Spartans Accomplish More Than Just a Win and a Bowl Bid!

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Spartans Accomplish More Than Just a Win and a Bowl Bid!

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The MSU Spartans, led by first year head coach Mark Dantonio, accomplished more at Spartan Stadium with their seventh win of the season than just a bowl bid. The Spartans earned some much-needed respect.

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Dantonio had taken a lot of hits this season for his decision to allow three players to stay on the team, that presented him with witnesses that say they didn’t commit the crimes they are accused of. He took grief for staying the course and repeating the mantra of “Football is a game of inches” over and over. He was ridiculed and even called “classless” by some for his impassioned comments after the UM loss at his press conference. Through it all, he stayed the course. Through it all, even with a stretch of 1-4 he and his Spartans stayed the course.Â

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You see while some critics and pundits who are never at practice or at games took shots at his character he knew who he was and what he stood for. He has a team with roughly 100 kids and none had left when he took over, even with his militaristic discipline and focus. He repeated to his players, as much as he tells the public that, “Football is a game of inches,” that, “No one knows you or us outside of those doors.” Spartan players believed him. Kids who had been left to the wayside and kicked to the curb saw something genuine and real about him. “I have never had a man tell me he loved me until these coaches. They really will feel that way in 20 years also, I know it,” was how one senior on this team described them to me after the Iowa loss.Â

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When the media cheap shots came, ridiculing him for his devotion to his mentor and one of his best friends in Jim Tressel he never said a word. The only thing he and these players did was win. They acted with class when the dust settled after being down 17 in the second half to Penn State. There was the man that many enjoyed ripping into getting a bath from the players that everyone expected to quit and turn on him.

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Where will all the critics be that essentially called him a buffoon? Where will the people be that berated him for not kicking three kids off of the team who he chose to trust and believe? Where will the people be that called him classless for showing the frustration that the Spartan Nation feels so deeply with yet another UM loss?

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I admit that having known Mark for many years that I see a side maybe others don’t. I also see a man and a team that took a huge step forward. 7-5 far exceeds anything that anyone (regardless of what they say now) ever expected. I see a man at the end that could have rubbed a lot of noses, but didn’t. I see a man that doesn’t see MSU as a stepping-stone to the next job. He is a Spartan. He loves the Spartan Nation. He is home. I see a man that saw those criticisms (when they came from real Spartans and not attention whores) as nothing more than a family feud. He just let them fall off.  I see a man that made us all proud.Â

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I saw kids that made us all proud. I saw Brian Hoyer show us all his maturity by forgetting the first half and willing this team to a win. I saw Jehuu Caulcrick’s passion and determination, fueled by a career that was wasted for the past four years essentially, power his way to a first down. I saw Devin Thomas who was left for dead by the last staff, staring at a future NFL career whenever the time comes. I saw Kaleb Thornhill who is as much the epitome of what being a Spartan is overcome with having been the third Thornhill to leave a legacy. I saw the youngster Joel Nitchman staring with eyes of what the future holds and a senior like Pete Clifford thinking about it being done.

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There are so many other players’ stories that could be told and will, but last night was not just a convincing seventh win and a bowl bid. Last night a summons was served. Last night a great coach, a legend with one of the best staffs in college football history in Joe Pa, was out coached by an up and comer, and his staff that may not have had the horses in the race that he did, but they won.

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Last night Dantonio and this team rang the bell. Last night this staff, this team, and the Spartan Nation declared that the long national (Spartan Nation) nightmare is over. Last night we got a glimpse of where we are going. “We went 2-1 in November” was the quote of Coach Dantonio. “When games matter (in November) we were 2-1.” I couldn’t agree more coach.

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“WOW” was Dantonio’s words. The much-maligned (and unfairly may I add) offensive coordinator Don Treadwell said it best, “They were [going to] will themselves to a victory." What people fail to see is where did that will come from? How was it implanted in them? Aren’t these kids quitters? Aren’t they the same old Sparties?
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Cut the crap! These kids had direction. They had a staff that most didn’t get recruited by. Some kids had reputations that Dantonio told them on day one, “I don’t care what others tell me about you. I am going to let you show me what and who you are.”Â
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They bought in that this staff never threw them under the bus. They bought in when this staff embraced them and treated them like sons, and not meat. They bought in when the team was skidding having gone 1-4 and the coach didn’t bow to pressure to kick three kids off the team that maintain their innocence, and had witnesses to support them. “He could have just kicked them off. He could have just done it to get people’s minds off being 1-4 in five games. The point is that he had dealt with it before the season and was willing to trust them and us,” was how one player described the team’s take on how he handled it.
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They bought in with a coach and staff that would go to the mic and take the blame when the right plays and schemes were called and kids didn’t make plays. These kids bought into a staff that bought into them.
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Last night the Spartan Nation was given a gift. Last night for all of the doubting Thomases among us, you were given tangible proof of what this team and this staff is all about. I am not angry at fans that love MSU who were critical. I wrote of blown calls on several occasions. I am disgusted with the pundits and critics that run their mouths for a living and MSU was the convenient puppy to whip. I am sure now that they have to say something positive it will be laced with somehow finding a way to love and praise UM. Sadly that is how many do it.
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Call me a homer. It is a compliment that I wear proudly. I love this school and this University. That is nothing in which to be ashamed of. I am also proud to be fair!

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To echo the sentiments of so many of the players, they play for him. He and his staff told them that they loved them and they meant it. They loved them back and believed in them.Â
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This team is still in a rebuilding process and although human nature would point to next season with grandiose expectations, it too will be a work in progress and a grind like this season. That isn’t the issue. The issue is that football is a game of inches and we have a coach that wants to be here for every grueling one it takes to rebuild the proud tradition that MSU has had.