October 17, 2009
Dantonio post-game press conference video and audio
EAST LANSING - After his team began the season 1-3, third-year Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said that he would learn a lot about the players in his football program by the way they responded to adversity.
Nearly a month has passed since the Spartans lost their last football game at Wisconsin to open Big Ten play. Since that time, Michigan State has reeled off three straight wins over conference opponents beginning with a home win over rival Michigan, then a road win over Illinois, before Saturday's homecoming win over Northwestern.
The 24-14 victory puts Michigan State above the .500 mark for the first time since the first week of the 2009 football season. It also sets up a showdown with Iowa, who is the lone remaining unbeaten team in the Big Ten.
"It is a huge opportunity for Michigan State," said Dantonio of playing Iowa. "Look at the last two years we've been involved with Iowa it has been a double overtime game over there and a very, very close game played to the last play over here last year. I know that our guys understand that we are going to be in this football game and that we can play at the level."
Michigan State cannot afford to leave points on the field against Iowa the way they did against Northwestern. The Spartans pounced on Northwestern out of the gate and moved the ball to the Wildcat goal line before turning the ball over on downs. The Wildcat defense was invigorated by the goal line stand and played above their heads the remainder of the first half as a result.
"Things just roll sometimes," said Dantonio of being stymied at the goal line, "and you have to give Northwestern credit because they came to play and they were active."
Michigan State trailed 7-0 at the half. The Spartans tied the game at 7-7 early in the third quarter on a 22-yard scoring strike from Kirk Cousins to Blair White seven plays after Chris L. Rucker stripped Northwestern receiver Drake Dunsmore after a 9-yard gain inside Michigan State territory.
The Spartans took a 14-7 lead on a 47-yard pass from Cousins to White, who finished with a career-high for receptions (12), receiving yards (186) and receiving touchdowns (2) in a game against Northwestern.
After breaking through and taking the lead, Michigan State pounced on Northwestern with a 28-yard field goal off the foot of Brett Swenson and a 22-yard touchdown run by Larry Caper after Ashton Henderson pounced on a muffed kick-return attempt by the Wildcats.
"It felt like Michigan State made those plays in a finger snap," said Dunsmore, a sophomore slotback for the Wildcats. "It was kind of heartbreaking. But we are a team that does not stop fighting and we played until the end."
Cousins struggled to find his rhythm in the first half, but the sophomore captain threw several clutch passes in the second half, many on third down.
"I felt like he would work himself out of that," said Dantonio of the slow start by Cousins. "He is a very good quarterback. He has a great head on his shoulders. He started playing with poise back there, throwing the ball on the money and he ended up having a pretty big game I would imagine."
Michigan State has struggled cashing in on some of its scoring opportunities in 2009. During the Spartans' three-game winning streak, there have been several missed opportunities.
"A couple of missed opportunities in there, but we are a young football team and sometimes there is going to be mistakes," explained Dantonio. "But we will take the win, believe me. It was not easy and at the end of the game, I am just ready for a nap, basically."
One of those mistakes was made by true freshman running back Edwin Baker, who made his first appearance season the season-opener against Montana State. Baker fumbled the ball in the second quarterback, but recovered nicely with the strong second half.
Before the season-ending injury to sophomore Glenn Winston, Michigan State had been resolved to red-shirt Baker. With Winston no longer available after tearing his ACL at Illinois two weekends ago, Dantonio made the decision to activate the true freshman from Detroit.
"There is no doubt that he is an outstanding running back," said Dantonio. "After watching film all week and watching everybody play, we tried to make the best decision we could for this football team and we are always going to look for the opportunity to win. He gave us the best chance at this point in time, we believed, and we knew that he would continue to improve and that he was special in that area so we decided to go with it."
MARK DANTONIO POST-GAME
Click the links below for audio and video of Dantonio's post-game press conference. The video link below features the same content as the video embedded in the story above. The audio features Dantonio's complete postgame press conference.
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