This has certainly been shaping up to become a memorable season for those Michigan State Spartans football players on the field, as well as the many fans, too. There was the explosive start to the season with the first top ten battle and victory, their last moment miracle win over rival Michigan, and last Saturday, their own gut-wrenching loss to an unranked Nebraska on one of the most controversial calls this season. Still, despite all of that, head coach Mark Dantonio said on Tuesday night that though things look grim, his team still has “got a lot to play for.”
Dantonio was his typical stoic self in the postgame interviews after the last moment controversial call that allowed an out-of-bounds Nebraska receiver receive a touchdown pass to win the game for the Cornhuskers by a score of 39-38. And with that loss, many Michigan State fans saw their team’s chances at a playoff birth and shot at the national championship disappear into the abyss. The Spartans (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) fell from No. 7 to No. 13 in Tuesday’s CFP rankings and also fell out of the Top Ten in the AP and Coaches Polls, as well.
Regardless of all of that, Dantonio still says that he has high hopes for his team’s chances this season. Talking to reporters on Tuesday, he hearkened back to 2011, when the Spartans suffered another devastating loss – that time at the hands of Wisconsin – that cost them a trip to the Rose Bowl that year.
“As I told them on Sunday, if they thought that was a bad situation and tough deal, they should have been here in 2011 at the Big Ten championship game,” Dantonio said. “That was a tough one. We went to a banquet the next day.”
And while many are counting Dantonio and his Spartans as done for the season and out of the race, the coach himself refuses to acknowledge that their chances are wiped out. After all, as Dantonio points out, the Spartans still have a chance to beat No. 3-ranked Ohio State to make their case for a playoff birth.
“Under no circumstances are we washed up, out of town,” Dantonio added. “We’ve got a lot to play for here.”
Dantonio then opened up to reporters, letting them know that leading a team of young and talented players isn’t always an easy task.
“Really, I’ve almost quit trying to figure out how a football team gets ready,” Dantonio said. “I’ve seen guys in the locker room very serious and not play well. I’ve seen guys almost sort of jovial and play very well. I don’t know…
“We had great practices last week. That didn’t transition into playing well early in the game. There were some other things that happened in the game, obviously. But, again, credit Nebraska. Credit the environment, everything else that goes along with that. At the end of the day, how do you know? You don’t. Otherwise we wouldn’t all be sitting here talking about it. You don’t. That’s what makes sports so unique.”