The Boat Report: Bubble Wrap Edition

Why, hello fans and supporters of Sports Squared! Actually, it might just be down to my sister and my mom and this point, but hey. They count and they have to read what I write because they’re related to me.

Sarah and I took some time off because… well… I don’t really know. It’s not as though we stopped following MSU – if you check our Twitters, you’ll see that we are still firmly on the Spartan Boat and following every move.  I think sometimes it’s just nice to enjoy things – like the Rose Bowl victory! Regardless, we are thick in the hunt of another Big Ten basketball title, and before we get to March Madness, I felt it time to give a quick update.

I don’t even know when we last spoke, but it’s safe to assume that we blew up the Boat, kicked a few people off, felt angry, had unspeakable joys, cried, laughed, and slapped the floor in regards to this basketball team. Sarah and I are both in agreement that we love this team. We love them with caution and safety, but we love them. Finally, last night, our leader Adreian Payne returned to the team after 16 years of sitting on the bench due to the most annoying foot injury of all time. One of the lovely Only Colors bloggers last night said that our team has sort of a Final Destination feel to it at this point, with the most random and frequent set of injuries the world has ever seen. Admit it – you thought that Travis Trice was going to break his leg last night when he went down with a twisted ankle. It’s ok, we all did.

Get right in there and make him feel better, DVal.

Get right in there and make him feel better, DVal.

Anyway. We’re here. It’s February. And things are getting HEATED!

On to the BOAT!

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Filed under Basketball, Big Ten, College Basketball, MSU, Posted by Sara, The Boat

Why Not Us: Rose Bowl Bound

Being a Spartan fan isn’t a sexy pick. It’s not Alabama football or Duke basketball. It can be the highest of the highs, and the lowest of the lows. It’s a national champion basketball team and a John L. Smith football team. It’s getting trounced year after year in Big Ten football games and being called little brother by your in-state rival. It’s Rather Hall, it’s 5 Big Ten losses by 4 points or less, it’s the Notre Dame pneumonia bowl in 2006.

But on Saturday, that all changed.

I've never seen anything so pretty.

I’ve never seen anything so pretty.

In November 2006, when coach Mark Dantonio arrived in East Lansing, Michigan State football was a shadow of the teams that went to the Rose Bowl in the 80s. It was the laughingstock of the Big Ten and was hardly near the Pizza Pizza Bowl, much less a Big Ten title. But there was something in that Dantonio smirk that made you sit up and believe. He declared loudly, “I came here to win championships.”

Who would have thought, eh?

Going into the Big Ten Championship game, I felt good, but terrified. We’d been here before. We’d almost smelled the roses and had them snatched away before we could realize the ultimate goal. I knew the Spartans had a good team, had the pieces to make it happen, but I was nervous that the usual Spartan heartbreak would happen.

Hug it out.

Hug it out.

But not this time; not this year.

As soon as our Spartan Dawgs stepped out onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, it felt different. There weren’t sideline theatrics, there was business. They looked hungry and came out firing, leaping to a 17-0 lead.  There was the comeback by Ohio State – lead by Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, and Joey Bosa (can we talk about that guy??), but our Spartans weathered the storm. Fighting back, with the help of the closer Jeremy Langford, the Big Ten title game MVP (I mean, what?) Connor Cook at quarterback, a bounce-back championship game from Isaiah Lewis, and the No Fly Zone, the Spartans clinched a 34-24 victory over the much lauded Buckeyes and are on their way to Pasadena.

Sealing Victory: Jeremy Langford runs in for a touchdown with 2 minutes left.

Sealing Victory: Jeremy Langford runs in for a touchdown with 2 minutes left.

Looking back on this season, it feels like some sort of crazy dream that Michigan State sits atop the Big Ten standings at 12-1, are ranked number FOUR in most of the polls, and have punched their tickets to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988. The season started with so much turmoil – from quarterbacks to whether our wide receivers would ever catch a ball again. But, eventually, it sorted itself out and the Spartans became somewhat of a force. It was a quiet force, something not many people outside of East Lansing took much notice of. But somewhere in between the disappointment and chaos of the Notre Dame loss and sacking Devin Gardner 32 times, I think we all realized that these Spartans were something special.

