Sunday, December 30, 2012

A perfectly fitting, but perfectly happy end to the football season (Michigan State 17, TCU 16)

It was at various turns ugly, comical, inept, inspired, exciting, and electrifying. In short, last night's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl was like the entire MSU football season in microcosm. But unlike most of the Spartans' regular season, the bowl game ended happily.

I have to admit I wasn't too terribly excited about last night's bowl. But in that, I don't think my feelings were unlike those of most MSU fans. Still, by the time 10:15 rolled around last night, I was ready for some MSU football. It felt good to see those guys I hadn't seen since the last weekend of November.

Of course, I was about to change my mind by halftime. The first half of the BWW Bowl was, to be charitable, not MSU football's finest hour. However, I decided not to bail on the team. I don't know exactly why. Maybe it was because I thought there was no possible way the Spartans could play worse than they had in the first two quarters. As it turned out, I was correct.

It was refreshing to finally see the breaks go MSU's way, as they did in the second half. None was bigger than TCU's muffed punt that gave the Spartans the ball at the Horned Frogs' five-yard line, with the Spartans scoring a touchdown two plays later and seizing the momentum. MSU's defense completely shut down TCU's offense and TCU's defense received a big dose of Le'Veon Bell (who most likely played his final game in an MSU uniform).

The bad Spartan fan in me, conditioned by the bad fortune the football team endured all season, kept expecting that somehow TCU would manage to win and deliver another heartbreaking blow to the Spartans. But that never happened. MSU made the plays and caught the breaks. Dan Conroy made arguably the best kick of his career to give the Spartans the 17-16 lead, and the defense stopped TCU in the final minute of the game. Victory for MSU.

Perhaps the most intriguing development of the evening was the benching of Andrew Maxwell in favor of Connor Cook. Cook, though he wasn't perfect, brought a definite spark and swagger to MSU's offense and made some big passes in the Spartans' final drive for the game-winning field goal. The 2013 quarterback competition will be interesting.

At 2:00 AM last night, I was a happy guy. Don't tell me that the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl wasn't important, because I was about as excited as I've been following an MSU victory of any kind. After what this team has been through, they deserved last night's win. Despite the ugliness of the win, and MSU's performance through most of it, I am optimistic (albeit guardedly optimistic) about the 2013 team.

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