EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Mark Dantonio is understandably disappointed that Michigan State, picked No. 13 before the season, is 5-6 and fighting for its postseason life Saturday at Minnesota.
His team went through similar setbacks in 2009, when a 6-7 step backward helped fuel back-to-back 11-win seasons, the first in school history. Even then, Michigan State didn't lose five conference games by just 13 points.
"I'm disappointed, but I'm not frustrated," Dantonio said. "I'd be frustrated if we weren't coming to play. I'd be frustrated if we were having off-the-field issues. I'd be frustrated if all of our guys were flunking out. That's not the case. We have good people here. We have people doing the right things."
He pointed to the highest scores on the NCAA's academic benchmarks in the program's history but noted that success or failure in the public's eye still comes down to a pass-fail grade on the scoreboard that everyone sees.
"Our APR is as high as it has ever been, up around 972, so we're doing a lot of good things here," Dantonio said. "We've just got to win. I'm not naive to that. Coming close is great. But the bottom line is you do have to win. We understand that."
After watching Michigan State fail to go to a bowl in 1998, then serving as an assistant on a 10-2 team the following year, Dantonio knows the lessons adversity can teach. But he thinks there has been enough of that instruction and believes it is time to make the plays required to win this week and meet a revised but still-important goal.
"Without question, for me it's keeping the bowl streak alive and going to six straight," Dantonio said when asked what a win over the Gophers would mean. "In a tough year when you've lost a lot of games close, to respond and get over the hump is big. The bowl preparation is good. But do you get significantly better? If I had to place thing one above the other, I'd say a program win. It's vital for the program."
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