And in college football, the face of the program is quite often the coach, so the association is quite natural. When you think of Michigan State Spartans football you probably think of Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio, his gutsy play-calling versus Notre Dame, and the mild attack heart he suffered. Sure ILB Greg Jones is MSU’s most talented player, QB Kirk Cousins it’s most well known, but the media attention on Dantonio undoubtedly makes him their star.
Dantonio took some time off after his heart attack, coached a couple games in the box, and returned to the sidelines Saturday at Northwestern. And when he went to the press room he brought with a sassy sense of humor.
Something he wasn’t publicly known for previously.
By Paul M. Banks
Actually, humor was the last thing I would ever associate with a Dantonio press conference heading into today. At Big Ten Media Day, he was borderline robotic during his time at the podium.
But he certainly was witty in Evanston Saturday. And showed that he’s in perfect health. He even closed the presser by answering a question that included joking change in voice tone, as he stated: “I’ve always been a risk-taker.” (Would have been even better if delivered the line sporting a cowboy hat, handle bar mustache and a bolo tie).
He rarely changes his tone of voice when doing these press conferences, so that was kind of a big deal!
On the unnecessary touchdown towards the end after the lead had already been secured…
“I’m sure Vegas liked it”
MSU pulled into their bag of tricks again, converting a key fourth down on a fake punt in NU territory and thereby inverting the whole story arc of the game in just one play:
“It was a mouse trap. We had to get them to take the cheese. We felt like they would drop their receiver and after 15 yards, we felt like we could sneak one in there, especially with Aaron Bates. It’s timing, it’s execution, I just named the play.”
On the prodigious amount of plays Northwestern runs every game, including this one.
“How many plays did they run today? (reporter informs him it was 77) It felt like it was 177!”
“Emotion is a very, very strong thing and I think they had the emotion in the first half. I don’t think we were feeling our way through it.”
On the strategy of taking the delay of game penalty before setting up the fake punt, as an integral part of the play-call…
“We did take a delay of game to back it up, because we wanted to create more separation between the punt returner and the guy who has the opportunity to catch the pass, so that was a part of it.
(pause and then deadpan delivery that would make Sasha Baron Cohen proud) The other part of it was Bennie lined up on the wrong side.”
On a side note, in the three years prior to Dantonio’s arrival, State was 5-19 in October and November. Under him they are 17-9, so he has indeed turned this program around.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank