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The Spartan Nation Top Ten Moments of the 2011 Michigan State Football Season

Recently my good friend Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal did a story on his top ten moments from MSU football for the 2011 season. As always with Joe he did a great job. In fact you can read that article WHEN YOU CLICK HERE.

Some of you emailed and asked me for my list so here it is.

  1. January 2, 2012 The Outback Bowl vs. Georgia The Spartans came out and did what they had not been able to do the previous four years under Dantonio. MSU not only won, but they did it against a SEC team and truly kicked off next season seven months early.
  2. September 2, 2011 vs. Youngstown State Joel Foreman had an opportunity in 2011 to set a record for starts in a career and consecutive starts. Foreman went to Mark Dantonio the Tuesday before the game asking for Arthur Ray, Jr. his teammate who battled back from cancer to get the start. Foreman was not caring about the records or the legacy of the records and Mark Dantonio told him, “You are a captain. This is your team if you want to do it, then we can.” Foreman also asked that it not be made known. He didn’t want the credit. Tears streamed down the eyes of Ray and his teammates (as well as in the stands and press box) when it was announced at Spartan Stadium. That act of kindness on the part of the senior captain and leader set the tone for the entire year. It is one thing to be crowned a leader it is another to earn it. Foreman was testy with the media after the game as he was being pestered with questions about the sacrifice saying, “Why are you asking me about this? It was nothing every other guy on this team wouldn’t have done for Arthur. I am only one of a hundred guys who would have done this, the real story is Arthur.” That action truly set this teams agenda for the year. One of the most unselfish Spartan teams I have ever seen.
  3. January 3, 2012 The day the 2011 season was officially over and MSU had red shirted all but one of their 2011 recruiting class. We will look back in 2014 and 2015 on how great of a decision that was by Mark Dantonio. So many players from that class looked amazing this year, but MSU made the hard call not to play any of them. That one act set MSU football forward in an amazing way. Something that will yield tangible benefits for years to come.
  4. October 22, 2011 vs. Wisconsin MSU came out on fire for the second year in a row and got way to conservative with the play calling. That allowed Wisconsin to come back and as we have seen from Dantonio the magic was still left. On the last play of the game with the nation watching Kirk Cousins Hail Mary pass to Keith Nichol won the Spartan the game. Spartan Stadium was louder then I have ever heard it in 40 years and it was fitting. Nichol had come to MSU after having gone to Oklahoma and had battled Cousins. Not matter how hard either tried the media and the fans wouldn’t let one succeed without mentioning the other. On that play, of that moment, it was one of the magical times that make sports great. For decades to come that play will be remembered.
  5. October 15, 2011 vs. Michigan the Spartans won their fourth in a row over the Wolverines. A truly milestone event and something that this class and Dantonio took even more personal than the fans. Michigan had owned MSU prior to Dantonio’s arrival and this team took it personal. I could care less if MSU wins the next 500, a win over your archrival will always make the top ten.
  6. December 3, 2011 The Big Ten Championship game vs. Wisconsin was the very first championship game and the Spartans didn’t disappoint. They played one of the best games in all of college football again, and once again it was against the Badgers. If you could separate yourself from being a Spartan fan for one moment you could appreciate the amazing contest.  The venue was amazing and unlike the Badgers who get all the publicity for being such a great traveling team, the Spartans owned Indy as the Badgers stayed home. In all of my life. Super Bowls, bowl games, Final Fours, Stanley Cup Playoffs, World Series, NBA Finals and more it was the greatest Sporting event ever based solely on ambiance. Major kudos to the Big Ten for putting that on.
  7. William Gholston Bubba Smith and George Webster are the two greatest defensive players in the illustrious history of MSU. Gholston emerged as someone who is not there yet, but clearly close. Gholston has not spoken about it, but I fully expect him to make the leap to the NFL after the 2012 season. If by some miracle he should stay, the way he continues to get better every game he could leave after four years as the best defensive player to ever play at MSU. What makes him special is that as great of a football player as Gholston is, he is a better person.
  8. October 1, 2011 vs. Ohio State the Spartans went in to the horseshoe having not won there since 1998. Dantonio had an edge as one of his best friends Jim Tressel had been fired from the school and the opposing staff was full of his great friends who all knew they were only fill ins as the Buckeyes (no matter what they said about interim Coach Luke Fickell) were going to make a run at a new coach. Having won the Buckeyes a national title as a defensive coordinator, Dantonio brought the D they were used to seeing him coach there to beat them. After the game when asked about the booing fans that were upset with the Buckeyes Dantonio sarcastically took a shot by saying, “I know what it’s like to coach here, I did.”
  9. November 12, 2011 vs. Iowa Hawkeyes. The Spartans needed to exercise the demons of the year before when the Hawks manhandled them and made them look like children playing men. MSU did just that. They came out on fire and never looked back, playing a great game.
  10. The passing of Justin Dantonio. When Mark Dantonio’s father died at the start of the season it was an emotional blow to the often stoic Mark Dantonio. Dantonio isn’t stoic, but often that is how he comes off in public. I waited until after the year so people wouldn’t bother him about it, but Dantonio wore a green circle with a smaller white circle inside of it as a button in memoriam of his father. Dantonio is not one to publicize it, but it was special. Each time I saw it I remembered that this man (Mark Dantonio) who had single handily rescued Spartan football, was in the midst of losing his hero and great friend and father, and was leading MSU on a magical season. A year like this can’t cure the pain of losing a man of such great stature as the elder Dantonio, but to have done the incredible job of coaching that he did in the midst of dealing with that loss says a lot about the character of Dantonio. If you look at the picture used for this article you can see the pin Dantonio used to commemorate his father.

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