Column: With Boise win in hand, Dantonio turns sights to Central Michigan
MSU football head coach Mark Dantonio paces the field before the season home opening game against Boise State on Friday night, Aug. 31, 2012, at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans beat the Broncos 17-13. Natalie Kolb/The State News
Leading up to Friday’s game, head coach Mark Dantonio needed only to point towards Chris Petersen’s 73-6 coaching record to know the Spartans were in for a tough game.
In interviews and press conferences, he frequently recited the number at the drop of a hat. Looking through my notes, I found at least three separate occasions where Dantonio brought up Petersen’s résumé.
But half hour after the Spartans eked out a 17-13 victory, Dantonio couldn’t even recount how many wins the Boise State head coach had accrued.
“73 and six or 71 and six, I can’t even remember,” he said. “70-something and six coming into the game.”
So what made the typically composed Dantonio fail to recall a number he so oft repeated that even I could tell you Petersen’s winning percentage?
Could it have been the stellar play of junior running back Le’Veon Bell, who finished the game with 44 carries, 217 yards and two touchdowns? Was it the blockade set up by the defensive unit which held the Broncos’ highly touted offense to no touchdowns and only six points (well, three if you ask defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi). Or could it be that less than an hour after toppling the giant killers themselves, Dantonio already was looking to his next opponent?
“There’s a sign in our building that says ‘they all count one,’” Dantonio said. “And right now we are 1-0, and we go to Central Michigan next week.”
It shouldn’t be surprising that Dantonio doesn’t want to dwell on Friday’s win. After all, one win doesn’t get you to Pasedena. You need at least 10 of those. And as far as Dantonio’s concerned, the Chippewas are just next in line.
The Spartans know they have a lot of room for improvement. Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell looked sharp, until his receiving corps turned into three extra defenders during the first half, bobbling away two interceptions and a fumble. After which, the first-time starter appeared rattled, missing his targets and coming dangerously close to interceptions four, five and six.
The offensive line allowed so many defenders into the backfield you’d have thought Maxwell had wronged them in some way.
And the penalties — my goodness. Ten penalties for a loss of 90 yards. Even sophomore punter Mike Sadler was disciplined for a late hit.
But Dantonio isn’t worried, because he knows his team will get better. He knows the first game is where most of the kinks get worked out. And he knows the Spartans got away with one this time.
But don’t expect him to be rest on it. Because in eight days, the Spartans travel to Mount Pleasant.
And if there’s one number Dantonio won’t forget, it’s 29-27.