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January 02, 2012

Finishing with a flurry

Mark Dantonio said the words "Just believe" at halftime, and he ended his post-game press conference with an entertaining impersonation of the Muhammad Ali speech that has been played over and over this season for his players. MSU summoned Ali, Paige Duren and every last bit of inspiration and perseverance it could muster to pull out a 33-30 triple-overtime win over Georgia in the Outback Bowl.

    This was big for MSU, big for the Big Ten -- but as I said a few days ago, this was more about MSU's seniors than anything. And I think Keith Nichol, who had a big final day as a Spartan, may have summed up best what it meant to win and to get that touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins at a critical moment.

    "“I hugged him at the end of the game, I said it’s just been a blessing to go along on this ride with him, to have someone like that on my side, in my corner," Nichol said of Cousins. "I couldn’t ask to be with a better person through a journey like that. And to connect like that … it was a big moment for the team...
    “It’s something as a man, to go through something for four or five years and say you competed in college football and you made it through the grind of early-morning conditioning, workouts, whatever it is, walking off the field and knowing you gave everything you had – that’s the best feeling I’ve ever had. I mean, that was better than the Hail Mary catch for me. This is a game I will remember. I’ll see that Hail Mary catch for a long time, but I won’t remember that like I remember this right here. Hugging B.J. and Kirk, Foreman, Keshawn. I mean, that’s what makes college football so great. The relationships you have with those kind of guys.”

    The Spartans break a 10-year, five-game bowl losing streak, they match last season's school record of 11 wins, they probably finish in the top 10 for the first time since the 1999 team that won the Citrus Bowl. All good things for the program -- but those seniors already dragged it a million miles in five years, and the outcome of this game wasn't going to change that.

    MSU is going to have a very talented team next season but it will not easily replace the intangible influence of Cousins, Foreman, Trenton Robinson, Nichol and so on. That's why it was so important for MSU to win. And it probably explains better than anything why MSU did win.

 

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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