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OUR TIME Michigan State University’s independent voice | | 1/7/14 | @thesnews

After 26 years of waiting, thrilling win rockets Spartans to greatness

Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook cheers at the end of the 100th Rose Bowl game against Stanford. Julia Nagy/The State News

2 | Rose Bowl Special Edition | T he State N ews | tu e sday, Janua ry 7, 2014 | state c h a m p io n s h i p


elsworth seals huge victory WITH HEROIC LEAPING STOP

Head coach Mark Dantonio gets emotional at the end of the 100th Rose Bowl game against Stanford on Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif.

By Stephen Brooks THE STATE NEWS nn

photos by Julia Nagy/The State News

Victory alters perception of MSU program By Stephen Brooks

the map now,” junior running back Jeremy Langford said. “We’re one of the elite THE STATE NEWS teams in the NCAA, that’s PASADENA, Calif. – The what we wanted to do.” MSU players felt disreSpartans were well aware of the opportunity the 100th Rose spected by being labeled Bowl presented their program. underdogs heading into the Aside from participating in Rose Bowl despite a highcollege football’s most cher- er ranking and one fewer ished bowl, as well as cross- loss than Stanford. The win ing off the primary goal head snapped a three-game loscoach Mark Dantonio outlined ing streak for the Big Ten in Pasadena, and for his program, MSU had gave the Spara grand stage to make tans deco a statement. A staterated wins ment t hat t he “We’re one of against Spartans deserve the elite teams the thena spot among the in the NCAA, ranked s p or t ’s upp e r No. 2 echelon. that’s what we a n d No. Wit h more wanted to do.” 5 teams than 18.6 mil— ­ Jeremy Langford, to cap the lion average viewrunning back season. ers, MSU’s 24-20 A g ua r a nvictory against Stanteed top-five finford stands as the mostish to this season and watched cable T V program since the 2013 BCS National a likely top-15 start in next year’s rankings are a step Championship. “This puts Michigan State on toward earning the nn

Stanford linebacker A.J. Tarpley tackles junior running back Jeremy Langford in the 100th Rose Bowl game against Stanford on Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif.

al respect MSU longs for. “It says that Michigan State is a contender. Don’t count them out,” senior linebacker Kyler Elsworth said. “They can play with the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, whoever it be. Michigan State needs to be in that argument.” Once Elsworth wrapped up the game with the play he’ll be

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remembered by for the rest of his life, former Spartans including K irk Cousins, Le’Veon Bell and Greg Jones joined the party on the sideline and locker room. In his postgame press conference, Dantonio made a point to acknowledge previous players that established the winning culture in East Lansing after he took over a once-turbulent program. “I was glad to be able to lay the foundation, but this was an effort of a lot of people starting with coach Dantonio and his staff,” Cousins said. “(They’re a) well-coached team, they’ve recruited a lot of good people, a lot of talented players. (I was) just so excited to have a front-row seat to watch it happen today.” It took seven seasons, but Dantonio’s team not only made it to the Rose Bowl. It earned a signature victory for the program. Winning an outright conference championship and competing in the Rose Bowl topped MSU’s checklist for so long. Now the Spartans have a new standard: hoisting the crystal football at the national championship. “That ’s our plan. Our plan is to keep winning,” Dantonio said. “Our plan is that we’re one game away. … I think we can compete with anybody.”

