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Dantonio has Spartans ready to compete

Bill Brink | Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mark Dantonio certainly knows how to forget last week’s problems and bury the pain in Xs and Os.

“If I sat down and said, hey, you got to play cover four, wizard red magic, those types of things – it means nothing to anybody here,” he said Tuesday.


“When you run a cut route, have a moving tray, it means nothing to anybody sitting here or any fans, but it means something to our players,” he went on.

Spell-casting and moving trays aside, Dantonio’s point, he said, was that his team knows it has problems but if the players are truly invested in the program, the Spartans can fix them.

“We have to re-gather ourselves and find strength in each other,” he said.

As much as Charlie Weis knows the importance of Saturday’s game, Dantonio does too.

“This is a big rivalry game for us,” he said.

Dantonio has run into former Spartans from years past who talk about their memories of playing Notre Dame.

“They all talk to you about the past games and what it’s all meant to them, so it’s a very important game,” he said.

Dantonio, who took over Michigan State on?Nov. 27, 2006, after six years as an assistant, is in his third season with the Spartans. He’s enjoyed good fortune over the Irish, winning the two games he’s coached against Notre Dame. But then, Michigan State has done well as a whole against the Irish. Notre Dame has only won three games against the Spartans since 1997.

What’s more, Notre Dame hasn’t beaten Michigan State in South Bend since 1993 – when Michael Floyd was three.

Dantonio chalked it up to fundamentals, but acknowledged other factors were at work in Michigan State’s success.

“Things have happened,” he said. “We’ve not turned the ball over. We’ve done things that allow us to win.”

But he said, “I’m sure there is an emotional edge to both teams when you play in this game.”

The Spartans lost a close game to Central Michigan last Saturday. A missed field goal by Central Michigan should have ended the game, but an offsides penalty gave the Chippewas a second chance and they converted, winning 29-27.

Dantonio said he and the team will move on.

“We’ll focus on the future. Right now, the focus is on Notre Dame,” Dantonio said.

Dantonio, like Weis, had to deal with a team that was down in the dumps after a tough, final-minute loss. And like Weis, Dantonio said he felt good about where his players were Sunday.

“So what we have to do is understand that this is a game. I know [the outcome] of it influences a lot of people, but at the same time, you move forward and you play the next game,” he said. “That’s what we’ll do.”

Good thing to remember for Colin Neely, the guilty party who jumped offsides and gave Central Michigan another shot.

“Colin is having a tough time right now, much like all of us,” Dantonio said. “All I’ve asked our team to do and what I do is ask what could I hav done differently?

“There are thing that happened prior to that snap where we could have gotten out of this game and won the football game.”