The Michigan State Spartans enter their much needed bye week with an 8-0 record and finally getting a chance to heal up.Â While there are certainly reasons to be critical of the Spartans, Dantonio knows what matters is being 8-0.
Dantonio wasted no time to declare after the 52-26 win over Indiana on Saturday, â€œWe just sort of took control of the game in the fourth quarter, defensively and offensively. We're 8-0.â€
If anything these Spartans know how to win and they keep rolling.Â There arenâ€™t points for being pretty and if the Spartans keep winning, they may be the ugly duckling, but they will be an ugly duckling in the college football playoff.
Dantonio said of his resilient Spartans,Â â€œWe know how to win. The bottom line is we know how to win; we've learned how to win here. We've learned how to win close games. We've learned how to take a game, in this case, and sort of distance ourselves. We've learned how to win. The culture exists that we expect to win and somehow, someway, we've got to regain our composure and do pretty well. I think that's the biggest thing. We expect how to win and there's a confidence level. We certainly didn't play our best football, but we've got enough players playing extremely good football to stay in the game with everybody. Then, make enough plays to win a football game. I don't know if that sounds right, but that's what seems is happening to me. We've got a lot of guys banged up. We brought Mark Meyers back, but other than that, we were out five of our eight top defensive backs from August. We need eight defensive backs, we have five. Today we had four gone, so the same thing is happening on our offensive line. Our tight ends are healthy and everything, but our offensive line - that's a lot of people. I will say that in the end that will become a strength for us because guys are getting game experience. There's nothing like having game experience. Even those three plays that Tyson Smith went in or whatever he was in, there's nothing like game experience.â€
Some of the narrative is that Dantonio must find a number one running back over the bye.Â To me I donâ€™t get that.Â What can you learn during a bye?Â Dantonio eight games in feels like his team doesnâ€™t need a number one running back.Â â€œI don't think we need a number one running back, first of all. I think there are three or four guys who make plays for us. You could make a case for Gerald Holmes to be the number one guy, you could say Madre London is the number one and you could certainly say LJ Scott is number one. Delton Williams, because of his past too, you could sit there and say he deserves the opportunity to play and get back in. We're going to always ride the hot guy. I made the decision to put LJ in there at this point and time and he got some yards. You just sort of feel at that point, but I wouldn't say we have a number one. We need to have guys that are going to play hard, bring their A-game to every single football game and bring their competitive nature. Holmes had two huge plays in the game, so we just sort of roll from there.â€
As Dantonioâ€™s Spartans enter their bye week, he admits the last eight weeks have not come stress free.Â â€œIt's been stressful out there but it's what you do. You get upset about this call or that call, an offensive play or a defensive play, or a technique, but you just try and win. You try and do everything in your mind that you can do to possibly help us win. That's all I've ever asked anybody and that's all we'll try to do.â€
For the Spartans they get a week off from physical pounding of practice that comes with the mentality of their head man.Â Dantonio knows that they have done what he asked and they must now take time to heal.Â He said, â€œWe're 8-0, so I was hoping or we were working for 8-0. It hasn't gone perfectly, but we're 8-0. That's the first thing. As far as practicing, we need to heal up. We've got a lot of guys banged up. We cannot take the risk to practice this week and then, all of a sudden, have more guys hurt. Guys get hurt during practice. What we will do is lift our guys, run our guys as if it is the bottom-line summer conditioning program. We'll have guys in great shape, which is the number one reason to me that we practice. We'll also have our guys healthy. We'll get some guys back. Jack Allen should be back. Some of our guys need to heal up. I think you play that as you go. That's where we're at this year. That's what we have to do. Then, we'll be able to start on Nebraska from a coaching standpoint, this week, and from a player standpoint, on Sunday. We will be ahead going to Nebraska, but I think we just need to back off a little bit. Our practices seem to be a little competitive.â€
With his team now sitting at 8-0 and the bye week now on the menu, Dantonio reflected on telling his team prior to the game about getting the bye week off.Â He joked saying, â€œWell I told them this past week on Tuesday, that one of two things are going to happen. We're not practicing next week, we're going to work. Our work time will still be the same; we're just not throwing on helmets and shoulder pads. Our coaches will be out recruiting. So one of two things are going to happen, we're either going to win the game, and I'll give you a week off or we'll lose the game and I'm not going to want to see you.â€
So with their bodies needed time off and the record sitting at 8-0 the Spartans still have their sense of humor and all of their goals are ahead of them.Â As the week progresses we will certainly get into the nuts and bolts of these Spartans, but for now sit around the water cooler and enjoy remaining undefeated for at least two more weeks.