarterback has to handle and has to deal with on a play in and play out situation throughout an entire football game, and let's face it, sometimes there's going to be mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. But the mistakes that a quarterback makes, when there is a mistake, I think they get magnified because he is so paramount to the success of every single program, he is so essential in every single play.

So those mistakes get magnified, much like the mistakes a head football coach may make gets magnified. All in all, he's doing an outstanding job, won 11 football games last year. He also was a factor the year before in 2009 in terms of just a very steady factor, in terms of a very difficult season in 2009, and then this year we're 4 and 1, and our football is in front of us. I feel good about how he's playing. I think that naturally the quarterback I think sometimes gets a lot of praise. Sometimes maybe that's not all warranted; receiver makes a great catch, whatever. But I also think the reverse is true; sometimes the quarterback gets an awful lot of criticism. That's what I think. That was the long version.”


A bye week not only helps the players react, it also helps the coaches think about the future and recruiting. Dantonio addressed that subject. “Well, recruiting I think has become so accelerated right now that you're really out looking -- you're really out saying here are the seniors we have left on the board, here are the guys committed to us, let's make sure we go see them and watch them play, visit with their coach. Also here are the guys that we're still recruiting. Not very many, we don't have many scholarships left. And then here are the juniors. We need to see the juniors.”


Coming into the season Dantonio’s biggest concern had to be the offensive line. He talked about where they stand after five games. “I think our offensive line is coming. I saw a better performance by Dan France, Micajah Reynolds played some, probably not as much as we would have thought going into the game, but France was holding his own. And on the other side I thought Fou played well, as well, and I thought the center played well, other than a bad snap early in the game. I thought he played very well. Our guards are consistent, very consistent. They've played at this level before, and expectations are higher for them.”


Dantonio’s biggest comments that had to do with football of course were about Cousins.  But if you were looking for the most notable it would be about his team and the Adam Sandler movie “Water Boy.”  As you know Denicos Allen had a flying tackle similar to what the Sandler character had in the movie. Dantonio addressed it. “We took a movie that maybe our players had watched 10, 12 years ago. They had four different movies they could pick from, so they picked "The Water Boy," okay, and so I said, well, the only thing I'm going to ask is we all be in there together, that we're all together doing something together before the game. We're just together, just experiencing things together and just being happy about being together, not go our own ways for an hour, hour and a half.

So we all watched "The Water Boy" together, including the coaches. Have you ever seen "The Water Boy"? So that picture just depicted exactly what he did. It was a great movie for our guys. They had fun with it. Even at halftime I just said, hey, visualize an attack, just like in the movie. And there goes Denicos flying over the running back and hitting the quarterback. That one will probably go down as a little momentum for all of our guys. It was a good feeling. It was a good feeling going into the game. It was a good feeling Friday night. We were focused, we knew what we were supposed to do, played with a lot of enthusiasm, and it was fun. And I think going into the game we were going to make it fun, and I think that's what we have to do.

Some of this can wear you down. The pressures of this game, regardless of what position you play, I think can wear you down as well as being a coach. My wife always tells me, hey, you need to have fun with this sometimes. You can tell I'm on the sideline and really having fun a lot. But I think she's right, and this needs to be -- this is a game, and we need to continue to try and find ways to make it fun for our players, so that was one of the ways we did it.

So that picture that you're talking about, is that the one you're talking about when he's flying over the guys? That will probably go up, we'll have a little caption underneath it, "The Water Boy," and it'll be hanging somewhere around here.”