Mark Dantonio

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Oregon adds another ugly win to the Pac-12 win column with Redbox Bowl victory over Michigan State

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On a day that saw Stanford win an absolutely ugly game to get the Pac-12 a second bowl victory, Oregon added one more. The Ducks (9-4) held on to win a scrappy and ugly Redbox Bowl against Michigan State (7-6) by scoring just one touchdown in a 7-6 win.

Oregon did not score until early in the fourth quarter with a Justin Herbert 28-yard pass to Dillon Mitchell. Michigan State had a 6-0 lead on the strength of a pair of field goals, both of which came in the third quarter following a scoreless first half.

Oregon nearly cost themselves a win in the fourth quarter with a bizarre fake punt, in which the punter never even got off a pass on the fourth down call aimed to catch Michigan State off guard. It failed miserably.

Although Oregon’s gamble did not pay off, it ended up not hurting them either. Michigan State put themselves in position for a potential go-ahead field goal on the ensuing possession, but a botched handle of the snap forced Lewerke to try picking the ball up and getting the ball to any open receiver on a whim, and Oregon stayed in good coverage to prevent any miracle play from developing.

Oregon’s offense could not slam the door shut on the game, however, which led to one last offensive opportunity for the Spartans. But the defense for the Ducks held strong one final time as Brian Lewerke had a fourth-down pass fall incomplete for a turnover on downs.

Lewerke completed 21 of 39 passes for 174 yards and an interception. Herbert completed 19 of 33 passes for 166 yards and the game’s only touchdown. Oregon never got going on the ground but was able to keep the Spartans from posing much of a threat. LJ Scott rushed for a game-high 84 yards on 24 rushing attempts for the Spartans, who combined for 157 rushing yards. Michiagn State out-gained Oregon 331-203 but was unable to win the game where it counts the most.

This is the first bowl victory for Cristobal since the 2010 season as head coach of FIU, when his Panthers won the Little Caesars Bowl. With a record of 9-4, this is now Cristobal’s most successful season in terms of win total, topping the eight wins he previously had at FIU in 2011. His counterpart, Mark Dantonio, suffered his first defeat in a non-College Football Playoff bowl game since the 2010 season. Michigan State had won five straight bowl games in years they played a non-playoff bowl game. The Spartans lost in the Cotton Bowl to Alabama in the College Football Playoff in 2015 and the Spartans did not meet bowl eligibility requirement in 2016.

Next year should be pretty interesting for Oregon. The Ducks, with Herbert coming back and a large number of starters projected to return on top of a solid recruiting class just signed, will likely be one of the top contenders in the Pac-12 next fall. A race between Oregon and Washington could be fun, but the Ducks will start the 2019 season in Arlington, Texas against Auburn, the team Washington’s 2018 started out against. Will Oregon be able to get a win against an SEC team on a neutral field to start the year, unlike Washington? Expect some good preseason hype for Oregon to build in the offseason and a win over Auburn could really raise the bar for the Ducks early on next season.

No. 10 Ohio State keeps Big Ten and playoff hopes alive with slugfest win at Michigan State

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It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t have to be. No. 10 Ohio State (9-1, 6-1) leaving No. 18 Michigan State (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten) with a 26-6 win means the Buckeyes are still in position to make their own case not just for the Big Ten championship, but also for a spot in the College Football Playoff field. For either of those goals to be obtained, however, Ohio State still ha some work to do moving into the final few weeks.

Ohio State’s defense certainly looked improved in the road win in East Lansing. After being dominated by Purdue two games ago and then after a shaky performance after a bye week against Nebraska last week, Ohio State’s defense played much better on Saturday. Of course, the Spartans offense has been a bit damaged and may have served as the perfect recipe for an ailing Ohio State defense. The Spartans had just two third-down conversion in 15 tries and the running game never found a way to get going.

Things were so difficult for Michigan State, Mark Dantonio called for a signature trick play that seemingly worked for a go-ahead touchdown only to see a penalty bring the score off the board. The Spartans also took an intentional safety in a 7-6 game and the punter backed up at the back of the endzone. In a defensive battle like the one unfolding, that appeared to be a decent gamble in an attempt to flip the field. Ohio State punted after four plays, but the Spartans were still pinned deep in their end, and the Buckeyes recovered a fumble in the end zone on the first play run by the Michigan State offense. Suddenly, a one-point game had turned into a 16-6 lead for Ohio State.

Ohio State added a field goal to extend the lead to 19-6 after Michigan State fumbled on the first play of their next possession (for two fumbles in as many snaps by the Spartans, who had switched from quarterback Brian Lewerke to Rocky Lombardi). The teams then exchanged turnovers with Ohio State fumbling on the Michigan State four-yard line and Lewerke (who had returned to the game) being picked off by Shaun Wade.

Dwayne Haskins passed for 227 yards with a touchdown, and Urban Meyer found spots to get Tate Martell in the game as well. Although Michigan State’s Big Ten-leading rushing defense had contained Ohio State for much of the game, Mike Weber accounted for 104 yards and a touchdown in the game.

With the win, Ohio State continues to keep relative pace with Big Ten East-leading Michigan. The Buckeyes trail Michigan by one game in the loss column but will have a chance to win a head-to-head tiebreaker in the final game of the regular season as long as Ohio State does not lose next week. Ohio State will play at Maryland next week before returning home to host the Wolverines in two weeks, when a spot in the Big Ten championship game is expected to be on the line. And, of course, the game could carry some College Football Playoff implications.