PASADENA, Calif. – Before the game, it was about the middle linebacker. After the game, it was about the middle linebacker. When senior Max Bullough’s career was pronounced dead via an email in the wee hours of Dec. 26, it jolted an MSU community eagerly readying itself for the biggest game in more than two decades. His departure stole the headlines from a team looking to prove it belonged among the nation’s best. It was former walk-on Kyler Elsworth, a career backup with a knack for making big plays, who filled Bullough’s void as the starting middle linebacker in the final game of his career. “I said I’ve got one chance here, I’ve got to go over the top because they’re taking out legs on the D-line, so I ended up going up top and … I made a big play,” said Elsworth, who was named defensive MVP, as confetti precipitated through the cool California air. Elsworth, the unlikeliest of heroes as a fill-in for an accomplished defense, sealed a 24-20 win for the fourth-ranked Spartans against No. 5 Stanford in the 100th rendition of the Rose Bowl with his late-game aerial tackle on Cardinal fullback Ryan Hewitt on fourth-and-1. “I couldn’t be happier,” Elsworth said. Elsworth’s Superman-esque stuff gave the ball back to the Spartans with 1:43 left on the clock while Stanford was out of timeouts. Three quarterback kneels — with senior Andrew Maxwell taking the final snap — kicked off a celebration 26 years in the making. MSU ended its longest Rose Bowl drought since its maiden voyage to Pasadena, Calif., in 1954 with a win and improved its record to 4-1 in the legendary game. The Spartans lost the first quarter, but won the final three in front of an amped-up crowd of more than 95,000, most of which was draped in green. After allowing 146 yards in the first 15 minutes, MSU’s vaunted defense clamped down on the Cardinal attack and allowed just 159 during the next three quarters. “You win with toughness,” head coach Mark Dantonio said. “There’s no question about that. You win with toughness, physically and mentally, and I thought we did that tonight.” Stanford scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, knocking the vaunted Spartan defense on its heels. A busted coverage from sophomore cornerback Trae Waynes on the second play from scrimmage allowed for a 43-yard bomb from Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan to receiver Michael Rector. That play paved the way for a rumbling 16-yard touchdown from standout running back Tyler Gaffney. After a Stanford field goal made it 10-0, sophomore quarterback Connor Cook led a 13-play, 75-yard drive for his team’s first touchdown: a 2-yard sprint by junior running back Jeremy

Langford. Cook made some poor passes, resulting in one interception returned for a touchdown and two more passes that Stanford easily should have grabbed, but he finished with a careerhigh 332 passing yards and two touchdowns. He claimed offensive MVP honors after also being named MVP of the Big Ten Championship. Ironically, Cook’s pick-six was the turning point for MSU. The Spartan offense trotted onto the field with slightly more than two minutes separating them from halftime and remained aggressive rather than melting the clock. Cook delivered a big throw to junior Tony Lippett for 24 yards and an arcing lob to senior Bennie Fowler to Stanford’s 3-yard line. The big plays set up a 2-yard touchdown reception by sophomore fullback Trevon Pendleton to cut the deficit to three by halftime. MSU tied the game at 17 on the first possession of the third quarter off the leg of freshman kicker Michael Geiger from 31 yards out. Lippett took a post route 25 yards to the house, dragging a defender with him to the end zone, to give the Spartans their first lead, 24-17, early in the fourth quarter. MSU took advantage of a short field after a 19-yard punt return by sophomore receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. started its drive on Stanford’s 27-yard line. The Cardinal faced a thirdand-16 from the MSU 28 after senior defensive end Denzel Drone dropped Hogan for an 8-yard sack on the previous play and had to settle for a 39-yard field goal after failing to convert the first down. Stanford was on its own 34 when Elsworth’s decisive leaping stop put the game away in a play that will live on in Spartan lore for years to come. He wasn’t truly alone, though, as sophomore linebacker Darien Harris, who split time at linebacker with Elsworth, and sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun got a piece of Hewitt as well. “You have to give it to Michigan State for stuffing that because everybody in the building knew exactly what was coming,” Gaffney said. Elsworth, a former standout wrestler who at one point was unsure if he would pursue a football career, made the most of his only career start. “It was under circumstances that were unfortunate, but the coaches trusted that in me to step in,” he said. “It means a lot to me coming from a walk-on, working my way up the chain, (I’ve) been in every situation — to have the coaches have faith in me, it means the world.” MSU concludes the season with 13 wins and now has a threegame bowl winning streak – both feats are school records. The Spartans are assured a top-five spot in the final rankings. More importantly, the players were adamant the Rose Bowl victory was a perception-altering game nationally. “We’re top five. Anytime you talk about college football, Michigan State should be named,” cornerback Darqueze Dennard said.


Rose Bowl Special Edition spartan football

Stephen brooks

In victory, Spartans defy the odds There are dream seasons, and there are seasons like this. Seasons where something great blooms from nothing — no expectations, no hype, no respect. It’s one thing to maintain elite expectations through pressure and adversity from beginning to end. It’s a completely different degree of euphoria and accomplishment to come from nowhere and finish on top. The 2013 Spartans will be cemented in MSU lore for their journey from writeoffs to unlikely heroes. An unproven quarterback, a running back desperately seeking a home at one position and a group of castaway receivers joined a vaunted defense to become Big Ten and Rose Bowl champions. Who could have realistically predicted this outcome? The only place to find believers of this scenario was inside the Duffy Daugherty Football Building – and even privately, it’s unlikely every player, coach and staff member truly bought into the possibility. The Spartans were shut out of the rankings until they were 7-1, for starters. In September when the Spartans barely edged Western Michigan and South Florida, nobody thought this was possible. Especially not after a controversial loss at Notre Dame, or an uninspired 14-0 win over Purdue. Except Mark Dantonio did. He was at the Rose Bowl in May 2013 and videotaped himself on the field, telling his players they’ll be there on Jan. 1, 2014.

