As the dust settled at Indiana’s Memorial Stadium on Saturday night, the future didn’t look bright, it looked hazy. MSU let a 14 lead slip away and for the first time since before Mark Dantonio took over for John L. Smith the Spartans had relinquished the Old Brass Spittoon rivalry trophy to the Hoosiers.
Dantonio was asked after the game about managing expectations for a team whose goal of Back2Back Big Ten Titles and a trip to the College Football Play while not mathematically eliminated, is eliminated in the real world. "Players are competitors, you hope they're competitors and if not then we recruited the wrong guys."
Dantonio is spot on the money. Now is not the time to quit, this is about pride. While the Spartans are not used to this adversity, it doesn’t mean that you can’t forge in the fire some mental toughness for future success. With eight regular season games left and a potential bowl game, some momentum is still needed this year.
Dantonio who has the benefit of years of experience must now convey to a group of 115 top notch athletes who haven’t been in this spot before. He must convey with confidence that the season isn’t over. "There's a lot of football teams that don't go to the playoffs or win a Big Ten championship, you keep playing and you play yourself into situations on where you want to go."
The hard part is that Dantonio’s Spartans are not used to being in this spot and taking young men to a place they have not gone before isn’t easy. That is why being a head coach is a lot more interesting when you are winning championships and playing in big time games. This year Dantonio will be more needed than ever.
But when hear a coach say "Too many mistakes by us, too many penalties, too many plays we didn't make that would have been great plays,” after a game, you know things didn’t go as planned.
While 2016 is far from over remember what Mark Dantonio said after the Wisconsin loss, “Things can get a lot worse.” Where his words a harbinger of what came Saturday night or more of what is coming?
This we do know. Mark Dantonio was a Godsend to Spartan Football and has earned the respect to fix the Spartans. The mantra of Spartan fans should be, In Dantonio we trust. The sky hasn’t fallen; it just looks dark because of the bright light of success Mark Dantonio has brought to East Lansing.
Dantonio said it best, "You keep playing, and you play yourself into situations to get you where you want to go." Or as his fifth year senior QB Tyler O’Connor added when what he will say to his team, "Remind everybody who we're playing for, what this program stands for, the guys that have come before them and those that are yet to come."