Mark Dantonio’s teams aren’t filled with five star recruits, but they are filled with guys who believe in their coach and his program. It’s filled with guys like Max Bullough and Darqueze Dennard who fought and clawed for every inch, every yard, every win, every ounce of respect. When Coach Dantonio climbed up on that stage to accept the Big Ten trophy, he had the face of a man who finally reached one of his goals. He looked out on the crowd, and with his bottom lip quivering* he said, “They believed. They believed. Nobody else around here believed. They believed.”

(*I’m not making this up. Watch that footage again. He looks like he might cry.)

And they did. Every one of those guys on that team believed it when Coach told them that they would be the ones. They would be the ones to do something that hadn’t been done since ANY of them were alive. They would be the ones to walk the streets and let the world know that Michigan State football was not something to be laughed at.

Fou!

Fou!

So this time the Spartans have come out on top. The culture has changed and it’s no longer what could be for Michigan State football.  It’s what IS. It’s Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol. It’s BJ Cunningham and Keshawn Martin. It’s the return of Bennie Fowler, despite disappearing earlier in the year. It’s Mike Sadler, speedo and all. It’s Pat Narduzzi – top college assistant coach – and his terrifying defense. It’s Lippett, Langford, Price, and Fou. It’s the Rocket, the Mousetrap, Little Giants, and Charlie Brown. It’s the comeback game at Northwestern, and pride coming before the fall.  It’s holding a win streak against every current Big Ten Team. It’s no longer being the bottom. It’s winning a championship and savoring every moment along the way.

It’s finally being able to smell the Roses.

Go Green. Your 2013 Big Ten Champions.

We did it. We did it. You bet we did it.

We did it. We did it. You bet we did it.

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Filed under Big Ten, Big Ten Champions, Big Ten Title Game, College Football, Football, MSU, P4RB, Posted by Sara

HYPE HYPE HYPE: Game day edition

Wake up, it’s game day!

I don’t have a ton to say today. I’m excited. I’m scared. It’s very Jessie Spano over here.

What I will say is this: I think Michigan State has a great chance at winning tonight’s game. As always in football, the mistakes and miscues and things you can’t predict will end up deciding the game. In that regard, I give an edge to MSU and their disruptive defense, rather than OSU and their explosive offense.

Final score: MSU 24- OSU 20.

GO GREEN!

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HYPE HYPE HYPE HYPE: Musical Edition

Is it Saturday yet? Goodness I am ready to play this game.

Because we are going to keep this blog a place of positive thoughts this week, we are choosing to ignore the game last night since the basketball team did too.

Ahem.

Every good event has a theme song. There’s no possible way to do anything correctly without the right song to accompany whatever the activity is.

Today’s post features what has become the theme song of Michigan State’s football season this year. You know it, you love it: Rich Homie Quan’s “Type of Way.” I have been known to listen to it 4-5 times in a row while I perform my morning shower dance parties. Trust me, it’s better than coffee. If Mark Dantonio can get down to it, then so can you. Today I spotted a new version of this song on Twitter that filled me with a joy I have never known. It’s not rapped by Rich Homie Quan, rather an individual named Blaze1 and it is amazing. Please take a listen: sendspace.com/pro/dl/fzxuau 

(If you don’t want to download it, a bit more about the song is featured here)

See? If that doesn’t help your hype for the week, I don’t know what will.

In addition to embracing Type of Way, the Michigan State football staff has taken to social media to drum up their own hype leading up to the Big Ten Title Game this weekend. It’s been wildly publicized that if MSU makes it to the Rose Bowl, it will be their first trip to Pasadena since 1988. Today, the MSU Football Equipment account tweeted out a picture of the Rose Bowl jerseys from MSU’s win in 1988. I love them.

Shoulder logos are incredible.

Shoulder logos are incredible.

Our final hype tool of the day is the video MSU athletics released in November that highlights some of the gear that the Spartans have worn throughout the season. I’m not sure what the Spartans will be wearing on Saturday, but this video makes me want to suit up and tackle 13 people. I think that’s my theme this week – I really want to get out there and tackle someone. I think I missed my calling.

