What Happened in Happy Valley?

Hondo S. Carpenter

November 22, 2008

State College, PA

Beaver Stadium

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The Spartans came into Beaver stadium today with high hopes. The over achieving Spartans were a testament to the staff that led them and their commitment to follow. Nine and two and spoken of prior to kickoff as if they had already lost, they were ready.

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The press box two hours before game time had two big bunches of beautiful red roses to present to the Nittany Lions as if the game had already been decided. The national pundits and the PSU media looked past the Spartans as if they were simply the fodder to which their coronation would ensue around.

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The snow flurries fell in the stadium while outside; mountains that shined with the sun that highlighted their tops silhouetted the most beautiful picturesque landscape in the Big Ten. It was a beautiful setting and a beautiful day for football. It was a beautiful day to reward a Big Ten title.

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The Spartans run was improbable. The only way to describe it was to call them over achievers. It is a title that they don’t mind and their head coach views it as a badge of honor. They were more than two touchdown underdogs to a Nittany Lions team that had lost to Iowa, a school that the Spartans had dispatched with comfort.

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On paper the Spartans shouldn’t have been nine and two. On paper there isn’t any logical reason how a team with virtually no depth and in the midst of a major rebuilding should even be playing for a Big Ten Championship. More believable a tale would be a trip to a Motor City Bowl on the line.Â

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That is why games are played. That is why college sports more than any pro sport can turn their direction with one hire. With the one coach that can say I know where we are going and magically if a group of young people buy in, things can happen.

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Before the ball was ever kicked, the nation had discounted the Spartans. PSU had acted as if we were invited to a BBQ and we where the main dish and virtually no one had bought into the “new” Spartans.

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Today was not there day. Today was not the day so long dreamed about by the Spartan Nation. The day that this storied program won another Big Ten title. The thing that people must remember is that this team wasn’t supposed to be here.

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This team was made up of a group of over achievers whose ability to even get this far should put smiles on the fans face. The fact that this team played so tough all season when over matched and beaten up tells you something. The fact that this team battled injuries with little depth and still had the last game of the regular season mean so much is reason to hope. It is a reason to get pride back in your program.

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Today was a glimpse. Today was a day that MSU vs. PSU was the late game and OSU vs. UM was relegated to insignificance. It was a day that gave all Spartans a sneak peak into the future to see where we are headed.

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Remember how bad this team was when Mark Dantonio arrived. Remember how the program on the field and off was in shambles. This team should never have been here. The day that Mark Dantonio was hired if I had assured you that we would be here in his fifth season there isn’t an honest member of the Spartan Nation that wouldn’t have taken it.

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Well you got a gift, three years early. Today shouldn’t have happened. I am in no way belittling the players. Today happened because of the staff that now leads this program. They got this team to over achieve. They got this team to believe. They did the biggest thing of all they got them to trust.

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This team trusts this staff.  This team has some young talent. It also has some huge deficiencies. Unfortunately it takes talent to get to where the Nittany Lions are tonight. We can now see that we are getting there. We also saw against OSU and PSU that we aren’t there.

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It will take time for Coach Dantonio to get all the talent he needs. It will take time for that talent to mature. If you look at MSU’s WR core, you see perhaps the most talented young group of wide outs in the nation. Brian Hoyer’s senior season was marred with dropped passes, by those young receivers. Guess what? Young players make those mistakes. In the case of OSU, they added a young talent at QB, but had enough talent and experience around him to compensate. MSU simply didn’t have enough experience or in some cases talent to compensate.

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That is not a bad thing. True Spartans will be disappointed today. True Spartans will also smile when they look with a vision of what we are becoming. You can be impatient. That emotion is certainly allowed. Discouragement would be foolish.

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We have a coach that wants to be here. Regardless of what bowl we go to, more importantly we get weeks of extra bowl practices to work on the experience that our players so badly need.

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This team is two or three seasons away from playing in and winning these games. This program is knocking at the door. This program is so far beyond where Mark Dantonio inherited it. We can take joy in this:

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We didn’t win the Big Ten title. We are however laying a foundation and we can see already what we have and how it looks. Spartan Football shouldn’t have been here. Spartan Football is not a Big Ten Title team…yet!  Spartan Football however is now in the discussion. Spartan Football now has a place on the guest list.

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We didn’t win the Big Ten title tonight Spartan Nation. We also have so much to be excited about. Remember how bad this hurts. Remember how bad this makes you feel. We will be back. We will get back here. We will win.

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If anything, thanks to Mark Dantonio for setting a bar so high that less than two years ago was not even set. Sure this hurts, but the healing balm is that Spartan football is no longer a joke. No longer and also ran. No longer insignificant.

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Spartan football in year two has progressed yet again. We are so much better than were we where two years ago. We can see a Phoenix in the ashes. It is young, but we can see it.

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When the loss stops hurting, be thankful for where we are. We simply didn’t have the horses to compete with the PSU and OSU elite, but at least we are in the dance.

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Thanks Mark. We hurt like you, but we are proud of the job you are doing. Spartan Football is back. Ahead of schedule! Want proof Spartan Nation? We all are hurting after losing the Big Ten Title, a 9-3 regular season and a New Years Day Bowl all less than two years after Mark Dantonio took the helm.

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P.S.

We are headed to the locker room. We will drive all night and put the video up on the site when we get back to Michigan.

 

THANKS FOR READING SPARTAN NATION
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