Spartans Clean Things Up

After a sloppy victory in week one, Mark Dantonio came away from Saturday's 44-0 victory over Florida Atlantic feeling his team responded well and cleaned up several areas of concern.

Everyone expected Michigan State to come away with a victory over Howard Schellenberger's, Florida Atlantic program on Saturday. However, with a trip to Notre Dame up next, head coach Mark Dantonio knew his team needed to play better than it had shown in week one.

"I thought we played very, very well; the way we responded," said Dantonio. "I thought we cleaned up a lot of things that were evident in the first game, particularly penalties. I think we had three, and one of them was on the field goal after (Jeremy) Langford's fumble recovery and touchdown. No penalties on defense."

One thing that always excites the Spartans head coach is solid defensive play. On Saturday afternoon he got that from his young and improving group.

"A shutout, anytime you throw a shutout in 2011 I think you get a phenomenal performance by your defense," said Dantonio. "I thought our players played and executed the defense very, very well."

Dantonio was also happy with how his offense controlled the game.

"Offensively, we controlled the football, controlled the tempo," said Dantonio. "I thought (Kirk) Cousins was sharp, a big play by B.J. (Cunningham) on the first catch that he had. I thought we just played very well, no turnovers."

With senior wide receiver B.J. Cunnnigham setting a program career mark, Dantonio spoke about a pregame conversation he had with the Ohio native before the game.

"I told him he needed one catch before the game and I said, "Make it a good one." I thought he did," said Dantonio. "We were punting if he had not made that catch; it was a very difficult catch - a circus catch - and I thought that was one of the finer plays of the game. It got us down there on the first touchdown, and sort of set the tone, I thought, for the game."

With Notre Dame ahead and an early Big Ten schedule many feel is one of the hardest in the conference, Dantonio came away feeling his team is making progress.

"That is the type of progress you want," said Dantonio. "It was a very clean game; the only thing we had really (go against us) was the one kickoff return. I thought we played very clean; defensively, there were zero penalties, zero big plays against you, we stopped the run. I think we had maybe three or four sacks. I thought we hit very well and tackled very well. The things we needed to do defensively, we did.

"Special teams; we missed a field goal which was disappointing, we had the one kick so we have to still continue to come there. Offensively I thought we played very, we ran the ball effectively, especially in the second half. And we played a lot of guys; we played over 70 players."

With several new starters on this year's defense, Dantonio spoke on how the team is still finding their identity as a group.

"I think that once you go forward you are always trying to find your identity as a football team," said Dantonio. "Your identity has to be shown over 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 games probably, as you get deep into your season. Overall it's a great win. Our next test is down at Notre Dame next week. We have to be fundamentally sound, we have to do things well down there and we have to build our identity. I don't think one game makes it, but I thought we took steps to it in that direction today."

Saturday's blowout also allowed for the Spartans depth at running back to be shown as all four backs played.

"I thought all four of our running backs played well," said Dantonio. "Obviously the first three are in there and they get the bulk of what is going on. Then Nick Hill, out fourth, you saw what Nick Hill can do. He can slip, he is very patient, he can slip through there and he is a powerful runner. He gave you an indication of what he is all about a little bit. He can make plays. Le'veon (Bell) and Larry (Caper) and Rock (Edwin Baker) they all played very well I thought. The blocking up front was solid as well. I thought our guys played well.

One area Dantonio was happy about was how his team had gone through the week focused on the task at hand.

"I thought we were focused coming into the week. I thought last week's game got our attention, and we were ready to go this week. I felt that throughout the week we had good practices but more importantly good chemistry and good enthusiasm. We were sort of ready mentally, and emotionally ready."

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