Sunday, September 19, 2010
Michigan State wins on Call of the Year
By Adam Rittenberg
Mark Dantonio, your table is ready.
The Michigan State coach just made the Call of the Year in college football. And I'll be honest: I didn't think he had it in him.
This is a guy who cut his teeth under Jim Tressel. Speaking of Tressel, I'd love to know what The Vest thought when his pupil risked it all against Notre Dame on a fake field goal. I'll have to ask him on Tuesday.
Dantonio's decision to eschew a 46-yard attempt in overtime worked to perfection, as punter Aaron Bates, a former high school quarterback, found a wide-open Charlie Gantt streaking to the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown as Michigan State beat Notre Dame 34-31 at Spartan Stadium. Michigan State had stalled on its overtime possession, as Kirk Cousins took a costly sack on third down.
When you step back and think about it, Dantonio's call made a lot of sense. Dan Conroy is a first-year starter at kicker, although he had three conversions of 40 yards or longer last week against Florida Atlantic. Dantonio said afterward that Michigan State had practiced the fake all week, and Bates and Gantt executed it to perfection.
After several of Brian Kelly's gambles failed against the Big Ten, Dantonio's decision paid off in a huge way for Michigan State.
Dantonio's tenure has been defined by close losses, especially in 2007 and 2009. Cousins did a lot of good things tonight, but he struggled once again in the clutch. Michigan State couldn't convert some chances at the end of regulation, and Notre Dame seemed to have the momentum in OT. That is, until Dantonio, Bates and Gantt changed everything.
This could be a turning point in Dantonio's career and for a Michigan State team aiming to join the Big Ten's lead pack.