Sept. 3, 2007
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Mark Dantonio's motivational job just got a bit easier.
After a 55-18 win Saturday over UAB in his first game as Michigan State's head coach, Dantonio won't have to worry about his players looking past Bowling Green this week.
Two scores from other Big Ten stadiums that day were stamped into everyone's mind: Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32 -- a monumental upset -- and Bowling Green 32, Minnesota 31 in overtime.
"There's a lot of parity in college football," Dantonio said. "Even if you look at the I-AA level, and I was at Youngstown State for five years, emotion plays a big part of it. As soon as you start believing you can do something, you have a chance.
"And of course, when you're the heavy favorite, you start to tighten up a little bit when things start to happen."
The Spartans hope an outstanding performance in their opener, with a 45-3 halftime lead and opportunities for 18 freshmen to see action, will build confidence. Meanwhile, the other scores should ensure caution.
"I would hope so," Dantonio said. "I would hope just the Bowling Green win over Minnesota would open everybody's eyes. And when they see the film, they'll know why."
That message was clear in the minds of running back Jehuu Caulcrick and inside linebacker Kalab Thornhill, two of the team's four co-captains.
"They're in a good conference," Caulcrick said of the Falcons after being named Co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. "They have a better Big Ten record than we do right now. They beat a good Minnesota team out there."
Michigan State did nothing to beat itself, committing just one 5-yard penalty in the first half and no turnovers for the day. It outrushed the Blazers 298-12 and only looked confused on its walk to the stadium.
"We were walking over, and we usually go to the right," Caulcrick said. "Coach D. pointed to the left, and Kaleb and I looked at each other and said, 'Does he know where he's going?' But that walk past Sparty was a different experience for me.
"The band was there, and the hair stood up on the back of my neck."
"I didn't know what he was doing," Thornhill said. "He said, 'This way,' and I said, 'This way!' He said, 'No,' then he started handing back pennies to flick at Sparty on the way by, the way they used to do here."
Caulcrick and Thornhill said they don't expect a walkover this Saturday -- or any other weekend.
"The MAC teams, you can't take 'em lightly," Thornhill said. "You have to go out and play every game, or else you're going to get beat. Bowling Green definitely showed some heart at Minnesota.
"But any team at any level can play these days. That has been expressed to us many times. And it has really hit home."