Nearly a week after bringing the 100th Rose Bowl trophy back home to East Lansing, the No. 3 MSU football team already is starting to write its next chapter for the 2014 season.
“We had our first meeting back with our players (Tuesday),” head coach Mark Dantonio said. “It’s a little bit surreal, but we start on our next challenge for 2014, so it’s back to business.”
Junior running back Jeremy Langford, who rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown in the Rose Bowl, said the goal of the meeting was simple.
“Don’t become complacent, don’t become soft and just keep working,” Langford said.
Along with Dantonio and Langford, other members of the team gathered at Breslin Center to speak with media before Tuesday’s men’s basketball game. One topic of conversation was the team’s final No. 3 ranking in the AP and USA Today Coaches polls.
The slot surprised many, as two-loss Auburn received the No. 2 ranking after losing in the national title game.
Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun said the team is using it as motivation for the season that is 233 days away.
“We thought we would (be ranked No. 2), but we’re not really worried about that,” Calhoun said. “We just need to make our way up and play hard every game and hopefully make our way to the top.”
What could have been
No one knew it then, but MSU’s early-season loss to then-No. 22 Notre Dame kept the Spartans out of the BCS National Championship Game on Monday. No. 1 Florida State topped No. 2 Auburn in an instant classic, 34-31, while MSU coaches and players watching at home had a strong sense they could have competed well against either team.
“Watching last night’s game, you had that feeling like you could hang in there, and you feel like the big gap has closed a little bit in terms of the elite programs in the country,” Dantonio said. “It was great to be (among) the BCS teams competing, and you feel like you belong.”
The loss against the Fighting Irish earlier in the season was a game marred with questionable calls that went against MSU for what seemed like the entirety of the game, especially against the green and white defensive backs.
Sophomore cornerback Trae Waynes, who was the victim of a few of those penalties, watched the national title game with roommate and safety Chris Laneaux. Even with the white elephant of “what could have been” floating around the minds of Spartans everywhere, Waynes said the Notre Dame game hardly came up in conversation while tuning into the game.
“(The Notre Dame game) came up, like ‘We should be in that game,’ but what happened happened,” Waynes said. “I’m sure nobody’s complaining that we won the Rose Bowl … but it definitely crossed a lot of people’s minds.”