News and Notes from Spartan Football

 

Mark Dantonio and his Spartans prepare for their annual civil war with Michigan and he is fired up!

 

Dantonio talked about how this rivalry has grown and taken on a life of it’s own under his leadership.  He alluded with some regret for the 2007 response to the Mike Hart, “Little Brother” comments.  “That whole dynamic, huh? Some of it I’m proud of, some of it I’m not, I guess. You know, I just believe in making things — the things that are important that people hold great value in, which I believe this game is one of them. I believe in making it important, and doing certain things to try and put an asterisk behind that game.

 

Because, first of all, when you play in this game, I think our freshmen right now maybe understand a little bit of T maybe their freshmen understand a little bit of it, but when you play in this game or on the sidelines in this game, you’ve got a different feel for it. That’s a beautiful thing. That’s what rivalries are all about, whether you’re playing in this game or a different rivalry, it’s going to be the same. Those become very special.

 

As far as what we’ve tried to do since coming here, we put a countdown clock up, because from day one, when we walked in here we pointed toward that’s, and there were others that said that we couldn’t. So we wanted to make a point. I think we’ve made the point and we’ll move on from there.”  What regrets?  “ ….I guess, some of my comments after the ’07 game. But, hey, I was emotional, so, it happens.”

 

I had to ask Dantonio about how he mentions this game is different.  Can he tell it from the fans and how loud they are?  “I think everybody’s coming. When I say you bring your A-game to this game, everybody’s coming, bringing their A-game. The Spartans are out here in this stadium, they’ll bring their A-game, I promise you. I think the Wolverines that are fortunate enough to come will probably have their A-game on too.

 

But I’ve heard stories walking into this stadium, just people walking up to other people and saying things out of the blue. I think people come — they come with a mindset to this game. It’s not just any other game. This is a special game, not just to the players, but to families, for friends for a lot of different people in this state.”

 

Under the leadership of Dantonio the Spartans have the number one defense in the nation.  Nationally renown as a defensive genius when he was a DC, how good is your defense Coach?  “I think you have to evaluate a football team after they’ve gone through an entire schedule. I think they played well. Our guys know what they’re doing. They’ve tackled well in space, and we’ll find out how well on Saturday. The chips and the stakes will get higher as we go.

 

You know, the evaluation of the performance is going to get more complete as we go. But, thus far, we’ve passed the test. Now will we pass the test of time here throughout the season, throughout the 2011 season, but we’re coming. We’re a confident football team as well, so we’ll lay it out there.”

 

Will the bye week help Kirk Cousins get back on track?  “I think our entire football team were able to step back, reflect on where we’re at and what we have to do in the next football game. So that remains to be seen as we move forward.

 

He’ll be sharp. He’ll be ready to go. As much as anything, we’ve got some people back and healed up that I think are in a little bit better shape physically right now in terms of playing with injuries. It wasn’t that they were out, necessarily, but they would play injured. I don’t think that’s the case right now.”

 

As if it is possible, can being in the same division in the Big Ten even make this game bigger?  “Yeah, it does take on an added meaning because of the tiebreakers and all the different things that go into it. I also think the winner of this football game obviously goes on to 2-0 in the Big 10, and 2-0 in the Legends. So we’ll see how well that plays out with everybody else. But it put that’s particular team on top right now.”

 

With so much talk about recruiting I asked Dantonio how does it specifically impact that.  “Well, recruiting has become so accelerated that everybody’s sort of lined up already for this year, but I think what it does is it impacts those guys that are ninth and tenth graders at this time, maybe 12th, 11th graders as well. But I think it has a bearing on the future. So it’s critical in that respect.
Although probably for this state in particular, like I said, you’re growing up one way or the other usually. Maybe it doesn’t have as much as we think, but you certainly feel like it.”

 

On the health of Tyler Hoover, Bennie Fowler and Blake Treadwell Dantonio was very candid.  “Yeah, Hoover and Treadwell will not play. I think Benny will probably play. That’s my take on things right now. But right now Tyler and Blake are both guys that are out probably for three, maybe three weeks or plus more, and maybe candidates for red shirts.”

 

Last year Tony Lippett was a star playing Dennard Robinson on the scout team.  Is that the same plan this year?  “Yeah, we’ve used a variety of players. Mitchell White’s a guy that we slide in and out of there, even though he’s a back-up corner for us. He’s played, but he was a quarterback in high school, quick-footed. You know, we’ll use Tony a little bit in that area.

 

Spencer Elliott’s a young freshman that’s played quarterback. A very good athlete. So he’s played in that area as well. So we sort of take our practice and divide it up in terms of when we’re going against scouts and when we’re going against a little higher profile scout — not scout team, but take our best players and put them in there and implement them into different situations that he would do.

 

Obviously, we can’t do that throughout the entire practice. We have to be careful not to get people injured. But we need to see game speed as much as we can, as best as we can simulate it.”

 

MSU was the first team to shut down Dennard Robinson last year.  How did he do that?  “I think we’ve played well the last two years against them. Really the last three, ’08, ’09, and ’10, we played well against them. Some of the thing that’s we do, we try to change up some of the things that we do.

 

Maybe more importantly, as I said, our players have come ready to play, we’ve been able to tackle in space pretty well, and we’ve come up with turnovers and done the different thing that’s you have to do to win a football game, so they haven’t scored 30-plus points. That’s always a big, contributing factor there, so that’s what we’ve been able to do thus far.”

 

Is he taking time to encourage the senior class to finish strong and go 4-0 against the Wolverines?  “I’m encouraging it, that’s for sure. I think 4-0 is great, 5-0 is better. But we’ll keep working towards it. Right now the main emphasis is on the next game. What’s happened, what’s done is done, and we have to play these one game at a time.

 

I think that’s something that our football team and our players can look at and embrace as they move forward. I think that is the case with any rival game though too?”

 

The Wolverines have said this is the most physical and hardest hitting game.  Why is that?  “I think it’s just going to happen. It’s a physical game. Football is a physical game, and usually if you’re playing more physical than your opponent, you have a greater chance to win. So that goes without saying.

 

I think our ideals this week have to be bring it to Saturday. Bring whatever you have to Saturday. Don’t bring it on Tuesday, bring it on Saturday. That’s why we want to make sure we’re in control of ourselves and getting ready to play. This is very much a game of emotion, but it is very much a game of execution as well.

 

You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time. You’ve got to have the right things called at times, but players are making plays out there. Like I said, the game does belong to players, but it’s important that they execute. Attention to detail is critical in this game as it is in every football game, I think. Margin of error, though, when you’re playing a guy like Denard Robinson, the margin of error is very small.”