Column: Awards reflect passing of the torch, from the old to new
Between the waves of optimism and the endless gushing of a young MSU core, there was a select group of Spartans guiding their underclassmen counterparts along the way.
The team awards announced Sunday had their collective fingerprints firmly smudged all over the plaques. Both captains — linebacker Chris Frey and center Brian Allen — earned the Downtown Coaches Club award as their respective position group's outstanding player.
Seniors tailback Gerald Holmes and defensive end Demetrius Cooper earned the President's Award, among others, adding to the list of veteran leadership.
But the team's MVP — the Governor's Award, as it's called — went to a true sophomore. Linebacker Joe Bachie, to be precise.
It was the first time a sophomore was named MVP since 2004, when quarterback Drew Stanton earned it. Bachie led the team in tackles with 94 and amassed 3 1/2 sacks and three interceptions.
"It's a huge honor, looking at the past people who get that," Bachie said. "It means something to me and I'm glad my parents were there to see that. Just shoutout to my team and we're going to try and win 10."
Out with the old and in with the new, as the idiom goes. The seniors are about to graduate after four, maybe even five years, donning the green and white. But there are still some minor details to hash out, including finals week.
And oh yes, the Holiday Bowl.
Dantonio has the opportunity to go for win No. 100 at MSU, whilst sending his seniors off with one last victory.
"Not a big senior class, but the seniors who were there led," Dantonio said. "We've got an infusion of young players into this program, which I think gave us a sort of new life."
Within the coming weeks, there will be long hours of practice and film to prep for the No. 18 Washington State Cougars. There will also be some pencil-pushing as finals week looms, an unforgiving reminder the Spartans are, indeed, still students.
But the seniors will escape mostly unscathed, some enjoying their last few weeks as a Spartan without the terror of finals week honing in, making that final Kellogg Center meal a little more enjoyable.
And they've earned that right. They've also earned the right to pass the torch from one regime to another.
The Spartans were largely a lifeless blob after 3-9. Following a troubled offseason, the team was left with players who had seen success, but comprised mostly of clueless youth who barely knew the ropes of college football.
They needed to reshape leadership, and that's exactly what the seniors had a significant hand in. The torch will be passed from one hand to the next. It might just be Bachie who is handed the lead. Or maybe quarterback Brian Lewerke and safety Khari Willis, among other rightful candidates.
The options are plentiful, which seemed impossible just one year ago. Luckily for MSU fans, the responsibility will most likely be shared, as leadership is so wont to do. Delegation, perhaps.
That "new life" has been freely flowing from the field all season, to the credit of both the old and new. Now, with key seniors just 60 minutes away from calling it a career, the Spartans will get to mix and mingle its veterans and youth one last time.
And from there, the passing of the torch will be complete. From the old to new, from 3-9 to 9-3.
"I really respect the job that our football team did, the grind, the grit," Dantonio said. "The grit that we showed, really, from day one. Not just in the games, but really coming back and starting the process over and doing it the hard way. And that's what we've done here."