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.''