Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Coaches' trust in players pays off in bowl win

January 2, 2012
Senior tight end Brian Linthicum celebrates after scoring a  touchdown. The Michigan State Spartans defeated the Georgia Bulldogs in triple overtime, 33-30, Monday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. at the Outback Bowl. Justin Wan/The State News
Senior tight end Brian Linthicum celebrates after scoring a touchdown. The Michigan State Spartans defeated the Georgia Bulldogs in triple overtime, 33-30, Monday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. at the Outback Bowl. Justin Wan/The State News —
Photo by Justin Wan | and Justin Wan The State News

Tampa, Fla. — The Spartans’ 33-30 triple overtime win over Georgia (10-4) at the Outback Bowl was a dramatic victory that came down to the final plays, but as they’ve emphasized all season, the win and the 11-3 record was a team effort from start to finish.

Although MSU (11-3) saw its expected leaders come through with clutch plays — such as senior quarterback Kirk Cousins, sophomore running back Le’Veon Bell and sophomore defensive end William Gholston — the team had several other key players.

In his final game in a Spartan uniform, senior tight end Brian Linthicum posted career highs in both receptions and receiving yards, finishing with seven catches for 115 yards.

He finishes his MSU career with 69 receptions for 860 yards in 39 games.

“He’s a great tight end for us, and he made a lot of plays for us,” senior wide receiver B.J. Cunningham said. “What he did today is just amazing. He stepped up big time, and he’s fighting through some things and came out ready to play, and I feel like I’d give him the game ball.”

Linthicum first got on the board after MSU’s first touchdown in the third quarter, when he caught a pass from Cousins to complete the two-point conversion and pull MSU up to a 16-8 deficit.

Breaking another personal record, Linthicum caught a career-long, 50-yard pass, carrying it up the sidelines in the fourth quarter, which set the stage for an MSU touchdown to give the Spartans their first lead of the game at 20-19.

“(Offensive coordinator Dan) Roushar really put a lot of trust in me in this game with his play-calling and really opened it up with trick plays and screens and really just put the ball in my court to make plays,” Linthicum said.

“Fortunately, other than the one drop I had early (in the second quarter), I made plays for the team, and I can’t really ask for anything more, especially on my last game.”

Big picks
The Spartans’ offense struggled the whole first half to maintain possession and get first downs, but their defense held on and kept the Bulldogs from running away with the game.

After a scoreless first half, MSU returned to the locker room to regroup, believing it still could win but would need a game-changing play to make it happen.

Sophomore cornerback Darqueze Dennard came up with an interception from Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray on the Bulldogs’ first possession in the third quarter. Taking control, MSU ultimately turned the sudden possession into its first touchdown of the game.

“We said at halftime that defense was going to have to make a big play and kind of swing things around and get us going,” sophomore linebacker Max Bullough said. “He stepped up and did it.”

Although his interception gave the Spartans the energy they needed to survive, Dennard wasn’t done yet. Later in the third quarter, he picked off Murray again and returned the ball for a 38-yard touchdown to bring MSU within two at 16-14.

“If you watch our team all season, if we get an interception or we get a turnover on defense like that, our offense takes it and runs with it,” senior safety Trenton Robinson said. “His second interception for a touchdown was just like, ‘Oh, my.’”

With both MSU and Georgia’s defenses highly ranked in the nation — the Bulldogs at No. 3 and the Spartans at No. 5 — both teams relied heavily on that side of the field to make scoring plays.

“If your defense can score, great things are going to happen for your team,” head coach Mark Dantonio said.

White’s potential
After senior nose tackle Kevin Pickelman suffered a season-ending knee injury in MSU’s 42-39 loss in the Big Ten Championship game, junior Anthony Rashad White was asked to step up.

Despite battling a leg injury this season, White played tough when it mattered. He finished with a career-high in tackles (seven) and tackles for loss (three for seven yards).

In the first quarter when Georgia faced fourth-and-one on MSU’s five-yard line, White stuffed running back Ken Malcome and made the stop.

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On the Bulldogs’ next possession, he kept the defense’s energy high — tackling running back Isaiah Crowell for a loss of four yards on a first-and-10 play and then batting down Murray’s second-and-14 pass a couple plays later.

White’s biggest play of the game came in the third overtime when MSU was up, 33-30, and Georgia was attempting a 47-yard field goal. White jumped up after the snap, and his arm blocked kicker Blair Walsh’s attempt to secure MSU’s victory.

“(Defensive line coach Ted) Gill put a lot of trust in him today to come out and just play his game, and he showed up,” junior defensive tackle Jerel Worthy said. “He showed up, so he can build on a lot of things going into next season, and he’s definitely going to be a contributor to this team.”


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