Thirteen seasons ago, just two days after Michigan clinched a painful 28-24 win against Michigan State, Spartan coach Mark Dantonio delivered a memorable and defining line in the first year.
"Let's just think about it," Dantonio said of the Wolverines, "pride comes before the case." The victory with a 1
"Sometimes, when you play basketball, you get your little brother off and let him take the lead," Hart said. "Then you come back and take it from him."
In addition, Wolverine players had put a moment of silence on the field of Spartan Stadium after the victory. This was in response to Dantonio wondering if such a "moment" was needed earlier this season when the Appalachian State made Michigan famous.
The incitement hardly mattered. Dantonio was crazy.
"You sometimes have to check yourself," he said. "They want to mock us. I tell them, it's not over yet. … It's just starting. "
Dantonio's Spartans promptly won the next four matches between the teams and eight of the next ten, leaving the rivalry unfolding. They won three Big Ten titles (to zero from Michigan). They won a Rose Bowl (on the zero of Michigan). They reached a college football playoff (to the zero of Michigan). They defeated Urban Meyer twice (to the zero of Michigan).
In fact, pride had come before the fall of Michigan, and the Spartan fans not only reveled in the fact that their prophet of a coach had foretold this, but that he had delivered it. They could not have loved him anymore.
These days seem long and long ago. As in the last time, MSU (4-5) is a shell of its former self. It's another week in Michigan, only the Wolverines (7-2) have won two of the last three and are big favorites.
And the fall of the state of Michigan is preceded by too much pride.
Four years ago Dantonio had MSU in the playoffs. Alabama killed her, but that was not unexpected. The last three teams from the north who reached the playoffs (MSU, Ohio State, Notre Dame) lost to southern teams (Alabama, Clemson) with a combined score of 99: 3.
This was essentially the maximization of Michigan State Program. Only to get there was the achievement.
In the nearly four seasons since, the MSU has been in the 24 to 23 and only 15 to 18 in the Big Ten. It has lost its last four, including 28: 3 to Illinois. He lost to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State this season with a combined score of 100-17.
It's as if the Spartans had reached the top of the mountain and fell off a cliff. The excitement of Michigan as an outsider with 12 points is the only thing that can save something positive from the season. It's basically a Quick Lane Bowl or a bust.
It's not good.
What happened? Nothing, really, and that's the problem. Dantonio was not very thoughtful about the program's problems. For the most part, he is still defiant and cunning to reporters, who point out that something is wrong.
"We will work hard, we will always stay positive, we will rise above [job-security questions]," said Dantonio Tuesday. "That's the only thing I can do."
Somewhere along the way it seems that the MSU has felt comfortable and has lost its sharpness, drive and reluctance to accept mediocrity.
Dantonio and his associates were brilliant at finding top talents who had no recruiting priority for the local powers of Ohio State, Michigan or Notre Dame. Mix this with a few local stars for whom he could beat these schools, and State was a tough team.
Now there is a clear lack of talent.
The team was known for its discipline and energy, that's mostly gone. Creative offensive views and daring games like the fake field goal "Little Giants" that defeated Notre Dame in 2010? They do not work very often if the MSU is even able to test them.
The offense is a mess. In the first nine seasons of Dantonio, the average Spartan Big Ten rank was 4.7 (out of 14), including three times second place.
In the last four years it was 11.8.
Never at any time Dantonio shook his staff. Assistants remained. Philosophies remained. His biggest move was the last off-season, when he essentially took over the same staff and gave them only new jobs.
It was changing the deckchairs on the Titanic. 19659029 It was pride in the midst of the fall. Or something like that.
Dantonio is 63 and the most successful coach in program history. His work on the field is undeniable, and he continues to enjoy a high reputation in East Lansing.
There is a new president and no real sporting director in an administration plagued by the Larry Nassar scandal and understandably has more important management challenges than acting with a mid-level football program.
Will he stay another year? Would he finally get rid of his staff and find new blood to accept the old Spartan ethos? Can Dantonio win the best young assistants at all, when his own future is questionable? Even if he returns in 2020, how long can this continue?
Mark Dantonio made Michigan State a model program for a long time by recruiting the perfect people for the perfect system and making the big brother subordinate.
Well, maybe one last attitude towards Michigan.
Pride in all its meanings and forms is at stake again.
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