Sunday, November 27, 2011

Notes from Dantonio and Bielema teleconference

MSU head coach Mark Dantonio and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema both spoke for about a half-hour during a media teleconference today for the Big Ten Football Championship Game. Players from each team will speak tomorrow.

Most important news is that Darqueze Dennard will be good to go. Dantonio said he could have played against Northwestern. Also, Wisconsin has opened as a 7.5-point is a 10-point favorite. Not totally surprising. Should provide some more motivation for the Spartans.

Notes from Dantonio:

--Both coaches agreed that the best two teams were playing in Indianapolis. They aren't the four "marquee" programs (Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State), but it's a bit of a new era in the Big Ten.

--Dantonio said the path MSU took to get here was a journey that started in 2007. That season set the tone for things to come. (I will forever argue that the Penn State win that year was the biggest of Dantonio's career).

--Asked how an appearance in this game can affect recruiting, Dantonio said players want to be on a big stage, and this game provides almost as big a stage as you can find. He also talked about the progress his recruiting classes have made, mentioning how the special teams units are full of young players who were able to redshirt. Dantonio said the 2009 class was the first where the coaches thought they could win big with those players, and that has continued.

--Asked about last year, Dantonio said the Spartans thought they deserved to be in a BCS bowl, but they didn't play up to that level in Orlando and that ended that conversation.

--Dantonio on the Rose Bowl: "If you're not setting your goals to be there, why be here?" 

--Interestingly, Dantonio said he had the team vote for captains twice in 2009, when Kirk Cousins became the second sophomore captain in school history.

--Asked what to improve upon from the previous meeting, Dantonio said MSU has to get off to a quicker start and stop the run better. Wisconsin's offense sputtered when Montee Ball went out in the previous meeting and the Spartans can't count on that again.

Notes from Bielema:

--Bielema said his secondary has taken the two last-second touchdown passes it gave up in losses and turned them into a positive. The stats don't lie: Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in pass defense.

--Asked if he'd be playing the revenge card, Bielema said the Badgers weren't talking about it. He said MSU earned the victory in the previous meeting. However, Bielema hasn't forgotten about the Hail Mary. He asked Barry Alvarez how long it takes to get over something like that. Alvarez told him, "Never."

--Both coaches have never had to play a team twice in a season. Bielema said a rematch is fun, with new film to look at.

--Asked what to improve upon from the previous meeting, Bielema said prevent the big plays by MSU. Almost all of MSU's touchdowns came from big plays, as well as the blocked field goal.

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