October 16, 2012

Dantonio on rivalry: 'We've made it important'

EAST LANSING - Mark Dantonio has the reputation for being a reserved, button-down football coach.

On occasion, however, a different side of Dantonio surfaces. Nothing brings out the dark side in the Michigan State head coach than the in-state rivalry between Michigan State and Michigan.

The "other guy" was nowhere to be found during Dantonio's press conference on Tuesday. But the Spartan coach insists that his toned-down demeanor has nothing to do with his team's 4-3 start or the recent disappointment of a double-overtime loss to Iowa.

"I always try to come up here and be who I am," Dantonio said. "It's you guys that stoke that fire. Nobody's done that yet, so we're good (smiling)."

Emotion has been a factor for Michigan State in its four-game winning streak against Michigan. But too much emotion can be a detriment as William Gholston discovered in 2011. The junior defensive end was suspended for a game by the Big Ten for throwing a punch at Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Lewan.

Gholston was flagged for a personal foul on the play. That 15-yarder was one of 13 penalties incurred by the Spartans, who would have won by a wider margin than 28-14 if they had been more disciplined after the whistle.

"I think he's grown from that," Dantonio said. "He hopefully needs to grow from that, understand he's got a lot of people watching him on a daily basis, whether it's on the field or off the field, that he needs to handle himself accordingly. He needs to be able to play through adversity. You're going to get involved in certain situations that are going to bring out certain instincts in you. You have to be able to control those things. Again I'm sitting up here as the poster boy for that sometimes."

Rivalry games are typically more physical. Dantonio expects this weekend's game to be no different.

"There's no question that football is a physical game in general," Dantonio said. "There's no question that both teams are going to go after each other. I don't think there's any question about that. But we've got to keep the game under control. We can't let it get out of control. I'm sure the officials will make that known during the game and we have to play within the confines of the rules and take care of ourselves on this end."

Brady Hoke has downplayed the rivalry while Dantonio has made it clear that the Michigan State-Michigan game is the most important game played by his team each year.

"It's important because we've made it important," Dantonio said. "For me to say it's not important would be to disrespect those who have played in this football game before. It would be disrespect to the people who have been involved in this program when I was here before and the people prior to that.
That's what I'm going to do. That means nothing to anybody else really. It's just what I'm going to do.

"I have a great deal of respect for Brady Hoke. To be honest with you, I think Brady Hoke handles himself at times much better than I do, okay? I have a great respect in how he handles his job, how he's gone about his business there. I just go about mine and hope that other guy doesn't come out in this press conference."

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