Opponent: University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers
Date: Sept. 1, 2007
Location: Spartan Stadium - East Lansing, Michigan
Final Score: 55-18, MSU
All-time Matchup Record: Michigan State leads 1-0
For the second week in a row, Mel Tucker will trot his team out to Spartan Stadium under the bright lights, this time against what should be a less than formidable opponent in Western Kentucky, but an interesting one with a dangerous passing attack. While the Spartans should be counting their blessings (and thanking Bryce Baringer) for squeaking by Nebraska en route to their first 4-0 start since 2015, but Michigan State can’t be complacent – and the team knows this.
Tucker has preached having the same standard of play regardless of the opponent and that showed in MSU’s 42-14 dismantling of Youngstown State earlier this season. Sure, these are the games the Spartans are supposed to win, but Tucker realizes that it simply isn’t enough to win against weaker teams in today’s college football playoff landscape. You also have to finish strong and look dominant.
This Saturday marks the first ever matchup ever between the Spartans and Hilltoppers, and it will be an interesting test for the Spartans. Michigan State went into last week’s game against Nebraska expecting a win, especially considering the Cornhuskers’ early season woes. After being punched in the jaw and knocked down, it took defensive strength (and a bit of special teams luck) to remain undefeated.
For this week’s playback installment, since there are no prior meetings between Western Kentucky and Michigan State, we’ll keep it in the Conference USA and head back to 2007 and Mark Dantonio’s first ever game as Michigan State’s head coach. Similarly to then, MSU will look to make a statement and prove to the fans and the nation that the Spartans are indeed still ready to contend.
While Michigan State finished 7-6 in Dantonio’s first year, the team had great talent and didn’t lose a game by more than one score. Running back (and certified freight train) Jehuu Caulcrick finished the game against UAB with four touchdowns, and the offense as a whole looked hard to stop.
In the opening quarter, Caulcrick did his best Jerome Bettis impersonation, scoring three of his four touchdown, including two on the goal line, and a 42-yard sprint at the end of the quarter to put the team up 21-0.
Quarterback Brian Hoyer completed a 44-yard touchdown to Devin Thomas on the first drive of the second quarter and Caulcrick ran in his fourth touchdown of the half on the following possession. Backup quarterback Connor Dixon completed a three-yard touchdown to Andrew Hawken, and kicker Brett Swenson booted two field goals at the end of the quarter to put the Spartans up 45-3 in a dominant opening half of the Dantonio era.
Scoring subsided a bit in the second half, and featured heavy playing time for the second units. Michigan State would end more than doubling UAB in total yards from scrimmage (593-226) and averaged 9.8 yards per passing play and 6.2 yards per run.
As previously mentioned, the Spartans would finish 7-6 on the season and lose close in their bowl game to Matt Ryan’s Boston College team, 24-21. However, and it’s no secret, Dantonio would eventually put the label of “Same old Spartans” to rest and establish one of the most dominant decades in Michigan State football history.