Michigan State Spartans, Mark Dantonio Won't Make Excuses

Joe GSenior Writer IOctober 18, 2008

It finally happened.

Mark Dantonio finally lost a game as Michigan State's head coach by more than a touchdown. If you're going to do something, do it in spectacular fashion, right?

The Ohio State Buckeyes blew out the Michigan State Spartans by a score of 45-7, and it was a well-deserved result.

Ohio State won every aspect of that game by a wide margin and in the process revitalized their Big Ten title hopes going into next week's matchup against Penn State, a game that should essentially decide the conference title.

But one of Mark Dantonio's best qualities is his refusal to make excuses after a loss. He recognizes when his team gets outplayed and uses the result to get better. You can bet on that happening next week against Michigan.

Last year at this time, MSU was learning that it's very difficult to win close games. Their victory over Iowa proved that they have figured out how to close out those tight games.

Thanks to a solid running attack, a great kicker, and plenty of discipline instilled by Dantonio, MSU should be plenty successful in those close games down the road.

Now, the Spartans must take the next step towards becoming a great program again. They have to learn how to win the big games.

Without exaggerating, I can safely say that the Ohio State game was the most important game for the Spartans since the 1987 season that ended with an appearance in a Rose Bowl.

To say that today's team was aware of the importance would be a huge understatement.

Everybody came out of the locker room and played incredibly tense football. As a general rule, tense players make dumb mistakes and that certainly held true today.

The Spartans spent all season building up a turnover differential that was among the best in the nation and then gave the ball away five times.

I use the term "gave" because that's really the only way to describe Keshawn Martin's first-quarter fumble.

Ohio State has experience playing in big games, and it showed today. They were able to feel comfortable on the field and play what was essentially a mistake-free game. I can't emphasize enough that the Buckeyes played a great game and deserved to win.

Michigan State just has almost no experience in big games, because they were never relevant under John L. Smith. This team is learning as they go, and there are bound to be some growing pains, it's inevitable.

But you can not afford to underestimate the Dantonio factor. Today excluded, he's got this team playing hungry, disciplined football. It's a look that Spartan fans haven't seen in years, and I sincerely hope that my fellow Spartans aren't taking this loss as a sign that the rest of the season will be filled with failure.

The national media will likely take this opportunity to jump on the Spartans and single them out for a collapse but this team does not deserve that.

Their finish to the season last year should prove that Dantonio has brought mental toughness to the season, and the Spartans will be able to bounce back.

The media bases their predictions of an inevitable Spartan collapse on historical achievements in the years BD (Before Dantonio).

Let me make this perfectly clear: Mark Dantonio is not John L. Smith. He understands how to adjust after a loss. He understands how to keep his team focused.

There's a reason that this team will be going to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2000-2001.

You can expect that Dantonio will have his team on the practice field Monday looking ahead to Michigan instead of back at Ohio State. He won't let them feel sorry for themselves.

He won't let them make any excuses about the blowout. He'll have them focusing on doing something he's wanted to do since the day he got hired, beat Michigan.

Ohio State was an ugly loss, but Dantonio will make sure it serves as a wake-up call and not a reason to mope through the rest of the season.


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