On a 4th and 1 play designed to sustain the drive, Kolton Browning ran to the endzone. The overtime touchdown sealed University of Louisana-Monroe’s win over the #8 Arkansas Razorbacks. ULM just knocked off the number 8 team in the land in their own house. The same ULM who hadn’t won their season opener since 2006, the same ULM who hasn’t had a winning season since ESPN started keeping W-L stats in 2002. There were mitigating factors, like the loss of Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, but a team as talented and deep as Arkansas should be able to knock off ULM with their second string. This was a dang coaching mistake perpetrated by everyone’s favorite clown in head coach paint, John L. Smith.
So when I read Chris Vannini’s Free Press article today titled “Michigan State has no excuses for not winning the Big Ten this year" I get an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Logically, I agree: The Big Ten looks terrible this year, and MSU has the best combination of talent and eligibility to represent the Big Ten in Pasadena, despite some questions in the passing game. But still, my stomach feels wobbly at the idea of Michigan State being assigned the role of “Favorite”.
For this, fans owe one John L Smith a giant collective therapy bill. If you’ve rooted MSU football since prior to the arrival of Mark Dantonio, the scene which played out in Little Rock Saturday night is not all that shocking, it’s something we’re used to. Knock off a Goliath, lose to a David. It’s not solely John L’s fault, even St. Saban knocked off two top ten teams in 1998 while losing to Colorado State, Purdue and Indiana. And look at him.
But after a quarter century of inconsistent play and just two short seasons of ass-kicking football, MSU fans aren’t used to being the Big Ten’s steady hand. Yet, that’s exactly what’s happening in spite of MSU’s inexperienced QB and receiver corps. As fans, this is a difficult role for us to embrace.
Two years is an eternity in the sports narrative and the last two years have been the best MSU football has had to offer since the 60’s. The Spartans have won 15 straight at home since the opener in 2010. Their five losses have all been to ranked teams. MSU was a missed punt block away from playing in the Rose Bowl last fall.
The national sports narrative doesn’t remember the torrential downpour in which Brady Quinn piloted Notre Dame to a come from behind win in 2006. They don’t remember Jaren Hayes valiantly trying to knock jump balls away from Braylon Edwards despite being 7 inches too short for the job. You do. You were there. You were cheering and screaming. You remember the clock rolling zeros in excruciating detail.
The body of evidence is present. MSU has been one of the most successful programs of the last two seasons . Nationally, no one thinks of MSU as the “sleeping giant” anymore, the little engine that could if they only could stop tripping on their own feet. They’ve forgotten all of our worst memories of MSU football.Maybe it’s time for us to try and do the same.