November 22, 2013

Radio Rewind: 'We've been good in November'

EAST LANSING - Thursday's Mark Dantonio Show, as it has done each week since the start of the season, recapped Michigan State's performance from the previous Saturday.

This recap followed a huge victory at Nebraska - in a place where MSU had never won against a team the Spartans had never beaten.

As a matter of fact, in seven previous meetings, the Cornhuskers had outscored MSU teams by an average 33.2-8.7 points a game dating back to the start of the series back in 1914.

But on Saturday, the Spartans took care of business to gain full control of their own Legends Division destiny with an impressive 41-28 victory.

And in Lincoln, Nebraska, a place that has historically been a nightmare trip for many programs, the Spartans were able to answer every Nebraska challenge as pointed out by radio show host George Blaha.

"That's what impressed me the most about our football team, the way we were able to respond in that environment,'' Dantonio said. "Every time Nebraska would cut it to six or even cut it to three at the one point, we would open up another gap. I thought offensively, we did some outstanding things, we came up with five turnovers on defense. And then on special teams, we have a statistic called hidden yardage, which has to do with where they get the ball, where we get the ball, back and forth, back and forth with punts and turnovers and things like that are averaged in there. And if your hidden yardage is around 100 yards, if you win by about 100 yards, that's really pretty good. You sort of feel good about your special teams and different things that have happened. We won that game with 315 yards of hidden yardage.

"So I was very impressed with our football team, the way we approached the football game and then played it. It was a great game for us.''

From there, Blaha wanted to give some extra credit to linebackers and special teams coach Mike Tressel. But Dantonio took it one step further by informing everyone about the way responsibilities among the coaches break down week to week.

"Yeah, you really do (have to give Tressel a lot of credit for the success on special teams) but the way we split up our special teams, Mike is our special teams coordinator, then Harlon Barnett has our kickoff team, Mike does the punt team and the punt return team, Brad Salem has our kickoff return team, and then Mark Staten has our field goal team and he names some names every now and then. He gives us a couple names to call things. So Charlie Brown's on him and then Ron Burton is our field goal block (coach). So we have a person in charge of each of those and they have a small staff that works with them.''

But of course, looking forward to Northwestern, a team that Dantonio has gone 4-2 against since his arrival, the coach was quick to point out what's at stake and what MSU will be playing for on Saturday at noon in Evanston, Ill.

An outright Legends Division crown.

And the Spartans are 16-5 in November under Dantonio with wins in 10 of the program's last 12 games in November.

"You want to be playing your best football as you enter into the month of November and then come out of the month of November playing your best as well or even better,'' Dantonio said. "That's our goal and that's been our goal since day one. We've been good in November in the past and we need to continue to be able to do that.''


Dance fever

So it was bound to come up and like clockwork, the show's first caller wanted to get the inside scoop on the team's and coaches postgame celebrations, which have gotten some attention lately because MSU's coaches have been requested by the players to get in the lockerroom circle and dance.

While Dantonio seemed hesitant to give the growing story more life, he relented with an explanation of the postgame dancing celebrations.

With a somewhat uncomfortable preceding laugh, Dantonio chronicled the origin of the dancing after victories.

"Okay, so here's the story on that,'' he said. "Dabo Swinney from Clemson has become a good friend of ours, Becky (Dantonio) and myself, and so I was visiting with him last year and we always share different stories about different things that we're doing - coaches do that - and he mentions that one of things that he believes is that when you win it's got to be a great celebration. So he started saying that he would make the decision on the song that he would bring in and if they won, he'd just cut it loose in there and they'd all dance and jump up and down.''

Dantonio said he liked the idea and that the first time the Spartans did the dancing was after the spring scrimmage but that it was kept very quiet. Well that privacy went awry after Dantonio made a promise to his team in regards to his participation.

"We were able to keep it quiet all the way until the Michigan game because I told them I wouldn't dance until the Michigan game and that's the only one I was going to dance at. So, when we won, obviously I was happy so . . . we do what we do.'' Dantonio said. "But our players enjoy it, I think it's a great way to celebrate and it's just sort of become a tradition. It's not meant for show to anybody, it's just a way for us to celebrate, be together, come together as a team and have fun with each other. We really were able to keep it quiet through, I guess, eight game or nine games and then somehow it got out.''


Mom, I'm home

We've heard it time and time again when MSU's players are asked why they chose Michigan State over other schools that the one thing that always seems to be repeated is the family environment and the home atmosphere that the Spartans program provides its players.

And that was no different on Thursday when sophomore fullback Trevon Pendleton and second-year wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. appeared on the radio show.

Especially Kings Jr., who was a highly recruited commodity out of football-rich Florida.

When Dantonio asked him why he chose MSU over offers from schools like Georgia, Wisconsin and Louisville, Kings didn't hesitate in his explanation.

"The reason I came here is because I felt like it was a home environment,'' Kings Jr. said. "It made me feel like I was right at home. Coach D, he always kept it real with me and he never lied to me. Most coaches they'll usually lie to you just to get you to commit to their school and Coach D didn't do that and I respected him for that. So that was the main reason I came here was because of the home environment and leaving home, all the way from Florida, my mom wanted to make sure it was the same. So if my mom was comfortable with it, I was too.''

More love for Sadler

In continuing with the special teams talk, Blaha brought up junior punter Mike Sadler
While the award's winner is usually determined by average per punt, Dantonio brought up a point that should make Sadler one of the top contenders for the award.

"He has great ability. He's also our holder and obviously our 5th team or 6th team running back,'' said Dantonio, to the delight of the crowd since Sadler owns an 18 yards per carry average after three career rushing attempts. "But Mike has timing and he's mastered the art of turning the ball over much like Aaron Bates did. He does a tremendous job. I think he's the second-leading punter in the conference but when you formulate all of those different punts inside the 10 (he has put nearly 20 punts inside the 10-yard line), I would expect for him to be a first team All-Big Ten punter.''

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