September 11, 2010

Dantonio wants defense to improve on third down

DETROIT - Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio believes that his 2010 team has a chance to contend for a Big Ten title. The Spartans (2-0, 0-0) have more talent than they have had at any time during Dantonio's tenure which began in 2007 and the group has experienced leadership and very good chemistry.

But through two games, the Spartans have come up a short of the ceiling their head coach wants them to strive for. Following Michigan State's 30-17 win over Florida Atlantic at Ford Field on Saturday Dantonio made it clear that his team needs to learn how to put teams away and not allow them to creep back into games.

"When you look at us defensively, you have to be able to put them away," Dantonio said. "They made plays when they had to a little bit and it causes you to look at things and say is that a critical error, is that a physical error, is that a mental error, or is that a structural error on every single thing that happens out there. And that is what we do. We played pretty well out there, but for two series we have to get off the field."

Michigan State's defense gave up two long scoring drives to FAU. But the Spartan offense also had a couple of setbacks. An interception thrown by Kirk Cousins in the end zone on a pass that was intended for Charlie Gantt was costly as was a fumble by freshman Le'Veon Bell.

"On offense, I thought we played pretty well," said Dantonio. "We can't turn the ball over there at the end. We can't turn the ball over on the 1-yard line. Other than those two, and those are two critical errors, we probably played pretty well on offense."

The Spartans might have been far from blemish free against FAU, but there were a number of positives including another outstanding day for Michigan State on the ground. After rushing for 117 yards during the opener against Western Michigan, sophomore Edwin Baker established a new career best with 183 yards rush on 15 carries. The highlight of the day for Baker was an 80-yard touchdown run on Michigan State's first possession of the second half.

"Edwin Baker ran the football the way that he did, outstanding job," said Dantonio. "I think he ran for about 180 yards and I think our offensive line had a lot to do with that as well. He ran with power, he broke tackles, and really he set the tone for this football team."

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