Sunday, April 14, 2024

Winning weekend

Spartans take down high-ranked Badgers in 49-14 blowout

November 15, 2004
Celebrating after their last home game, senior defensive back Tyrell Dortch, right, and senior safety Jason Harmon, left, cheer as the Spartan Marching Band and their fellow players surround them. The Spartans beat the Wisconsin Badgers, 49-14. —

The MSU football team said it could beat anybody on its schedule and proved it Saturday, beating No. 4 Wisconsin 49-14 at Spartan Stadium on Senior Day.

"What a great deal for our seniors, and they'll remember that the rest of their lives," head coach John L. Smith said. "They played hard and they played with heart and soul."

The Spartans (5-5 overall, 4-3 Big Ten) seemed to have had their hearts ripped out of their chests the last two weeks, blowing leads in two games in the final quarter of each, against Michigan and Ohio State.

"Their cheer to break the huddle, when we left to go start the game, was, 'Finish!'" Smith said. "We talked about that."

Through the ups and downs, the Spartans continued to do what they have done all season long - stick together - and finally completed their finish.

"I always believed if you keep on fighting, keep on fighting, something good will happen at the end," senior bandit and captain Tyrell Dortch said. "After the Rutgers loss, I sat down with a couple of guys and told them that we have to stick it out. We're better than Rutgers, it was just some beginning-of-the-season-type stuff.

"I told (everyone) to keep fighting and that things would come our way."

Evidence of MSU's fight came at the end of the first half, when the Badgers (9-1, 6-1) had four cracks at the end zone from the 1-yard line but could not score a touchdown.

Down 21-14, the Badgers were on the verge of scoring a game-tying touchdown. On first down and goal, Wisconsin running back Anthony Davis was stopped for no gain and on second down, quarterback John Stocco tried a quarterback sneak, but was pushed back.

Wisconsin called a timeout to discuss the next play, which ended up being an incomplete pass. On fourth-and-goal, Davis was stopped again, spun up in the air and then was tackled by sophomore linebacker David Herron Jr. and senior cornerback Roderick Maples.

"That goal line is ours," senior defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said. "We take a lot of pride in it."

MSU pulled out all the stops in the first half, blocking a punt - senior linebacker Marshall Campbell's third block of the season - and recovering it in the end zone for a touchdown by freshman cornerback Travis Key. The Spartans also scored on a reverse throw back, when junior wide receiver Aaron Alexander took a hand off from junior running back Jason Teague, bought some time in the backfield and then threw a 30-yard touchdown pass back to Teague.

In the second half, it was all Spartans as they added two touchdowns in each of the third and fourth quarters - under the direction of sophomore quarterback Drew Stanton.

Stanton came into the game to start the second half, because senior quarterback Damon Dowdell left after suffering a bruised shoulder in the first half. In the third quarter, Stanton threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Matt Trannon.

By the end of the game, the Spartans had a 35-point victory and played spoiler in the Big Ten championship race and the national title race.

"It was easy for us, because we're in the underdog role," Smith said. "We're predicted to get beat by whatever it was, a thousand points. It's easy to go to the field and say, 'We have nothing to lose.'"

While the Spartans' revenge on the Badgers, after losing to them 56-21 last season, was sweet, they are still left to think about what could have been - if they had beaten U-M and Ohio State the last two weeks.

"(Saturday), we had a great win and, you know, we're supposed to be preparing ourselves for the Rose Bowl right now," senior linebacker and captain Ronald Stanley said. "But, unfortunately it didn't happen that way."

Had the Spartans won those two games, they would be 6-1 in conference and would need a win over Penn State to go to the Rose Bowl. The win over Wisconsin does keep MSU bowl eligible, but the team must win its final two games, at Penn State (3-7, 1-6) and at Hawaii (4-5, 4-4) to go to a bowl game.

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