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Friday, July 31, 2015

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Dantonio to recruit, see family more during bye week

By Jeff Kanan / The State News

After starting the season 9-1, the No. 10 MSU football team heads to its first bye week of the season on Saturday.

Head coach Mark Dantonio talks at his weekly press conference Tuesday about what the team will do with its week off, and whether he pays attention to the Big Ten Championship picture outside of the Spartans.

He also talks about what the start to the season has meant for the program.

*Mark Dantonio*

Mark Dantonio

With his No. 10 MSU football team off this week for the first time since the season began, head coach Mark Dantonio said he still will be watching football Saturday.

But instead of taking his usual spot on the sideline, Dantonio said he will enjoy the day’s slate of games at home with a few snacks.

“I’ll probably have a piece of fruit or something, popcorn (with) no salt I guess,” Dantonio said laughing. “I’m just looking forward to spending some time with my family.”

Without having to coach Saturday, Dantonio said he won’t be working, exactly, but he did say he will be paying special attention to a couple of games.

Both of the Spartans’ final two opponents — Purdue and Penn State — will be in action throughout the day, and Dantonio said he plans on watching both games.

But with three weeks left in the season, and the Spartans still very much alive in the Big Ten race and Rose Bowl hunt, Dantonio said he’ll have a few other games on his radar as well.

“I think you always keep an eye on how things impact you,” Dantonio said. “I think it’s natural, especially this late, and we have definite goals based on somebody losing and somebody winning.”

The Spartans can guarantee themselves a share of the Big Ten Championship by winning their final two games.

However, with the possibility of three teams finishing the season with one conference loss, the Spartans will need some help to accomplish more than that.

Dantonio, who often doesn’t acknowledge what is going on around MSU in the rest of the Big Ten, said he is very aware of what needs to happen for the Spartans to be playing on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif.

“There’s a lot of games left to play,” Dantonio said.

“A lot of things can happen so we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”

Although Dantonio admitted going to the Rose Bowl is one of the major goals for MSU, he said his main concern is that the Spartans take care of business in their final two games and lock up at least a share of their first conference championship since 1989.

“I know we can control that,” Dantonio said.

“We need a little help to win outright, we need a little help to go to the Rose Bowl, but the main focus, to me, is to be a champion.”

Back on the recruiting trail

Along with giving players an opportunity to rest their legs and any injuries, the week off allows the MSU coaching staff to do some extra recruiting.

Dantonio said some of his coaches were out on the road recruiting Monday and Tuesday, before coming back Wednesday. On Friday, they will be back at it again, recruiting players locally.

“Sometimes, that’s nice too, to just change routine,” Dantonio said. “They can relax. They’ll come back (Wednesday) and work a normal day.”

As the coaches hit the recruiting trail, they will be equipped with a 9-1 record to boast to recruits, which Dantonio said will be very valuable.

“That has a large part in recruiting,” Dantonio said. “People don’t want to go to a place and not win.”

Packing the house

Although the announced attendance for MSU’s 31-8 win against Minnesota on Saturday eclipsed 71,000 people, there were quite a few empty seats at Spartan Stadium during the game.

Dantonio, who made light of the lack of attendance at his press conference Tuesday, said he doesn’t worry about how many fans are at the game.

“I appreciate the people who come, so bring a friend,” Dantonio said, smiling. “I appreciate the ones who are there, I appreciate the ones who are vocal, and I appreciate our students.”

However, with the game against Purdue on Nov. 20 being the Spartans’ final home game, Dantonio said he wants to see a packed house.

“I hope we fill it up on Senior Day,” Dantonio said. “That’s an important opportunity for us to win 10 football games; it will be very exciting.”

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