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Fall’s Tarts, Week Three: Mark Dantonio Special Edition

To East Lansing, With Love

Arizona State v Michigan State
This is a truly perfect trio of reaction faces to the end of that game.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Well, well, well... if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me in the past few days if Mark Dantonio would headline Fall’s Tarts... I’d have about $5. Not that many people read this. Nevertheless, those intrepid question askers shall not be denied, as your friend and mine, Mark Dantonio is indeed this week’s Tartiest Tart.

I now realize this must be a weekly feature of this column.

Surprisingly, given the level of derpitude put on display this week by the Big Ten, it’s a fairly light week, tart-wise. It turns out that our teams are often just bad, not silly, stupid, or otherwise ridiculous. But fear not, loyal readers... there are exceptions. And a few of them are not even named Mark Dantonio.

In Which Maryland Chases a Ball Down the Field

Maryland was exhibiting some unaccustomed early-season sexiness at the beginning of Week 3, having performed better than expected against Howard (sure), and Syracuse. There were beginning to be—dare we say it—expectations for our Terrapin friends.

Naturally, they returned that burgeoning confidence thusly:

You can hear the Benny Hill from here, can’t you? While that particular scramble ended up working out in Maryland’s favor, they would not be so lucky in the outcome of the game, losing by three to... Temple. Whoops.

I’m also salty with Maryland because they officially broke my thus-far perfect straight-up picking record. Thanks for nothing, Terps.

In Which Northern Illinois Forgets How to Punt

That headline is not an exaggeration. This game featured a smorgasbord of gaffes which could be compiled together and sold under the titles “Special Teams with Low Self-Esteem” or “Special Teams Gone Wild.” Only there was nothing at all attractive about what happened when NIU’s punter touched the ball. To wit:

This is a desecration of punting, and is probably a major reason NIU is not in the Big Ten.

Nebraska, for its part, did a much better job punting—but did manage two blocked field goals and a missed extra point, so as I said... a straight-to-video performance in the kicking realm in Lincoln on Saturday.

In Which Illinois Forgets They Can Stop the Clock

If the rantings of my long-suffering Illinois colleague, Thumpasaurus, are to be believed, Illinois did many, many things poorly on Saturday, with this unfortunately predictable result of becoming Eastern Michigan’s third Big Ten victim in three years. However, one series of lost opportunities seemed to exemplify the aggravation of watching the coaching of Lovie Smith. Take it away, Thump:

if i’m not mistaken, we had three timeouts on that drive

1:06 remaining

peters to smalling to the 34...then for some reason...illinois takes the clock down to 21 seconds before calling a timeout

then they complete a play to smalling, who is tackled inbounds with 14 seconds remaining.

8 seconds go by and they finally call another timeout

with 6 seconds to go, they hand off the ball against prevent defense and run out the clock with a long run that doesn’t get close to scoring

That is pretty damning. In a game decided by three points, such an error before the half squandering a potential scoring opportunity really is indefensible.

In Which Minnesota Lights Their Stadium on Fire Celebrating an Elite Victory

Minnesota, as you may have heard, is 3-0. But as you also may have heard, they do not appear to be a very good football team; however, they do appear to be a lucky one. According to their coach, one Peejus J. Fleck, these wins demonstrate a refusal to lose, and not a desire to win, which sounds less positive than he may have intended. Nevertheless, the Gophers celebrated escaping shame and ignominy for the third straight week in grand fashion—by lighting the roof of their stadium on fire with celebratory fireworks:

Apparently, one of the pyrotechnic machines on the roof of TCF Bank Stadium malfunctioned and caused a small fire that was quickly brought under control. Still, as my colleague Creighton notes, “Setting your stadium on fire to celebrate a come-from-behind win over Georgia Southern has to be a tart.”

Yes. Yes it does.

In Which Iowa State Puts the Ass in ¡El Assico!

This is, I am told, repeatedly and without ceasing, a game that Iowa totally hates and that they don’t care anything at all about. For much of the game (which lasted nearly a week, thanks to multiple lightning delays), Iowa’s football team looked like it also didn’t care very much at all about playing, much less winning, this matchup of terrible teams from a terrible state.