Michigan State remains in third place in the Big Ten East, tied with Penn State but with a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Nittany Lions. A shot at the Big Ten East is now out of reach for Michigan State with head-to-head losses to Ohio State and Michigan. The Spartans now head to Lincoln, Nebraska next week to play a recently charged up Nebraska team. It could be a dangerous spot to be in for Michigan State.

Jim Harbaugh calls Michigan State pregame march ‘bush league’

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After coaching his team to a 21-7 win at Michigan State on Saturday, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh let it be known he was not a fan of what transpired on the field prior to the game as players were warming up. Harbaugh referred to the actions of Michigan State as bush league in his postgame comments when asked about the pregame shenanigans in Spartan Stadium.

Michigan State’s entire team marched up the field form the end zone to midfield with arms interlocked, which they typically do as part of their pregame routine. While doing so, they made their way through a couple of Michigan players without stopping, causing a bit of a fuss before kickoff. As a result, Devin Bush was seen kicking and scraping up the midfield logo of the Spartans.

“I just heard about it, I didn’t see it,” Harbaugh said. “Clotheslined a couple of our guys, took off their helmets… One of their guys ripped off [Lavert Hill]’s headphones.”

Harbaugh then directed his ire at his coaching adversary, Mark Dantonio, as he continued on with his comments on the sequence of events.

“Total bush league and apparently Coach Dantonio was five yards behind it all smiling,” Harbaugh said. “I think it’s bush league, that’s my impression of it.”

Michigan linebacker Chase Winovich also had some comments to say after the game, saying sometimes you have to put your little brother in his place.

Michigan State players did initially attempt to defend the midfield logo after losing to their rivals from Ann Arbor, but once Michigan State players left the field, the celebration was on for the Wolverines.

Clearly, this game means something to both Michigan and Michigan State. This year, the spoils of victory went to Michigan.

No. 6 Michigan too strong for No. 24 Michigan State; Wolverines win first road game vs. ranked opponent since 2006

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A week after blowing away Wisconsin, No. 6 Michigan (7-1, 5-0 Big Ten) was ready for a defensive showdown against No. 24 Michigan State (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten). Behind a strong performance by the Michigan defense against a battered Michigan State offense, the Wolverines overpowered the Spartans in a lightning-delayed game by a score of 21-7.

Shea Patterson passed for 212 yards and two touchdowns in the win, and Karan Higdon led things on the ground with 137 rushing yards on 31 rushing attempts. A 79-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones down the right sideline in the third quarter gave Michigan a 14-7 lead. It was the only catch of the day for Peoples-Jones, and it could not have come at a better time.

Michigan State was happy to have running back LJ Scott back on the field after the senior running back had missed the last four games, but Scott was unable to have much of an impact as Michigan’s rushing defense was suffocating all afternoon. The Wolverines also made things difficult for Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke, who finished the day completing just 5-of-25 attempts for 66 yards. It did not help that Felton Davis III, who caught the game-winning pass at Penn State last week, went down with a reported torn Achilles in the second quarter. Lewerke was later replaced by Rocky Lombardi. Ironically, perhaps, Lewerke scored the only touchdown of the day for Michigan State by catching a pass on a trick play run by the Spartans that had Lewerke open for a pass from Darrell Stewart Jr. in the end zone.

The win snapped a 17-game losing streak for Michigan against ranked teams on the road that dated back to the final game of the 2006 regular season against Ohio State. Jim Harbaugh had been 0-4 against ranked teams when playing on the road, and this win also evens Harbaugh’s record against Michigan State and head coach Mark Dantonio.

Michigan will now get a well-deserved off week before taking the field again. When they do, they will be at home for a revenge game against Penn State. A win over the Nittany Lions (who lost to Michigan State last week) would firmly trim the Big Ten East race into a two-horse race between the Wolverines and Ohio State, if it isn’t one already. Penn State will be playing a home game against Iowa next week and Michigan State will host Purdue.

Michigan State approves contract extension for Mark Dantonio

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Despite recent negative headlines connected to the football program in the fallout of the Larry Nassar scandal, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio officially had his contract extended by one year on Friday. Dantonio’s contract now runs through the 2024 season.

The extension approval from the board of trustees for Dantonio has been an annual formality in East Lansing in recent years. As written in the contract, Dantonio’s contract is essentially automatically extended on an annual basis unless the university provides Dantonio advance notice there will be no extension given by the middle of January. In the event Dantonio is informed he will not receive an extension, he is then given the option to retire for a reduced buyout. Even if the school had not given Dantonio the extension, he would still be under contract through 2023.

Dantonio is coming off a 10-3 season that included wins against Penn State and Michigan as well as a Holiday Bowl victory over Washington State this past season, which was a nice rebound after a rough 3-9 season the previous season. But the success of the season was quickly washed away from the mindset recently as Dantonio has had to defend himself against reports suggesting he essentially looked the other way when football players were accused of sexual assault at Michigan State.

Michigan State remains under investigation by the NCAA following the trial of former sports doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced up to 175 years in prison for prolonged abuse of gymnasts and other athletes at Michigan State and with USA Gymnastics over the course of his career. It is specifically known if Dantonio’s program is a target of the investigation as the NCAA looks to review the entire athletics department at Michigan State.

Dantonio is 100-45 in 11 seasons at Michigan State. The 2018 season will mark his 12th year on the job.