Darien Harris

Mark Dantonio defends fake punt

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There was a handful of bad fake punts executed on Saturday. Mississippi State avoided letting a bad fake punt come back to haunt them. So did Michigan State.

Michigan State managed to get out of town with a win against upset-minded Purdue on Saturday. It even managed to overcome a rare questionable coaching decision by Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio.

Michigan State held a 38-24 lead midway through the fourth quarter. After two incomplete passes by quarterback Connor Cook, the Spartans were forced to punt from their own 29-yard line, giving Purdue some life. It turns out, Dantonio gave the Boilermakers even more life. Lawrence Thomas faked the punt and attempted to run for the first down. It did not work. Thomas only managed to pick up one yard, allowing Purdue to take over from the Spartans’ 30-yard line. Four plays later Akeem Hunt was in the end zone and Michigan State’s lead was down to single digits (until the defense scored a pick-six on an interception return by Darien Harris).

After the game, even though the defending Big Ten champions had won, Dantonio was asked about the decision to run the fake punt, and he defended it.

“I thought the time was right; the execution didn’t happen the way we wanted it, but I thought it was set up right,” Dantonio said following the win over Purdue (via MLive.com). “We’ll see whether it was defeated or whether we come up short.”

“I just sort of felt like, as it was indicated, the momentum sort of swung their way,” Dantonio said. “I felt like hey, it’s 5 yards, we can get 5. We’ve been working on it for a long time, and if you’re not going to use it don’t work on it.”

Purdue gave Michigan State a fight, but the Spartans responded. Michigan State may still be the team to beat in the Big Ten and they still have a shot to crack the playoff discussion weeks after the narrative wrote off the Big Ten. With so much riding on each game and play moving forward, do not expect Dantonio to take such a risk again, especially in games against Michigan and Ohio State.