Mark Dantonio's Top 10 wins at Michigan State

As Mark Dantonio celebrates his 100th game as Michigan State's head coach, we spotlight his Top 10 wins at the helm.

Saturday marks a milestone for Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, as it marks the 100th game since he took over the program in 2007.

There have been big wins, tough losses, trick plays and much more, so we decided to take a closer look at his tenure by ranking the Top 10 wins of his coaching career:

10. Michigan State 41, Nebraska 28. Nov. 16, 2013

It might not seem like much on paper, but the win carried some significance. Firstly, it all but assured Michigan State would go to the Big Ten title game, just needing a win the following week against Northwestern. The real significance comes from the fact Michigan State had never beaten Nebraska in program history. It also was the final road win needed by Dantonio to have won in all road Big Ten stadiums – a list that now re-opens with Maryland and Rutgers added.

9. Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31. Oct. 22, 2011

In what will forever be remembered for the Hail Mary play called “Rocket,” Dantonio won huge night game against a top-ranked team on a big stage with College GameDay in town. The Spartans had to overcome an early deficit to take the lead, which they gave back to Wisconsin before winning on a deflected final play that landed in the hands of Keith Nichol.

8. Michigan State 26, Michigan 20 (OT). Oct. 3, 2009

Realistically, this spot could go to the entire series against Michigan, as Dantonio is 5-2 against the Wolverines. This one was a little bit more important for the 2009 season, though. The Spartans had lost three straight games, including a loss to Central Michigan and a late loss at Notre Dame. Without the win, MSU would have finished the season 5-7. It also gave Michigan State its first two-game winning streak against Michigan since 1966-67 – a streak which reached four before a loss in 2012.

7. Michigan State 33, Georgia 30. Jan. 2, 2012

Michigan State had gone to a bowl game in every year under Dantonio, but beating Georgia was its first win. It went a little bit deeper, as Michigan State had lost a difficult Big Ten title game to Wisconsin and was passed over for a BCS bid that went to in-state rival Michigan. Playing in the Capital One Bowl, the Spartans won in triple-OT in a dramatic game that concluded with a blocked field-goal attempt.

6. Michigan State 35, Penn State 31. Nov. 17, 2007

Heading into the season finale of Dantonio’s first year, Michigan State was 6-5 and in need of a win to sit at 7-5 and essentially lock up a bowl bid. The Spartans did just that win a win against Penn State in their final game and Michigan State went to its first bowl since 2003. The Spartans have gone to a bowl game every season since.

5. Michigan State 26, Minnesota 10. Nov. 24, 2012

The Spartans came into 2012 with a lot of momentum and expectations even with substantial losses. The season was a struggle and featured plenty of ups and downs. It came down to the final regular-season game as MSU had a 5-6 record heading into Minnesota. The win took some guts and really sent MSU to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU and kept the bowl streak alive. Above all, the win helped set the stage for a Rose Bowl run in 2013.

4. Michigan State 34, Notre Dame 31 (OT). Sept. 18, 2010

Naturally, the most famous play of Dantonio’s tenure had to make an appearance on the list. In a back-and-forth rivalry game with the Irish, Dantonio rolled the dice and said to kicker Dan Conroy and holder Aaron Bates, “Let’s run ‘Little Giants.’” The fake field goal in overtime was successful, as Bates hit tight end Charlie Gantt for a touchdown and a win that no one in attendance will soon forget.

3. Michigan State 28, Penn State 22. Nov. 27, 2010

Dantonio had plenty of success in his first three years in East Lansing, but had no titles to his name. That changed when the Spartans clinched a share of the Big Ten title after holding off a late run by Penn State to make it a closer game. It was the first Big Ten title for Dantonio and was yet another final game of the season with big significance.

2. Michigan State 34, Ohio State 24. Dec. 7, 2013

Michigan State went into the Big Ten Championship Game last season viewed as an underdog. Ohio State had won 24 straight games and was looking to make its way into the national title game. Michigan State had other plans, as the Spartans came out quickly and had some big plays early from Connor Cook, Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery. The Spartans rolled to their second Big Ten title under Dantonio and into their first Rose Bowl.

1. Michigan State 24, Stanford 20. Jan. 1, 2014

As if this list would end with any other game. The culmination of Dantonio’s first seven seasons came with a win in Pasadena – a goal set at the start. It came on the heels of a tough 2012 season and a difficult growth process early in the 2013 season, which made it all the sweet when Michigan State sealed the game with Kyler Elsworth’s fourth-down stuff of Stanford’s Tyler Hewitt to win Dantonio’s first Rose Bowl. It was undoubtedly what all previous games built toward and all others will be compared to moving forward.


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