November 13, 2012

Dantonio hopes bye will fuel strong finish

EAST LANSING - Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio spent a chunk of his Saturday off working in the yard and tidying up his garage.

But the Spartan coach was never too far away from the television.

"I think I watched football from 12:00 till 11:00," Dantonio said, "but in between there I did some different things. I went out and cleaned up the yard, did some things like that, cleaned up the garage. But I always centered back to that game. That's sort of what our family does. So whether it's me and my daughters sitting there watching it or me and my wife or whoever it is, that's what we did."

Dantonio paid close attention Northwestern's overtime game with Michigan. The Spartan coach is 4-1 against Northwestern during his tenure at Michigan State. But most games between Michigan State and Northwestern have been hotly-contestest.

Dantonio expects another stout test from the Wildcats this weekend.

"We've had great games with Northwestern throughout really the five years we've been here," Dantonio said. "Score may not indicate it at some point. I think last year the score was 31 17 maybe. So it may seem like it wasn't as close, but it was an extremely close game, 10-3 right before the half. Then it opened up and closed up, that type of thing. But we've had great games with them. We've played them extremely hard. They've played us extremely hard. And I have a great respect for how they play the game. They play extremely hard. You need to understand that before you play them. Whenever you play Northwestern, you're getting their best shot. There is no question."

The Spartan defense will have their hands full with Northwestern tailback Venric Mark, who is the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Wildcats since Tyrell Sutton in 2006.

Mark is also a dynamic performer in the return game for Northwestern.

"Great punt returner, great kick returner, two touchdowns on punt returns this year," Dantonio said. "Kick return called back against Michigan on an officiating call that I'm sure they'll be concerned about as well, very concerned about. But I think he's a great guy that can catch the ball down the field. He can run the ball in the zone play, run the ball in the option. He's elusive. He's got a next gear. His size, he's smaller in size, but he packs a punch. He runs powerfully, can break tackles. I think he's a very good running back."

Northwestern quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian are an effective duo for the Wildcats.

"I think Colter creates very effectively," Dantonio said. "Even creates on the run. He may be running the option to my right here and cut back all the way to the left. So you have to be able to play things out the back door as well with him. You have to close down all the running lanes when he drops back to pass.

"I think Siemian is a guy that obviously throws the ball very effectively. They don't seem to miss a beat when they come in there. They want to change things and take it to a different concept in terms of passing the football. He's able to do that very effectively. He can also run with the ball when it's given to him, and he's shown that as well.

"Which direction they go, they've gone a couple of different directions throughout the season. So it depends on what kind of game plan they have in mind when they come here to play Michigan State. But I think both guys have been successful, and they've sort of leaned on Colter here as of late. Your guess is as good as mine, so."

Click below for portions of Dantonio's weekly press conference:

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