The State Report: Down But Not Out
Credit Wisconsin. Had I told you that the Badgers would walk right into Spartan Stadium and take the Spartans to the woodshed and hold them to only 75 rushing yards on 27 carries, would you have thought it was a misprint? How about that (WISC QB) Freshman Alex Hornibrook would look like a Heisman candidate? Now I know that it's extremely tough to judge by only a single game but AH looked nothing less than complete as he torched the seemingly depleted MSU 'D'. We haven't seen a ball thrower this impressive since current Philadelphia Eagles Rookie QB, Carson Wentz.
Hornibrook out-shined each and every human breathing oxygen wearing shoulder pads and a helmet and likely all 76K-plus in attendance on Saturday afternoon. Unless you've been living outer space, one should be aware that Wisky is, will be and has always been an overly solid team and program. That said, will they WOW! you with 5-star talent? Nah. Athleticism? Nope. Style points? Don't look here. Flashy plays? Not in Madison. Just a mediocre-above average roster that will play as gritty & grimy as it gets with a win at all costs, physicality mindset that is second to none. Home or road, you know exactly what you're going to get and what to expect from those 'pesky' Badgers. A slobber-knocking, 'stand up and fight, drag out. A huge line up front, outstanding coaching schemes, and a power runner (SEE: Ron Dayne, Monte Ball and Melvin Gordon just to name a few). Expect nothing less than arguably the most basic and fundamentally sound group as there is of any program. Something like the San Antonio Spurs or New England Patriots of College Football maybe when it comes to their prolific system.
Win, lose or draw, Wisky won't change how they do things and they're okay with that. It's actually what they prefer. They'd be more than willing to beat you up physically and mentally, ending the game resulting in a 7-6 final. Last weekend was clearly no 7-6 and Wisconsin should not surprise anyone. As a part of the B1G West Division, Wisconsin knew that if it wanted a realistic opportunity at the College Football Playoffs, it would have to beef up their schedule a bit. They did exactly that by scheduling typical SEC power LSU at Lambeau, @MSU and @UofM prior to a favorable schedule on the back end by reaping the benefits of the B1G West where only Iowa stand to present any sort of challenge. Yes the same Iowa that took one on the chin at home just weeks ago to FCS South Dakota State. Considering all things, Sparty should have been prepared for what WISC was bringing to the table considering it's also too how they like to play the gridiron game of inches in the trenches. Mich St got punched in the mouth. Plain and simple. Simple and plain was defeated from the opening kick. In life, things don't nor won't always seem as they appear. That was not the case.
Could it be that State had overlooked WI and what they were capable of? Maybe. Still on an emotional high coming off of a big win vs. rival Notre Dame? Perhaps. Yet still, not a single excuse can be made for the performance (or lack thereof) and I highly doubt that MSU HC Mark Dantonio is looking for one. It's just not his style. After a stunning loss to Duke, the win vs rival Notre Dame doesn't look so good afterall and an unimpressive win over Furman in week 1 doesn't give SpartanNation in East Lansing much to run around town and stick their chests out about. MSU looked to be more than ready for the game to be over with against Wisconsin as multiple times I recall seeing players on the sidelines looking up at the clock praying for the time to wind down faster and put the embarrassment behind them. Sadly, at that time WI was still continuing to drive down the field for more TD's.
Reality is besides MSU has a lot of loose ends to tie, I's to dot, T's to cross and wrinkles to iron out but the good news is that it's a starting point and they will be okay. Mark Dantonio will be sure of it. They now have a much better idea as to where they stand as a team. What they can do. What they cannot. What flies. What won't. What works. What doesn't. That sort of thing. Now is the time to go back to the drawing board to reevaluate and go out to live another day. Sometimes it's just not your day. You'll trip and fall down, scrape your knee, stub your toe on the edge of the bed, or even misspell the simple of words that are usually your bread and butter. That is what MSU witnessed first hand as nothing went right... bad snaps, fumbles, interceptions, etc. It's called life. It happens. In many cases, the 'D' stands tall where the 'O' lags behind or the 'O' will convert with explosive plays but the 'D' plays timid. When you experience both vs. a team that began the season unranked, beat 2 top-10 nationally ranked programs with a shot at another this weekend with a backup QB and are now solidifying themselves as a real contender as arguably the most impressive team in College Football thus far, it's a recipe for disaster if your mental is that others will come into your house and lye down (figuratively speaking only, lol).
It's not too late for Michigan State though if anyone can and has shown that they can rebound from previous mistakes, that is MSU. Take your losses early and move forward as only time will tell if this recent loss took the heart of Sparty. I just hope the Spartan faithful isn't already calling for O'Connor to be pulled to hold the clipboard. MD made it very clear that he will continue to be the starter and currently there is no battle as to whom will snap under center. As there shouldn't. Kirk Cousins had to go through growing pains. As did Connor Cook. Didn't hear many complaining when TO'C led MSU and marched into Ohio to get a W a single season ago. Woo-sah!!!
I certainly hope MSU isn't looking for anything easy this week when they pack their bags for the road in Bloomington for a nightcap when high powered offensively skilled IU welcomes what I hope is an angry Spartan ball club that lost much of their production to those that are now playing on Sundays but that's just part of the game and why it's played. This will be a much better game and closer than many will expect. Let's just lay it all out on the table here for a sec... Spartan fans have gotten spoiled with recent success but look realistic circumstances directly in the face. It's what makes you a TRUE SPARTAN! Mich St fans looking for sympathy, you won't find it here.
That said, I like MSU close this weekend. Tate's Take: MSU-31, IU-28
RIP Mike Sadler and Mylan Hicks