Dantonio Calls Out Offense For Lacking Effort, Toughness: 'That Message Is Going To Get Sent'

The product on Friday brought back images of 2018.

97.1 The Ticket
September 03, 2019 - 4:47 pm
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Before he even fielded a question at his weekly press conference Tuesday, Mark Dantonio spelled things out pretty clearly. 

He couldn't have been more pleased with the defense in Michigan State's season-opening win over Tulsa. And he couldn't have been more irked with the offense. 

"Football is a game of effort, toughness and knowing what to do. Half of our team figured that out, half of it didn't," Dantonio said. "We will make sure that other half gets it figured out this week. That's my message to our football team." 

The Spartans handled Tulsa with relative ease, but the defense was entirely to thank. For an offense trying to prove itself after a dismal 2018 campaign, it wasn't an encouraging performance. It failed to find the end zone after scoring a touchdown on the opening drive. 

The rushing attack produced just 108 yards on 40 attempts, with the backfield trio of Connor Heyward, Elijah Collins and La'Darius Jefferson combining for 68 yards on 30 carries. 

"Not good enough," Dantonio said. "We've got to get on the right people. You've got to know where to go, you've got to play with effort and toughness. Too much of that to me was lacking. I'm going to call it as I see it up here right now, going to send a message to our football team. We have a long season ahead of us. We can play much better than that.

"I was disappointed in the effort when I see guys running routes that are not at full speed. I see guys blocking at the point of attack, throwing a shoulder in there, not addressing a defender, can't happen. We've predicated ourselves on being tough here any way you cut it. That message is going to get sent, whether it's public or not." 

Michigan State's offensive troubles last year led to Dantonio restructuring the coaching staff in the offseason. Former quarterbacks coach Brad Salem replaced Dave Warner and Jim Bollman as offensive coordinator. If this was supposed to enhance the product, the first game wasn't a great start. 

What would Dantonio tell the critics who say the offense looked the same on Friday as it did in 2018? 

"People see the product, they don't understand the process," he said. "They see football is a game and (say) 'Run that play again, the one that gained 20 yards.' Running backs have to break tackles at times. They have to be able to run through the smoke when there is something. They have to be able to block at the point of attack.

"Football is a game of repetition. You're not going to just say, 'Hey, let's run that play, nobody else has ever run that play before.' I don't think that exists in this sport. People that believe that are a little bit naïve. As I said earlier, this is about hard work and execution. I'm holding our coaches accountable as well in this. It's about play selection and play call, we need to do a better job in that as well. I'm not shying away from that responsibility.

"But at the end of the day, there are only so many ways to skin a cat. At the end of the day you better skin the cat." 

The Spartans' next opportunity to do so will come Saturday against Western Michigan. Without a better display on offense, the questions and concerns will persist.