After heart attack, Dantonio to return to coaching Spartans

first_imgThe feeling last Saturday was a bit unfamiliar to Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. Unable to take his usual place on the sidelines at Spartan Stadium, Dantonio was relegated to the couch at his home for his team’s non-conference clash with Northern Colorado. Something much more serious than football was keeping him away. Just a week earlier, Dantonio had suffered a mild heart attack that required surgery. His condition made it impossible for him to be with his team on game day. And for their coach, the Spartans pounded the Bears, 45-7. ‘I will say it was a little bit surreal watching the game at home,’ Dantonio said in the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference this week. ‘I had no chips, wasn’t allowed, but it was different because you know when you see your football team — or our football team — playing, and you’re not there, and you’ve been there for four years. … It’s a little bit different.’ The game day feeling will return to somewhat normal this Saturday, as the 54-year-old Dantonio is back at practices as No. 24 Michigan State (4-0) prepares for its Big Ten opener at home against No. 11 Wisconsin (4-0). But he won’t be back on those familiar sidelines in East Lansing, Mich. Instead, he’ll be in the coaches’ box to avoid any fatigue walking around might cause. Dantonio’s primary goal for the week is to turn attention away from himself and make sure his team focuses on the vital conference matchup.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text ‘The reason I came to the press conference today, the reason I was around our football team on Sunday, the reason I was in the office on Monday was because I think it’s very, very important that we focus on Wisconsin,’ Dantonio said. ‘That the focus goes from Mark Dantonio and that night to Wisconsin and what we have to get done this weekend.’ Dantonio’s last appearance on the Spartans’ sideline was a dramatic one. Notre Dame traveled to Spartan Stadium for a showdown with MSU. After 60 hard-fought minutes, the teams were knotted at 28-28. After the Spartan defense forced the Fighting Irish to kick a field goal, the Michigan State offense sputtered to a fourth-down attempt on its chance in overtime. The field-goal unit ran onto the field, seemingly to kick the tying 46-yard field goal. But Dantonio decided to risk it all and called a fake. Holder Aaron Bates caught the snap, rolled out to his right and found a wide-open Charlie Gantt for the winning touchdown. ‘Boy, hats off to Mark,’ said Boise State head coach Chris Petersen, who is known for his trick play calls with the Broncos. ‘Without question that was quite a call right there. You know they’re scary. Those are scary to call because it’s just an unbelievable call if it works, and if it doesn’t, everybody’s saying, ‘What were you thinking?” But even scarier than the call was the heart attack Dantonio suffered later that night. He said he was frightened by the situation, but now it’s simply a matter of moving on. ‘I think the key will be moving forward and getting stronger every day and dealing with the consequences and dealing with the things that you have to do,’ Dantonio said. ‘And that’s all a part of this, so that’s what I’ll do.’ Michigan State did crush Northern Colorado without Dantonio on the sideline. But the Badgers should be a much more formidable opponent than the Bears, a member of the Football Championship Subdivision. The Spartans head coach wants to rid his team of any distractions, whether they come from him or elsewhere. He said he was treating the heart attack like an injury to the team, and Michigan State typically doesn’t discuss injuries. So for him and MSU, it’s time to put the incident from Sept. 19 behind them and look forward to their Big Ten conference opener. ‘(Wisconsin) coach (Bret) Bielema has an outstanding football team,’ Dantonio said. ‘When you look at them as a football team, they bring back everybody on the offensive side of the ball except one player. … Defensively, they return six starters. It’ll be another outstanding challenge for us offensively and defensively.’ Big man on campus Terrelle Pryor Junior quarterback Ohio State Last week’s stats: 20-of-26, 224 yards, 4 passing TDs, 7 carries, 104 yards, 1 rushing TD, 1 catch, 20 yards, 1 receiving TD Yes, Pryor’s performance did come against a lowly Eastern Michigan squad that hasn’t won a game since 2008. But any time someone scores six touchdowns, let alone does it three different ways, he deserves some recognition. Pryor pioneered No. 2 Ohio State’s 73-20 romp over the Eagles with four touchdowns through the air, sandwiched between a 53-yard touchdown scamper and a 20-yard catch for a score. ‘I think he’s making significant steps,’ Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel said. ‘You knew that year two was going to be a big one, but you also knew it wasn’t going to be perfect and that there would be some great lessons. And if we would learn them and internalize them, then maybe we could get close to reaching that potential that we all feel that he can be special.’ Pryor opened the scoring onslaught with his touchdown on the ground, and the Buckeyes (4-0) jumped out to a 24-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. All four of the junior’s touchdown passes went to senior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, tying the single-game record for an Ohio State receiver. The Buckeyes’ 73 points marked the highest point total for the school since an 83-21 win over Iowa in 1950. Team of the week No. 1 Alabama (4-0) Last week’s result: W, 24-20 at No. 15 Arkansas (3-1) With just more than five minutes left in the third quarter Saturday, Alabama looked like it was headed toward its first loss since the 2008 Sugar Bowl. Down 20-7 in a rowdy Razorback Stadium, the Crimson Tide’s title defense looked to be just about over. But the nation’s No. 1 team buckled down on defense and turned to Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, as it has so many times before, to pull out a dramatic 24-20 victory in its Southeastern Conference opener. Ingram finished with 157 yards on 24 carries and scored the go-ahead touchdown from a yard out with 3:18 left on the clock. The Tide defense then closed out the game with its third interception of Heisman candidate Ryan Mallett, keeping Alabama at the No. 1 spot for at least another week. zjbrown@syr.edu Published on September 28, 2010 at 12:00 pm Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img