MSU’s Dantonio sets tone against rival Michigan

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio looks and sounds relatively

bland during most news conferences.

He rarely smiles or pounds his fist and delivers his message in

monotone fashion.

During Michigan week, Dantonio turns it up a notch.

His passion for the rivalry comes across loud and clear with his

eyes and voice.

”I believe in making it important,” Dantonio said Tuesday.

”And, doing certain things to try and put an asterisk behind that

game.”

It has worked.

The 23rd-ranked Spartans (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) have a shot to match

a school record with a fourth straight win in the series Saturday

at home against the 11th-ranked Wolverines (6-0, 2-0).

In 2007, his first season in charge, Dantonio lost to the

Wolverines when Michigan running back Mike Hart referred to

Michigan State as a little brother.

The rookie coach lashed out at Hart, saying ”they need to check

themselves,” and ”pride comes before the fall.”

Dantonio said he’s not proud of some of the things he said back

then.

”I don’t like to stoop to that level,” he said. ”But, hey, I

was emotional.”

Since then, Michigan State has beaten Michigan three straight

years for the first time since 1965-67. Dantonio has a chance to

become just the second coach in program history to beat the

Wolverines in four of his first five games, joining Charlie

Bachman, who did it in the 1930s.

Dantonio had clocks installed when he was hired after the 2006

season that counted down the time left before playing Michigan,

which had enjoyed decades of dominance in the series.

”When we walked in here we pointed toward that,” Dantonio

said. ”There were others that said that we couldn’t.

”We wanted to make a point. I think we’ve made the point and

we’ll move on from there.”

Michigan State rewarded Dantonio for his success in the series

and overall with the proud-again program, giving him some more

money in salary and incentives as part of his five-year rollover

contract that is worth $1.83 million a year. He helped the Spartans

win a school-record 11 games last season and earn a share of their

first Big Ten championship in 20 years.

”I think it’s incredible what he’s done with the program in a

short time,” Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo said. ”It’s

not easy.”

Especially, against Michigan.

The Wolverines had won 30 of 38 games against the Spartans until

the current streak was sparked by Hart’s comments.

”It just sort of retapped some energy, I guess,” Dantonio said

of the 2007 game. ”You tend not to forget what’s gone on in these

games.”

Dantonio’s players have followed his lead in putting an emphasis

on Michigan.

”He’s done a very good job of making it important,”

quarterback Kirk Cousins said.

Michigan State defensive end Jerel Worthy has a tattoo

displaying a Spartan stomping on a Wolverine. He wasn’t available

to talk about it Tuesday and none of his teammates wanted to talk

about the ink that likely irks some Michigan coaches and players

even though they insist they haven’t seen it or thought much about.

It.

”I’m not going to comment on that,” Spartans guard Joel

Foreman said. ”That’s not something I need to talk about.”