Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Spartans rolling with confidence

November 13, 2002
Interim head coach Morris Watts talks with sophomore quarterback Damon Dowdell on Saturday during the game against Indiana at Memorial Stadium. The Spartans look to continue their good play against Purdue. —

With plenty of dark clouds looming above the Spartans, a win was just what they needed to help brighten things up around East Lansing.

And winning by the score of 56-21 made it that much better.

"I think our team feels much better," junior wide receiver Charles Rogers said. "You can see a few smiles around here.

"I think our team can feed off this."

Many have pointed to the firing of head coach Bobby Williams for the immediate turnaround, but interim head coach Morris Watts was quick to destroy that idea at MSU's weekly press conference.

"Believe me, it's not been anything we've done that's miraculous as a staff," he said. "I think we challenged them and told them to channel their energy level to the right place."

And that's exactly what the Spartans did, as MSU (4-6 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) posted its best performance of the year against the Hoosiers (3-7, 1-5).

"We had a lot more confidence. We had a chance to hold our heads up," freshman tailback David Richard said. "Now we're just looking forward to another good week."

Players of week

With Saturday's outstanding performance in Bloomington, Ind., there weren't any clear-cut favorites for Spartans of the week.

The decision was so difficult on the offensive side of the ball that two players - Rogers and sophomore quarterback Damon Dowdell - shared the honor.

In just the fourth start of his career, Dowdell completed 17-of-25 for 203 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for another tally.

Dowdell became just the fourth Spartan quarterback to throw four touchdowns in a single game. Bill Burke, who accomplished the feat twice, was the last to do so against Iowa in 1999.

"The one real credit to him was he had zero turnovers. He did not put one pass in jeopardy," Watts said

But with Rogers breaking Kirk Gibson's career touchdown record (24 from 1974-78) it was impossible to leave him out of the mix. Rogers finished the game with five catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns (25 for his career). He also gained 66 yards on two reverses.

Watts said Rogers' first touchdown, the play everyone remembers the most from Saturday's game, was even more remarkable after reviewing the film.

"It was a big-league catch that just a few people could do," Watts said.

Naming the defensive player of the week wasn't easy either. Ultimately, sophomore linebacker Ronald Stanley claimed the honor, but Watts said senior strong safety Thomas Wright was considered.

The difference wasn't in the statistics, as Stanley actually had three fewer than Wright (10). So what made the difference?

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"Not only was he making plays, but he was making plays that we could hear on the sidelines," Watts said.

No Moss

While senior tailback Dawan Moss is no longer dismissed from the team, don't expect to see the 5-10, 226-pounder to be present for Saturday's senior night activities.

"I gave him permission to go work out and be around us," Watts said. "But as of right now he is not reinstated."

As for why he chose to allow Moss back onto the team, Watts said that had a lot to do with Moss' mother. His mother pointed out the fact that it was unfair to dismiss one team captain (Moss) and only suspend another (junior quarterback Jeff Smoker).

"Dawan knows that what he did wasn't right," Watts said. "Fairness had a lot to do with it."

Moss was scheduled to be in court today, but that date has been bumped to Dec. 13.

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