**Football Memory Lane is a segment that will be running in August with various contributors providing their favorite moments in Detroit Lions, Michigan State and Michigan football. With the start of training camp and college practices we’ll take a look back at some great moments from around the state (this was quite hard for the Lions articles)**
There are a lot of games/plays/memories I could have picked for Michigan State. Some were included in this series by others and some I left out because I felt that this one wasn’t just important to the season or a fantastic play, but because I think it was a turning point in the program under Mark Dantonio.
I don’t want to give the impression that Dantonio’s job was on the line during the 2010 season. But he certainly came a LONG way during that season and 2011 to be considered one of the best coaches in the Big Ten and has the Spartan program looking like a contender for years to come.
However, I do feel that if it wasn’t for the 8-0 start to the 2010 season, the #5 ranking in the AP attained that year and the momentum carried over into 2011 that this could be a completely different program than it is today.
The Spartans were coming off of a third straight bowl loss, a few off field incidents that reflected VERY poorly on the program and Dantonio and a 6-7 season in 2009.
The strides that were made in 2007 and 2008 were gone by his third year and the program was at a point where they looked like they were going to go the way of the Same Ol’ Spartans. They even lost to Central Michigan AT HOME in 2009. That is how low this team got (no offense intended to Central, but its a MAC school playing AT a Big Ten school, that just shouldn’t happen).
Some decent expectations for Dantonios 4th season were there but there was definitely some talk about whether or not he was the right coach for the program. After a home win against Western Michigan and a “road” win against Florida Atlantic in Detroit at Ford Field, in which this team looked very sloppy at times had them at 2-0 in a night game at home against a Notre Dame team on the rise.
It was a pretty tight, back and forth game for the most part, with what I felt was an advantage for Notre Dame but the game went to over time after neither team could score after MSU tied it up with a bit more than 7 minutes to go in the game.
Notre Dame took possession in OT first and the defense held them to a field goal. Then everyone knows what happened. After a TERRIBLE offensive series by the Spartans, Dantonio made the ballsiest call in College Football that year.
Instead of having a young kicker with no experience try a 48 yard field goal in OT to tie the game, he called on his Senior punter/holder/former high school quarterback to make a play.
And Aaron Bates certainly did. On the fake field goal (play called “Little Giants” after the Rick Moranis movie) Charlie Gantt eventually got open and Bates found him for the winning score. The team moved to 3-0, not losing until their 9th game, at Iowa in a drubbing that was very disappointing but was still able to finish the season 11-2 and secure Dantonio as the absolute right man to head up the football team.
Dantonio suffered a heart attack after the game and missed coaching a few games that year but the team still was able to play well.
I don’t view this as the reason the team has won 22 games in 2 years, but I do think it put some confidence in the players that their coach was behind them and willing to make these types of calls to win games, it also rallied the alumni and fan base to make Spartan Stadium a great home environment, with a 14 game home winning streak and ticket sales that are breaking records for the school.
There have been other great games and plays under Dantonio and I LOVED the 1999/2000 Citruis Bowl win over Florida. But this play set the tone for the current state of the program and what looks like a nice run of successful seasons.