Dantonio’s Vision is Taking Place….



Entering week thirteen the Spartans still have dreams of roses.  Photo courtesy of Lori Misch.
Entering week thirteen the Spartans still have dreams of roses. Photo courtesy of Lori Misch.

There are noticeable differences between last year’s Spartans and this year’s Spartans. The biggest difference between the two teams is in the win column. Some projected MSU would hit that magical double-digit number. Others thought they were no more than an eight-win team. 


Regardless of what happens this weekend or on New Year’s Day, this Spartan team has written themselves into the history books. It wasn’t easy. It required late heroics and unexpected plays from unassuming players. Michigan State Football finally has depth.


It could be argued that last year’s team was a dozen plays away from a nine or ten win season. In order to win the close ones, you have to have talent and depth all over the field. Talented kids with the right mindset find ways to make plays and win. This is what this staff has finally cultivated and it is showing up on Saturdays. 


Think about the four ‘special’ special teams plays this season. The first was the infamous ‘Little Giants’ play. Punter Aaron Bates picks up the field goal snap, checks to his second read and throws a perfect strike to Charlie Gantt for a touchdown. If you go back and watch the film, you’ll see that not only did Bates and Gantt do their jobs, a true freshman (Le’Veon Bell) destroyed two defenders on the play and it allowed Gantt to run free, catch the pass and score.


The second game changing special teams play of the season was Keshawn Martin’s punt return against Wisconsin. It was great individual effort from Keyshawn, but it was Kyler Elsworth (RS-freshman LB) and Max Bullough that created the initial wedge that got Keyshawn going. 


Max has been on the field a fair amount as a true freshman, but he has made a lot of his impact on special teams. Every time Conroy kicks off, it is Bullough lined up next to him. You cannot have enough stud linebackers playing special teams. They are sure tacklers, good blockers and are not afraid of the chaos that comes with punt and kick returns.


The third special teams play that really showed our depth was the fake punt against Northwestern. The week before, Michigan State played Illinois in Spartan Stadium and won 26-6. Keyshawn Martin was injured in that game and Bennie Fowler came in and performed admirably taking a long reverse to the end zone. The redshirt freshman found himself split out wide on a key fourth down against Northwestern. 


Bates faked the punt, lofted a pass down the right side of the field finding Fowler for a key first down that changed the momentum of the game. Another key play made because we had depth ready to step up and make a play.


The most recent example of this happened last weekend against Purdue. I will readily admit that I was ready to give the ol’ Phillips HD a tune-up after the first three quarters of that game. Michigan State couldn’t buy a first down; we couldn’t get out of our own way. We looked like we needed something miraculous to beat the lowly Boilers and a Chris L. Rucker interception later, our prayers were answered. The momentum swung over to the MSU sideline, the stadium became electric and MSU scored a much-needed touchdown. On Purdue’s next possession, they found themselves pinned deep against their own end zone.  Purdue was lined up for a punt, doing their best to hold onto their narrow 31-28 lead and then the latest Spartan special teams heroics occurred. 


Reserve redshirt freshman linebacker Denicos Allen split the gap on the snap came down the right side and blocked the punt. It landed at the three-yard line nestled nicely in the arms of Johnny Adams. A Kirk Cousins scramble later, MSU had the lead and wasn’t going to give it up.


There are countless examples all over the field where depth has really been the difference this season. Quality depth is the mark of a good team. Quality depth that makes game changing plays is the mark of great team. Ten wins is an unbelievable story. Stay tuned for Happy Valley this weekend.