“It will be our time,” the head coach said in the recording. Whether or not he truly believed that is a moot point. He got his team to believe it, never wavering in his support. After statement wins against Ohio State and Stanford to conclude the storybook 2013 campaign, it’s easy to forget the dark days — and boy, were they dark. The Spartans continued to believe in themselves when nobody else did. They didn’t care — they knew they were capable of achieving what the outside world was blind to. Scrutinizing analysis, predictions and recruiting rankings be damned — MSU topped most level-headed predictions while shattering the program’s perceived glass ceiling. MSU did what some considered the unthinkable, eviscerating old stereotypes that weighed down the program for years. And they did it their type of way, whether or not that was the easiest, prettiest or stressfree route the entire way. The residue of last year’s failed attempt and razor-thin margin for error this season combined to form a celebration unlike any other in recent memory for Spartan sports. Few, if any, other moments could get rapper Rich Homie Quan, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and athletics director Mark Hollis dancing together in the same room. “Same old Spartans” and “little brother” are faulty, outdated monikers for a Dantonio-led program. When players and coaches talk about playing for the Rose Bowl or national title, it’s no longer hyperbole followed by eye-rolls and chuckles. They found the inches. They chased it. They were the ones. Stephen Brooks is a State News football reporter. Reach him at sbrooks@

stat e ne m | T he Stat e N ews | t u es day, ja n ua ry 7, 2014 |



MSU alums flock to Pasadena for bowl game By Stephen Brooks

Okemos residents and MSU alumnae Jane Paterson, right, and Trudy Sturk cheer as the Spartans arrive at the 100th Rose Bowl on Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif. The State News nn

PASADENA, Calif. – Once they finished singing the MSU fight song, each member of a fourperson group of Spartan alumni promptly shotgunned beers with a coordination that implied it wasn’t their first time performing the ritual. The four friends — three of them former Hubbard Hall roommates, one a buddy from across the hall — have maintained a tight bond since meeting as students in 1995 through MSU athletics. Once the Spartan football program earned its first Rose Bowl bid since 1988, the crew sprang into action to orchestrate another reunion. “We were always like, ‘We are going (to the Rose Bowl if MSU goes), no matter what we have to do, we’re all coming out,‘” said Adam Szcznesny, an alumnus currently living in New York. Szcznesny’s friendship with his college friends has endured well beyond their time together in East Lansing primarily because of Spartan sports teams, and it’s a passion being passed down to the younger generation. They’ve been in one another’s weddings, their kids know each other and they look forward to raising them as diehard Spartans. Coming to Pasadena, Calif., and reveling in college football’s most scenic venue was an opportunity the buddies were never afforded while they were students. It was everyone’s first Rose Bowl except Szcznesny, who came in 1988 as a kid, but they’re optimistic it won’t be the last time they meet on the West Coast to see the Spartans play. “When I went to my first Final Four in 1999, I remember thinking I may never get here again, to a Final Four, and I’ve been to six,” said Ryan Sills, now a resident of Huntington Woods, Mich. “What I don’t want to do is walk in here and think that I may never get back here, because I really think that we’re gonna get back.” If the term Spartan nation ever was appropriate, it would have

Photos by Julia Nagy/ The State News

been for the setting in Pasadena. Fans, students and alumni pulled out all stops for the 100th anniversary of the sport’s most iconic game. MSU fans accounted for approximately 50-60,000 of the 95,000-plus Rose Bowl attendees. The Spartan logo and familiar shade of green made family out of thousands. The enduring companionship of 1965 alumnae Jill Moon, Gail Hill and Roslyn Covey is what brought them to Southern California. Since they met each other as roommates in 1961, the first year Case Hall opened, the ladies have made sure to meet up as a group every few years. If a monumental Spartan event can coincide with it, all the better. They remembered MSU’s campus from a different era, when they trudged through mud to move into the dorm because there were no sidewalks, or how it was a big deal that both men and women lived in the dorm together. Wednesday was Hill’s third Rose Bowl, Moon’s second and Covey’s first. “(MSU fans) have kind of a reputation for not traveling and I said squash that (idea). We travel, we support,” Hill said. For Sherrie Cole-Whitaker, a different kind of connection led her and her husband to Pasadena from Toledo, Ohio.

