Leland Stein III

Michigan State still have sights on Big Ten title

In sports column on September 22, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Detroit Crew: Ed Davis (Southeastern), Tony Lippett (Crockett), William Gholston (Southeastern), MSU head coach Mark Dantonio, Mylan Hicks (Renaissance), Lawrence Thomas (Renaissance), Chris Norman (Renaissance). Not pictured are Detroiters Dion Sims and Jeremy Gainer.

Notre Dame ended Michigan State’s 15-game home winning streak.

By Leland Stein III

EAST LANSING – Michigan State University (MSU) and the Detroit Public Schools (PSL) have had a long and mutually satisfying history together.

The State of Michigan’s largest city (Detroit) has sent many noteworthy young men and women athletes to the school in the State’s capital. For example, recent Michigan Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Ralph Simpson came out of the PSL and was a MSU star basketball player.

Lindsay Hairston, Maurice Ager, Greg Kelser, Steve Smith, Keith Appling and Mike Robinson, just to name a few, have followed Simpson. On the football field, Levi Jackson, Derrick Mason, Kevin Vickerson, Damon Dowdell, Ray and Renaldo Hill, and in track, Marshall Dill.

Although Michigan State University lost to the Notre Dame 20-3 at home in a highly anticipated nationally televised contest under the lights, the then No. 10 Spartans expected they would do better against the No. 20 Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

After all, the Spartans (2-1) had won 15 straight at home. The streak included a win over the Irish in 2010 on a fake field goal in overtime that preceded Coach Mark Dantonio having a heart attack.

On the other hand Notre Dame (3-0) snapped a six-game losing streak against ranked teams and beat a top-10 opponent for the first time in seven years to give Brian Kelly a signature win in his third season.

Notre Dame is off to its best start since 2002 when former Spartan, Tyrone Willingham, won his first eight games as its coach. The Irish opened 0-2 last year and 1-3 the season before in Kelly’s debut before bouncing back to finish with eight wins.

The 2012 version of the Michigan State University football program came into this looking to improve on its No. 11 ranking in the 2011 AP final poll. The Spartans have won 11 games the past two seasons and have earned bowl bids every season since 2007.

So, in the post-game press conference Spartan coach Dantonio chose to look to the future and the possibilities, as his team gets ready to face Eastern Michigan University Saturday in East Lansing.

“Tough day at the office,” Dantonio said, “but all of our goals are in front of us. We had a tough deal with Notre Dame last year, and responded. It has to start with Eastern Michigan next week and continue into the Big Ten season.

“It’s always going to be about how you respond to diverse situations. That’s what this game should teach you and that’s what it’s all about. People have praised us and now they are going to say it’s an aberration. It is what it is and we will start fresh. The main focus will be what we do now and how we respond.”

Helping lead Michigan State and making Dantonio’s words a reality are a special collection of former PSL athletes that will be right in the mix if the Spartans recover and indeed fight for a Rose Bowl berth.

William Gholston and Ed Davis from Southeastern, Tony Lippett (Crockett), and, Mylan Hicks, Lawrence Thomas and Chris Norman all from Renaissance High. Also Detroiters Dion Sims (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High) and Jeremy Gainer (Clarenceville High) are holding down the Motor City.

As bad as this lost was, and, the way it all happened, the resilient Spartans believe that they will be better from this thumping by Notre Dame.

“Right now it feels terrible because we lost to a rival,” Norman exclaimed. “But I think it can also work out for the good because you can take a moment like this and define ourselves as a team. That’s going to come with how we respond to this situation. That’s how we felt last year when we lost to Notre Dame. I expect for the same thing to happen this year.”

Added Gholston: “We have to take it one game at a time. When we lost this game, it’s one game out of the season. We’ve got a lot more games to play and the way we come out next week is going to show what kind of team we are.”

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII

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