Sunday, November 25, 2012

Going bowling! (Michigan State 26, Minnesota 10)...and my week in Spartan sports

It sure wasn't pretty, which seeing as how this MSU football season has gone, was completely appropriate--but the Spartans wore down Minnesota 26-10 and clinched a sixth straight bowl appearance.

As far as the good goes in this game, Le'Veon Bell had a tremendous day (35 carries, 266 yards, 1 touchdown) in what could very well be his final regular season game as a Spartan.

The bad has to be Andrew Maxwell. I hate throwing a collegiate athlete under the proverbial bus, but Maxwell seems to have regressed as the season has worn on. I don't know if it's poor coaching or Maxwell simply not improving. His two interceptions were terrible and he continues to overthrow receivers. The quarterback position should be wide open in the spring and summer, and I'd like to see incoming freshman Damion Terry get a serious look. (And that, my friends, is my two-bit analysis).

Now, I've read some comments from MSU fans basically stating, "What is there to be excited about? Why do we accept mediocrity?" Nobody is accepting mediocrity, and I doubt anyone is excited about a trip to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, but a sixth straight bowl trip is important for this program. It demonstrates a level of consistency under Dantonio that has not existed in many, many years. Not even George Perles was able to lead MSU to six straight bowl appearances (however, in fairness to George, it was a bit more difficult to become bowl-eligible in the eighties and early nineties). So count me as one of the "sunshine blowers" who is happy to see the Spartans going to a bowl game.


I went to two MSU basketball games this week. On Tuesday, my wife was the lucky recipient of four tickets  to the Boise State game. (Her employer is a sponsor of Spartan athletics and receives comp tickets). The seats certainly aren't prime, but it is always fun to attend a game at Breslin.  As it turned out, Boise State (and the officials) offered a stiff challenge for the Spartans. In what was undoubtedly the most surreal game I have ever attended at Breslin, I worried at one point that the arena would break out into a full riot when Derrick Nix was called for a questionable elbowing foul and an irate Tom Izzo received a technical foul. It got downright ugly at Breslin. The Izzone was getting into it with a few Boise State fans behind the Broncos' bench, and police got into the middle of the verbal sparring match. Thankfully, the arena calmed down, the Spartans regained control of the game and escaped with a 74-70 win.

I was looking forward to watching freshman phenom Gary Harris play in person, but he was knocked out of the game when he ran into a moving screen and separated his shoulder. After spending much of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning filled with anxiety over Harris' fate, I (and every other MSU basketball fan) was relieved to learn he will only be out two to three weeks.

On Friday night, I attended the MSU/Oakland game with my sister-in-law's husband, who has season tickets. It was another nip-and-tuck battle against a fairly solid opponent, but the Spartans pulled away in the final four minutes or so and won 70-52. With Travis Trice and Gary Harris out, the guard position has been seriously depleted and that has undoubtedly hurt the Spartans, but perhaps in the long run it'll make them a better team.

Keith Appling had some absolutely "wow!" inspiring drives to the basket. He is an exceptional talent and takes over the game when the Spartans need him the most. Denzel Valentine, though he occasionally makes freshman mistakes, is a great passer and looks like someone who will develop into a dependable scorer. Adreian Payne had one of his very best games. Brandan Kearney. Russell Byrd, and Branden Dawson had some trouble hanging onto the basketball. That really could be said for the entire team: there were far too many turnovers in the game. I suspect some of that may be because two of MSU's best ballhandlers, Trice and Harris, are out of commission.

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