Time To Take a Deep Breath Spartan Nation, This Team is on the Right Path

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Time To Take a Deep Breath Spartan Nation, This Team is on the Right Path
Where we were
It was two years ago that I made the decision personally that John L. Smith had to go. He is a good man, but his time at MSU was a failure. This once proud program had been decimated. It was over. 

A sea of red filled Spartan Stadium and fans stayed away and it was the single most embarrassing day in Spartan history. The fans sent a message to the University that Ron Mason’s single biggest decision as the Athletic Director was an abysmal failure (something they had already acknowledged among themselves) and change was needed.
I was the first member of the media to publicly call for the end, but in fairness it was stating the obvious. The end was upon us.

Do you remember the empty feeling of sadness, Spartan Nation? Do you remember that not only was the roster thin with talent, but the fan base was anemic with hopelessness? The administration could only agree on how bad it was and nothing else. The Spartan Nation had fallen. We were a laughing stock. Fans openly debated the death of the Spartan program. It was desperate.
Where we are

Here we are two years later. In all actuality we aren’t even two years into the rebuilding and reclamation project. The Spartans already have a huge recruiting class loaded with talent nearly four months before signing day and already have a commitment from one of the best LB’s in the nation for the 2010 class. We haven’t seen any coach not named Izzo accumulate talent for future classes before the next is signed, let alone stars.

We had over 77,000 people jammed into the sacred cathedral and a team (not loaded with talent) that had a shot at the Buckeyes. I said before the game if they were to play yesterday ten times, MSU would win four; I still feel that way. We had fans excited and the Detroit media jumping on the bandwagon along with people proclaiming that they all along loved the Spartans as the Ann Arbor Mountaineers imploding.

Then came the game. 

I was at the game and I have watched it multiple times already. The Spartans faced a team of Giants. Unlike the Spartans who have freshman starting out of need, they have freshman playing with stars behind them. There are very few Big Ten teams that Todd Boeckman couldn’t start for. MEMO: He carried a clipboard the entire game.
The Spartans got rattled and all of a sudden were desperate to make plays. You saw guys trying to tackle Wells at shoulder level and they simple ignored the technique that we have all seen pertinently displayed all season.

A fifth year senior QB, the player that should be the calming soul of the team, struggled again and a freshman stepped in on fire. Some will say that Ohio State went to a prevent and although it wasn’t actually that severe, they did play more loose. What those people fail to realize is that they had also already done that to Hoyer. OSU dared the Spartans to throw early. They did. It wasn’t good. Hoyer started 5 of 12 and was 5 of 13 for 27 yards on the game with no sacks and one interception.

Cousins, unlike Hoyer, wasn’t rattled and didn’t look nervous. He was blind-sided on a CB blitz that he simply didn’t pick up. He is a freshman. In his defense, Brian has and would have picked the blitz up, but on the other hand Cousins led the team and fired up with a far superior passing skill. The coaches acknowledged after the game that Cousins, who went 18 for 25 for 161 yards and a TD and interception, gave the team a spark.

The QB position is like no other in football. They get far too much credit and far too much blame. Cousins out played Brian Hoyer but he didn’t cost us the game. He didn’t make the fumbles or play defense.

Mark Dantonio, in my opinion, has no choice but to give reps to Cousins next week in Ann Arbor. Hoyer will and should start, but his leash must be short. The missing of the blitz read is a mistake that freshman make, but the poor passing and failure to spark the team that Hoyer provided is unacceptable from a fifth year guy. 

With that said there were other things that I ascertained and I thought brought hope. You didn’t see Wells or Pryor running in spaces that were empty. You saw Spartans missing and guys getting embarrassed as they leaped for air. You saw Buckeyes breaking and stiff-arming people. You may be asking what can be good about that? People who don’t know football or who didn’t realize how bad MSU football was when the Dantonio regime arrived will rip the staff. They are wrong. I have never hesitated to place blame at their feet when wrong, but that wasn’t what yesterday was.

You saw defensive players failing to tackle in space and players being overthrown or missing tackles and dropping a pass. My point is that the Spartans were in place to make plays…they didn’t. Those are a talent and a youth issue, not the staffs. 

QB rolled right and overthrew a wide-open receiver. It was a great call by Treadwell, a mistake by the QB. That isn’t a coach’s error. You saw weak-side blitzes that LB’s had Pryor stopped and he ran through them. You had an S brought up for contain and a stiff arm by Wells dropped him faster than a roller coaster.

You saw a TRUE sophomore in Greg Jones. A player that has NFL scouts drooling trying too badly to win that he did too much and rather than fall on a ball tried to pick it up. Would any of us trade Jones and his future? Of course not! Would any of us declare that the young star didn’t care? Of course not! Did anyone see Spartans with their heads down dejected? Blow-ups on national TV by Dantonio? Did any Spartan quit? Of course not!

You can’t blame coaches for mistakes when the right plays were called. Spartan fans are disappointed and that is legit. So are the players and coaches. There is, however, no excuse for a lack of hope and anticipation. You saw this team play much better all season. Yesterday it looked like a young and rebuilding team.

I can’t imagine what this team will look and be like in 2011 when this rivalry renews itself. Multiple recruiting classes and depth will make this rivalry an entire new ball game. There will be players playing that aren’t making freshman mistakes because they aren’t freshman. Had yesterday’s game take place in 2011, the Spartan Nation would have reason to be terrified. It didn’t, it happened in 2008, less than 2 years into the rebuilding program. I am disappointed but at the same time immensely hopeful seeing what this staff has accomplished already.   

Mark Dantonio is the right man. This is a great staff. This is also a rebuilding program that is going better than hoped for. I predicted before the season that they would be 6-2 right now. They are. 

Any of you that have ever built a house know that it looks like it is going fast. The foundation is laid, the walls, roof and siding are on and from the outside it looks finished. The secret is that it isn’t and months of laborious effort lie ahead to finish it.

People could look and see that the foundation is rebuilt and the once decimated program is getting better. We all just saw that it isn’t finished. I was disappointed with the loss, but hopeful for the future. We have our guy. We have our staff and we have our players. We all just need to remember where we came from, where we are and be thankful of where we are going.
Where we are going

If you step back from yesterday’s game far enough to look at the forest instead of the one game tree, you get an interesting view. Did you like what you saw from the Buckeyes yesterday, Spartan fans? I am not referring to the beat down they put on us, but did you notice how they played technically sound in all three phases of the game. If you did, here is your hope.  Mark Dantonio labored side by side with Jim Tressel where he built Youngstown State and Ohio State into National Title winners.Â

He is using the exact same blueprint here. Jim Tressel said earlier in the week, “What you see from MSU is really a younger version of us.” That’s a compliment to this program. With the infusion of top notch talent coming into the program, the excellent ability of the staff, and the great heart of the players already here, what you saw on the field yesterday from the Buckeyes is a mirror image of where this team is going under Mark Dantonio.Â
I have stated for weeks that this team is young and playing above itself. That is a compliment directly on the coaches and the players who trust them. Is there any doubt that a win on Saturday against the Ann Arbor Mountaineers would more than be a panacea for yesterday’s hurt?