Tag Archives: Ohio State Buckeyes

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

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

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

Leave a comment

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

The Boat Report: Survive and Advance Edition

I know it might seem a little early in the season to be using that phrase, but anyone who is following the Big Ten this year knows that it’s all about survival.  Though we’ve started to see some separation in the pack (Michigan first, then a battle between Indiana/MSU/OSU, and then the others), most games have turned out to be the battles we all were expecting.

When we last spoke, Michigan State was about to embark on what would probably end up being their toughest stretch of the season.  With a home game against Ohio State and back to back road trips against Wisconsin and Indiana respectively, it seemed like MSU was going to be challenged to show what sort of team they really are.  And while the season is far from over, I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen.

After defeating Ohio State by 3 in East Lansing, Michigan State went on the road and stole a win from the clutches of the dreaded Badgers of Wisconsin. And then it was time to head to Bloomington. I discussed it at length with Sarah and had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that MSU was going to get blown out. While the Spartans did not end up with what would have been the biggest road win of their year, I thought they came out looking great.  The greatest thing about this team is the drive and the hustle. It would have been very easy to let the atmosphere and the frenetic pace of the Hoosiers (not to mention the incessant chants of “Gary sucks!” from the Indiana faithful) overwhelm us, but even when it seemed like Indiana would blow it open, the Spartans hung tough. Sure, the fouls were MADDENING but you’re never going to win that type of game with turnovers, missed lay ups and going scoreless the final 3:30 of the game. Regardless, MSU looked great and has nowhere to go but up. I cannot wait until the Hoosiers come to East Lansing.

The best part about this team? We’ve yet to see everything fire at once. I’m hoping that day comes soon.

On to the Boat!

Continue reading

Leave a comment

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

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE OFFENSE? Next Question.

The time is upon us. Big Ten season is here. Well, tomorrow it will be here, but you understand my point. I’m not certain that the Big Ten is ever really and truly considered a powerhouse when it comes to rankings (at least not initially) and this year is certainly no exception. After watching nearly every Big Ten team struggle in non-conference play, we now get the pleasure of seeing the teams battle it out amongst themselves. Someone has to win the conference, right? Right.

The “mighty” Michigan State Spartans head into Big Ten play with a strong defense and…an offense that leaves a lot to be desired.  And by desired, I mean CATCH THE BALL. I think I’m going to propose a drinking game in which every time I am compelled to yell “CATCH THE BALL,” I will take a drink of my cocktail. Join me?

For a sample of what MSU’s offense has looked like so far, please enjoy this clip from the Eastern Michigan game:

Look, let’s break this down for what it is. Anyone who follows Michigan State football knew that the offense was going to be the struggle of the season. The defense has looked like it would eat kittens for breakfast and not even blink. But did anyone think that the offense was going to be this much of an issue? I’m not sure. The Spartans are 3-1, yes. Do I think it can get better? Absolutely. At some point, I just think that things are going to come together and passes are going to be caught. It has to, right? At the end of the day, the Spartans still have Le’Veon Bell and I am confident in that. For now, at least.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

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

Big Ten Tournament: A look back

Before we get cracking on bracket talk, we thought we’d take a look back on Michigan State’s excellent Big Ten Tournament run, culminating with Sunday’s instant classic against Ohio State, MSU’s tournament championship, and subsequent #1 seed.

The Spartans first matchup was against the Iowa Hawkeyes, a team they had demolished at the Breslin Center during the regular season. What was most of note in this game was the play of Adreian Payne, who had 16 points, 7 rebounds, one block and played 20 minutes. It’s clear that Tom Izzo challenged some of the team’s role players to step up in Branden Dawson’s absence, and we saw the first glimpses of this in this game. The game got away from the Hawkeyes fairly quickly, and MSU was able to rest many of its main guys, including Draymond Green, for significant stretches. All in all, an excellent start to the tournament (although I was disappointed that MSU again failed to notch 100 pts against the Hawkeyes after coming so close the first time).

The Spartans second game in the Tournament gave them the chance to demolish the Wisconsin Badgers for a third time this season. The Badgers have been playing well coming into the post-season, and we knew Bo Ryan would have them ready to roll. MSU got down early, playing incredibly sloppy for the first part of the game, and getting down by 11 points. THEN #thornsanity struck, with Austin Thornton draining three triples in a row to bring MSU within 2. From that point on, it was all MSU, as the Spartans dismantled the Badgers handily for the third time in a season. Derrick Nix also played a huge role in this game…at one point, he had scored all of Michigan State’s points (7). He finished with 9 points, 5 rebounds and a steal and played 21 minutes. This was an incredibly balanced scoring effort from MSU, with Thornton notching 12 points, 13 from Keith Appling and 14 from Draymond Green.

