There are some games that live in legend and song. There are some games that you tell your grandchildren about. There are some games that you remember so vividly, that you can, and do, reenact plays and stances for the rest of your life (uninterested and bored dinner party guests suffer, of course).
Then there are some games that you remember for the rest of your life, but the memories are accompanied by the burning eye (of shame), trembling fingers, lump in the throat, the dry mouth, and the acid tongue!
On November 3rd, 2012, MSU Spartans played THAT game.
Before I go any further, I just want to say that I am and always will be a lifelong Spartan. I bleed green, figuratively. I love our beloved Mother, our Alma Mater, MSU. But I am also what Paul Krugman calls the loyal opposition. I believe it’s my duty as a Spartan faithful to offer the dissenting opinion, to question, and to (constructively) criticize. The coaching staff needs to be (constructively) criticized. His Holiness Dantonio needs to be (constructively) criticized, as he so generously asked of the fanbase and the media.
Yes, the referees sucked. They blew, long and hard. At one point, I was convinced that they were paid off! Yeah, I’m THAT crazy. But, I’m done blaming the damned outsiders in ill-fitting pants. My rant is neither coherent, nor organized. I haven’t recovered from this loss. But here’s the rant, such as it is.
The really horrible PI call shouldn’t have mattered. We had the game sewn up. If only that idiot Johnny Adams didn’t try to settle an imaginary score with Kenny Bell and put an unnecessary (if not a dirty) hit on him, 20 plus FREAKING yards away from Darqueze. To have a touchdown, that would’ve given State a SEVENTEEN point lead (and the win!!), called back because of a boneheaded move by Adams, cost us the game. How the hell do you not have the discipline, and the presence of mind, to miss the possible consequences of your actions! What F***ING right do you have to trade the game, the season, and the prestige of the program, not to mention the blood, sweat and tears of your teammates, for your cheap score-settling, Adams? WTF were you thinking?
You’re leading 24-21. You’ve got 1:30 on the clock. Your offense is showing some promising signs of life. Nebraska defense is weary. You’re converting with relative ease. You’re facing a tough-ish but not impossible, 4 and 2. What do you do? Surely you’re not going to give the ball back to Big Ten’s best offense. Dantonio disagrees. He punts with a THREE point lead and 90 seconds on the clock! WTF Coach Dantonio!? WTF were you thinking? What did you see about our defense the entire game that gave you the confidence? We got burned in every defensive-stat category that day, and you punted back!? Did you think Nebraska would settle for a game-tying field goal? Did you think they don’t have a two-minute drill? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?! Your annual base salary is $1.8 Million. Neglecting the off-season work, that’s $150,000 per game for a 12-game season, and $138,461.54, if you play in a bowl. In each game, we beg of you to make two or three critical decisions. That’s it – two or three important decisions that could alter the outcome! Anyone can decide to punt! That billiard ball of an offensive coordinator can decide to punt! You’re the head coach, you promised us you wouldn’t back down. You made a name for yourself with your trick plays, and now this ….this shameful, ignoble exhibition of cowardice and lack of imagination?! How dare you, Sir??!!
Pat Narduzzi had either given up, or didn’t give an ounce of fecal matter. In the past, he’d typically leave the booth and join the sidelines for the entire second half. The one afternoon, the one quarter, when he really needed to be down on the sideline, managing his defense, he chose to sit it out. Prediction: Narduzzi is leaving after this season. Yes, I’m very paranoid.
Our defense is overhyped and overrated. We stop the run, against poor running teams, which also happened to be poor passing teams. We allow very few points scored, because our opponents generally sucked at offense. We just sucked more, and dropped those games nevertheless. Some of you will point out how we contained Wisconsin. Well, the Wisconsin game was really two distinct games: pre-Stave injury and post-Stave injury. I’m sounding ungrateful. I am not forgetting that our defense is the only reason we’re 5-5, and not 3-7. I’m just saying that we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves; we’re placing too much confidence in an untested unit.
Smaller, minor gripes: even though Maxwell has almost redeemed himself with his last two outings, he still throws poorly. Our entire receiving corps was blamed throughout this season for dropping passes. That’s because MSU never holds the quarterback accountable. Jeff had to be a Smoker to get benched. Other than that, we don’t question them. Without proving themselves on the field, our quarterbacks get appointed team captains. The one common thread through all those dropped passes was the passer. He still overthrows, or throws too high. It is infinitely easier for one quarterback to adjust his throwing for five or six inexperienced receivers, than for five or six receivers to leap 10 feet vertically and make those catches. Yeah, some of those throws went through the hands of the receivers, but statistically, those incompletions are “normal” and to be expected.
Dan Conroy. I don’t know where to begin. Maybe he’s having a bad season, but he’s just unreliable. Given that all of our losses have been so close, and that each of the loss had a missed field goal … need I say more? I’m not trying to shift the blame on Dan. I’m just saying that he’s unreliable. And as is typical for MSU, we don’t have a backup for another key position.
I’m spent. Emotionally and physically. The game didn’t end with a Nebraska touchdown with six seconds left. It ended with the MSU punt with 90 seconds left. It ended when Mark Dantonio, and the MSU coaching staff walked away from this game. I didn’t feel like this through the Bobby Williams years, the John L Smith years. Those years, I was used to mediocrity. I expected a 6-6 season and was overjoyed when I got a 7-5 season. I rationalized when it was a 5-7 season. Maybe it’s my fault. I’m the dick here.