The 50th anniversary of the famous “Game of the Century” was talked about as much as Michigan State's last battle against Notre Dame in 2013 and the 2016 edition of the rivalry between the Irish and Spartans during Mark Dantonio’s weekly press conference.
While members of the media might have wanted to stroll down memory lane, Dantonio was focused on the trip ahead while also giving the 1966 game it’s due.
“Very excited about going down to South Bend to play in this game,” said Dantonio. “It's a rivalry game for us. Been involved in this football game probably since `97 as an assistant coach, and there's been some great games with Notre Dame.
“I think it all goes back to the '66 game certainly and even maybe before that. So it's been a traditional-type rivalry and we've embraced that as we have so many of our other rivalries.”
Looking back to the 10-10 tie members of the media were curious about Dantonio’s thoughts on college football’s overtime rules now in place and if he remembered or even watched the game himself.
“I’m glad the overtime rule is in effect,” he said. “I do remember it. I was 10. I wasn’t a Spartan then. I was 10. I was just a happy kid and didn’t have all these pressures on me.”
Those pressures start with Brian Kelly and his Fighting Irish offensive attack with quarterback DeShone Kizer.
“Kizer gives you that guy that can stand in the pocket and be a traditional type passer, but at the same time can create,” he explained. “If you get a quarterback like that doing those types of things, very dangerous; has good rhythm to his throws, gets out of trouble, big, physical-type guy.”
While it’s been a few years since the Spartans took on the Irish the current group of seniors were freshmen leaving a large group of Spartans having never seen the team from South Bend.
Did Dantonio see fit for his upperclassmen to discuss the Irish?
“Yeah, we’ve talked about that a little bit, and we’ll talk about that more this week with our upperclassmen and seniors that were there,” he said. “They’ll give them a feeling of what the place is about, and our coaching staff has pretty much stayed intact, so we understand that as well.”
One area Dantonio did remember fondly from the last meeting with the Irish was how Kelly and his offense attacked the Spartans defense by throwing deep. That has not been lost on Dantonio.
“20 times,” he said. “From my perspective, we made plays. You know, flags came out a little bit, but from my perspective, we made plays on the ball. Sometimes those are bang-bang type situations where you’re trying to, everybody’s trying to do the right thing, so not looking backwards. But at the same time, regardless of what happens, you need to move on and play the next play.
“I think we did do a good job of that. We held them to 17 points, I think it was 17 (13-17). That was a positive. So we need to continue to play like we do. We need to be who we are too. We can’t let somebody take us out of who we are.”
The Spartans hit the road for the first time this weekend with a 7:42 p.m. kickoff against the Irish. The game will be televised on NBC as the game is listed as sold out.