Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio strives for normalcy, James Rogers has 'full body cramp' and more
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
Mark Dantonio stood at the top of the Michigan Stadium tunnel, just outside the Michigan State locker room. He slowly walked from player to player, assistant coach to assistant coach, doling out hugs and smiles.
The fourth-year Spartans head coach watched his team dismantle its biggest rival Michigan, 34-17, from in the press box for the first time in his career. It was his first game back since suffering a heart attack after Michigan State beat Notre Dame, 34-31, on Sept. 18 - and he was thrilled.
Nothing gets Dantonio going like beating Michigan.
“This trumped the (Wisconsin) game,” Dantonio said. “When you play Michigan and when you win away, it’s special. We’ve done something that hasn’t been done in 47 years - win three in a row - that’s special. That’s something you can talk about the rest of your life.”
Michigan State won three games in a row in the series for the first time since 1965-67.
Dantonio strived for as much normalcy as possible. He stayed on the field until kickoff before heading to the coaches’ box for the game. He went to practices this week. His coordinators - Don Treadwell on offense and Pat Narduzzi on defense - handled the game planning.
After Saturday’s game, Dantonio’s players celebrated with the Paul Bunyan Trophy at midfield, then ran to the southwest corner of Michigan Stadium to jump around with fans and the Michigan State band.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins ran up the tunnel after that, yelling “Yes!” That’s when he saw Dantonio and the two embraced again. He wanted normalcy. He got more than that.
“I wanted them to know I was OK,” Dantonio said about staying on the field until kickoff. “I wanted to try and do things like we normally do. I wanted to experience this football game close up, and that’s the way we wanted to do it. I didn’t want to have to ask somebody else to do something.”
One of the more curious Michigan decisions on a day full of them was when the Wolverines trailed 34-17 midway through the fourth quarter, they punted.
The call by Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez elicited the first boos for Michigan at home all season. Afterward, Rodriguez talked about it.
“Probably a mistake,” Rodriguez said. “I thought we’d get a quick turnaround, maybe get a minute and a half or two minutes off the clock. And we did get the stop, and then we run into the punter and give them the first down again.
“If I had do-overs, I wouldn’t punt. I was trying to get their attention, but it was too late. That was my fault.”
Injury on top of insult
Michigan, on top of losing, had several players leave the game with injury.
Junior wide receiver Martavious Odoms “may have a broken foot” according to Rodriguez. Junior nose tackle Mike Martin left the game with an unspecified injury.
Martin was seen walking slowly into a van after the game.
Senior cornerback James Rogers had what defensive backs coach Tony Gibson called “a full body cramp” in the second half and did not return. He is expected to return next week.
After Rogers went down, Michigan went to freshman cornerback Cullen Christian.
Sensing a potential mismatch, Michigan State went right at Christian - resulting in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Mark Dell.
“He’s got to be ready,” Gibson said. “We’re (Troy) Woolfolk down, James Rogers down. Unless you want to play.”
The next series, freshman Terrence Talbott replaced Christian.
Every week, freshman Jibreel Black has seen more and more snaps. Playing behind Ryan Van Bergen, he has emerged as one of the more reliable young defenders.
“The coaches are letting me show what I can do and having faith in me on the field,” Black said. “I guess the coaches see I can help the team out, so they put me on the field.”
Black had an assisted tackle Saturday, but has also been consistent enough to give Van Bergen rest when he needs it.
“The crowd itself, that was crazy,” Black said. “I haven’t been in front of that many people before. It was very intense.”
This and that
The crowd of 113,065 was the second-largest in Michigan Stadium history. Offensive lineman Zac Ciullo and defensive tackle Dominique Ware were named game captains. Both are walk-ons. Freshman kicker Seth Broekhuizen made his first career field goal, a 34-yarder, in the first quarter.