The way this season is unfolding, it is very apparent that this is not the way the Michigan State football team and its fans thought it would be. After five games and their record is 2-3 with two conference losses, one of them to Indiana and two beat downs at home! Are you kidding me? The season hinges on a victory for the Spartans on homecoming weekend. A turnaround is needed starting Saturday to salvage the season. Looking at the remaining schedule, the best this team could get to is 7-5. This is a big drop from last years’ championship season!
The Michigan State Spartans built a 29-point lead halfway into the third quarter and seemingly had a comfortable lead and the makings of a blowout victory over Notre Dame. However, the Irish came back with 21 unanswered points to make it tight down the stretch. With the Irish driving with approximately 3 1/2 minutes left, Coach Kelly elected to punt on fourth and seven. The Irish never got the ball again. My assumption is that with his defense playing inspired football, they would hold the Spartans and they would have enough time to mount a game winning drive. He will be second-guessed on that decision.
The Spartans for the most part, played a very good game on both sides of the ball. The offense gained over 500 yards with a ground game that provided 260 yards and pretty much controlled the game. Defense held the Irish in check for three-quarters and gave the offense the chance create a big lead at 36 – 7 before the Irish made it close at the end at 36-28.
The Spartans next game is next Saturday at Spartan Stadium against Wisconsin.
Dantonio has built this program on the “chip on our shoulder mentality”, so with U of M getting all the hype on national signing day plays right into that. Michigan always has a top recruiting class, yet we have beaten them seven of the last eight years on the field where it counts. This time next year, it will eight out of nine years!
Michigan State came within one game of reaching the national championship game, but it sure felt a lot farther away in Dallas last week. The Spartans are now faced with the task of replacing a group of veteran leaders while trying to rebound from the 38-0 loss to Alabama in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
It’s no doubt the Spartans will have major losses on both the offensive and defensive lines quarterback, and receivers due to graduation. As a result, the question going into next year is can the program continue to keep climbing higher and build on what Coach Mark Dantonio has started in East Lansing.
True, this group of seniors won more games than any class in the history of the program and they will be missed. However, the cupboard is not depleted. Depth was a major strength of this team and a lot of underclassmen got valuable game experience this year due to injuries. Recruiting has also been very good as well. The 2016 recruiting class is highly ranked, so the talent level will be there for the coaching staff to work with. Spring practice will be interesting, especially the battle at quarterback where Tyler O’Connor, a fifth-year senior and Damian Terry, a fourth-year junior will compete for the job Connor Cook held for the last three years. In addition, redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke and freshman Messiah deWeaver will be in the competition as well. Lewerke looked very good on the scout team and deWeaver comes in highly touted.
Reflecting on the Cotton Bowl, it was apparent that when Alabama brings its “A” game, it will be very tough for anybody to beat them. They have athletes and are very well coached. MSU competed with them for a half, but once Alabama got rolling in the second half, the deal was closed on this game. The interception just before halftime was a killer for Michigan State. A touchdown or even a field goal before the half would have been huge in terms of momentum going into the locker room. Being down 10-7 or 10-3 would have been better than no score at all. When Alabama scored on the opening drive of the second half, the game was over.
The Spartans shouldn’t hang their heads as they were Big 10 champions and made it to the final four of football. There are the whole lot of teams that would trade places in a heartbeat with them on the success of their season. They simply ran into the team (in my opinion) that will be the national champions. We will say goodbye and best wishes to seniors like Cook, Calhoun, J. Allen, Thomas, Heath and Burbridge who end their careers as Spartans. Looking forward to next year, a new quarterback will be in place, either Tyler O’Connor or Damion Terry who both have been in the program for four and three years respectively. The running backs all return; the linebacking group loses Darien Harris, but returns Ed Davis as well as Bullough, Reschke and Frey. The secondary will have to step it up. The receiving corp will lose four player, so others will have to step it up. The team will rest up and start winter conditioning this month to get ready for spring practice, so I guess we will get a look in the spring.