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Dantonio: ‘No issues’ with Buckeyes PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, December 03, 2013 9:17 PM

From Media Sources

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Mark Dantonio wants to make it abundantly clear there is no lingering animosity between him and the coaching staff at Ohio State.

“There are no issues,” Dantonio said Tuesday. “A lot of times I think it’s the media bringing up things that happened two years ago that are trying to create that.”

Still, the matchup is an intriguing one.

Dantonio’s 10th-ranked Spartans take on the second-ranked Buckeyes on Saturday night in a Big Ten championship game full of story lines. Dantonio was an assistant at Ohio State under Jim Tressel when the Buckeyes had their national title season in 2002. Now he’s standing in the way of a different Ohio State staff that is on the verge of playing for a national championship.

Michigan State hasn’t played in the Rose Bowl since 1988 but the Spartans (11-1) have a chance to end that drought with a win this weekend.

Dantonio is even acknowledging the far-fetched possibility that the team he coaches could work its way into the BCS championship discussion this year.

“When we — or however you want to put this — if we’re 12-1 at the end of the week, why not us?” Dantonio asked. “If certain scenarios take place, which obviously, last week you saw a lot of scenarios take place. There are no givens in college football.”

Dantonio did say he thought the Buckeyes (12-0) should play for the national title if they beat Michigan State,and there was no real hint of any tension between him and the school where he once coached.

Dantonio is from Zanesville, Ohio, and he was an assistant at Ohio State before taking over as the head coach at Cincinnati before the 2004 season. He later moved on to Michigan State.

Tressel remained in charge at Ohio State until he was forced out before the 2011 season amid a memorabilia-for-cash scandal. Urban Meyer eventually took over the Buckeyes and they haven’t lost since, winning 24 straight games over the last two seasons. Meyer’s aggressive reputation from his days at Florida immediately drew attention throughout the Big Ten, where “flipping” recruits suddenly became a major topic.

Dantonio was asked about that on signing day in 2012 and replied he thought it was “pretty unethical” to aggressively pursue verbal commitments from other programs. Dantonio was speaking generically — and released a statement a couple days later insisting he wasn’t directing his comments at any school in particular.

Last season, after Ohio State’s 17-16 win in East Lansing, Michigan State complained that the Buckeyes had sent “incomplete” video before the game. Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi told the Detroit Free Press that Ohio State had deleted pre-snap motions and shifts before plays on video of its first four games that season. Narduzzi indicated that the Spartans had complained to the league, although Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said he and Gene Smith, his counterpart at Ohio State, had settled the issue.

Dantonio wasn’t about to dwell on any of that Tuesday.

“All that is resolved to my satisfaction,” Dantonio said. “I think coaches are very competitive people by nature and they’re going to try and win, and they want to try and get every single little bit of information that they can. But yeah, there’s no issues. There’s no issues.

“I have some very, very good friends that are on Ohio State’s staff.”

As for this week’s controversy of the moment — whether Buckeyes offensive lineman Marcus Hall should be suspended for Saturday’s title game after being ejected against Michigan last weekend — the Spartans weren’t about to cry foul.

“I’m excited that no one is suspended,” Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough said. “I hope no one does get suspended. I want to play their best. I think if we were in that same situation they’d say the same.”

Although there is a lot at stake this weekend, it doesn’t look like there will be much of a war of words leading up to this title game.

“Obviously I worked for Coach Tressel and he’s had a huge impact on my life, had some very exciting times when I was there,” Dantonio added. “I understand the traditions, I understand the expectations that go along with being there. Have deep respect for Ohio State and what they’ve been able to accomplish.”

Ohio State expects to fix leaky defense

COLUMBUS — Forgive Luke Fickell if he is defensive about Ohio State’s defense.

As a Buckeyes nose guard in the 1990s, he endured too much heartbreak against Michigan to not appreciate a win over their rivals. OSU’s 42-41 win Saturday sure felt a whole lot better than its more throwback 13-9 loss in 1996 — the third time in his four years UM ruined an unbeaten Buckeyes season.

So what went wrong last weekend? Ohio State’s defensive coordinator laughed.

“What do you mean what went wrong?” Fickell asked. “Did we win? Did we win? Did we win? … I went into that game undefeated three of my four years and didn’t come away with success. Whether it would have been a 42-41 win, I bet you I would be really happy to have one of them back.”

Truth is, though, he knows the second-ranked Buckeyes have some fixing to do before Saturday night’s Big Ten championship game against No. 10 Michigan State.

