Saturday, 29 October 2016 @ Spartan Stadium
(№ 2) Michigan 32-23 Michigan State
8-0, B1G 5-0
It was with no small amount of glee that I watched the implosion of the dastardly Spartans this football season, from B1G Champions & College Football Playoff contenders in 2015 to an abysmal 3-9 (B1G 1-8) in 2016. Michigan's Lost Decade coincided with the most successful decades in dastardly Spartan history, & the prideful illiterates from "Moo U." were always keen to gloat & crow. Their struggles in 2016 could not have happened to a more deserving bunch of braggarts.
All that said, the Michigan-Michigan State game was much more of a contest that it should have been. The valiant Wolverines's offense sputtered in the second half (presaging the disasters to come in November), while the dastardly Spartans played with a verve & competence that was on display few other times in their losing season. Late in the fourth quarter, Michigan State scored a touchdown to trail 30-23. Kicking the extra point (or point after), would make the score 30-24, giving Michigan State a chance to win the game if they could recover the onside kickoff, score a touchdown (to tie the game at 30-30), & kick the subsequent point after (to prevail 31-30). Kicking the extra point is a higher-percentage play that going for two, yet dastardly Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio elected to go for two. Had the try been successful, Michigan would still have held the advantage, 30-25, requiring Michigan State to recover on onside kickoff & score a touchdown; the only difference is that the touchdown itself would have sealed the deal (31-30) rather than requiring the point after try for the win; however, with two-point conversions being so much more difficult to score than point-after kicks, there was a better than even chance that the score would remain 30-23, meaning the dastardly Spartans would need a touchdown & extra point just to tie, not to win. There was no discernible advantage to going for two rather than trying the kick for one.
So, the dastardly Spartans went for two. Not only did they not score, but in a delightful improbable turn of events the loose ball was scooped up by Michigan Heisman Trophy finalist Jabril Peppers, who ran the ball back the length of the field to score a safety for Michigan, cementing the victory with an insurmountable 32-23 lead. Had they kicked the field goal, Michigan State would have trailed 30-24 & held a ghost of a chance of winning, but because Dantonio's hatred for the Maize & Blue overcame his reason, his club faced a two-score deficit, 32-23. As Dantonio himself once remarked, with disdainful smugness, "Pride cometh before a fall." Pity he didn't heed his own advice.
Later in the year, the dastardly Spartans had a chance to redeem themselves against the hated Buckeyes of Ohio State. Again, they played above their rest-of-the-year form & in the waning seconds scored a touchdown to trail Ohio State 17-16. A successful point after kick would have tied the game, probably sending it into overtime. But again, Dantonio chose the low-percentage play & went for two; the attempt failed & his club lost the game. Time & time again, Dantonio cut his nose to spite his own face, putting his pride & fragile ego above the best interests of his club winning games. It was glorious insult added to the injury of a disappointing, losing season. Could not have happened to a more deserving jerk.
Michigan went 3-9 in 2008, the most disastrous season in living memory, the shame of which will never be completely shaken off. But there were many mitigating factors. Michigan had a new coach with a whole new (doomed, as it turned out) philosophy of the game, the old coach had stayed too long & had fallen off a recruiter, that departing coach forever tainted his legacy by encouraging players to leave the program rather than stay & play for the new coach; it was a perfect storm of misfortune. All that happened to Michigan State is that they graduated a class of seniors. They didn't switch coaches. They didn't encounter a dearth of talent; quite the opposite, the last few recruiter classes have been the most highly rated in Michigan State history. Nothing changed, except that they lost nine games; nothing changed, except that instead of playing the College Football Playoff (where, it must be noted, they were annihilated by Alabama, 38-0), their only conference win was against the alien Scarlet Knights of Rutgers, a club whose membership in the B1G is an affront to both tradition & decency.
It is a minor shame that the dastardly Spartans were so terrible this year, because I would have loved to watch the "Fighting Harbaughs" defeat the best effort the Green & White could muster, but that is a very minor shame next to the freely flowing Schadenfreude of Sparty's 3-9 debacle. Bwa ha ha ha ha!
Next: The terrible Terrapins of Maryland, & my first football to the Big House in many years.