Commerce Township, Mich., resident Ted Szczotka wears his lucky hat before the 100th Rose Bowl on Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif. He said he wears it to any major sporting event.

Cole-Whitaker, a specialized reading teacher, worked closely with redshirt freshman defensive back Mark Meyers in high school when he found out he was dyslexic. From teaching Meyers, the two became tight and have continued their relationship since he became a Spartan, including the exchange of motivational text messages back and forth. Before MSU played Ohio State in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship, Cole-Whitaker half-jokingly said she would be at the Rose Bowl if the Spartans won. Late in the night of the Spartans’ upset win, she received a phone call.

“He’s on the phone with me (and says), ‘I got two tickets, are you coming?’” Cole-Whitaker recalled. “I said ‘You know it’s in California?’ He said ‘Yeah, do you? You told me you’d come.’ I said ‘OK, we’ll come.’” Before knowing Meyers, she wasn’t a passionate MSU supporter in any way. Cole-Whitaker became one and was taken aback by the amount of followers made the trip to the Rose Bowl. “Our flight out was 80 percent Spartan fans and it was literally a pep assembly on the way out,” she said. “People were cheering ‘Go Green, go white’ from one end of the plane to the other.”

4 Rose Bowl Special Edition | The State N ews | tu esday, janua ry 7, 2014 | state n e spartan football

Beau Hayhoe

For students, win is everything It was like something out of a dream. As soon as I stepped out of my car at the Rose Bowl and saw one of college football’s most historic venues to my left, I knew it was a historic day. MSU’s day. With the sun shining on thousands upon thousands of MSU fans, the spectacle of the Rose Bowl was absolutely incredible. And considering that MSU last played in Pasadena when my parents were in school, it certainly was once-in-a-lifetime for myself and fellow students. Starting with the beauty of the Rose Parade and carrying through to the Spartans’ momentous win, MSU fans brought as much resolve as the team itself. Spartans young and old brought the atmosphere, enthusiasm and excitement of an MSU tailgate more than 2,000 miles west — they started early, sang the fight song the whole day and carried the energy through right past game time. No one took the opportunity for granted. It was inspiring to see the lengths most fans, particularly students, made to get out to the game, including scraping together every last cent to travel and attend a historic moment. Fans seemed just as excited to be there as players, if not almost more so — a nearly impossible feat which matched the perseverance of the team itself.

Our spirit never wavered, even after Stanford rolled down the field with pinpoint precision to put the first points on the scoreboard. And when much-maligned players like Bennie Fowler rose up to make big grabs, the ensuing response from Spartans was nothing short of pure joy. As MSU battled back from an early deficit, an interception returned for a touchdown and some key stops by Stanford, I could feel a win coming. I’m sure even fans who doubted the outcome could feel the tide turn, as well. And that’s exactly the way things played out. The Spartans fulfilled head coach Mark Dantonio’s epic prophecy, a video shot in early 2013 in the Rose Bowl itself in which the stoic coach reiterated his lofty goal for the program.

MSU’s victory was emotional and thrilling on so many levels for students and fans of the program The tides of the game turned somewhat slowly, but as time wore on, it looked more and more like MSU would rise to the challenge. Following senior linebacker Kyler Elsworth’s outstanding, season-defining fourth-down stop, pandemonium erupted. To my delight, the celebration didn’t stop, and reached new levels as senior quarterback Andrew Maxwell took that final knee to ice the game. I expected to hear the fight song on repeat by the band in the moments afterward. But I wasn’t prepared for the tears I shed; the utter, pure joy on the faces of so many of my fellow students, as people literally screamed themselves hoarse. When Dantonio took the microphone during the celebration and talked about completion, resolve and toughness, he spoke for

Spartans everywhere. My tears kept flowing. There are certain moments that are tough to explain in terms of meaning, but I like to think that I, along with many other fans, was overcome with the realization that MSU, quite simply, did it. And those are the words that have repeated in my mind over and over again these past few days, every few moments: MSU won the Rose Bowl. A team that had been doubted all season long, both locally and nationally, pulled off the biggest turnaround in school history, meeting the skyhigh expectations of a community and a coach driven by greatness. After the game, as I left the stadium and met some of my mom’s old college friends, we talked about the win, the celebration and the big plays that will grow to define this team’s legacy and legend. It was unlike any other postgame experience I’ve ever had. Sure, we relived an MSU victory. But we did it outside the Rose Bowl. Standing in the shadow of that hallowed stadium, the people I spoke to told me how they’d attended the last Rose Bowl in 1988, and knew they had to make it back this time. For these fans, like so many others, the circle was complete. And later, as I waited for some fellow students outside the stadium, I was overcome once again. Although the grounds were nearly empty at that point, I felt more a part of MSU than ever before. At long last, the Spartans were the ones. Just like Dantonio said they’d be. Beau Hayhoe is the State News sports editor. Reach him at


