Sunday, October 12, 2008

Michigan State 37, Northwestern 20

I am getting excited about this MSU football season, and this feeling is both exhilarating and a little scary. I, like many other Spartan fans, have been burned too many times before--but something seems different about this year. (Am I crazy to feel this way?) The Spartans have been mentally prepared for every game they've played, and have consistently made the big and important plays exactly when they've needed them.

As far as the Northwestern game goes, the Spartans set the tone immediately by jumping all over the Wildcats in the first quarter. By the time Northwestern woke up, they were down by 17 and could never get back in the game.

But what is particularly impressive about Michigan State is the way they consistently responded to every score Northwestern made. When the Wildcats finally got on the scoreboard to make it a 17-7 game, State immediately marched downfield, scored a touchdown, and went into intermission up 24-7. Then, when Northwestern took the second half kickoff and quickly scored again to cut the deficit to 24-14, and looked for all the world like they'd stolen momentum, the Spartans did not go into panic mode like, ahem, the Bobby Williams or John L. Smith teams of the past. Instead, they foiled the 'Cat's onside kick attempt and proceeded to stick it to the Wildcats again, upping their lead to 31-14. It was that sequence of events (NU TD, failed onside kick, MSU TD) that I believe sucked all of the air out of Northwestern.

Cudos to the Spartans for their outstanding special teams play and for the brilliant placekicking of Brett Swenson. This young man is the best kicker MSU has had since Paul Edinger (he really reminds me of Edinger, too. Not only does he physically resemble him, but he has icewater in his veins just like Edinger had). With one more year left in his college career, Swenson has a chance to become one of MSU's all-time great kickers. One more thing, when a team can consistently win the field position battle and force turnovers, that team will almost always come out victorious.

In conclusion, there just seems to be something very special about this team. They may not be the most talented team in the Big Ten, and their defense may give up its fair share of yardage, but they are tough, resilient and confident. They are becoming a reflection of their head coach, Mark Dantonio. I think that good things may be on the horizon. Only time will tell.

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