Guest author Garrett Jackson writes about the mood on campus about Spartan football!

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Just three Saturdays ago, optimism was sky high for the Michigan State University Spartans football team. Their 31-14 victory over Notre Dame felt like a turning point for the MSU program. The fact that they won in South Bend was not surprising, considering their recent history of success there. It was the way in which the victory was earned that had the Spartan faithful buzzing.  

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In past seasons, this team has played in numerous emotional games, where their emotions ultimately got the best of them, but on this day the Spartans displayed a powerful running game, an efficient passing game, and most importantly, discipline that fans haven’t seen in some time.

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So this game had to be a precursor of what lied ahead, right? Most students interviewed during the week after the Notre Dame game thought so.    

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The vast majority of the students that I spoke with had an optimistic attitude. Even after reminding those about the annual roller coaster ride through the football season that this team goes through, which usually peaks with the Notre Dame game, they just seemed to shrug it off, in large part due to the fact Mark Dantonio is now calling the shots as coach. According to a large chunk of the student body, an Outback Bowl appearance was the worst-case scenario, and that sentiment didn’t change after a loss to Wisconsin.

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Sophomore Kevin Greening talked about his prospects for the remainder of the season, and if he felt that this edition of the Spartans would fold down the stretch.

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“The way they played down to the wire at the number nine team in the country was commendable, Greening said, I feel as if the attitude this year is different. They may lose in one or two of their road games to finish with three losses. I think Dantonio and a strong running game should get them to a bowl game.”
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Even though the Spartans returned home with a loss, many students felt encouraged by the performance. Sitting in the heart of the student section during last Saturday’s game against Northwestern, there was a sense of change in everyone. Excited, anticipating, and anxious could be used to describe the students. The atmosphere in the student section was a welcome sight, considering the fact that we weren’t playing a perennial Big Ten powerhouse, but the emotions of the crowd did a complete 180 degree turn when Brian Hoyer’s fourth down pass in overtime sailed over the head of receiver Mark Dell.

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There is definitely no shame in losing a close game at Camp Randall Stadium, but to come back home, and surrender 48 points to a Northwestern that helped Duke end its 22 game losing streak, and was without its starting running back is mind-boggling.Â

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Immediately after the loss, some doubt about the Spartans fortunes did start to creep into the minds of students. Students placed the brunt of the blame on the defense, and its inability to get off the field on third downs, but for the first time, students directed criticism towards the coaching staff. Most of the discussion stemmed from the under-use of Javon Ringer in the fourth quarter, and the play calling in overtime which saw the Spartans take four shots to the end zone.

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Later on Saturday night, the hostility quelled quite a bit. The presence of Coach Dantonio kept students believing that this still could be a productive season. Freshman Milton Jones III shared his thoughts with me on Saturday evening.

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“This year under first-year coach Mark Dantonio we seem determined and focused to win…but, after two heartbreaking losses, they will regain focus, and will finish strong in the Big Ten and go to a bowl game this year.” Jones said.
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This group of students isn’t flustered by history. They don’t care about the fact that in the past ten years, their beloved Spartans have won three of our first four games seven times, and for the rest of the season in those seven years combined, have won just 40 percent of their games. Like Jones, other students strongly believe that Coach Mark Dantonio and his staff can turn this team’s fortunes around.

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