Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio fired back at running back Mike Hart and the rest of the Michigan football team yesterday for some of the Wolverines’ post-game celebrations and comments Saturday night. Among a handful of suggestions and warnings, the first-year coach said the Wolverines need to “check themselves.”
When Dantonio took over for fired coach John L. Smith, he focused a lot of his team’s success on how it dealt with Michigan. He called the Wolverines a “measuring stick” at Big Ten Media Day in August, and he emphasized his team’s annual matchup with Michigan by having a countdown-to-Michigan clock in Michigan State’s practice facility.
All that preparation was for naught, though, as Michigan came from behind to beat the Spartans, 28-24, in East Lansing on Saturday night.
The comment that struck the biggest nerve with Dantonio came from Hart’s post-game press conference.
“I was just laughing,” Hart said after being asked how he felt when Michigan trailed by 10 points with seven minutes remaining in the Wolverines’ 28-24 win. “I thought it was funny. They got excited. Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you’re playing basketball, and you let him get the lead, and then you come back and take it back.”
Hart may have been laughing, but Dantonio wasn’t.
“If they want to mock us, I’m telling them, it’s not over,” Dantonio said. “They can print all that crap they want all over their locker room. It’s not over. It’ll never be over here. It’s just starting.”
Dantonio later joked about Hart’s height, saying the running back may be the little brother considering his short stature.
Michigan State’s starting quarterback, Brian Hoyer, wasn’t amused by Hart’s comments either.
“Let’s put it this way, if anybody hadn’t taken this personal up until this point, it’s personal now,” Hoyer said. “It just shows what kind of class he has.”
He continued: “Sooner or later, the little brother, you want to put us that way, you get pushed around enough, the little brother fights back and kicks the other brother’s (butt).”
Aside from Hart’s post-game comments, Dantonio and his team were also upset with Michigan’s antics following the final whistle.
At the end of Saturday’s game, the Wolverines gathered near midfield, knelt down, held a moment of silence for the Spartans and then bowed to the crowd before heading into the locker room.
The moment of silence was in response to Dantonio’s call for a moment of silence after following Michigan’s historic loss to Appalachian State earlier this season.
Yesterday, Hart shed some light on the origin of the celebration.
“It was their idea,” Hart said. “Coach Dantonio said something about it after the Appalachian State loss – ‘Let’s take a moment of silence.’ So when we beat them, we took one.”
Hart continued: “We heard that was what he said after the Appalachian State loss, and he talked a lot, all week and all season about us. We figured we’d let him know (we heard).”
Hart wouldn’t name the mastermind behind the moment-of-silence idea. Later on, he shrugged off some of the antics as another way to have fun.
“I just like doing things like that at the end of games to get on people’s nerves,” he said. “Whether he said that or not doesn’t make us play or practice harder, but at the end of the game, you just have fun with things like that.”
But if the comments coming out of East Lansing are any indication, the damage has already been done.
It’s safe to say there’s already a countdown leading up to next season’s matchup.