Back last March, I got to go to my first game utilizing my media credentials when I attended Senior Day for the MSU basketball team. Yesterday, I went to my first football game as a member of the media. At Breslin, the press section is located at the top of the lower bowl in the corner of the arena with a great view of the court and in a spot where you hear everything. Conversely, at Spartan Stadium, the press box is located at the top of an elevator ride to the 8th floor so you are at the top of the stadium with a giant glass window in front of you that muffles about 95% of the sound from the game. So from the get-go, I need to say that being media at an MSU basketball game is a better viewing experience than at an MSU football game.
And then the game happened. If you want to call it a game. You all saw it. You all have read BBD’s review as well as other recaps from other sites, I’m sure. You know this was another low point in the annals of MSU football. MSU was trotting out for this game with an interim head coach along with their previous head coach coming back to serve as an associate coach. It was announced just shortly before the game that Mark Dantonio would be on the field, not the booth.
I know we were all hoping for Dantonio to bring MSU back to what it looked like during its peak years of 2013-2016. There definitely was an energy in the stadium prior the start of the game.
It obviously did not take long for that buzz to disappear from Spartan Stadium. Sitting in my seat in the press box, I could see people filing out during the first quarter. The student section was blank even before halftime began.
Thankfully, Washington took their foot off the gas in the 2nd half. That led to what was, in my opinion, MSU’s nicest offensive play of the day, a pass from Noah Kim to Maliq Carr on a seam route with a jumping catch in a small window between three defenders.
And then, with less than six minutes left in the game, backup quarterback Katin Houser scrambled into the endzone from four yards out to give the Spartans their only score of the game. My seat in the press box was right on the goal line.
Now having seen the shutout avoided, I collected my belongings and headed down to the ground floor to the press conference room just off the player tunnel.
Once there, I realized there was still some time left in the game so I walked around a couple of corners and found my way toward the field where I got to watch the last few plays of the game.
Back in the media room, interim coach Harlon Barnett came to the podium, gave a short, prepared speech that sounded like it was intended to inspire optimism moving forward, but I must admit it did not have that effect on me, and then he answered questions from the reporters. One question he was asked was what his message to the team at halftime was when they were trailing 5-0 (it sounds less awful when you count each touchdown as just one point). In his response, he went with the “one play at a time” cliche but also channeled his suspended boss, Mel Tucker, when he threw in “keep chopping” a couple times.
I am not sure I liked him using that quote. I am not here to state my feelings on the suspension, and probably eventual firing of Coach Tucker, but I do feel that if the administration decided to move on from him then it probably would be a good idea to not continue to use his trademark inspirational quote.
After I left the press conference, I was walking out of the tunnel to the street just as some of MSU’s players were. I was walking along one of them (he was out of uniform so I can’t say who) and I asked him if he felt any of that performance was due to the effects of their coach being suspended, to which he immediately replied that that had nothing to do with it. So I followed that up with, “Is Washington just that good?”, and he answered that they are. And if that is the case, I guess I am going to be cheering for this Huskies team the rest of the way. If they can win the natty this season, at least I can say I got to see them in person.
I can’t say the game and the experience were 100% bad. There were a couple of fun parts. Just before the game started, I met Steve Smith up in the press box; he has his own suite up there. You all will be happy to know that he is still very tall, even all these years after his playing days. And there was the ceremony commemorating the ten-year anniversary of the 2014 Rose Bowl (2013 season) championship. I attended that Rose Bowl, so this was a nice occasion to get to witness. Of course, that team was coached by Mark Dantonio who was conveniently on the sidelines for this game. That did make me think for a few moments if maybe his return to the team and the scheduling of this commemorative ceremony were more than just a coincidence. Did the department think that since he was going to be there anyway that maybe they would ask him to step back in and help out? Probably not, but the thought did cross my mind.
So that’s that. I guess my prediction of a 12-0 season won’t come to fruition. 11-1 is still in play, though. Let’s get ready for Maryland. Here’s hoping this season can get back on track and not go off the rails completely.