East Lansing — A week ago, Mark Dantonio was in a foul mood.
His Michigan State team had just beaten Tulsa to open the 2019 season, but after watching the game film from the 28-7 victory, the Spartans coach was hardly feeling good about the performance and challenged his team heading into its Week 2 matchup with Western Michigan.
The Spartans responded, rolling over the Broncos, 51-17, as the offense finally came to life.
“If you feel that was fire last week, you should have been at the team meeting, I guess,” a much calmer Dantonio said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “Sometimes you just have to deal with the brutal reality of things, and you know, you have to call them as you see them, and that's the way I called it.”
It worked, and now No. 18 Michigan State (2-0) gets set to take on an Arizona State team that has also won its first two games, but is struggling to find its offensive identity, much the same way the Spartans were heading into last week.
The Sun Devils, who scored 13 fourth-quarter points to beat Michigan State last year in Tempe, are coming off a lackluster 19-7 win over Sacramento State last week following a 30-7 victory over Kent State in the season opener.
For Dantonio, the scores don’t mean much. As long as Herm Edwards is coaching the Sun Devils, they’ll get Dantonio’s respect.
“Herm Edwards is an outstanding football coach,” Dantonio said. “He's a football guy. I think he's been around football all his life and every time I've had an opportunity to be around him, I've really enjoyed just sitting and talking with him and everything. He's seen the game change himself as he's gone through time.”
He’s also seen the Sun Devils change from last season. No longer is a veteran quarterback throwing to an NFL-caliber receiver. Instead, true freshman Jayden Daniels is at quarterback, and he’s relying on veteran running back Eno Benjamin.
Defensively, the Sun Devils run a 3-3-5 like Tulsa, but there are differences that will present challenges for the Spartans.
“They are different than Tulsa in terms of what they do in the back end coverage-wise, and also what they are doing up front,” Dantonio said. “They are a penetrating type of team. They put a lot of people at the point of attack. A lot of different pressures and movement up front, so a little bit like Western in that fact. A little bit like Tulsa in the fact that they are built from a 3-3-5 standpoint, but there are similarities, but there's definitely differences in the three teams.”
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MSU's new uniforms: 'Whoo ...'
While many Michigan State fans were buzzing about the way the offense played last week, there was nearly as much talk about the Spartans’ new uniforms, which featured neon green pants.
Dantonio had, of course, already seen the uniforms but seeing them being worn by the entire team was like sensory overload.
“When I walked in the locker room, I said, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ I was like, ‘Whoo,’” Dantonio said. “I knew if they were worn at night, they would take on a different look and when they were all on together as a group, it looked good. And then when they were going down the field, making tackles, collectively, it looked good.
“Nike did a great job, and you know, our players liked them and that's what I asked them to look at. In pregame, I said, ‘Hey, you want to wear these uniforms?’ to our captains. ‘Oh, yeah, Coach. Let's go.’ … But I liked them at the end of the game, and the bottom line is, how do you play?”
As for when the uniforms might be seen again?
“Might be wearing them this week,” he said with a smile. “You never know.”
During his press conference on Monday, Edwards talked about his love of Jimmy Hendrix and seeing him in concert when he was young.
That led to Dantonio being asked about his favorite concert experience.
“I've had some good ones,” he said. “Took my girls to see Shania Twain when they were this big … surprised them and took them to see Shania Twain in Cincinnati. It was special because of that. Backstage with Kenny Chesney was special. I missed the Eric Church concert. That's one I need to make, because I had another event that night.
“And then my first concert was the Eagles, so going way back, first concert I ever went to was the Eagles. I haven't seen (Bruce) Springsteen yet, so I'm looking for that one, someday.”