“A guy we haven’t talked (a lot) about is Josiah Scott, No. 22 out there’’ Dantonio said. “He’s got a lot of Darqueze Dennard-type intangibles to go along with his ability to run and ball skills. He’s a very good tackler.’’
When the Spartans signed Scott, my first impression was at 5-10 and 166 pounds, would he be able to hold up at that size in the Big Ten. He more than held his own as was mentioned by the commentators of the Green-White game.
One area Scott will need to improve on is his ability to win 50-50 balls.
Members of the Spartans’ receiving corps found success against Scott on a couple of comeback routes and few jump-ball opportunities.
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.
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.
IT HAS LONG been MSU’s misfortune to share a state with the most victorious program in college football history. But in this Year of the Spartan, the Michigan game on Oct. 17, five weeks before Ohio State, especially encapsulated Sparty’s good fortune.
To say it’s been an uphill climb for the Michigan State football program to be where it is today would be an understatement. The program has been a case study for inconsistency since the time Duffy Daugherty retired from coaching. There has been seven head coaches since Duffy and there has never been a level of consistent winning until Dantonio arrived in East Lansing. Gaining any type of respect has been hard because of the history of the program, not to mention the success of the University of Michigan program under Bo Schembechler and the coaches that followed him. In the state of Michigan, they get all the publicity. So, for lifetime Spartan fans such as myself, we are enjoying the success of the Spartan football program and are optimistic that it will continue.