Bennie Fowler's status for Saturday's game against Purdue is not determined. (Getty Images)
East Lansing — Michigan State ended its home winless streak in the Big Ten with last week’s victory over Indiana, but that doesn’t mean coach Mark Dantonio is closer to being able to explain what happened last season.
Entering 2012, Michigan State had won 14 straight at Spartan Stadium and ran that streak to 15 when it opened with a victory over Boise State. But things turned quickly, beginning with a loss to Notre Dame followed by four consecutive conference losses by a total of 11 points.
“I considered last year sort of an incident,” Dantonio said Tuesday, trying to find the right words to describe the close defeats. “I don’t think we lost the games. I think we ran out of time more often than not. We didn’t lose our way. We didn’t lose our home-field advantage. Every time we came back to play, we were ready to play.”
It’s an understandable response considering each game came down to the wire. But the fact remains, the Spartans came out on the short end.
Dantonio, however, is convinced it had nothing to do with where the game was played.
“We have great fan support here, always a big crowd,” Dantonio said. “Our players are here in front of their families. There are a lot of reasons to play. They’re comfortable here, and there are a lot of reasons to play very, very well here. I don’t think we’ve discouraged people. In the past six years we’ve been pretty successful here, so we’ll try to continue that success.”
Senior wide receiver Bennie Fowler has had a resurgence the past two weeks, grabbing 10 passes and scoring a pair of touchdowns. But he left the Indiana game not long after his 34-yard touchdown with an injured hamstring and did not return.
Fowler is still listed as the starter, but Dantonio wouldn’t elaborate on Fowler’s status for Saturday’s game.
Hazell praises Dantonio
There are several connections between the Purdue coaching staff and Michigan State’s, including the fact co-offensive coordinator Jim Bollman had just become the Boilermakers offensive line coach before taking the job with the Spartans.
Bollman and Hazell also coached together at Ohio State under Jim Tressel.
And while there are many close ties among the staffs, Hazell and Dantonio never have worked together. That, however, hasn’t changed how Hazell feels about Dantonio.
“He’s done an unbelievable job,” Hazell said. “It’s such a stable situation, you can tell the program, everybody knows their responsibility. There’s a calmness — he’s smiling more on the sideline. On the TV, he didn’t used to smile his first couple of years and he’s smiling more on the sideline which is great. He’s done a remarkable job.”