This football season has been a season to remember for all the wrong reasons. There was the onside kick recovery against CMU and the game-killing interception against Notre Dame when a field goal would've sent the game to overtime. There was the curb-stomping Wisconsin gave and the slant Iowa ran with two seconds left. Most recently, there was the kick return to start the Minnesota game and one of the most improbable incomplete passes/laterals/touchdowns I've ever seen. The only key play that's gone MSU's way this season was the Caper run in OT to win the Michigan game.
For all of these reasons, that's why few things felt more refreshing in the past few months than an old-fashioned butt kicking. Which is exactly what Michigan State did yesterday, eliminating all modicums of suspense and causing me to name an article after a Mary J. Blige album.
Where to start with the compliments? Let's start with the breakout player of the game, running back/pride of Muskegon and the OK-RED Ashton Leggett. I narrated the first big play of the game thusly to a friend over the phone: "Yeah, the MSU game should be under one of the Big Ten Network side channels...keep looHOLY CRAP LEGGETT JUST RAN 70 YARDS FOR A TOUCHDOWN." After a few weeks of MSU getting denied on nearly every goal line run, it's nice to have a 230 lb. bruiser to pound the ball in. Strange stat - Leggett's the first Spartan RB to have a 100 yard game this season.
22-25, 353 yards, 2 TDs. That's all that needs to be said. Nearly everyone would admit that Kirk Cousins is the best quarterback on the Spartans, but now it's time to start talking about him as the best quarterback in the Big Ten. He leads the Big Ten in passer rating (149.3 to Daryll Clark's 142.0), he has the fewest interceptions of any Big Ten quarterback (5, tied with... Tate Forcier? Weird.), and has the highest completion percentage of any quarterback who does not participate in an offense consisting of eight-yard curls (63.7% to Mike Kafka's 66.2%).
Is it time to start worrying about Greg Jones going pro a year early? He had eight tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and two quarterback hurries. He's now tied for second in the Big Ten in sacks, and looking more and more like the front-runner for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
It took a year and a half, but Keshawn Martin is finally becoming a playmaker. Cousins hit him in stride for Martin's TD reception, and it's getting harder to tell which WR should sit in MSU's base set. Cunningham, Martin, and Dell are all very good wide receivers prone to cases of the dropsies, and that's to say nothing of the tight ends yet.
Lastly, after the defense got keelhauled last week against Minnesota, they responded by allowing only 211 yards to the Broncos. Nice show gentlemen, and you spare me the sight of FIRE NARDUZZI all over the internet this week.
State's now one game away from being bowl-eligible, and Saturday's match against Purdue will be the easier of the two opportunities to get the win. I feel a lot less confident about this game than I did a month ago, now that Purdue showed it's capable of beating good teams. The game in West Lafayette will be one of the biggest in Mark Dantonio's head coaching career at Michigan State. Win, and MSU will be going to bowls in three straight years since God only knows. Lose, and this officially becomes the most frustrating season in Spartan history.
As for now though, let's just celebrate a win where things went as well as could possibly be hoped for.