Coach Mark Dantonio preaches discipline. It helps make Michigan State a perennial Top-25 team.
That’s why last Friday’s lack of it ate at him.
The 12th-ranked Spartans gave up 120 yards on penalties in a ho-hum, 28-13 victory against Furman of the FCS.
“That’s a lot of yards, especially at inopportune times for us, and really told the story of the game,” Dantonio said.
It’s better to learn lessons in a win than a loss, however. In what is a strange scheduling quirk, Michigan State will receive two weeks to apply them.
The Spartans have a bye on Saturday just one week into the season. They head to rival Notre Dame next week for a night game.
“It’s tough. It’s been a question throughout the process, you know. I think we’re the only team in America that plays, has a bye the second week of the season, and then plays a Power Five team that next week,” Dantonio said.
“But we use it as a positive. We’ll get some guys, first of all, healthy. Secondly, our players are really in school for the first time this week. You know, last week was a chopped up week. So they can get themselves grounded in that respect. Third, we can get out and recruit a little bit on the weekend. So that’s a positive.”
Michigan State is replacing a lot of starters lost off last year’s team. Tyler O’Connor is stepping in for the school’s all-time winningest quarterback, Connor Cook. For the most part, he’s throwing to a group of inexperienced receivers.
O’Connor proved efficient after a rough beginning. He completed 13 of 18 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns against an interception. Six different Spartans caught a ball, including Monty Madaris, who hauled in five for a team-high 85 yards.
“Tyler O’Conner probably a little nervous initially, but got off after that start.” Dantonio said. “I thought he played pretty well. I think he threw the ball effectively, threw the ball with velocity, didn’t hold back, and played aggressively.”
Dantonio and his assistants pushed a running-back-by-committee approaching during the offseason. When it came time to play, L.J. Scott carried the load. The sophomore ran for 105 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts.
“I think we go with the productive player and the productive situation at every time,” Dantonio said. “I’m never going to say we’re not going to use three. If we can get people in rhythm, I think that’s good. Guys come out — we didn’t want to have three guys come out with eight carries a piece, or even nine a piece. We wanted to make sure that we somewhat had the majority.”
The Michigan State defense performed well in the opener. Furman managed just 2.6 yards per rush. The Spartans totaled four tackles for loss, a sack, three QB hurries, and six pass breakups while picking off a pass.
MSU will need to pick up its play next week when it heads to South Bend. The Irish boast quite a few more weapons than did Furman.
“(The bye week) gives us an opportunity obviously to get ahead a little bit from a film and schematic standpoint on Notre Dame, things tend to change week-to-week with programs and who you play. But it does give us a chance to watch their personnel, what they’ve done thus far and what they’ve done last year,” Dantonio said.