Â When faced with a double-digit halftime deficit, most college coaches might hit the panic button. Clearly, Mark Dantonio is a different breed. When asked by ESPN’s Quint Kessenich what the Spartans would have to do get back in the game following the intermission, his response was simple:”Just keep playing.”Â
Â And play these Spartans did. Michigan State continues to astound its fans, defy conventional wisdom, and shock the nation with victory after victory, and Saturday’s come-from-behind defeat of fellow Big Ten rival Northwestern isÂ perhaps the best example yet of what type of armor these Spartans wear.
Â Faced with the suspension of starting corner Chris L. Rucker for a second straight game, MSU already went into its first road contest less than full-strength, and early on, State’s protective shields suffered some chinks. They lost their most electrifying player, Keshawn Martin, in the first quarter, and instead turned to Bennie Fowler, an untested underclassmen seeing his first “crunch-time” game experience. Rucker’s replacement, Darqueze Dennard, went out for a handful of series, and in came freshman Isaiah Lewis and sophomore Mitchell White. Even starting linemen D.J.Â Young missed game action, with Jared McGaha filling his role.Â When one shield went down, another Spartan stepped right up to fillÂ the gap.
Â Although these additions were mildly successful, MSU still struggled at times. They gave up 171 rushing yards to the 71st-ranked rushing offense in the country, not to mention 3 TD’s courtesy of Wildcat QB Dan Persa. They struggled to put early pressure on the Northwestern line. And when they did possess the ball, the Spartans couldnâ€™t get anything going. Many of these issues would keep your typical squad down. But, as they’ve shown us time and again, these Spartans are anything but typical.
Â Â Typical football teams don’t outscore their opponent 35-10 after facing a 10-point deficit. Typical football teams don’t lose key players at key points in the game and still manage to win. And typical football teams most definitely donâ€™t have a punter with the ability to convert fourth-down fakes. These atypical attributes make Michigan State who they are-that’s why they bought into their coach’s words, and just “kept playing.”
And it wasn’t just one player, or one staff member, who took Coach D’s statement to heart. Every member of the Spartan football program did their job down after down. Kirk Cousins did his job by delivering 29 completions and three huge scores. Mark Dell and B.J Cunningham did their jobs by combining for 17 receptions, 222 yards, and three touchdowns, the last of which put MSU ahead for good.
Edwin Baker did his job by running for 73 yards and what was perhaps the clinching score. Most importantly, Greg Jones and the defense stepped up and didn’t yield anything more than a field goal after the 2:50 mark of the third quarter.Â They remained unflustered even after a quick touchdown by Baker called them into duty yet again late in the game, and responded by picking off Persa’s throw over the middle,which cemented the victory.
When they all clock out today, they have a victory they can be proud of, and more importantly, another ‘W’ on their Big Ten slate. Let the chips fall where they may in terms of the national picture, but MSU has definitely done its job.
Michigan State is more than just a team that wins football games. They’re a team filled with talented, determined, driven indivduals, starting with wounded warrior Kirk Cousins (playing on a bum ankle), and running all the way down to the bottom of the depth chart. They’re a tough team, as they’ve continually shown. And more than anything, they’re a team that just keeps playing.