Michigan State wrapped up a difficult and disappointing 2012 football season with a hard-fought 17-16 victory over Texas Christian University Saturday night in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. MSU finishes the season 7-6, including 5 losses by a total of 13 points.
The game was something of a microcosm of the Spartans' season: Close and down-to-the-wire, with the Spartans having to scrap and claw their way back after falling behind due to idiotic penalties, poor execution on offense and some crucial first-half breakdowns on defense despite an overall stellar performance by the "D". The major difference: This time the Spartans WON a nailbiter instead of losing by 1 point, in overtime, or on the last play of the game.
Michigan State struggled mightily on offense in the first half, gaining only 72 yards of total offense and 3 first downs. In the second half, however, more creative play calling and the play of backup quarterback Connor Cook helped get the Spartan offense untracked. Star running back LeVeon Bell, a junior, gained 145 yards rushing, caught a couple of passes and even threw a pass to fullback Tyquan Hammock on a trick play.
Spartans punter Mike Sadler kicked many a booming punt that helped out in the field position battle. Late in the game, his 55-yard punt caused TCU return man Skye Dawson to backpeddle and fumble the return. The Spartans recovered on the 4-yard-line and punched the ball in for a crucial touchdown.
With one minute left in the game, Spartan placekicker Dan Conroy was called on to kick the potential go-ahead field goal from 47 yards out. It had to be nerve-rattling for Conroy, as he's had a disappointing senior season including costing the Spartans at least two games with missed late game field goals. But Conroy drilled it "right down Broadway," as the announcers love to say, and the Spartan "D" shut down TCU in the final minute of play for the emotional victory.
For those of us Spartan fans who have agonized at this season's seemingly sadistic string of gut-wrenching, heartbreaking losses, last night's (or should I say "THIS MORNING'S") victory was joyous.
Spartan quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who will be a senior in 2013, has been put on notice: Connor Cook will give him some stiff competition for the starting job in 2013. Running back Bell might decide to enter the NFL draft; ditto for defensive end William Gholston, who played a great game; and junior tight end Dion Sims.
But there's plenty of talent in the pipeline to replace these guys if they leave. Methinks that with a less brutal schedule, more experienced receivers and a more confident Maxwell behind center (being pushed by Cook), the Spartans should enjoy a hugely successful season in 2013.
But in the meantime, I would just like to credit the players and coaches for the team's effort and resilience this season. They fought hard all the way, and never got blown out. GO GREEN! GO WHITE! VICTORY FOR MSU!