We’re almost there everyone. Almost game time. Let’s play Type of Way/Spartan Version of Type of Way as many times as we can before game time. I’ve always been of the opinion that life would be better if it were a musical, and this week is no exception.

GO GREEN!

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Filed under Big Ten, Big Ten Title Game, College Football, Football, Hype, MSU, P4RB, Posted by Sara, Rose Bowl?

You will be the ones

Let’s talk about Mark Dantonio, Big Ten Coach of the year for the second time in three years. 40 wins in four years. Two Big Ten Championship Games in three seasons.

Mark Dantonio took a beleaguered and pathetic Michigan State football team and made it a Big Ten powerhouse. He took a program barely treading water since the departure of Nick Saban and gave it life, and more than life, a personality, an identity and a belief system. He’s got guts. He believe in defense. He knows the power of the underdog. He takes coal and turns it into diamonds.

He brooks no nonsense. His first season at Michigan State, he announced the Big Ten wouldn’t have MSU to kick around anymore. His “pride comes before the fall” quote is the most famous from his 2007 post-Michigan presser, but the real takeaway is this, “I’m telling them it’s not over…It’s not over and it will never be over here. It’s just starting.” After that first loss, Dantonio has gone 5-1 against Michigan.

Dantonio draws the ire of a lot of Big Ten fans for his shortness, his scowl and his grumpy demeanor. Next question.

But for MSU fans, Dantonio is a savior, the perfect fit for a program that was on its way to sinking to Purdue-levels of suckitude. For those of use who sat through John L, Bobby Williams, et al, Dantonio is a breath of fresh air, a coach who cares deeply about winning and shows it. More than that, he has the guts to ask “Why not us?” Why NOT Michigan State? Big Ten Champs? In the Rose Bowl? National Championships? Why not us?

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Filed under Big Ten, College Football, Football, Hype, MSU, P4RB, Posted by Sarah, Rose Bowl?, Video

HYPE HYPE HYPE HYPE: Max Bullough Edition

I know that Sarah and I have been largely basketball focused this year on the blog (ok, completely basketball focused on the blog), but it wasn’t because we didn’t care. In fact, we probably cared a bit too much. After the first few games, and especially after the Notre Dame game, we weren’t sure what else we could share or offer to the story.

Obviously things have taken a dramatic turn since then, and what was looking like a dismal season has turned into a run of the ages. A team that was terrifying to watch early on, has turned into a team that is playing for a Big Ten title on Saturday. I don’t think many, if any, saw the Spartans here. But it has been fun, right? I don’t know about you, but I am feeling some type of way about this Spartan squad.

To gear up for Saturday night, Sarah and I are going to post a series of hype pieces…videos, quotes, etc. I have spent an extraordinary amount of time this week reading about the game, the match up, the coaches, the BCS, etc. I feel as though my brain might explode!

Earlier this afternoon, senior Max Bullough participated in a Big Ten Title Game presser and it was INCREDIBLE. He was dialed in and gave, perhaps, one of the best interviews I’ve ever heard from a Spartan. Obviously Kirk Cousins leads the way in greatest pressers of all time, but Max made some headway in the standings.

Spartan Pride, Indeed.

Spartan Pride, Indeed.

Max is Spartan Royalty. His grandfather, father, and uncle all played for the Spartans and his little brother currently plays on the team. Max is exactly the kind of person you want leading your football team. He’s tough, he loves the school, he plays hard every single game, loves his coach, and says all the right things. Today was no exception. Listening to Max and hearing how important the game is to him was nothing short of incredible. If he is an example of how focused the team is going into practices this week, than I cannot wait to see how they look on Saturday.

A couple of highlights:

On what winning the Big Ten and going to the Rose Bowl would mean to Michigan State:

“…to be able to feel that feeling and know what it’s like, to be able to say I’ve done it, to say we brought Michigan State back to where we think it should be, I think that just creates, like I said, a tangible goal instead of just a dream or a vision that’s out in front of you all the time.”

On Michigan State being overlooked and underrated:

“We’re worried about going there and being 12‑1 like Coach D said, and worrying about things we can control.  We can’t control who talks about what, who says this or that, where Ohio State goes if they win or lose.  There’s only so many things we can control, and right now it’s Tuesday’s practice.  On Saturday it’ll be the energy and the aggressiveness and the way that we execute plays.”

