Ask Mark Dantonio a question and you can expect a straight answer. He doesn’t sugarcoat his weaknesses or play up his strengths, and unlike so many other college football coaches who hold their cards close to the vest, Dantonio is happy to offer reporters a hot tip every now and then.
He understands the job reporters have to do.
Reporters will never understand the job college coaches have to do. Too often we poke, over-analyze, and offer an unfair assessment. It’s what people want to read, but I wonder whether we would be as stiff if we had a better feel for the non-football qualities required to coach at the collegiate level.
When it was announced that Dantonio had suffered a heart attack following his team’s dramatic win over Notre Dame, I lost a breath or two. I do not know him well enough to call him a friend, or even an acquaintance; he is just someone I have tremendous respect for.
Shortly after 12 a.m. on Sunday morning — only hours after his gutsy fake field goal call beat the Irish — the 54-year-old coach experienced tightness in his chest and was later diagnosed with a mild heart attack. He had surgery to help unblock a blood vessel leading to his heart and is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days yet this week.
As was the case when Florida’s Urban Meyer suffered a health scare earlier in the year, Dantonio’s scare has been the lead college football story the last few days. Let’s hope the focus of the reporting stays on Dantonio’s health. It’d be a shame to see news organizations spin the story to capitalize on the drama, as is so often the case.
For now, Michigan State’s football program has been placed in the capable hands of offensive coordinator Don Treadwell until Dantonio is cleared to return.
For a swarm of folks, that return cannot come soon enough. His peers on the sidelines of other Big Ten schools want their friend back, reporters want that honesty back, and Spartans fans and players want the leader of their program back.
But, first, we all want Mark Dantonio to get well again. Best wishes, coach.
Mike Beacom covers the Big Ten for Athlon Sports.
The Week That Was
Illinois 28, Northern Illinois 22
Purdue 24, Ball State 13
Penn State 24, Kent State 0
Michigan 42, Massachusetts 37
Ohio State 43, Ohio 7
USC 32, Minnesota 21
Wisconsin 20, Arizona State 19
Indiana 38, Western Kentucky 21
Northwestern 30, Rice 13
Michigan State 34, Notre Dame 31
Arizona 34, Iowa 27
Another Smith steps up for Purdue
With Keith Smith done for the year, Purdue’s offense went in search of a playmaker at wide receiver. What they found was Cortez Smith, a senior who caught just 17 passes for 177 yards all last year. Against Ball State, Cortez Smith caught five passes for 117 yards, the bulk of which came on a 76-yard fourth quarter touchdown — his second of the day.
Robinson not superman, just solid, in win
Fans of the maize and blue didn’t get a 500-yard effort out of sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson on Saturday — just 345 with two passing scores and a rushing touchdown. While the Massachusetts defense did a good job of limiting Robinson from making the big play on the ground (long run of 20 yards), he did connect with Darryl Stonum on a 66-yard second quarter score that trimmed the Minutemen’s lead from 10 to three points.
Badgers defense takes a beating
A number of Wisconsin defenders were helped off the field in the team’s one-point victory over Arizona State. Star lineman J.J. Watt was looked at a couple of times for a thigh bruise, but his injury is not nearly as serious as the one suffered by linebacker Chris Borland — the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year — who injured himself trying to make an arm tackle. Borland had surgery this offseason for a separated shoulder and could miss considerable time (or possibly redshirt) depending on the severity of Saturday’s injury.
Team of the Week:Michigan State
What a gutsy call, and what a game. The Spartans looked done for in the fourth quarter after Notre Dame scored consecutive touchdowns to go ahead 28–21, but fought back in overtime.
Disappointment of the Week:Wisconsin
The Badgers don’t have the same excuses Iowa does — playing against a top 25 team, on the road. Wisconsin was at home and had a difficult time with unranked Arizona State. Had it not been for Jay Valai’s blocked extra point, this game would have wound up in overtime. As it was, Wisconsin won despite being dominated for much of the first three quarters of action.
Offensive Player of the Week:Ben Chappell, QB, Indiana
Indiana relied on the arm of its senior signal caller in its 38–21 win over Western Kentucky. Chappell completed 76.2 percent of his passes in the contest for a career-best 366 yards. He threw a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter, followed by another late into the third. Chappell also rushed for his first score of the year in the victory.
Defensive Player of the Week:Ross Homan, LB, Ohio State
Homan forced a fumble and picked off a second-half pass in the Buckeyes’ 43–7 win over Ohio. He was the leader of a defensive effort that limited the Bobcats to just 158 total yards of offense.
Freshman of the Week: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
Bell didn’t have a big run like teammate Edwin Baker — he was just steady all night in his team’s win over Notre Dame. Bell gained 114 yards on 17 carries and scored his fourth touchdown of the season. His 6.7 yards per carry was below his season average of 8.2, which ranks second in the Big Ten.
The Week Ahead
Thanks to quarterback Austin Dantin, Toledo has beaten up on Ohio and Western Michigan the past two weeks. The Rockets also have had a chance to face a top-level program (lost to Arizona, 41–2, in the opener). This team could present problems for a Purdue squad that has been shaky in its three contests so far this season.
Player to Watch:Duane Bennett, RB, Minnesota
Last week, Northern Illinois allowed 319 rushing yards to Illinois. Think Bennett is excited about Saturday? Coming off of an ankle injury that limited him to just seven carries last week, Bennett should be fully healthy to pound through the Huskies’ defense for big yards.
• Ohio State is clearly college football’s No. 2 team. Beyond talent, a big reason for this is the Buckeyes’ success in the turnover battle. The defense has scooped up five fumbles and collected seven interceptions to offset Terrelle Pryor’s two picks for a +10 turnover margin — a full +4 better than the next ranked team in the conference.
• Indiana’s Damarlo Belcher has been the conference’s best receiver thus far. The junior has caught 17 passes and two scores in two contests, and has averaged a Big Ten-best 113.5 yards per game. This week he faces an Akron pass defense that allowed 254 yards to Kentucky last week.
• Temple fans are excited about the team’s 3–0 mark, but the celebration may come to a crashing halt. The school has faced Penn State in each of the past four seasons, with Temple having lost all four contests by a combined 154–9.
Northwestern 21, Central Michigan 14
Purdue 27, Toledo 26
Michigan State 27, Northern Colorado 13
Michigan 35, Bowling Green 10
Iowa 28, Ball State 7
Wisconsin 43, Austin Peay 6
Penn State 31, Temple 3
Ohio State 35, Eastern Michigan 3
Indiana 14, Akron 13
Northern Illinois 31, Minnesota 17