Mark Dantonio: We’re Building An Identity, We Should Only Get Better

In a game Notre Dame had to have, Michigan State scored 36 unanswered points in less than two quarters and held on to win, 36-28.

Not bad for your first road game of the year.

“I thought that our players came (to South Bend) prepared,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We felt like we were going to have to go and play a tough-minded game and we were going to have some adversity emotionally and also physically we had to be strong. The way the game shaped up, the turnovers played such a huge part in it early on. But I thought we played pretty well in the first quarter, very well the second and third and then had to scramble a little bit back in the fourth to regain momentum, which we got on that last series. But (if you) stop the run and run the football, good things are going to happen.”

Tyler O’Connor finished 19-of-26 for 241 yards, two touchdowns and an interception and also ran for 43 yards. Gerald Holmes and L.J. Scott, meanwhile, rushed 35 times for 198 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.

The Spartans are now 6-1 in their last seven games against ranked teams, including wins over Oregon, Michigan and Ohio State. And yet, No. 8 Michigan State rarely seems to get the respect it deserves.

“Everybody keeps talking about the chip on our shoulder as we go through these years,” Dantonio said. “Really, what we’ve always tried to do is challenge our players to be at their best at game time. The chip comes from within in terms of how you’re going to handle the next challenge. After a big game, how do we play? After a big loss, how do we play? After a big win, how do we play? We’re constantly talking about that, challenging ourselves. As far as the outside perception, you’ll get what you deserve at some point or another. It’s going to all come to fruition. It’s early in the season right now. We lost some good players, lost a great quarterback so we’ve got some new guys in there and we’re building an identity. But I like the direction we’re going at this point. We should only get better.”

Michigan State (2-0) hosts No. 11 Wisconsin (3-0) this Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

This is the Badgers’ first trip to East Lansing since Kirk Cousins’ infamous Hail Mary heave to Keith Nichol in October 2011. Many of Dantonio’s players are probably aware of that play, but it won’t factor into the equation this weekend.

“I think most of our players sort of live in the present,” Dantonio said. “We’re five years removed from that. I do believe that they watch film and understand the challenge that’s ahead of them. Wisconsin is 3-0, they’ve beaten LSU (and) played very well their last two games. I think they understand the challenge in front of them is current. But I think the culture has been established by the years past in terms of winning, winning close and winning at the end or challenging each other. But I think they live present day.”

So are Big Ten fans. The league has had a great showing thus far this year, with Wisconsin beating LSU, Michigan State beating Notre Dame and Ohio State beating Oklahoma. Four Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 11 of the AP poll and in the top 10 of the Coaches Poll.

“I think we’ve always had a great league here,” said Dantonio, who has won three Big Ten championships and is a two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year. “We play a high-quality football, big crowds, big stages, nationally televised games, premium games. Usually these games, even if you lose by 10, they’re relatively close games. I think in this case, every team that’s had these opportunities have measured up and that’s a positive for the league and you’re seeing the result of that.”

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