Late in the game, it looked like this studied apathy was going to pay off, and hand Iowa State the game. Though Iowa had a one-point lead, they were forced to punt with nearly 1:40 left, and a pair of penalties (a delay of game and a false start) threatened to hand Iowa State far better field position than is considered optimal at such a time.

Luckily for chessmaster Kirk Ferentz, Iowa State had his back—by involving their backs a little too much:

If there is a worse way to mangle a critical punt return at the end of the game against your one true rival, I’m not sure what it is. It was a horrific mistake, made at the worst possible time. It was also the most fitting way possible way for this game to end, with ISU fans drowning their sorrows at Pizza Ranch and Hawkeye fans rushing to their keyboards to begin massaging the narrative into the new story of how the Cyclones are “actually pretty good.”

In Which Mark Dantonio Drives a Significant Portion of a Large State Certifiably Insane

As you can see above, Mark Dantonio’s management and play calling in the waning moments of the Arizona State loss earned him Tart of the Week honors. The reasons for this are numerous, and varied.

First, there was the scintillating 34 seconds of football beginning with 1:37 left in the game which featured FIVE timeouts. In fairness, Arizona State was responsible for three of these, which makes some sense, as they were attempting to fashion a go-ahead drive (which, spoiler alert, they succeeded in doing). However, the other two were at the behest of the Spartans, for reasons less clear—they are a basketball school, so perhaps they thought this was how the end of the game was supposed to play out (as slowly as possible.) Both MSU timeout were called consecutively while ASU contemplated what to do on... 4th and 13? If there’s a time you want to give your desperate opponent a couple of extra minutes to draw up the perfect plan, I’m not sure that’s it. But that’s exactly what MSU did, and ASU managed 15 yards on the play.

But this was not yet the highlight of the “Sparty NOOOOOO” reel. With 11 seconds left, MSU opted not to take a shot at the end zone, but instead rely on the kicking skills of Matt Coghlin, who had missed two other attempts in the game. Happily for Coghlin, he made the 42-yard-attempt, apparently sending the game to overtime. Unhappily for Coghlin, the officials noticed that MSU had twelve men on the field and he would have to try again from 47 yards out. Coghlin missed wildly, and ASU won the game. (It’s worth noting that the Pac-12 officials really did miss a call of “leaping” here, which should have given the beleaguered Coghlin another shot, as the Pac-12 admitted today.)

Whatever the sins of the officials, in the opinion of many MSU fans, the loss still rested solely on the surly shoulders of Mark Dantonio. To recap our favorite MSU writer, Andrew Krumpledfrownski in SMCD:

Let’s talk about continuously shooting yourself in the dick to breathe life into a feeble Arizona State offense. Let’s talk about playing prevent with two minutes left to allow your opponent to drive the length of the field. Let’s talk about refusing to spy a nimble opposing QB and letting him extend the drive again and again and again. Let’s talk about continuing to use Connor Heyward, who wouldn’t see a lane on a abandoned Autobahn, and Matt Dropson in crucial moments. Let’s talk about retracting your balls into your abdomen by not even attempting a game-winning shot at the end zone with 11 seconds left, but instead doing...that. Dantonio has never deserved a loss more, and he’s not winning anything of consequence.

Dark times for Sparty. However, all was not lost. The defeat gave us another classic Mark Dantonio moment as he attempted to outrun Herm Edwards with a determined zeal that might have served his offense well:

Alright, you know what to do:


Which Tart Reigned Supreme?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Maryland Fails to Capture the Ball
    (13 votes)
  • 3%
    NIU Forgets How to Punt
    (18 votes)
  • 5%
    Illinois Forgets How Clocks Work
    (27 votes)
  • 5%
    Minnesota Attempts to Self-Immolate
    (28 votes)
  • 32%
    Iowa State Redefines Muffing a Punt
    (168 votes)
  • 51%
    Mark Dantonio Makes Numerous Unwise Decisions
    (266 votes)
520 votes total Vote Now