On how Michigan State football has changed with the arrival of Coach Dantonio:

“…people look at Michigan State differently today than when I walked in here and when Coach D walked in here. But I think if you come to play Michigan State now, if nothing else you’re coming for a fight.  You’re playing a football game that’s going to be a fight, going to be a battle.  We’re not going to quit.  We’ve got some of the best players in the country on this football team, and we’re excited to be a part of that.”

Why not Michigan State?

“If we come out and win this Saturday, then why not.  Why not talk about us?  What have we not done that takes us out of that argument?  We’ve won just as many games. …and we play some of the best offenses in the country.  We just make them look bad sometimes, so they might not think they’re that great.  That’s the reality behind it.  You know?”

On no suspensions for the Ohio State players involved in the fight during the Michigan game:

“First of all, I’m excited that no one is suspended.  I hope no one does get suspended.  I want to play their best.  I think if we were in that same situation they’d say the same.  I think you always want to play the best. “

On Big Ten perception:

” I can’t control who likes who, who wants what, who votes for who, who’s voted All‑Big 10, who’s voted this, I can’t control that.  I just can’t.  I can control what I do today at practice, I can control what I say to my team or what my actions are during the weekend and on Saturday, and it’s been good enough 11 times this year, so I’m counting on it being good enough again.”

(Quotes from ASAP Sports. For the full transcript, go here.)

RARRRRRRRRR!

RARRRRRRRRR!

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I could get out on the field and tackle someone right now.

Max Bullough is exactly the type of guy I want representing my football team. And honestly, isn’t that all we’ve ever really wanted? Since the Dantonio era started, I feel as though we finally have guys we can get behind. Kirk Cousins did it first, but Max Bullough is carrying the torch. As Spartan fans, we endured a lot of crazy and finally have consistent guys that we can rally around. Seeing our players look at the coach and believe in him and his system is incredible.

As Coach D has said: Why not us? Why not?

GO GREEN! (Hype, hype, hype, hype)

#chaseit #p4rb #poundgreenpound #youwillbetheones #etc

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Filed under Big Ten, Big Ten Title Game, College Football, Football, Hype, MSU, P4RB, Posted by Sara, Rose Bowl?

The Boat Report: We’re #1!

Michigan State basketball has a knack for playing anyone, anytime, any place. Aircraft carrier? Sure. Air Force Base in Germany? Yep. Scheduling non-conference games against Duke, Kansas, Connecticut, or Kentucky? Why not. How about an asteroid floating around space? Yeah, MSU will probably play someone there too.  Tom Izzo used all these games as a chance for his teams to get experience against better teams to use as a base for big games later in the season, however, MSU rarely won.

I like these guys. I like them a lot.

I like these guys. I like them a lot.

It was different last night. MSU took down #1 Kentucky 78-74 in the Champions Classic in Chicago in what is being described as a program win. I do agree with the sentiment that MSU needed to get one of these big non-conference wins, but I think our program is pretty good. Regardless, it was an impressive showing (especially in the first half) and now the Spartans should have the number one ranking next week.

How fun is it to watch MSU run the ball like they did? I know that Izzo says every year that MSU is going to run, but it seems like that really is the game plan this year. I was concerned that this would cause sloppy play as we’ve seen in the past, but the Spartans finished with just 7 turnovers.  With the stingy defense all over the place, Kentucky was forced into giving the ball away 17 times.

I hadn’t had a chance to see much of this team prior to the game yesterday, but I am impressed with this bunch of grizzled veterans. I mean, seniors, juniors, and sophomores who can contribute to a basketball team’s success? Who knew that was possible! If you listened to any of the broadcast yesterday, it didn’t seem like that was an option! And still, the narrative today seems to be that we learned nothing from the game other than Kentucky is young and good and wouldn’t have lost this game come March.

But I’m with Tom Izzo. Everyone is talking about how Kentucky is going to get better. Well guess what? The Spartans will be playing in March too. And I don’t know about you, but I think we’re going to be better too.

On to the Boat!

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Filed under Basketball, College Basketball, MSU, Posted by Sara, The Boat