Spartans Learning How to Answer the Bell
For the first time in a very long time, the vision is turning into a reality at Michigan State. Every Spartan fan is pinching themselves after seeing MSU handle Notre Dame over the weekend. It was a game that was far closer than the score indicated and it was a game that was more out of reach than the coaches cared to admit when ND became one dimensional.
Michigan State was largely one dimensional, but the difference was more about will and forcing your will on a lesser opponent. This is something that MSU failed to do under the last two regimes. When Michigan State looked as if it was going to let the Irish make a game out of it in the second half, our offensive line asserted themselves and pushed the Notre Dame defense down the field.
The most impressive thing that has stood out during Dantonioâ€™s short tenure has been our ability to answer the bell. When the scoreboard read 13-7, I like so many other Spartans, sat on the edge of my seat and felt that all too familiar pain creep into my gut. I had visions of MSU loosing the game 14-13. I thought about 2006 and the pure and utter disgust I felt and then I sat back and watched.
The defense stood tall. The blitz arrived when it was supposed too. MSU marched the ball down the field and Swenson hammered another one between the uprights. Ball control, toughness and big defensive stops were the norm last Saturday afternoon and the manner in which we won was frankly beautiful.
Notre Dame knew Ringer was coming at them and yet we ran Ringer anyway. The fullbacks shuffled in and out of the line up knocking Notre Dameâ€™s backers off the ball play after play. Ringer got up after every hit, caught his breath, stretched a little bit and ran right into the battle carry after carry. It was a clear reminder that spread offenses may be todayâ€™s fad, but there is no substitute for bringing a relentless battering ram into the battle. When Weissâ€™s door finally caved in, the scoreboard read an all too appropriate 23-7 and Ringer stood tall as the high fives and hugs made their way around the stadium.
Hoyer had another Craig Krenzel type of day. His stats would have certainly looked better had a couple of passes been caught that were dropped. I was impressed with Celekâ€™s ability to catch the football and I really liked the way our defensive front played with aggression for sixty minutes.
The â€˜Xâ€™sâ€™ and â€˜Oâ€™sâ€™ have gotten more complicated over the years, but there are a few things that remain consistent when a team wins football games. If you run the ball effectively, manage the clock, stuff the run on defense, pressure the QB, have a solid day kicking / punting and win the turnover margin, than youâ€™ll win most of your football games. This is precisely what MSU did on Saturday. This is precisely the type of foundation that needs to be laid in order to win championships.
The talent is not at MSU to win championships yet. It is coming in the next couple years and I am excited about the direction of our program. As well as MSU played on Saturday, there were still things that we could have done better. This is cause for hope because we are an improving football team. Michigan sat home with another week to savor the Irish loss from a week earlier. All Wolverine fans could do was hope that the home field jinx would rear its ugly head on Saturday, but it never happened. Instead, MSU took care of business, celebrated a much-deserved win in the Michigan sunshine and collected another Big Ten Player of the week award for Javon Ringer. That would be the third one in three weeks for all you Wolverines that majored in calculus.
Michigan State needs to put the lesser opponent letdown label away for good. Nothing would send a clearer message to the MSU fan base and the state of Michigan than a convincing win next weekend in Bloomington. Indiana is coming off a loss to MAC opponent Ball State and things could get ugly pretty quickly in Hoosier country. This is a game that IU has got to have in order to salvage any hopes for a bowl game this season. Kellen Lewis will have to do his best to imitate Superman, but stranger things have happened. I like MSU in this game and it wouldnâ€™t surprise me to see Ringer make it 4/4 in the player of the week column. Make it MSU 38, IU 13.