East Lansing — Mark Dantonio spent most of the spring pushing to get 50,000 fans at Saturday's spring game.
And while the official number came up just short at 48,000, it was still a record for a Michigan State spring game and helped create the atmosphere Dantonio has been looking to create.
"I thought it was a great crowd, and we just keep trying to climb the ladder as we move forward," Dantonio said. "It was an excitable crowd. Very appreciative of people taking their day and coming out and doing this, and I just want to send that message out to all of our Spartans. I thought it was a great crowd, so it was impressive."
The number of 48,000 comes in as the eighth-best spring crowd in the country this season, just ahead of Georgia and one spot behind Michigan. The Big Ten had five teams in the top 10, including Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State in the top three spots.
Dantonio has wanted to make the spring game an event much like March Madness is in basketball. And he spent the last few weeks working toward that.
The team hosted two separate student clinics and on Saturday morning had roughly 1,700 people at its youth camp. The highlight for the students who attended the camps was running onto the field in a tunnel of Michigan State players.
"We had two student clinics and I told them they'd have the opportunity to run out of the tunnel in the spring game," Dantonio said. "The excitement they had and the enthusiasm they showed really was what (my) smile was all about. When people do something and they're so excited about doing it and you have an opportunity to make that happen a little bit it gives you a lift a little bit, so that's what that was about. Love our students and their enthusiasm and they're for real. Their excitement and everything is contagious."
Deception in bloom
The fun of the spring game typically comes with the various trick plays employed, and the master on the Michigan State staff is offensive line coach Mark Staten, who called plays for the White team.
"We don't have a lot of rules in these spring games except don't break out new concepts," Dantonio said. "So anything we've done in the past, we do and the book is open. And anything they can create that is new, that book's open, too. I thought coach Staten did a nice job with some wrinkles in there. He always has a unique perspective in play-calling, and I think he did an excellent job."
The White team got its only touchdown through trickery.
Connor Cook threw a backward pass to offensive lineman Donavon Clark for a 15-yard gain and center Jack Allen lined up in the backfield on the next play and scored from three yards out. The White faked the ensuing extra point, but came up short.
"Coach Staten was the OC for the game and he gets pretty creative out there," Allen said. "We had three trick plays: Donavon's play, my play, and then the fake field goal. I think (Coach Staten) just saw my footwork, and he just knew.
"That's just Coach Staten, really. He's always trying to put different stuff in and have us get a little bit of a different look. He's just creative with everything, with all the field goal fakes and stuff. Everything is him."