Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Michigan State's Mark Dantonio snookers Notre Dame -- again

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It looked like quite the ironic twist at the end of Notre Dame's 34-31 overtime loss to Michigan State on Saturday night in East Lansing.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, an aggressive, offensive-minded riverboat-gambler who understands the value of putting pressure on your opponent, disdaining a fourth-and-one at the Michigan State 18 in overtime to settle for a field goal; and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, a conservative, defensive-minded old-schooler beating Kelly with a well-executed fake field goal.

 If anything, it's supposed to be the other way around. But you have to give Dantonio credit, not only for a daring call that worked, but for forging such a conservative reputation that makes a play like that even more likely to succeed.

Because Dantonio has run a fake play every year he's been at Michigan State. Not only the fake against Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl -- Aaron Bates throwing to tight end Charlie Gantt just like Saturday night -- that Kelly referenced in his post-game press conference Saturday night.  But at least four other times since Dantonio became Michigan State's head coach in 2007.
Dantonio also tried a fake punt against Georgia in the Capital One Bowl after the 2008 season (it failed). And he beat Penn State 35-31 with the help of a 17-yard gain on a fake punt -- talk about audacious, it came in the same game Penn State had scored on a fake field goal.

In fact, that was the third time in Dantonio's first season at Michigan State that he snookered somebody with a fake. He used a 14-yard gain on a fake field goal on the first possession against Indiana to set up a touchdown that paved the way for a 52-27 victory.

And how can Notre Dame fans forget the "fumble-rooskie'' that Dantonio pulled off to finish off the Irish in 2007? Quarterback Brian Hoyer faked a fumble, then threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kellen Davis to put the finishing touch on a  31-14 victory in 2007.

Kelly blamed is team's poor execution for allowing the fake to work so well. ''We had a guy covering him who fell down,'' he told reporters after the game. That is true. But if one guy falling down can cause a play to succeed so spectacularly as it did Saturday night, Kelly might want to take another look at how they defend field goals. Because there's got to be a better way.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on September 20, 2010 2:20 PM.

Brian Kelly Not Whining About Play Clock vs. Michigan State was the previous entry in this blog.

Notre Dame defense 'battling'' -- needs to battle better is the next entry in this blog.

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