Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Season wrap: Michigan State
By Brian Bennett
Rarely have there been better times to be a Michigan State football fan than right now.
The Spartans finished 13-1, won a Big Ten championship and captured their first Rose Bowl berth and victory since 1988. Mark Dantonio's team ended up at No. 3 in the major polls and established itself as a national power. Gone are the "Same Old Spartans" jabs. By giving a big raise to Dantonio and (it appears) keeping star defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi on board, Michigan State has set itself up for continued success, as well. Right now, it's easy being green.
Offensive MVP: Connor Cook and Jeremy Langford (tie). Cook gave the team what it lacked during a series of close losses in 2012: a legitimate passing threat. He threw for 2,755 yards and 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions and was at his best when it mattered most, turning in 300-yard passing days to win MVP honors at both the Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl. But we also can't overlook what Langford did in running for 1,422 yards and 18 touchdowns. He carried the offense early and made sure the Spartans had a true balanced attack.
Defensive MVP: There were so many standouts on one of the top defenses in school history. But the star of stars was senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who won the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back. He coined the "No-Fly Zone" for the Spartans' secondary and ensured it would stick by shutting down his side of the field most of the time.
Best moment: Kyler Elsworth's fourth-down tackle against Stanford to clinch the Rose Bowl. It was a poetic moment, since Elsworth was filling in for the shockingly suspended Max Bullough, and it symbolized how the Spartans found the extra inches this year after failing to do so in the recent past. In 2013, they almost always discovered some "Type of Way" to win, as Rich Homie Quan would say.
Worst moment: The 17-13 loss at Notre Dame on Sept. 21 was all that stopped Michigan State from playing for the BCS national title. The "No-Fly Zone" was foiled by some hanky panky as officials called several questionable penalties against the aggressive Spartans defensive backs. Dantonio pulled Cook at the end for Andrew Maxwell, endangering his young quarterback's confidence. But good things came out of that moment, as the coaches decided to stick with Cook after that.