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The Spartan Nation NOT Top Ten Moments of the 2011 Michigan State Football Season

Yesterday we looked at the top ten most memorable moments for Michigan State football in 2011. Today we look at the Top Ten least memorable moments, or as my son says, “The things you want to forget!”

  1. 3rd down play calling. The single most bang your head on the wall moment and it happened all year was the play calling on 3rd down. How many times did the Spartans have a 3rd down and throw short of the yard marker. It seemed that everyone I talked to from the NFL asked me what was wrong? Hall of Fame Coach John Madden has often said on Monday Night Football, “If you have guys that can’t find and get past the markers on third down don’t put them on the field.” It was mind-boggling. So much so that in the post game interviews at Iowa I asked Dan Roushar about this elephant in the room and he said, “It is a problem and we have to fix it.” They didn’t and it hurt them all season. One head coach the Spartans faced this year actually said to me and one of my reporters walking out of a game, “We gave them on 3rd down that underneath stuff, we know for some reason they love it and we were more than willing to give it to them.” OUCH. Coaches can’t make plays, but they sure can call plays that give their players a chance to make them. MSU on 3rd down this year many times failed to give those playmakers a chance to do to that.
  2. Delany vs. Hollis. Spartan Nation EXCLUSIVELY blew the lid off of the politics that go on behind the scenes and the valiant effort MSU athletic director Mark Hollis exercised against what in my opinion is the heavy handed tactics of his conference office. Here is the link to read that story.
  3. The Will Gholston suspension. This was the reason for the standoff with Hollis and Delany mentioned in point number two. This was a low point for several reasons, one of which I have been asked not to talk about and I won’t. Lets just say that anyone who knows William understands he is a wonderful young man with a heart of gold. Was he frustrated? Without a doubt. Did he throw a bunch? For sure, but without his opponent being suspended for hands to the face on multiple occasions and other extra curricular activity it was pointless to me. The B1G conference says that a punch=suspension all the time, unfortunately that is not how they have enforced it.
  4. September 17, 2011 in South Bend, Indiana. To say that Brian Kelly vs. Mark Dantonio is a rivalry is to say that Arab vs. Jewish relations are somewhat tense. This goes beyond football. It is personal and they don’t like one another. Having said that, there is no shame in going to South Bend and losing. It is a storied place in college football history. The way it happened again was the problem. The Spartans had nearly 20 more offensive plays, dominated in yardage, but were their own worst enemy. Notre Dame sold out to stop the run and despite their loading the box MSU stubbornly kept trying while gaining less than thirty yards. MSU owned the airwaves like the USAF against the Iraqi army, but in their quest to be balanced they wasted plays and frankly hurt themselves with mistakes. I am one who doesn’t like whiners, or teams that fail to give credit in a loss, but on that day MSU beat themselves.
  5. October 29, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Spartans came in to the game 0-5 lifetime against the Cornhuskers and left 0-6. The loss wasn’t the issue, but how they lost. The score was 24-3 and the Spartans had their most abysmal offensive display of the year. They could do nothing. To lose at Nebraska is nothing to be ashamed of. To lose the way they did, to be dominated was. MSU had a game plan and failed it adjust. It was a terrible performance by the offensive staff and players. The defense played valiantly, but spent so much time on the field eventually acquiesced and gave up points.
  6. January 2, 2012 the suspension of true freshman long snapper Matt Giampapa. Giampapa came in to the season as an unknown walk on. Only ONE other freshman played this year and that was a scholarship player. Giampapa ended the Big Ten season as one of the elite long snappers in the Big Ten and with a MSU scholarship in hand as a reward from Mark Dantonio. I found out on Christmas Eve that he was going to be suspended for the Outback Bowl. There were no drugs, no police and no fighting, but still the young Giampapa let his team down. There were several poor snaps in the Outback Bowl that frankly should have cost MSU the game had they not had a fifth year senior holder in Brad Sonntag who was the MVP in my book of that game. Giampapa is a great young man from a super family and I expect no issues again with him. I will say he owes Brad Sonntag the biggest steak in East Lansing. Had MSU lost the bowl game because of long snapping a lot more people would know his name and if you’re a long snapper that is not good. It is often said of that position, “If they know you, then you screwed up.”
  7. Injuries. A young OL was decimated by injuries and because of that the Spartans couldn’t get the rushing game going. To make matters worse, teams lined up knowing that even though the Spartans couldn’t do it, the were still going to try. Those OL injuries were critical. The Spartans did a good job avoiding sacks, but credit Cousins with that as much as the OL because he knew that his line needed help. In fairness to the OL I expect that to be strength in 2012, but in 2011 this young unit needed reps and injuries cost it dearly.
  8. Edwin “ROCK” Baker fumbles. All you have to do to like Rock Baker is to meet him. He is a gentleman, he is a super young man and he makes everyone laugh around him. In 2011 he predicted for himself that he would get 20 TDs and 2,000 yards rushing. Neither was to be. Inexplicably he had fumbling issues that most think were in his head and he just coughed up the ball. Was he looking ahead to jumping to the NFL early? If you would have polled those of us that cover MSU football 365 days a year before the season I bet 90% would have said Baker was going pro when the season ended, so that could be. With his fumbling issues and the emergence of LeVeon Bell as the Spartans super back it was not a good year for Baker. Not terrible, but nowhere near his prediction. His pre season prognostication didn’t sit well with some of his teammates who preferred team type goals, but they do like him. I think his desire to go pro; with the weight of his goals mixed with the emergence of Bell was the perfect recipe for a young man who tried to hard.
  9. Kickoffs. I harped on this so much during the year that Matt Charboneau of the Detroit News (who is a great friend) would heckle me anytime Kevin Muma had a good kick. First let me say that Kevin is just a wonderful person. A truly great kid so I can assure you that this isn’t personal. What I can tell you is that the goal of the kicker is to get the ball AT LEAST to the goal line. Mark Dantonio has said that. As the season went on, Dantonio then said to the five, but I believe he was protecting his kicker. In this day and age of college football field position is so critical. To give a scholarship to a player who struggles to get it to the goal line and even at times to the five is questionable. The frustrating thing with Muma is that he can do it. He has a very big leg. Sure at times you are kicking AGAINST the wind and that must be taken into account, but this youngster is a man I root for and has the talent, but it is only being honest when you say that his kickoffs must get deeper.
  10. The tunnel outside Spartan Stadium. On the north side of Spartan Stadium is the exit tunnel from Spartan Stadium. Hundreds of family and fans gather outside that exit to say hello to their favorite player from both teams. I think it is a great MSU tradition where Spartans can gather to meet their families or friends or for a fan to meet their favorite Spartan. What bothers me is a handful of memorabilia seekers (for commercial purposes) who will have four or five helmets in their arms or a box of pictures so when a player exits they can grab a handful of 8x10s for them to sign. I have never seen any player; from either MSU or the opposing teams complain about an autograph outside the tunnel for the fan. I have seen them moan at the memorabilia hawks that are their every week and although I didn’t see it, many parents and fans talked about them jumping in front of and even some told me about pushing kids aside for their latest Ebay fair. MSU doesn’t need another knee jerk reaction and eliminate autographs. They simply need security to stop the people with boxes of photos, helmets or footballs who obviously are there for more commercial reasons. If you won’t pay the players, why should the people profiting from them ruin it for fans and frankly players. If nothing else, the players feel obligated to sign for those hawks, let them no it is OK to say get lost.

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