While the focus will be on Ohio State’s record-smashing offense against the nation’s best defense — the Spartans allow only 237.7 yards per game — the other sides of the ball may figure just as prominently.

“That stuff about our [offense and their defense] is good for the media and all that,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said. “But as far as winning the game, we’re going to have to play excellent defense against their offense.”

If not quite an anchor, Ohio State’s defense has been the only cause for concern on a team likely bound for the BCS title game with a win on Saturday in Indianapolis.

An off-and-on unit down to three returning starters vanished against a Michigan offense ranked 96th nationally, surrendering 451 yards passing and 603 overall — the most OSU has allowed since 1980.

Ohio State fell to 30th in total defense (355.8 yards per game) and 101st in stopping the pass (255.8).

Its latest performance underscored any number of question marks, including a lack of depth at linebacker, an uneven secondary and the youth of a defensive line that has at times had its way but struggled to consistently pressure Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner.

Fickell also said an aggressive gameplan — a head-on mode that has helped the Buckeyes amass a national-best 39 sacks this season — left Ohio State more susceptible to the Wolverines’ screens and misdirection plays. OSU, for instance, was blitzing on Gardner’s early 84-yard throwback screen pass to Jeremy Gallon.

“But like we say to our kids, do you want us to stop and just play all base and not be aggressive because they’re going to hit you on something?” Fickell asked. “You’ve got to move on. It all comes down to awareness.”

Bottom line, Meyer said, the defense must get better by Saturday. Or else …

“We won’t win the game,” he said. “We won’t win that game this time. That’s just very simple. We have to play much better.”

As for Michigan State’s take on the Buckeyes’ high-wire win over UM?

“Any time you see your opponent give up that many yards the week before you play them, you’re licking your chops,” MSU quarterback Connor Cook said.

OSU players say they embrace the challenge. Though Cook has thrown for 2,119 yards and 17 touchdowns, a no-frills Spartans offense just as content to stay on the ground could play into their hands. The Buckeyes’ rush defense ranks fifth in the country, limiting opponents to 100 yards per game.

“We were exposed [Saturday],” Meyer added. “We didn’t play very well, and when that happens, you’ve just got to get it fixed. I have a lot of confidence we will.”

Asked what he would tell fans who are down on the defense, cornerback Doran Grant smiled.

“Just tune in Saturday,” he replied.

NO SUSPENSIONS: The Big Ten announced the two Ohio State players ejected for their role in the melee at Michigan will not be suspended for the Big Ten championship game.

The league did, however, issue a public reprimand of senior offensive lineman Marcus Hall for “his actions while exiting the playing field.” The starting guard slammed his helmet to the turf and raised his middle fingers to the crowd after he and freshman receiver Dontre Wilson, along with UM backup linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone, were ejected for throwing punches in the second-quarter fight.

The league also reprimanded the OSU staff for “failing in its duty to effectively manage the process of escorting” Hall to the locker room but otherwise praised the coaches and officials.

“The officials and coaching staffs from both institutions did a good job of containing the situation once it started,” the Big Ten wrote in a statement. “As bad as it was, we’re fortunate the incident did not escalate any further. More can and should be done by both coaching staffs in the future to prevent similar incidents from detracting from this rivalry.”

Meyer called Hall’s gesture “nonsense” and said he was “very disappointed and angry” about the scuffle.

“That’s not us,” he added. “That’s not Ohio State and it’s not them.”

Buckeyes’ Miller takes Big Ten offensive honors

CHICAGO — Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season.

Miller has averaged 265 yards of total offense and accounted for 29 total touchdowns while leading Ohio State to a 12-0 record despite a knee injury early in the season. The Buckeyes will play Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday.

Wisconsin’s Chris Borland was announced as the Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg as Freshman of the Year.

Dantonio was selected Coach of the Year by both the coaches and media after leading the Spartans to an 11-1 record — 8-0 in conference play — and the Legends Division crown.

Borland is the fifth Badger to receive the Big Ten’s top defensive award, along with Erasmus James (2004), Jamar Fletcher (2000), Tom Burke (1998) and Troy Vincent (1991). He ranks third in the conference with 9.3 tackles per game.

Hackenberg is the third Nittany Lion and second in as many seasons to be selected Freshman of the Year, joining Deion Barnes (2012) and Curtis Enis (1995). He averaged 246.2 yards passing and threw for 20 touchdowns.

 

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