Tag Archives: Rose Bowl

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

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?

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

Out of the Darkness: The Big Ten Championship

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:

Fifth Dannette?

And my idol, Dan Patrick:

Bang biscuit.

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.

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

Between the hashes: Big Ten Title game

The matchup: YOUR Michigan State Spartans vs. the Wisconsin Badgers

Kickoff: 8:17 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

The Line: Wisconsin by 10

It’s now about 12 hours before kickoff in one of the biggest games of the past decade for Michigan State football, but apparently no one told the Big Ten that Wisconsin is already going to the Rose Bowl, because they’re still insisting on holding the game.

Denicos Allen celebrates a sack of Russel Wilson. (Photo LSJ)

In a detail unrelated to any of the football analysis that follows, I got in the car last night and someone on sports radio was talking about how Wisconsin was going to win. Fine. But when posed with the question, “How can MSU pull this off (again)?” said talking head replied with “Well, they’ll have to play good defense, and they’ll have to do it without cheating.” Look here sir. That defense gave up the fewest yards per game in the Big 10. Yes, even fewer than Wisconsin. They had no penalties in the first matchup. Just because you saw a YouTube video of William Gholston trying to give Denard Robinson a Swedish neck massage does not mean Michigan State has a defense full of cheaters. They have a defense full of beasts and head hunters.

On to the matchup! There are a few key points that will determine the outcome of this game, and I’m going to dig into them below. Quick summary: Running game, non-offensive scoring, pass pressure and emotional magnitude.

Key to victory 1: The running game. One thing most people seem to agree on is that running the ball will be of the utmost importance in this game. For the Spartans, this means they need to execute the running game better than they have at times this season and contain Montee “Moneyball” Ball. The key to Michigan State getting some significant yardage on the ground is it’s young offense line, which has recently shaped up into a decent blocking unit. If Le’veon Bell can get in the neighborhood of 100 yards, it should do wonders for the Spartans passing game and offensive rhythm.

On the other side of the ball, Michigan State needs to exploit Wisconsin’s somewhat patchwork offensive line (more on this later). Montee Ball is a strong, tough back, but not extremely explosive and if MSU can take away the inside, Wisconsin will be forced to work him to the edges of the field, where he can be dangerous, but not lethal.

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

P4RB: Who wins? We win!

Hype Day 5. Here we have a great roll of 2010 highlights, including Captain Kirk pumping up the team before kickoff. This video also features one of our favorite parts of the past two years DENARD SMAAAAAAAAAAAAASH.

Real talk though, I recently relocated from Michigan to Minnesota, and this is undoubtedly Badger Country (The Wisconsin border is about 1.5 hours away, and roughly 25 to 50 percent of people in the area are Madison grads.) Nothing would bring me more pleasure than to put up an MSU Rose Bowl pennant in my office next week. Today, I’m just decked out this season’s lucky St. Louis Final Four shirt. Stay tuned for a real analysis of this matchup later today, but until then, go Green!

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