Playing your worst game of the season during your team’s first bowl game in four years is bad timing.
But being forced to wait an entire offseason to redeem yourself is simply unfair.
MSU senior quarterback Brian Hoyer knows that feeling firsthand.
Meet Brian Hoyer
Hometown: North Olmsted, Ohio
Height: 6 feet 2 inches
Weight: 212 pounds
Freshman stats: 15-for-23 – two touchdowns, zero interceptions
Sophomore stats: 82-for-144 – four touchdowns, three interceptions
Junior stats: 223-for-376 – 20 touchdowns, 11 interceptions
Source: MSU athletic communications
Ohio State head coach praises Dantonio
In 2003, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said he “pushed like crazy” to get his former assistant Mark Dantonio his first head coaching job at Cincinnati.
In hindsight, he might be regretting that decision. After a successful three-year stint at Cincinnati, Dantonio left the school and returned to the Big Ten as MSU’s head coach.
In a little more than a year, Dantonio has been praised for changing the culture of MSU’s football program. Last season, he led the Spartans to a 7-6 record and their first bowl game since 2003.
Although he’s happy for his friend, Tressel isn’t exactly giddy that Dantonio is back in the conference as his foe.
“When he got the (MSU) job, the Big Ten just got harder,” said Tressel, who has led the Buckeyes to a share of four conference titles and one BCS National Championship since he took over in 2001. “They’re going to be a force to be reckoned with, no question.”
The verbal bouquets didn’t stop there.
“Those kids play to the final whistle — they play with class,” Tressel said. “(Dantonio)‘s had very little attrition which means the kids must enjoy what’s going on there.”
“The worst part about it is, your critics always remember what you did last,” said Hoyer, who threw four interceptions and had a costly fumble against Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl.
“Well, that’s what I did last, and I’ve had to endure that for nine months.”
It was a trying winter for Hoyer, who called his performance against Boston College the worst of his career. But instead of running from the mistakes he made, Hoyer relived them over and over again by studying game tape and evaluating his mistakes.
“Going through the fire only makes you stronger,” he said. “The game left a sour taste in my mouth, but after I got back up to school, watched the film and dissected what I had done wrong, I let it go.”
Hoyer realized that throughout the game, he forced balls downfield when he should have checked down to his secondary receiving options.
With explosive receivers and an all-conference running back surrounding him, Hoyer said he’ll focus more this season on getting the ball to his weapons in open space and letting them make plays.
“(That game) helped me learn a lot about myself and the way I play the game,” he said. “I didn’t have to force plays to try to get our team in the game.”
Despite the forgettable finish, Hoyer quietly pieced together an impressive season in his first year as a starter, finishing with 2,725 yards, 20 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 59.3 percent completion rate. He was fifth among conference starters in pass efficiency with a 131.9 rating and named an All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media.
Now that he has a year of experience running MSU head coach Mark Dantonio’s offense, Hoyer said he’ll be able to relax more in the pocket and won’t feel so inclined to rush plays.
“I know (the offense) like the back of my hand,” he said. “I could probably tell you what everyone does on every single play. That comfort level is going to make us that much more dangerous.”
Dantonio said Hoyer has the physical tools to run his offense effectively, but would like to see him improve late in games.
“He’s done a great job,” Dantonio said. “He has great vision, presence, and he’s a great young person. Obviously he had a tough bowl game, but what Brian had to be able to do at that point in time last year is he had to finish the game.
“The difference between the John Elways and Brett Favres and (Dan) Marinos is that at the end of the game, somehow, some way, they found a way a win.”
Senior running back Javon Ringer said Hoyer is poised for a breakout season.
“I’m expecting so much from Brian,” Ringer said.
“Brian is going to do a lot better than what he did last year simply because now he finally got that year under him where he was a starter.”
In June, Hoyer was named one of the 26 preseason candidates for the 2008 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
Hoyer said he was honored by the recognition, but hasn’t lost sight on what’s really important.
“I’m focused on winning,” he said. “If we win, all the accolades will come.
“I’ve never seen a guy on a losing team win an award, so we have to win and all that stuff will take care of itself.”