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Michigan State Spartans' Mark Dantonio springs up more surprise scrimmages

This week, it was November.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio seen here during the Spartans' Rose Bowl victory earlier this year.
Photo by Jeff Gross

Or, at least, that's the message that Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio told reporters on Thursday that he's been drilling into his player's heads since Sunday.

With temperatures in the 40s and heavy winds blowing at up to 15 mph, it sure has felt like November and Dantonio, ever the strategist, decided to use the weather to his advantage and called another surprise scrimmage for his players on Tuesday to get them into a winning state of mind.

His message? To win a championship, you have to win in November. Basically: "They remember November."

The results? The defense took home what they claim to be a decisive victory, shutting down the Spartan offense and using the elements to their advantage.

Outside linebacker Darien Harris told reporters that he is beginning to understand the psychology of a "November" surprise scrimmage in the spring more and more now that he's played through a few. It's about a mindset and taking advantage of conditions -- no matter what they may be.

"Coach D is big on sustaining now, and we have to keep the ball rolling,'' said Harris. "We're tired of talking about last year, and we're focused on this year, and the only way to get better really is to play game-like situations, and that's what scrimmages gives us.''

Even the MSU offense has noticed a difference in the defense's mindset throughout these early, unscheduled scrimmages.

"I think the defense is definitely coming together, and they are flowing better than when they first started out,'' Spartans' center Jack Allen said. "In spring practice, by this time, everybody is tired of beating the crap out of each other.''

Other defensive players, such as highly-touted redshirt freshman defensive end Demetrius Cooper, say that with every new outing in their "November" setting, they grow more confident and cohesive.

"It's competitive, because the offense knows what you're doing, and you know what the offense is doing,'' Cooper said. "The last two scrimmages we did better on defense than the first two. The first two we were slow, the offense scored just about every drive, but the last two scrimmage we had some three-and-outs.

"I don't think the offense scored until the last drive (on Tuesday). We finally got them. It was competitive, we just had the edge on them.''

Once the sky warms up, Dantonio will have to come up with a new mental gameplan for the weather, but he's certainly shown that he can be up to that task.

You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at

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