November 10, 2007
West Lafayette, Indiana
The Spartans came into todayâ€™s game against the Boilermakers emotionally about as high as they could get.Â After having collapsed and lost to their arch rival the previous Saturday, a week of trash talking and anger was going to either have them emotionally ready to get that elusive sixth (and bowl eligible) win or spent and drained.
Contrary to reports, they were not emotionally drained.Â The Spartans came into todayâ€™s game as four point underdogs, but someone forgot to tell the Spartans.Â They showed the pundits that had pontificated all week that they spent their energy lamenting the UM loss that they were wrong.Â Mark is notorious for reminding his team that, â€œNo one outside of this building knows what is going on.â€Â He proved to his team he was right.
After a great week of practice the Spartans came into Ross-Ade, a place that they have struggled and although they were not spectacular, they played well enough to win.Â The Boilermakers came into the game with a 7-3 record on senior day. The Stadium had thousands of empty seats; I guess many Boiler fans thought this game would be over in the first quarter.Â Even when they should have been alive with excitement, the crowd proved to be a non-factor. This allowed the Spartans to concentrate solely on the Boilermakers and not deal with the crowd noise as they had with road losses to OSU, Wisconsin and Iowa.Â
The magic number you hear me beat into the ground each week is the magic number "5". A combination of five sacks and or turnovers rang true again today as the Spartans had pressure on Painter all day long.Â For the game the Spartans sacked Painter three times and also got three turnovers!Â The Boilers only made plays when the Spartan defense failed to make tackles or stay at home and play their assignments.Â Frustrating for much of the coaching staff is that they saw their kids in the right position defensively to make plays. They missed tackles and failed to show discipline by staying in their gaps. That killed MSU on a number of occasions allowing the explosive Boilermakers to make big plays when MSU had them all but stopped.
The Spartan defense allowed the Boilermakers three touchdowns in the second quarter and the score was 31-21 at the half.Â The first half stats told the story that echoed my pre-game scouting report.Â The Spartans owned the clock controlling the ball for nearly seven minutes longer than the Boilermakers.Â The Spartans had 258 yards in offense compared to the Boilers 306. The Spartans biggest first half stats... only two penalties and no turnovers. You could see the contrast looking at Purdueâ€™s four penalties and two turnovers.Â
Brett Swensonâ€™s sophomore slump continued in the first half.Â He kicked the ball three times.Â One was blocked when he failed to get the ball up fast enough and one went wide right.Â The Boilermakers rewarded Swenson's miss with an off sides penalty. He hammered the 39 yarder home giving the Spartans a 31-21-halftime lead.Â Swenson will be fine; he finished the day going two for three.
Brian Hoyer responded this week by playing nearly a perfect game.Â He was 22 of 31 with two TDâ€™s and no INTâ€™s. What makes Brian's performance more impressive is that his teammates had six dropped passes and one incomplete pass where his receiver ran the wrong route.Â If you include those he had only two errant passes.Â Hoyer has been good protecting the ball all season long. Other than MSU's first drive, he didn't lock on to a receiver the rest of the day.Â Hoyer was emphatic about not caring what people thought and I asked him if the criticism this week bothered him.Â â€œNo I only worry about those people here in the locker room, the family.â€Â His Coach Don Treadwell commented about Hoyerâ€™s much improved play by saying, â€œHe played relaxed today.â€Â Hoyer did echo the sentiments of his coach when told what he said, â€œYeah, I think I did play more relaxedâ€¦not getting so jacked up.â€
The Boilermakers knew that the Spartans would take the game to them with the run and routinely put seven, eight and nine men in the box.Â Hoyer was up to the challenge and was masterful.Â Purdue rolled the dice that Hoyer couldnâ€™t beat them and he proved them wrong.
Last week after the loss to Michigan, I stressed that Hoyer had to take the reigns and lead this team.Â He put them on his back and was MSU's clear leader.Â Today he didnâ€™t over think things. Today for this first time since he joined the Spartan Nation, he looked like the winning QB he was back in high school.Â Dantonio expressed his pleasure with his gunslinger, â€œHe was on his game today for sure!â€
The Spartanâ€™s had to control the time of possession today and they did. They controlled the ball for nearly 17 minutes more than the Boilermakers.Â Another huge difference was the lone Spartan turnover. The offensive line stepped up and only let the Boilermakers sack Hoyer one time. The Spartans only had four penalties. It was then the 7-3 (7-4 after todayâ€™s loss) Boilermakers self destructed with 8 penalties that hit them at the most critical times.
Rob Tabatchnick was the MVP of the defense for sure today.Â He (along with Otis â€œBLING BLINGâ€ Wiley) led the Spartans with seven tackles, but that isnâ€™t the whole story.Â He filled the gaps and played well defensively forcing the Boilermakers to change direction.Â His seven tackles are not indicative of his performance as he truly affected the outcome today.Â It was nice to see the senior play so well.
So where are the naysayers?Â Where are the folks that ripped Dantonio and said this team had dispensed too much attention to the Wolverines?Â Exactly.Â This team has lost five games this season and none by more than seven points.Â Today they were able to finish the task.
I got an email from several people this week who called me a homer and ripped me for picking the Spartans to win today.Â I responded by telling most of them that I predict what I believe.Â I was confident that the Spartans were not done.Â I knew that they were not the Spartans of old.Â Today they proved it.Â Today they came into a place they had struggled in the past and not only got a lead, they maintained it.Â They won a game that meant more than the proverbial one that Dantonio preaches about.Â Today they won a game that sent a clear message to a lot of people.Â The Spartans now bowl eligible. They are a new team, a Dantonio Spartan team.Â
I told Devin Thomas how proud I was of him after the game and he told me, â€œWe are the same guys that were here last year.Â This is for the coaches.Â They are the ones that are different.Â I want people to see how blessed we are to have them.â€Â I guess the pundits that look for any reason to rip the Green and White wonâ€™t notice what our best player just said.Â I guess that they wonâ€™t recognize that he was the same kid that sat the bench last season.Â I guess they wonâ€™t be cognizant enough to realize that when the star players are deflecting credit to the staff things really have changed.Â That is O.K.Â They will jump back on the Dantonio bandwagon.Â The point is that Dantonio keeps working at it.Â He lives what he preaches. Football is a game of inches.Â Today the inches went in favor of the Spartan Nation.
This program has exceeded pre-season expectations by getting six wins.Â There is a lot of points and frustration left on the field in the those five losses, but at the end of the day the Spartan Nation and the rest of the country was just served notice that MSU is turning the corner.Â
As I look over an empty press box right now, I canâ€™t help but silently laugh at that big annoying Big Bass Drum is silenced.Â I canâ€™t help but think how some folks now have to reevaluate their opinions of this team.Â I canâ€™t help, but look back on so many years of frustration and smile at a light at the end of the tunnel. The light is that of Spartan hopes and dreams, not the traditional Boilermaker train at the end of the tunnel.
The people that truly love this program can rejoice knowing this win is more than a single victory.Â Years of frustration and adversity have not been for naught.Â Spartan football is nowhere near a finished product or complete.Â For the first time in years, we can all go to bed with not just our Spartan faith, but tangible evidence that the program is heading in the right direction.Â To all of the Spartan Nation who love this program as much do I, I salute all of you.Â Today was a big day in the Spartan Nation.Â Today was proof that there is much to be done, but our ticket is punched and we are headed down the right road.Â This is more than one win for our new coach. This was a Spartan statement.
By the way, who was it that collapsed this year after the MSU vs. UM game?Â How many of the pundits will talk about that?