The Spartans keep finding ways to win, as their goals are ahead of them
MSU’s win over the Indiana Hoosiers was never pretty. If anything, it was downright ugly.
The halftime score was just 3-3, both teams only able to score a mere field goal.
By the time the Hoosiers went up 9-3 on MSU in the fourth quarter, there were legitimate murmurs of how the Spartans wouldn’t be able to muster up the necessary touchdown.
They did, of course, even tacking on another score to cover the spread. But even then, the win was hard-fought; a lot tougher than fans anticipated going in.
The Spartans’ Big Ten wins haven’t been anything to look at either. In all four victories against conference foes, MSU has won by just one possession.
There have been mistakes; the fumbles, penalties, execution errors that frustrate Spartan fans.
But through it all, head coach Mark Dantonio’s team has found ways to win.
“I would just say it’s about grit,” Dantonio said. “I keep talking about that all the time to our football team, and that’s really what it came down to.”
Throughout the season, even at the beginning when questions encompassed his football team, Dantonio had one word to describe the Spartans — resilient.
Quarterback Brian Lewerke admitted his accuracy was subpar on the day, an area of his game that has been questioned. But even he was impressed by how the young MSU team was able to come out with the victory.
It’s the polar opposite of last season, a 2016 campaign the Spartans hate to talk about. That year, winnable games turned into losses as MSU limped to the finish line.
The Spartans, now 6-1 and proudly bowl eligible, have learned the art of closing games, according to Lewerke. A stark contrast to the blown games of the ghosts of 3-9 past.
“I think (closing games is) just something you learn,” Lewerke said. “Through the first one, as we’ve gone through all of them, I think we’ve done a great job at finishing. Even despite our youth, I think we’ve learned how to win tight games like that.”
And as the glory of success trickles into East Lansing's hive mind, MSU isn’t drunk on the hopes and dreams of a Big Ten Championship run.
That’s because that’s always been the expectations. In mid-June, senior linebacker Chris Frey said the goal was a Big Ten title and beyond.
He reiterated that sentiment Saturday, unshy of the significance of his words.
“We know what we can do with this team,” Frey said. “We know the guys that we have on this team. We say it every single week, it’s not about what the other team does or who they are or what happens during a game, it’s about what we do.”
The Spartans are on the verge of wrapping up the third of four phases of their season; an idea Dantonio has imposed on his team. That last phase, of course, is November, when championships are won.
MSU has the opportunity to go a perfect 5-0 in its opening slate of Big Ten games. From there, it’s anyone’s guess.
“You’re building a foundation and you just keep putting one brick on top of the other,” Dantonio said. “The more games you win close, the more games you can close at the end, the tougher you become. At least mentally tough.”