Julia Nagy/The State News

Spartan fans cheer during the 100th Rose Bowl game against Stanford on Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif. The Spartans defeated the Cardinal, 24-20.

To get to California, students take extraordinary steps By Stephen Brooks The State News nn

PASADENA, Calif. – Christmas presents. Early graduation gifts. Loans from family. Secret stashes from summer jobs. Begging. These are the common avenues students took to secure the necessary financing required to travel to see MSU in the 100th Rose Bowl. “I had to go,” said Jason Korth, a construction management senior. “It’s the best experience I’ve had as a Michigan State student thus far.” Korth traveled from Washington, D.C. to meet a group of fellow senior Spartans for what they deemed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Finance senior Jacob McDonough had similar feelings, opting to make whatever moves were necessary to see the Spartans play in their first Rose Bowl since 1988. As seniors, a chance to close out their last year at MSU by visiting one of college football’s

most hallowed sanctuaries was too good to pass up. The decision was made in an instant — McDonough was going to the California. McDonough and six other friends coordinated their own travel and met in Pasadena for an opportunity few thought would be possible at the start of the season. Before the game, McDonough was fired up about attending. “I can’t wait to get in there and see what the atmosphere’s like in the Rose Bowl,” McDonough said. Arriving in Southern California days before the game, Korth, packaging senior Luke Captain and supply chain management senior Tyler Watko were shocked to see fans clad in green and white while visiting various tourist locations in the area. The group attended the MSU pep rally on New Year’s Eve when a reported 27,000 Spartan fans gathered in downtown Los Angeles. MSU filled a significant chunk of the stands, painting a sea of green across the iconic venue. “It felt like I was in East Lansing on campus with how many Spartans came out,” Korth said.

“It makes you feel at home. Everywhere you go — Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Hollywood — you run into someone. Everywhere.” Marketing senior Shane Trojanowski, who met McDonough on the West Coast, also was surprised by the overwhelming number of Spartan supporters, many of whom congregated afterwards and could be seen throughout the region in the days after. “It’s good to see all the (Michigan) State people out here, especially so far away from home,” he said. The financial and logistical strategies varied as much as the travel routes. But the prevailing theme amongst the Spartan students temporarily transplanted out west was that any hurdles were well worth the experience. Considering MSU’s last trip to the Rose Bowl occurred before most — likely any — current students were born 26 years ago, this opportunity was one many Spartans couldn’t let pass by. “It’s a lifetime experience, like something you can’t miss,” Captain said.
















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48 Number of floral floats from various groups in the 2014 Rose Parade

The Michigan State float participates in the 125th Rose Parade on Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif.


photos by julia nagy



MSU fans line Pasadena streets before game to see history


A Spartan fan displays her Spartan pride during the 125th Rose Parade on Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif.

Number of marching bands in the 2014 parade from across the United States

The Spartan Marching Band performs in the 125th Rose Parade on Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif.

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Spartans fulfill Dantonio’s

Photos by Julia Nagy/The State News

Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook is greeted by cheering fans after the 100th Rose Bowl g ame against Stanford on Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif. The Spartans defeated the Cardinal, 24-20, in front of thousands of ecstatic MSU fans, students and alumni from across the country. Cook was named the game’s offensive MVP and threw for a career-high 332 yards in the historic victory. After starting the season in a close quarterback battle, Cook’s success helped propel MSU to huge wins over Michigan and Nebraska, in addition to a Big Ten Championship victory over Ohio State.


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Rose Bowl Special Edition

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ultimate goal


After striving to return to the Rose Bowl since 1988, MSU reaches pinnacle of success with dramatic 24-20 victory behind key plays on offense, defense

Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook and head coach Mark Dantonio hold the trophy after the 100th Rose Bowl game against Stanford on Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif.

Freshman wide receiver Matt Macksood looks up before the 100th Rose Bowl game against Stanford on Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif.

The Spartans tackle Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney during the 100th Rose Bowl game on Wednesday in Pasadena, Calif.





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