Football team practices at Ford Field
Detroit — Anticipation is building for the MSU football team as time winds down for its game against Florida Atlantic at Ford Field in Detroit.
It could be felt on the inside of Ford Field Thursday as the coaches from both squads held a joint press conference and the MSU football team practiced afterward in advance of the nonconference game, which is scheduled for Sept. 11.
With a roster that features 61 players from the state of Michigan and roughly 28 from the metro-Detroit area, the Spartans were eager for the game and the excitement that comes with playing in Michigan’s largest city.
“Anytime we get to play in the state of Michigan gives our fans a chance to see us play, and especially that they won’t have to travel that far,” MSU football head coach Mark Dantonio said. “We look for a great football game.”
The game figures to help the Spartans in their recruiting efforts and gives MSU more exposure throughout the state.
Additionally, MSU knows it can create a buzz after the success of the men’s basketball team in the 2009 Final Four, which was held at the same venue.
“We’re hoping to recreate some of the environment that was here for the basketball championships,” Dantonio said.
Dantonio said the practice Thursday was nice to get a break from the normal routine in East Lansing.
The game is scheduled for noon on Sept. 11 and is the second game of a home-and-home series between the two schools.
This year’s game was originally supposed to be held at Florida Atlantic’s new stadium, but after it was announced that the new stadium would not be completed on time, the teams decided to move to Ford Field, with the game counting as home match for Florida Atlantic.
The Spartans defeated the Owls 17-0 in a rainy affair in 2008.
Florida Atlantic will be breaking in several new players on offense, where it lost the majority of its starters from last season’s attack.
The Owls were No. 15 in total offense in the country last season behind starting quarterback Rusty Smith, but Smith was drafted by the Tennessee Titans and the offense falls to senior quarterback Jeff Van Camp.
The defense returns more experience from last season and will look to slow down MSU and the opponents it squares off with in the Sun Belt Conference.
Florida Atlantic head coach Howard Schnellenberger, who won a National Championship with Miami (Fla.) in 1983, said he relishes the opportunity to play against a power-conference team and one that will test his team.
“You have to take the approach that whenever we get an opportunity to play a top-of-the-line football team, you have to take that opportunity,” Schnellenberger said.
The game will mark the first time the Spartans have played in Detroit since Oct. 17, 1944.
With the Spartans playing a “road game” at Ford Field, the MSU football team’s schedule opens with seven straight games in the state of Michigan.
The Spartans open on Sept. 4 against Western Michigan before heading to Ford Field for the Sept. 11 matchup against Florida Atlantic.
Nonconference home games against Notre Dame and Northern Colorado on Sept. 18 and 25, respectively, are followed by an Oct. 2 home game against Wisconsin, an Oct. 9 road game at Michigan and an Oct. 16 home game against Illinois.
“It’s a big advantage,” senior wide receiver Mark Dell, a native of Farmington Hills, Mich., said. “Any time you have that many home games and get that much fan support is a privilege. I love it. Having that many home games and the new jerseys makes the fans excited.”
Martin making plays, taking orders
Inkster, Mich., native and junior wide receiver Keshawn Martin seems to be adjusting well to being a feature player on offense.
Martin, who’s receiving a lot of ticket requests for the Florida Atlantic game, said he’s looking forward to getting more opportunities and being used as a receiver, returner and whatever else he’s needed as.
“I think I’m more prepared for the additional reps,” Martin said. “Playing extra last bowl game prepared me for this season… They’ve got me doing so many different things. I accept the challenge.”