September 17, 2011

Dantonio takes blame for field goal fake

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Consider the cinematic magic of last season over.

There is no word on what movie-titled nick-name Mark Dantonio had for the field goal fake which failed in the final seconds of the first half at Notre Dame on Saturday, but there is no question that the streak of good fortune which helped the Spartans enjoy an 11-1 regular season in 2010 has ended.

And there is little question that the botched trick play robbed the Spartans of a chance to head into halftime with some momentum. The mistake, one of many by the Spartans on this afternoon, resulted in a 31-13 loss to the Irish at Notre Dame Stadium.

"Field goal at the end of the half, my call, didn't work," Dantonio said during his opening statement at the post-game press conference. "Three points. But I don't think that's why we lost the game. But I'll take the blame for that."

A successful field goal would have cut Notre Dame's lead to eight points at 21-13 with :47 seconds left in the first half, potentially sending the Spartans into the locker room down only 8 after a nearly disastrous first half, with knowledge that they would get the ball first in the second half.

Instead, the Spartans went into halftime deflated, and down 21-10.

Last year, the Spartans shocked Notre Dame with a 29-yard TD pass on a fake field goal in overtime, in beating the Irish 34-31. Dantonio called that play "Little Giants," after a movie. He called a punt fake, which was critical in a comeback win at Northwestern later that season, "Mousetrap."

The Spartans' first major trick play of the season ended badly as holder Brad Sonntag's shovel pass intended for Le'Veon Bell fell incomplete as Bell was decked by penetrating Irish defensive linemen.

Blocking errors up front foiled the play.

"They got some push right there on the wing side and they got penetration right there," Dantonio said.
"So it knocked the tight end back, the guard back, and because of that it didn't go. He could not get around. Had he gotten around, looked like he would have walked in. But he didn't get around. End of story.

"We were going to fold it on the backside, outblock the wing. Outblock the tight end, pulled the wing up through, because they stepped outside on it and allow him to go get the safety. Probably should have done it from the 20- or 30-yard line. But now I'm telling our secrets, so...not a secret anymore."

Michigan State called time out prior to the fake, leading anyone with knowledge of last year's game wondering if the Spartans might try a trick. Michigan State certainly didn't have an element of surprise in its favor.

"We had some time to talk about it and just remind our guys to be gap-conscious and do their jobs," said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. "And we just did our job on that, and obviously come up with a big play."

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