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Bowl win points Spartans in right direction

January 8, 2012
CRAIG?REMSBURG - Senior Sports Writer ( , The Mining Journal

Sometime in the second half or overtime of the Michigan State-Georgia Outback Bowl game last Monday, when the Spartans appeared headed for another postseason defeat, I couldn't help myself.

"Dantonio just can't win bowl games," I blurted out with a hint of exasperation in my voice.

My 16-year-old son Connor, curled up on our living room couch underneath his large Spartan blanket, may have nodded yes in reply. Either that or he was nodding off to sleep. I really couldn't tell.

Of course, the Spartans dodged a bullet several times and - thanks to a block of a Georgia field-goal attempt in the third overtime - wound up beating the Bulldogs, 33-30.

Talk about your big wins. Not only did MSU finish 11-3 on the season to help salvage some pride for an underachieving Big Ten that went 4-6 overall in bowl games, it was the Spartans' first postseason victory since 2001 and Dantonio's first since taking over the Spartans in 2007.

"This was a win against an SEC team," Dantonio said afterward. "It was a team that won their division and was 10-2 in the regular season.

"I think it just points toward us becoming an elite program in this league."

MSU has to continue to excel for at least a couple of more years to be considered an elite team in the nation, of course. The team went 22-5 over the last two seasons, but needs to build on a tradition it is slowly constructing.

You can't have a great season or two, then slip back into mediocrity. A team needs to be good year after year to be considered one of the "big boys."

That may not be easy, especially next season without such graduating seniors as quarterback Kirk Cousins, wide receiver B.J. Cunningham and safety Trenton Robinson. Junior defensive tackle Jerel Worthy is turning pro as well.

But running back Le'Von Bell, tight end Dion Sims, defensive end William Gholston and linebacker Denicos Allen will be back, giving MSU a strong nucleus.

What the Spartans have done the last couple of seasons should help Dantonio and his staff recruit some top-notch talent.

The bowl win no doubt gave the Spartans a lot of national exposure that should help Dantonio and Co. bring some talented players to Spartyland.

Some recruits with speed would be nice. If the Spartans are to compete on a national stage again, they need to exhibit speed at the skill positions.

Winning the Outback Bowl is a feather in MSU's hat. It should give the program some much-needed confidence that it can compete on a national level.

Dantonio and Co. earned that recognition.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.

His email address is



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