MSU’s win over Wisconsin and Ohio State’s dismantling of the Wolverines set up a rematch between the two top teams in the Big Ten for all the marbles, just one week after Ohio State had crushed MSU’s hope of taking home sole possession of the regular season Big Ten Title. It was clear from the beginning of the game that both teams were viewing this as a game deciding the “real” Big Ten champ…with the added fact that Duke, UNC and Kansas had all lost in their conference tournaments, it was also possible the winner would get a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. From the beginning, the game was fast-paced, defense heavy and chippy. In the first half, Michigan State’s bigs did a great job on Jared Sullinger, restricting his scoring and landing him on the bench in foul trouble. MSU also did a good job of guarding William Buford without Branden Dawson. MSU took a 2 point lead into the locker room, but when OSU came out in the second half, they went on a huge run, hitting 3-pointer after 3-pointer. And then, there was Brandon Wood. Capping off a HUGE Big Ten Tournament appearance, Wood found his fifth gear, playing incredible defense, getting after the ball in transition and draining key threes to lead MSU on a 10-0 from which it never looked back. This game was incredibly close, but after that run by Wood, the Spartans were always just the one or two key steps ahead of the Buckeyes.

What does winning the Big Ten tournament mean for this team? Well, for a squad that dropped its final two games of the season, it first and foremost means a huge boost in their confidence. They can now enter the NCAA tournament with momentum. I also think winning against OSU after the heartbreaker a week before showed them (and us) that this is a team that can prepare for, and beat, anyone. There’s a lot of talk about athleticism and speed in Michigan State’s region of the NCAA bracket, but it’s not as though they’ve been playing small, slow teams all year. They went 2-1 with Ohio State this year (winning one in Columbus and one on a neutral floor), 3-0 against Wisconsin, and split home-and-homes with Michigan and Indiana. This is a team that beat Florida State and gave Duke and UNC good, close games early in the season. Now, playing their best ball, with a coach who’s dedicated to win, and wounded teammate traveling with them, I would give them a shot against anyone in the country. The contributions of the “role players” in the Big Ten Tournament- the performances turned in by Nix, Payne, Thornton and Wood- and to a lesser degree, Brandan Kearney, show that MSU is not a team where if you shut down one guy, they collapse. Draymond Green may have been the Big Ten Tournament’s MVP, but really this team functions as a unit, with Green and Izzo at its head. So do not despair, of the pundits picking Mizzou in the Final Four, or saying the Spartans will lose to the athletic Memphis Tigers. Keep Calm and Sparty on!

Leave a comment

Filed under 2012 NCAA Tournament, Basketball, Big Ten, Big Ten Tournament, College Basketball, MSU, NCAA, Posted by Sarah, Uncategorized

Big Ten Tournament Championship Preview- MSU/OSU

After dropping their last two games of the Big Ten season, the Spartans have battled their way to the Big Ten Tournament Championship game, after impressive wins over Iowa and Wisconsin. I would be lying if I said wasn’t terribly nervous for this game. Ohio State beat MSU in such devastating fashion one week ago, that I have a really hard time knowing how this thing will go. We’ll go over how MSU can win, and how they can lose.

Keys to Victory:

1. Bench Points- For MSU to have a change against the Buckeyes, they’ll need the continued contributions of Derrick Nix and Travis Trice. They’ll also need Brandon Wood, Austin Thornton and Adriean Payne to keep playing at the high level they’ve already shown in the tournament. Wood, Thornton and Payne all start now, but it’s difficult to think of them as “starters.” Regardless, these five have been playing out of their mind, and keeping MSU’s offensive engine firing.

2. Where’s the Beef? In their win in Columbus, the Spartans straight-up abused Jared Sullinger with the inside size of Nix and Payne. MSU needs to continue that kind of abuse, and do a better jobs of rebounding than they did in the game in East Lansing. It’s clear Sullinger HATES playing against Nix, so getting him frustrated and off his game can only help MSU take home the hardware.

Ways to Lose:

1. Not controlling their emotions- Whenever Michigan State is placed in a high-pressure, big-game situtation, they play with everything they have. I hate to notch this in the “ways to lose” column, but anyone who watched the UNC game, the Michigan game in Ann Arbor, the Indiana game in Bloomington and the OSU game in EL know it’s true. The Spartans get messy, make mistakes, including turnovers, stupid fouls and bad, emotional decisions. This is a team that needs to come out today and play like a well-oiled machine, not an erratic group.

2. Not having an answer for Buford: Again, anyone who watched last week’s matchup knows that as soon as Branden Dawson went down, the Spartans didn’t have an answer for William Buford’s shooting. Buford has been spotty all season, but is coming on in tournament time. I don’t doubt Tom Izzo has some kind of gameplan for dealing with Buford (which he probably didn’t have prepared prior to last week’s game), but MSU has got to stick with it. Buford is 6’6″, so MSU should have some good size to deal with him, the trouble is finding the right matchup. Luckily the Spartans have seen MUCH improved defensive play from Russel Byrd (6’7″ and Brandan Kearney (6’5″) recently, so they may end up being part of the equation.

And since today is Draymond Green’s last Big 10 game, win or lose, please enjoy these highlights of his stellar Big 10 Player of the Year season. 

[PS. It seems to early to think about it, but Kansas going down so early in the Big 12 Tournament has to leave the door open for one of these two teams to get a 1-seed in the Big Dance, right? More on this after the game, of course.]

1 Comment

Filed under Basketball, Big Ten, Big Ten Tournament, College Basketball, MSU, Posted by Sarah