Sarah used that phrase when talking about my reflections of the MSU football teams through the years and I thought it would be most appropriate for this post.
I have gone over what I was going to say about a million times since the end of the game on Saturday. I didn’t want to write something when I was angry; I wanted to be able to sort out my feelings first. Needless to say, it was an emotional roller coaster of the worst kind.
I had the opportunity to attend the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday and it was a ridiculously incredible experience. I must say, Indianapolis put on an incredible show. The city was clean, easy to navigate, and filled with Big Ten fans from every team (yep, we saw all of them…even Minnesota! Dedicated.). I arrived super early (about 11.30 ish) for the 8.17 game. We wanted to do everything and have the opportunity to soak it all in. The first mission? Find Dan Patrick and the Dannettes. I listen to the Dan Patrick show every day. It’s on air from 9am-12pm and it’s the best sports talk show on the radio. They were all going to be there with the Heisman trophy and as people I admire, I was looking forward to meeting them.
We found the Sports Illustrated tent right away and not long after some dreams came true. Below are pictures of me with the Dannettes:
And my idol, Dan Patrick:
I know that’s not really relevant to the actual game, but they were all super nice and absolutely gracious toward every single person they met. I said this on Twitter, but it’s worth repeating: it’s so awesome to meet people you admire and have them turn out to be better people than you ever could have imagine. Kudos to you Dan and Seton, Paulie, Fritzy, and McLovin. It was incredible to meet you.
Now, on to the less happy portion of this post.
By the time the game was due to start, I was beyond ready to get going. I had days/weeks of anticipation for this moment. It seems like Michigan State football has done nothing but defend themselves, when really they had far exceeded any expectations. If you had told me at the end of my senior year that we would be in a position a few years later to go to two Rose Bowls in a row, I would have wondered what drugs you were on. But that is exactly where we were.
The game was filled with emotional highs and ridiculously low lows. It was agonizing. Being at a game like that is incredibly difficult. I couldn’t change the channel when things got stressful. I couldn’t hide in my bedroom when the score continued to yo-yo back and forth. There was nothing I could do but watch every torturous minute. It also didn’t help that the world’s dumbest female Wisconsin fans were sitting behind me. One of them declared loudly that the end of the first quarter signified half time was about to start. Also, since the state of Michigan has two “parts” that some how made Michigan State ineligible for the championship. Look, I can’t make this up.
But, moving on…
The Michigan State fans came out ready to will that team to victory. I’m telling you, everyone was living and dying by every point, penalty, and series. If screaming green and white could win you a title, we would have walked out of there with the National Championship in tow.
The first half was an incredible back and forth. When Coach Dantonio went for two? It was as if he was yelling to everyone there, “Game. On.” The lateral where Nichol tossed the ball to Cunningham to save himself from running out of bounds with it? Incredible. As we moved to the actual halftime (you know, after the first and second quarters were played), I had started to really believe. There just seemed to be something magical in the air. The defense looked a bit sleepy at first, but everyone around me all noticed when the switch was flipped to kill mode. It seemed like this was a team not to be denied.
I cannot re-live every agonizing detail of the second half or of all the things that went wrong. The biggest mistake, I think, was allowing Russel Wilson to get that pass off on fourth down. It was incredibly costly. The face mask? Stupid. False start on Jerel? Infuriating. And lastly, the running into the kicker penalty that sealed the Shaft Bowl for MSU part II. I will say this: the MSU players did not give up. There was some concern; there were times of incredible distress, but there was also a unity that I’ve never seen among Spartan teams…or Spartan fans for that matter.
Spartan football fans have been long suffering. Everyone in that stadium knew, whether right or wrong, that Michigan State was expected to prove something in that game. For the majority of the week, I had just hoped for a good game. I knew MSU had a lot of talent, but I hadn’t really allowed myself to envision them winning… not until a little ways into the fourth quarter. Make no mistake, Michigan State was the better team for the majority of that game. Any smart football fan will agree.
We all know how it ended. With one dramatically comical roughing the kicker call, the roses were snatched out of the Spartans teeth. And like that, it was as if everyone in Lucas Oil Stadium let out the breath they had been holding the entire game. It was over. No Rose Bowl – or BCS bowl for that matter – for the Spartans. As I walked out of the stadium, I looked at the swarms of green and white around me expecting to see the usual anger and hear the standard Spartan outbursts. I saw none of that. A lot of hugs; a lot of stunned silence. Michigan State could have – and should have – won that game.
I’ve seen a lot of terrible Michigan State losses. I’ve had the fortune of seeing MSU basketball play in three Final Fours and one National Championship game. I’ve seen the football team blow giant leads, finish at the bottom of the Big Ten, and lose to Michigan in triple over time. Combine the agony I felt after those loses and yet nothing comes close to that crushing feeling Saturday night. The Spartans had come so close and yet… and yet…
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what happened Saturday. Anger, rage, sadness, confusion, sickness…but most of all, I feel proud. I’m glad that I give my college allegiance to the Michigan State Spartans. I am proud of Kirk Cousins for having the greatest game of his life (Cousins to Cunningham anyone?) when his team needed it the most. I’m proud of the team for rallying around each other, no matter the score. I’m proud that we controlled much of that game when the world was saying the Spartans shouldn’t even go to Indy. I’m proud that we played in a manner to have the college football talking heads expressing anger that the Spartans were left out of a BCS bowl. I’m proud MSU is a relevant football program.
Obviously it has taken me a long time to get to this state. Trust me, I still have a lot of anger and hurt. It’s like Kirk said, how can a team be rewarded for sitting at home? Why does MSU have to beg for respect every single time they play? Why does Brett Bielema have to be a giant jerk and talk about how all they did was prepare for MSU? Why was the Wisconsin punter laughing on the sidelines after the penalty was called?
A lot of whys, hows, etc.
But at the end of the day, Michigan State had the opportunity to seal their own fate. Yes, they lost that game on Saturday, but they were in the title game. They were seconds away from clinching the first Rose Bowl birth since 1988. It wasn’t meant to be. This team did not have to sit at home and sort scenarios in their heads. They’ve fought for everything they have gotten this year and last.
I think that I will miss Kirk Cousins the most. I hope that he does not beat himself up about this game forever. It was clear in his post-game interview that he was distraught. When he spoke on Sunday after the football banquet, he mentioned again that it was the worst loss of his career. If the worst loss is one in which you played the greatest game of your life and were moments away from a Rose Bowl…well, you’ve come a long way, baby. Don’t let this one define you.
There is a lot to build on from here. Michigan State has a lot of talent. Yes, we will miss some of the core that will be leaving (Kirk, BJ, Jerel), but you better believe that this team will come out hungry and furious. Out of the darkness of this weekend, know this: the Spartans are not done here. This is only the beginning. I, for one, cannot wait to see what’s next.
Let’s beat Georgia.
On the banks of the Red Cedar…