East Lansing — Mark Dantonio had a surprise waiting for him this morning when he let the dogs out.
As he opened the garage door, there was Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo.
It was around 5:30 a.m. Dantonio was getting his day started and Izzo was headed out of town. Dantonio recalled the meeting later Tuesday morning during his weekly press conference when asked about playing night games, which has started to become routine for the Spartans.
Saturday’s game at Indiana kicks off at 7:30 p.m., the third time in three games Michigan State has played at night. There are both positives and negatives, according to Dantonio.
“I think there's a glass half-empty or is it half-full, I guess,” Dantonio said. “At some points in time, I think it's great to play them because it gives you that feeling as a player that you're back in high school and at night and I think you're faster at night. Everybody likes to run as fast as they can.”
The flip side, of course, is how it affects a team when you finish a game late at night, something made even more difficult two weeks ago when the Spartans played three time zones away in Arizona.
“You don't like to get home at two in the morning, either, 3 in the morning, because that takes a toll on you the rest of the week,” Dantonio said. “Last week we got home Sunday at 9 in the morning, so that takes a toll on you, not just from a football standpoint but from an academic standpoint, as well. I think you really see that in basketball. I talk to Coach Izzo all the time … he's always talking about their night games and what time he has to get home and how the guys have classes in the morning and things of that nature, so it becomes a little bit difficult.”
Odds are this won’t be No. 24 Michigan State’s final night game. The rivalry with Michigan always has a chance to be played in prime time, as could the Ohio State game in early November.
It follows the pattern of recent years as television partners like ESPN, Fox and the Big Ten Network have pushed more toward prime-time games. The Spartans played three night games last season after playing four in 2016 and four in the regular season in 2015 followed by night games in the Big Ten title game and the College Football Playoffs.
“I've always just said, line them up and play them when they tell us to play them,” Dantonio said. “This is our third straight night game. I believe in repetition makes you better, so we'll see.”
And why was Dantonio’s recognizable neighbor around that early?
“I asked him the same thing,” Dantonio said with a smile. “I was letting my dogs out and he was on his way — I think he got back at midnight last night and he was catching a flight this morning at 5:45 to go to some other place.”
Injury, depth chart update
Back in the first week of preseason camp, Michigan State was dealt its first injury problem as sophomore cornerback Josiah Scott suffered an undisclosed injury that, according to Dantonio, would keep Scott out “for probably two months.”
That two-month prognosis is coming close to an end, however, Dantonio said Scott has not returned to practice.
“Not yet,” Dantonio said.
Dantonio didn’t offer much more information on the status of senior running back LJ Scott, fifth-year senior guard David Beedle or sophomore defensive end Jacub Panasiuk. Scott and Beedle were injured during the Arizona State game while Panasiuk was hurt in the opener against Utah State and didn’t make the trip to Arizona State.
“We'll see how it all shakes out, but I will say yes,” Dantonio said. “(The bye week) helps.”
Dantonio also said he expects junior linebacker Tyriq Thompson to play. Thompson, who started the opener, didn’t make the trip to Arizona State after being detained because of a misdemeanor noise violation on Sept. 1.
A place to spit
Since 1950, Michigan State and Indiana have played for the Old Brass Spittoon. The Spartans won it back last season after losing at Indiana in 2016.
And what do the Spartans do with it?
“We spit in it,” Dantonio said with a chuckle. “Then we clean it out, get it ready for next year, if we're fortunate enough to win.”