Michigan State does not play Oregon on Wednesday, the next day and not the next day. That is something the Spartans are focused on keeping in mind as they go through preparations to play in Eugune on Saturday.
“It will be fun Saturday afternoon, but I don’t get excited on Wednesdays,” defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. “Saturday when the game starts and you’re up in the box and you look out there and go, ‘Hey, this is cool to be here, let’s go.’”
Keeping emotions in check is something coach Mark Dantonio said the Spartans have a system for, which takes on added importance with big games on big stages.
”We just ask our players to stay under control and make sure that on game day at game time that's when your energy comes out, and you've got to have energy,” coach Mark Dantonio said.
That is not to say the Spartans are not excited, as Narduzzi said he has seen a “little extra pep” with his players this week.
“We treat them the same,” he said. “We try to hit him over the head with a baseball bat if we have to get them going, but I did a little something extra (Tuesday) and we didn’t have to bring the bats out.”
While the extra pep is there, the goal for the Spartans is to gradually build toward kickoff Saturday before letting all the energy out during the game. To describe the lead up to a game, Dantonio uses a phrase for that control of energy with his players.
“He just calls it keeping the lion in the cage,” safety Kurtis Drummond said. “You gotta really just understand that getting all hyped too early does nothing for. You gotta understand that you don’t play the game until it kicks off.
”If you get hyped up too early, you’re doing nothing but wasting your energy.”
Senior wide receiver Tony Lippett said the key to being bottled up at game time and ready to go is just taking things day by day.
”The game is not tomorrow so there is no reason to get worked up and hyped up right now,” he said. “The game is not Friday, the game is Saturday, so like Coach D always tells us, keep the lion in the cage and just relax until that game time and then let them out.”
When it comes to playing on a big stage like a Top-10 matchup between Michigan State and Oregon, a lot of the onus for the Spartans keeping things under control falls on senior leadership.
“We have a lot of leaders and veteran guys who understand you’ve really gotta keep your emotion bottled up,” Drummond said. “That’s one thing Coach D always talks about is knowing when to let your lion out of the cage and guys really understand that and we are excited to go out there.”