Column: The rest of 2017 is just house money, just enjoy the ride
For as close as the Spartans were to the Chicago Cubs last Saturday — the quintessential “next year” team for 108 years — MSU fans should embrace that decades-old mantra.
Yes, “next year” is a cliche; old but classic.
Consider sifting through the disappointment of the Northwestern loss for a second. For stretches, not the whole game, mind you, the Spartans looked incredible; flashes of brilliance that should have the MSU faithful brimming with excitement.
Yeah, I’ll concede, the Spartans likely won’t be traveling to Indianapolis at the conclusion of the regular season.
But guess what? They were never supposed to. The most optimistic supporter would have never expected a 6-2 start and an MSU team that still controls its destiny in the Big Ten East heading into November.
Those hotels around Indianapolis sure look pretty, but so will whatever bowl game the Spartans end up in.
Here’s the nitty gritty facts: 2017 was always supposed to be a rebuilding year. A fifth or sixth place finish in the Big Ten East was not out of the realm of possibility. Indiana and Maryland were, and still are, on their way up in the division.
Instead, the win over Michigan has rejuvenated this program and injected East Lansing with something it's been missing for months — hope.
The Spartans played with fire for a bit too long as the mistakes added up. But if you don’t think they've learned from those gaffes, you’re sorely mistaken.
Winning close games down the stretch is a skill, just ask the 2015 Spartans. Some of it, yes, is comprised of luck. But if you don’t have the unwavering belief that your team can close a nail-biting win, you’ve lost before you’ve ever started.
And those players, the ones who will be here for the next two, three, maybe even four years, are still learning. Don’t forget, either, the slew of future All-Big Ten talent the Spartans display.
A trio of wideouts — Felton Davis III, Darrell Stewart Jr. and Cody White — were absolutely lights out. That’s a junior, redshirt sophomore and true freshman, in that order.
And the guy slinging the pigskin looked even better. Sure, that last play that sealed it for the Wildcats was rough. So were the missed deep balls.
But damn, Lewerke orchestrating that two-minute drill on the last drive of regulation was a thing of beauty. Methodically, he marched up the field, converted a fourth down and found Davis to send the game into overtime.
There’s no doubt in my mind about the redshirt sophomore quarterback. That man is clutch as all hell. He’s the perfect commander to steer this wayward ship wherever it might end up.
Again, that's not just this season. Expand your horizon a bit and gear for the future.
Couple all that firepower with a defense oozing with talent, that’ll be a fun team to watch next year and beyond. That core looked uncharacteristically shaky in overtime, but even it has developed a rapport and a special place in Spartan fans’ hearts.
Let’s face it, there’s a lot to be optimistic about going forward for MSU. Tasting defeat because of the Spartans' youthful mistakes will suck. For now at least.
The true fun begins in 2018 and beyond. When this trying youth becomes seasoned veterans and sparks riots in Cedar Village.