Despite snowy tundra, MSU 'bounces back' for 8th win
As head coach Mark Dantonio took the podium following his team’s 17-7 win over Maryland, he cracked a joke. Which he does on occasion, believe it or not.
Dantonio quirked he should’ve brought some hot chocolate with him to the media room, pointing out the chilly temperatures amidst a mix of rain and snow.
Then he poked some fun at his quarterback, Brian Lewerke.
“That’s going to be a question one day,” Dantonio said with a grin. “Who threw the ball for 400 (yards) in one (game)? And who threw the ball for 20 in one?”
Of course, he was pointing out Lewerke’s struggles. The quarterback finished just 2-for-14 on the day for 20 yards passing, though he did add a touchdown on the ground.
He had a few throwaways, though his wide receivers also did him no favors, dropping a few of his passes. All in all, just two different players caught a Lewerke pass, far and away a season-low.
Though the weather was arguably the biggest hurdle. It rained, eventually transforming into snow whilst driving away the fans from the confines of Spartan Stadium. The announced crowd of 70,000-plus strong was a shell of its former shelf by the time MSU closed its win.
“It definitely wasn’t fun,” Lewerke said of playing in the elements. “It was probably the first snow game I ever played in. It was probably the most cold game I’ve personally played in. It wasn’t easy to throw the ball as my stats show, but we ran the ball really well.”
The game was one of many for the Spartans plagued by awful weather. They've seen some ugly, rainy contests against the likes of Michigan, Minnesota and Penn State.
But despite some of the struggles, it wasn't all doom and gloom, the Spartans did win after all. Lewerke struggled through the air but added yards on the ground, including a 25-yard touchdown run for MSU's second touchdown of the day.
The win comes as a welcome sign for MSU after last game's 48-3 thrashing at the hands of Ohio State. In other words, a "bounce back," according to linebacker Joe Bachie.
And in doing so, the Spartans returned back to their roots, a few of their ideals they’ve preached all season. Though there was an added emphasis on the number eight.
“Our mantra this week was win eight,” senior linebacker Chris Frey said. “We’re here to win games and that’s what we go do every single week. We had the opportunity to win our eighth game this week and that’s what we did. Our mentality was to bounce back, but also to win eight.”
For a group labeled as the "bounce back class" by Dantonio, the seniors were able to finish their last game at Spartan Stadium with a win. As their careers wind down these next two games, Frey and center Brian Allen highlighted them, the two lone captains of the squad.
While murmurs of a leadership problem persisted in 2016, there's been a flip. Praise is now thrown toward the leaders during MSU's rejuvenated run toward relevancy.
Dantonio post-game said his biggest concern coming off the Ohio State loss was simple — how his team responded to the adversity. So as the Spartans answered the bell after a nationally embarrassing loss, the train never did quite falter, Allen said.
“We have so many guys who want to win and want to do it the right way that it didn’t really fall of the tracks at all,” Allen said. “Everyone was kind of together. We knew last weekend was uncharacteristic of us and just wasn’t good enough to come out.”
MSU put heavy priority on the number eight — signifying its win total of the season now. With one more game left in the regular season, the Spartans have the opportunity to completely flip 3-9 into 9-3.
“Eight wins here and now we can look for number nine,” Dantonio said. “We scratch and claw for wins, that’s all I can tell you. We’re excited about that opportunity to coach for nine wins next week."