Tag Archives: Mark Dantonio

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 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?

It Ain’t Easy Being Green, Part Whatever

Now that the BCS Championship confetti has settled, with Nick Saban climbing to the top of the crystal football and flashing his freaky white teeth, and now that the Golden Domers have returned to the bosom of Touchdown Jesus, it’s time for every non-Alabama team in the nation to take stock for 2013.

And in the New Year spirit of fresh starts, we at Sports Squared will look ahead to the 2013 Spartans, while paying only the briefest attention to the trainwreck that was the 2012 season. The Spartans have had a number of big-name departures, the most expected of which were junior linebacker William Gholston and junior running back Le’veon Bell. With the departure of kicker Dan Conroy (senior) and tight end Dion Sims, MSU is losing more than 70% of its offensive points from this season, so needless to say MSU is a big ol’ question mark heading into 2013.

First thing’s first- Offense. Offense was where Michigan State’s season lived and ultimately died this year. Aside from the outstanding play of Bell, the

Connor Cook MSU quarterback

More of this in 2013?

Spartans were a tragedy on offense. The passing game was nothing short of abysmal, and barely showed signs of improvement, even up through MSU’s victory over TCU in the BW3 bowl. The main question at hand for MSU’s offense is who will be under center when the Spartans kick off against Western Michigan on August 31. Andrew Maxwell was kind of a massive disappointment for a red-shirt junior who’s supposed to have a great skill set- and he can obviously throw the ball far, and well. However, throughout the season his decision-making left something to be desired, and he never really found a rhythm with MSU’s young receiving corps.

On the other hand, red-shirt freshman Connor Cook looked poised and calm when he got reps during MSU’s bowl game- so much so that Coach D. kept him in for the game’s pivotal final drive. This is an area I’m not ready to issue an opinion on yet- I don’t think we should send Maxwell out to pasture, but I do think Cook has shown incredible promise. Whatever happens, I trust MSU’s coaching staff to make the right decision here- like they did when they chose Kirk Cousins as MSU’s starting QB over Keith Nichol. Continue reading

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Filed under College Football, Football, MSU, Posted by Sarah, Rose Bowl?

It Ain’t Easy Being Green: The Deux

I swear to you that one of these days (hopefully very soon), I am going to come to this blog and write something happy. I suppose I could have wandered over after the Wisconsin win and celebrated, but truthfully, I watched more of the Florida/Georgia game than the MSU one. I know, random, but I was under the influence of friends.  I did see enough to see the overtime catch and was very excited. And there was hope! That was going to be the one to turn it all around.

Sigh.

And then we reached a new level of heartbreak on Saturday when Michigan State lost another heartbreaking game in the fourth quarter. Look, I’m as mad as everyone is about the penalty on Johnny Adams. It was ridiculous and weak, we will all agree on that. But that one penalty did not lose Michigan State the game. Once again, there were opportunities to close it out and hold a 10 point lead AT HOME with 7 minutes to go. Missed chances, missed opportunities. That’s the sum of the 2012 MSU season.

From Freep.com

And just like that, it’s over.

Someone on Twitter Saturday said to me that they think this MSU team is unbearable to watch. Sure, I’ve been incredibly frustrated seeing how things have played out this year, but I don’t find them unbearable. I think there’s a great difference between unbearable and frustrating. The Spartans have lost the close games this year that they won last year.  It really breaks down that simple, in my opinion. It’s been tough, but we also were spoiled.  Having two 11 win seasons in a row was a LOT of fun. But, think all the way back to 2009. 2009 was a 6-7 year that featured a stellar home loss to Central Michigan.  It wasn’t so long ago that wins were not certain, much less guaranteed.
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Filed under Big Ten, College Football, Football, MSU, Posted by Sara

Adjusting Expectations

It’s October 2. The Michigan State Spartans are 3-2, 0-1 in the Big Ten. After a much hyped preseason, it’s time to adjust expectations.

Having expectations for a Michigan State team is a honor typically bestowed on the Spartan men’s basketball team. It’s not uncommon to see MSU ranked in the top 10 in the preseason with lofty goals and pressure. What is uncommon is seeing anyone pay attention to Michigan State football. As a Spartan fan, you grow accustomed to defending your team at every turn, justifying why you support a school that gives you more heart attacks than smiles (I think most fans will agree with me there).

You all know the story. When Sarah and I were in school, the Spartans were in the thick of John L. Smith. You rarely went to a game expecting to win. No lead was safe. I think I said a million times that even if MSU had a 50 point lead, I would never be certain of victory.  Finishing at the bottom of the Big Ten was common.  Getting trounced by Michigan was a yearly occurrence. It wasn’t fun being a Spartan football fan, but that’s what I was. And so we carried on.

And then something fun started happening.

Enter Mark Dantonio.  I remember when he was introduced at a basketball game.  He sat there behind the MSU bench in a leather jacket, forcing a smile but looking generally surly…a face we’ve all come to know and love. But it felt different from that moment. It felt like a turning point.

Our fearless leader.

Enter winning seasons. And even when there weren’t winning seasons (ugh, 2009), MSU was beating Michigan. MSU was relevant in most big games. There were fantastic trick plays and exciting/dramatic finishes and an improbable bowl win over Georgia. Sure, there were some bad losses and some heartbreak, but I wasn’t scared every time the Spartans took the field.  There were ALMOST Rose Bowls (ughhhhh almost…so much heartbreak), and the Spartans were even mentioned on ESPN! It was and is really fun to be a Spartan.

Of course, entering this year there were the rumblings of the best team in the Big Ten. I heard a couple mentions of a national title, no matter how absurd that seemed.  The defense is being touted nationally. The Rose Bowl was mentioned as certain.  I’m always wary of any hype surrounding my teams, just because that’s how I am, but I was especially nervous with all of the changes in front of the 2012 team. But, alas, I found myself being sucked into it.

And now, here we are. The intention of this blog is not to be gloom and doom and OH NO THE SEASON IS LOST. I don’t think that’s true at all. But I do think that the expectations need to be adjusted a bit. There is plenty of room for growth, and each week (for the most part), we are seeing improvements. While there have been some setbacks – Fowler’s struggles with catching, Travis Jackson’s terrible leg breaking injury, some lapses on big plays on defense, Dan Conroy’s mystery kicking issues – there are many things to look at in the positive light. One of the things we do have going for us is the fact that the Big Ten seems to be experiencing a bit of a down year. I believe there are still plenty of chances for MSU to improve and perhaps even come out on top. But for me, I’m going to think back on the years not so long ago where winning 6 games was uncertain…and winning 11? That wasn’t even in the realm of possibilities. And then, I’m just going to make myself enjoy the rest of the season and hope the Spartans continue to improve and perhaps things will turn out just fine. And if they don’t? Well, maybe it’s a good time to remember that winning seasons aren’t guaranteed and perhaps this team needs more support than we anticipated at the beginning.

There’s plenty of football left and here’s to hoping MSU goes into Bloomington on Saturday and brings home the Old Brass Spittoon. One game at a time.

Go Green!

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Filed under Big Ten, College Football, Football, MSU, Posted by Sara