Thursday, May 23, 2024

Spartans' fast start was slowed by their rivals to the Southeast

They seemed invincible.

Minus the criticism that came from the planting of a Spartans flag in the middle of Notre Dame Stadium, the act itself showed the Spartans making a statement.

They came into a hostile environment, facing a team with a coaching giant and they proved that they weren't the same Spartans as years past. They weren't going to roll over and hand over that game.

It was like one putting his foot down, letting the entire college football world know MSU is the real deal.

But after Saturday, the image of valiant warriors disappeared.

This time, mistakes weren't replaced by the next highlight play and missed opportunities weren't forgotten by a winning touchdown.

Instead, now with the honeymoon over, red flags become a shade brighter.

And everyone looks human again.

With about a minute left in the first quarter, a trick play from MSU receiver Jerramy Scott intended for the end zone ended up with an interception picked up by Michigan.

Drew Stanton was good - he went 20-of-30 passes for 282 yards and one touchdown - but he looked vulnerable when he got sacked and fumbled, turning the ball over to the Wolverines.

And the kicking game decided the outcome of a game for the first time this season.

If the Spartans take away one thing from the loss to U-M, it is this: One loss.

Might I take you back to the beginning of the season, when talk was that MSU had to avoid a letdown against Kent State. Then, the Spartans could not let Hawaii's offense rule the game. Then, the Spartans couldn't really win against the Fighting Irish.

So now, they've been handed their first loss. I'm not saying use "first loss" as an excuse to feel better about the game.

No, feel hurt that the Spartans continuously worked and fought their way back to no avail.

Feel furious that the loss was handed over by the Wolverines, since they've owned the Spartans for the fourth year in a row. Feel it.

But this Wolverines team wasn't going to lose.

As much as we all wanted the Spartans to win because U-M is our main rivalry and to soothe that still bitter taste from last season, a U-M loss would've flipped Ann Arbor upside down.

So an urgent team had to prove its worth and it did.

Tailback Michael Hart said after the game he "felt 100 percent but wasn't 100 percent" - that nothing would've kept him from playing in the game.

He knows a team and city were on edge. The dazed and blue were out of the rankings and had U-M lost, it probably would've ran Lloyd Carr out of town.

This also confirms that the Spartans will never hit that verge of greatness. They will always be questioned and always take a backseat to the Wolverines. As much as I hate to say it, it has to be accepted.

And even though the loss shouldn't be placed squarely on the shoulders of John Goss, a great team will have the kicker come through - kind of like a goaltender in hockey is the last line of defense.

So now what happens? We wait to see what the Spartans are made of. Now we see how they are able to regroup and tune-up for the next game.

Saturday's hero Garrett Rivas put it best. As he lined up to kick the eventual game-winner in overtime, he said his previous miss was out of mind.

It would do no good to keep it in his mind and that's what the Spartans need to do.

They have two weeks to imagine what could've been. Two weeks to feel hurt and feel furious like we all do.

But come Oct. 15 in Columbus, no feelings from Saturday must remain. It better be out of their minds.

Esther Gim is the State News deputy sports editor. Reach her at gimesthe@msu.edu.

Discussion

Share and discuss “Spartans' fast start was slowed by their rivals to the Southeast” on social media.