September 22, 2009

Dantonio expects confidence, energy and focus

EAST LANSING - Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio is confident that his ballclub will prepare for the upcoming Big Ten conference opener at Wisconsin with resolve and determination coming up short for the second consecutive week in a game that the Spartans could have won.

Starting the season 1-2 puts Michigan State behind schedule on the season. But Dantonio was quick to point out during his Tuesday press conference that a slow start does not mean that his team will continue to spiral downward.

During his first season at Michigan State, Dantonio took a 4-0 record into the Big Ten opener at Wisconsin. After losing to the Badgers, the Spartans saw their fortunes change before winning their final two games of the 2007 to take a 7-5 record into their bowl game against Boston College.

"When you become involved in those type of football games, you become tougher," said Dantonio. "You should become more resilient. I think that's the nature of human beings. When you're backed up a little bit, you are going to fight a little harder.

"I wish it was different, but it's a lot easier to coach when you are 3-0 than when you are 1-2, but you continue to have faith in your players. And we definitely have faith in our players and we have faith in each other that we can get it done.

"The key is just to continue to fight through your tough situations. It will turn."

Michigan State won nine games during Dantonio's second season by prevailing in the type of games the Spartans have lost thus far in 2009. But the third-year Spartan coach is confident that his team will turn the corner.

"Last year we won a couple of games, the Wisconsin game was one of them, that it didn't look very possible that we were going to win. But we turned it around and won that game. So it goes both ways. But you have to make the plays on the field. But I think our confidence is high, our energy is high and our focus will be there.

"The one thing we had last week that we don't have this week is 'poor-me's'. This week we don't have 'poor-me's.' I think we'll be ready to go."

The play of Kirk Cousins is one reason why Dantonio is confident moving forward. When asked about Monday morning quarterbacks dogging Cousins for the interception he threw in the red-zone that sealed a victory for Notre Dame, Dantonio was resolute in his support for the former Holland Christian star who leads the Big Ten and ranks No. 14 in the nation in pass efficiency through three games.

"Which armchair quarterback is talking like that? Tell him to have another cup of coffee.

"He did an outstanding job in the game. He was extremely poised. He went to work two times in a two-minute situation and went right down the field. One time to score the touchdown, the other time emotions got the best of him.

"For the people that are sitting out there, wondering. That's not going to happen. If we make a decision on the quarterbacks it will be because one guy is playing better than the other, one guy is getting the job done.

"Keith Nichol went in there. I thought he did well. In the second half, I just felt like from a game management standpoint we needed to be a little bit better. And if the reverse happens, then we will go the other direction. We are going to try to put the guys in there who are going to win. This is not a popularity contest. So the guys that are functional on the field will get the opportunities.

"Whoever is talking out there like that, the end result is if he would have scored they would be talking about him like he is Joe Montana. We'll have to take Joe off the pickle boat."

Dantonio's reference to the pickle boat is a colloquialism best explained by the reference source, Urban Dictionary. Below is a link to a definition.

pickle boat.

While Cousins is staying put at quarterback, Dantonio did comment on the latest depth chart which includes Kendell Davis-Clark as the starter at boundary corner over Chris L. Rucker and Chris Norman as the starter at SAM linebacker over Jon Misch.

"Kendell Davis-Clark is a guy who has been nicked up early on. He was a starter coming into fall camp at a safety position. He played exclusively at corner in '07. He is a good blitzer. He is physical. So I think he deserved an opportunity to go back out and play that corner position.

"Chrls L. Rucker is an outstanding football player, but he has to make plays. He has to make plays."

Trenton Robinson will get the start at free safety for the second consecutive week over veteran Danny Fortener.

"We are looking at the same situation right now with Danny Fortener," said Dantonio. "I think Danny has done a great job. He is a great player, a great person. He does a great job on special teams. He had a solid year last year, but Trenton Robinson has come in and played very well. You play the players that give you that opportunity.

"There are things that are correctable. We will be sound back there. They will be focused. They will be confident. It's the nature of playing back there. In this day and age, there are going to be big plays. In this day and age, you have to have a short memory. You have to get over it and be able to move on."

Dantonio likes what he saw from Norman at Notre Dame and he believes that Norman will continue to grow each week.

"He was extremely anxious about that start. But I think the more he plays the better he will become. He is an instinctive player when he turns it loose. When he is thinking, he is a little slow, just like most of us.

"We have to be patient. But at the same time you can't allow mistakes that will be costly. We have to put in a comprehensive defense, but allow it to be simple for him."

  • Mark Dantonio Press Conference


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