Not again. These were the two words running through my head as the MSU football team took to the field with under two minutes left, down by a touchdown and staring at 85 yards of hope. But then hope revealed destiny.
Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins moved the Spartans down the field in effortless fashion. Without the help of any timeouts, Cousins showed the world in 10 plays why the Spartans deserve to be among the elite, capping the drive off with a 7-yard touchdown pass to MSU receiver Keith Nichol.
The battle would go to three overtimes, ending on a 28-yard Dan Conroy field goal to give MSU the victory. This gave MSU their first bowl victory since 2001, when they beat Fresno State in the Silicon Valley Bowl. But in many ways, this win wasn’t just about a bowl victory for MSU. It was about so much more.
It was about MSU head coach Mark Dantonio, who came to MSU in 2006 with a mission to change the culture at the university. Before Dantonio, coach John L. Smith was in the commanding seat. Smith finished at MSU with a dismal 12-20 record in the Big Ten Conference, and 22-26 overall. Dantonio started revamping the way MSU’s offense and defense operated, approaching the game with a new mindset. Immediately you started to see change.
Since taking over, Dantonio has won a Big Ten Title, a Big Ten Legends Division title, Big Ten Coach of the Year, and now a bowl victory, putting the Spartan football team among the best in the country.
It then was also about the players, specifically the tremendous senior class who played their hearts out for Dantonio each and every season. Players like wide receiver BJ Cunningham, who became MSU’s leading
yardage receiver in the history of the school. Then to safety Trenton Robinson, who became a two time All-Big Ten player this year. Then quarterback Kirk Cousins, who became MSU’s career leader in passing and total offense. We all saw this senior class do some magical things throughout their time at MSU, buying into the leadership of Coach Dantonio.
Finally, it was about a group of people without whom the football team could never have been successful; the fans. They were the ones who stayed faithful after every loss and celebrated after every win. It was the fans that cheered “GO GREEN, GO WHITE” when the Spartans needed a boost of energy or confidence. It was the fans that, on the last drive of regulation in the Outback Bowl, believed they still had a chance.
These are the ingredients fueling the Spartans’ success and what got them to that sunny day in Tampa Bay, Florida. During that moment when they took the field with under two minutes left, odds stacked against them, those ingredients believed.
“Not again.” Two words that, after the game had ended and green and white rushed the field in jubilation, quickly left my mind. I then found myself saying nothing at all, just a smile on my face, in awe of that moment of destiny.
By Allen Martin
VM Sports Opinion Writer