MSU's last home game will be emotional for Dantonio, seniors

BY foxsports • November 19, 2014

On Saturday, eighteen Michigan State Spartans will walk on the field at Spartan Stadium for the final time as college football players.

MSU's game against Rutgers marks the last home game of the season, and the senior class will be recognized in a pregame ceremony for its contributions to the football program since stepping foot in East Lansing.

"They've been really critical in our development here over the last five years in terms of our success," said coach Mark Dantonio. "They've had great success here themselves, but they've worked through the ups and downs of everything, trials and tribulations."

With a 39-12 record, the 2014 senior class is already the second-winningest senior class in school history. If the team wins its final two regular-season games and a bowl game, the seniors will tie the class of 2013 as the winningest class.  

The class consists of many of MSU's top players, including safety Kurtis Drummond, running back Nick Hill, offensive lineman Travis Jackson, linebacker Taiwan Jones, running back Jeremy Langford, wide receiver Tony Lippett and defensive end Marcus Rush.

The seniors have been part of a school-record three straight bowl wins -- 2012 Outback, 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings, 2014 Rose -- and won the 2013 Big Ten Championship.

But nothing is more important or rewarding to Dantonio than watching his players develop from 18-year-old freshmen to 22-year-old professionals.

"You sort of see that chapter close, and it is an emotional time because there is a lot tied up," Dantonio said. "There is a lot of sacrifice, hard work, toughness, celebration, disappointment. You go through all those different experiences, I think as a coach with your players."

One player who comes to mind is Langford.

The senior wasn't always a running back, although his heart was set on being in MSU's backfield.

Dantonio recalled long discussions with Langford about what positions he would play. Langford was forced to play defensive back, but bounced back to the offensive side of the ball and eventually emerged as the Spartans' No. 1 running back last season.

Langford had big shoes to fill as Le'Veon Bell's replacement, but was more than ready for the challenge. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in 13 straight Big Ten games -- a school record and the longest active 100-yard streak in FBS for regular-season conferences games in the last 10 seasons.

He's the first MSU running back to record back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Javon Ringer in 2007-08, and leads the team in all-purpose yards (1,171) and scoring (90 points).

"To see him flourish like he did last year, that was a life lesson for a lot of our players and really a lot of coaches and probably myself, as well," Dantonio said. "Don't give up on players, see it through. Players, don't give up on your dreams. Players, experience other positions; it will help you grow.

"So there were a lot of lessons learned there. It will all work out. Cream will rise to the top."

The seniors and underclassmen hope to continue rising with a victory over Rutgers, which leads the all-time series 3-2, and snapped its three-game losing streak with a 45-23 victory over Indiana last weekend.

The Scarlet Knights boast a great duo in quarterback Gary Nova and wide receiver Leonte Carroo -- high school teammates who have grown into top players within the Big Ten conference.

The Spartans will have their hands full Saturday, especially after an emotional pregame ceremony. But they still have their sights set on important postseason goals.

After a 37-15 victory over Maryland last Saturday, the Spartans moved up two spots to No. 10 in the Associated Press poll, putting themselves in a prime position to still be considered for one of college football's top bowl games.

"The competitive nature of the group of people is really what's at stake," Dantonio said.


Michigan State's 18-member senior class includes: OL James Bodanis, OG Adam Brown, S Kurtis Drummond, SN Leland Ewing, TE Andrew Gleichert, LB Mylan Hicks, RB Nick Hill, OL Travis Jackson, WR John Jakubik, LB Taiwan Jones, DL James Kittredge, OL Connor Kruse, RB Jeremy Langford, WR Tony Lippett, WR Keith Mumphery, FB Matt Rea, DE Marcus Rush and P Mike Sadler. Skyler Burkland and Patrick Rhomberg, who both retired early from football due to injuries, are also being recognized with the 2014 class.