EAST LANSING, Mich. — While the players around him hugged and shared congratulations, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio stood still for a second, staring into nothingness.
He might have been a little taken aback by the situation. The congratulations being shared were for Michigan players, who on Saturday beat the Spartans 32-23, Dantonio’s first home loss to his in-state rival since 2007. That was his first season at the helm.
By the time Dantonio got to his postgame news conference, it was more of what we’ve seen throughout what is now a six-game losing streak — sprinkling in some optimism among his answers.
But Saturday’s media session was a little different than any other, a brief light outage during his remarks allowing the coach to appreciate the symbolism momentarily. When the lights were working, starting with his opening statement, here’s what Dantonio had to say.
On briefly taking running back LJ Scott out after the first drive: “On the second drive, I think we put Gerald Holmes in, and Gerald deserves to play. LJ carried the ball quite a few times on that drive (10 carries, 49 yards, TD), so we probably rest him. We were going to play two tailbacks a little, and that was an opportunity for Gerald to get the ball.”
On removing quarterback Tyler O’Connor and playing junior Damion Terry and redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke: “First of all, we were three scores down. I thought we needed to make a little bit of a change, but most importantly, I wanted the other two quarterbacks who are coming back next year to have a taste of this football game. I thought it was very important for them to experience a game experience against U of M.”
On playing WR Donnie Corley on the defensive side: “I think he’s got skills to play out there and he can play more plays. He played about 38 plays the last game. We wanted to up that. He was recruited here to be a possible two-way players. We see people with those type of skills, we’re going to do that.”
On a mental change in this game after how the season has gone: “I thought we had an edge to us. How’s the locker room? It’s like any other locker room after you lose a football game. It’s tough, especially for our senior group. I know that’s the first time that our senior groups have lost that game. I guess in theory, the answer to your question would be I think we’ll be ready to play next week. I don’t think we have guys that quit.”
On missed opportunities: “There are no moral victories, just like I’ve said before. We’ve got to take it, but I think we can find a little bit of — you can feel good that you competed. You can feel good that things went in this direction. You can feel good as a coach that we’ve got an opportunity to win this football game. We really do. But we’ve got to convert on our opportunities.”