Dantonio, Spartans guard against post-UM letdown

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — The emotional high of last weekend's last-second victory over Michigan was still lingering Tuesday at Spartan Stadium, but for Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio there was only one item on the to-do list — prepare for Indiana.

There was still plenty to rehash about the improbable touchdown scored by Jalen Watts-Jackson on the final play of the game. The redshirt freshman, who scooped up a botched punt and raced 38 yards for the winning touchdown, was back on campus after undergoing surgery on his dislocated hip over the weekend.

He got the chance to meet up with teammates Monday, his first chance to bask in the glory of his achievement.

"He was in good spirits, and a lot of people making it over (to see him)," Dantonio said. "The man, the legend, is back."

But for the most part, players and coaches already were moving past the victory.

"We already moved on," co-defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett said. "It's time to go on to the next. Like Coach (George) Perles said, the 24-hour rule. It's over. Let's go."

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Bouncing back after a big game is something Dantonio's teams have excelled at. Last season, Michigan State followed its loss at Oregon with a one-sided victory over Eastern Michigan and came back from the loss to Ohio State by rolling over Maryland.

The same type of success has followed matchups with its rival.

The Spartans have lost once after playing the Wolverines under Dantonio — to the Buckeyes last season.

"We've talked about how to reach our goals," Dantonio said. "You don't say, 'Hey, we are going to win all our games or we are going to go to the playoffs.' You have got to fight your way to that. So the next bout, the next challenge is Indiana coming in here.

"After the success we've had around here, our players understand the only thing that matters is that you get there at the end. … That's how we're set up right now. That's the culture. So I would be extremely disappointed if we didn't come to play."

Being emotionally ready will be necessary this week.

Indiana enters the game 4-3 overall and 0-3 in the Big Ten, but has played in some tight games, including a 34-27 setback at Ohio State after failing to convert on fourth-and-goal in the final minute.

The Hoosiers have a potent offense, led by quarterback Nate Sudfeld, that leads the Big Ten in passing (284 yards). Last week Sudfeld threw for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns.

"They probably could very easily be 6-1 from the scores, and the Penn State game was much closer than it appeared," Dantonio said. "We expect a very good game."

The Hoosiers also have a history of playing the Spartans close. In 2012, Michigan State had to rally in the second half for a 31-27 victory, and in 2013 Indiana kept the pressure on in Michigan State's 42-28 victory.

Experiencing the exhilaration of last week's victory, however, is what makes this Michigan State team so tough.

"I think the win against Oregon was huge for us as a program and gave us momentum going into the next week," quarterback Connor Cook said. "We really don't get too high after wins, it just makes us want to go out there and play harder. It makes us hungrier and gives us momentum heading into the next week."

It's been the case since Cook arrived in 2011 — and it's something that's part of the makeup of every player on the team.

"I think it just comes from within," Cook said. "The coaches get our minds right, but I think it's us as a group of guys that we just naturally feel that way and the way we interact with one another ...

"There are all good vibes, and after a win like that it makes us happy and has us ready to come in and get back to work the next week."