If there was one thing above all other things that Michigan State needed this past weekend, it was a win–Plain and simple. Monday morning, MSU head coach Mark Dantonio reaffirmed those thoughts when speaking to the waiting media.
The Spartans’ recent history with this past weekend’s foe in the Wisconsin Badgers is certainly becoming a storied one.
With 21-straight wins at home in Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin, and a No. 25-ranking in the polls, the Badgers were hoping that Michigan State could easily become just another notch in their victory column last Saturday. This didn’t turn out to be the case.
The Spartans’ defense was impenetrable, shutting down the Badgers’ offense at every turn and finally, after weeks of waiting, fans got to see a little of that offensive magic they’ve been waiting all year to see from MSU quarterback Andrew Maxwell. Pushing hard until the final whistle of the game, Michigan State squeaked out a 16-13 victory in overtime to seal a much-needed win over a Big Ten rival.
All-too-often this season, it seemed like the Spartans were no more than a play or two away from sweet victory in a number of games; From the Ohio State Buckeyes to the Michigan Wolverines, if only they could have made that one play, they’d walk away winners instead of losers.
Well, in Wisconsin, it finally happened. And Mark Dantonio’s team has a renewed focus for a strong finish to an otherwise disappointing season.
“Well, I think it defines us a little bit and certainly gives us a shot in the arm,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Saturday. “Nebraska comes into our place, then we have a bye and we have our last two games (Northwestern and Minnesota).
“But I think what we’ve tried to do is we always try to focus on the moment and focus on the next challenge. The next challenge up is certainly Nebraska. But we’re gonna enjoy this one and we’re gonna make sure we have a great ride home. It’s exciting for our football team because we’ve lost some really close games.”
MSU running back Le’Veon Bell, who scored the game-tying touchdown against Wisconsin with 1:08 left in the fourth-quarter, knows just how aggravating this season has been for his fellow players and fans alike. Now with a win over a ranked opponent once-again under their belt, Bell is hoping his team can finally begin to exercise some of the demons that have been haunting his team.
“Frustration is something you can’t really control,” said Bell. “Guys are gonna get frustrated. I was frustrated at one point in the game because we weren’t doing what we are capable of doing.
“But I’m glad we got the last drive (12 plays, 75 yards for the tying TD). I feel like that is something this offense should be able to do just about every drive.”
Now that his team finally has the “monkey” of losing a close game off their back, Dantonio feels like his team can come out stronger on the other side; perhaps much more-prepared for the tough trials ahead.
“I think when you go through tough times, sometimes it makes you a little bit resilient,” Dantonio said. “You’re close, it’s not like we’re sitting there saying we lost 45-0 or something like that.
“In the past, we’ve been close, we’ve been a play here a play there and we just need to come up with those plays. Somehow, some way at the end of this game, we came up with the plays and it wasn’t just one guy, it wasn’t just the touchdown throw at the end of the game, it was a number of people making plays offensively, defensively, throughout that last five, six minutes of the game.”
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