EAST LANSING - Mark Dantonio knows senior day can be emotional.
But when one of the most successful senior classes in Michigan State history suits up for the last time at Spartan Stadium Saturday for a chance at 10 wins, he expects the emotion to be a good thing.
"Senior day is an emotional day," Dantonio said. "It's the last time they're able to play in Spartan Stadium. Some of out seniors have been here really for four years, others have been here for five. And in the last four years they've had tremendous success here as a group."
This senior class - led by captains Aaron Bates and Greg Jones, and star players like Mark Dell, Charlie Gantt, Eric Gordon, Marcus Hyde, Colin Neely, Chris L.Rucker, John Stipek, D.J.Young, and Jon Misch - has a combined record of 31-18 (.632), including four straight bowl appearances.
The 31 wins equals the most victories ever recorded by a senior class in MSU's 114-year football history, tying the class of 1990 .
"It will be an emotional experience for them. I hope they play loose. I hope they have fun. I hope they remember their time here.
"Obviously, when you play on senior day it helps if you win your football game, otherwise it's sort of a downer. We've got to get ready to do that. But I think emotion is good. I personally think if we play emotional, we play better."
A big key to getting the win will be neutralizing the threat of Purdue senior defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan currently ranks No. 1 in the country in tackles for loss, averaging 2.35 per game, and is second in sacks.
Kerrigan was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after his performance against Michigan, where he had 10 solo tackles, five tackles for loss, and tied a school record with four sacks while forcing two fumbles and recovering one.
That brought Kerrigan's career forced fumbles total to 14, which set a new Big Ten record and tied the NCAA record. The previous mark of 13 was set by Illinois' Simeon Rice (1992-95) and Iowa's Bob Sanders (2000-03).
"We didn't play with great technique when we played against the great ones, the guys at Iowa or some of these other players, and Kerrigan the defensive end will be no different," Dantonio said. "But pass protection involves so many different aspects. It involves the running backs, it involves the tight ends, it involves the quarterback in terms of what type of protection, what type of play action.
"But we have to negate the things that Kerrigan does as a football team. And that's really where it starts when you attack Purdue."
Dantonio did note on Tuesday that true freshman defensive end William Gholston will be out for the rest of the 2010 season, including the bowl game.
"He had surgery to repair his shoulder, so he will be out the rest of the season," Dantonio said. "We felt like we could have waited and he could have probably come back and played the bowl game, but he would have missed the entire spring practice for that.
"So we felt like because he's a true freshman and he's such a big upside to us that we need to have him there for spring ball and that's the decision that he and his family made along with the coaching staff."