No. 16 Michigan State (10-3) ended its season on a high note on Thursday, beating No. 18 Washington State (9-4) 42-17 in the 2017 Holiday Bowl at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego.
The win marked coach Mark Dantonio’s 100th at Michigan State and gave the Spartans their eighth season in program history with double-digit wins. All this after a 3-9 season in 2016.
1. Michigan State finally played the complete game Mark Dantonio was looking for
Throughout the season, Michigan State struggled to put it all together in one game. The defense usually dominated, and when it did, the offense would play a mistake-riddled game and struggle to move the ball. When quarterback Brian Lewerke had things rolling, the defense would miss tackles all over the place.
Finally, everyone was clicking in one performance. After a rough opening few drives through the air, Lewerke got his rhythm going with Felton Davis and Cody White. He was aided by tough running from LJ Scott (110 yards, 18 carries). On defense, the Spartans didn’t get much pressure, but their tackling was sure and the secondary locked down Washington State’s receivers. What a time to put together possibly their best performance of the year, even if it came against an undermanned Cougars squad.
2. Give Mark Dantonio his due if you haven’t already
Michigan State has now won five bowl games in the last seven years. The ills of a 3-9 year were cured incredibly quickly, and a 2017 Michigan State team expected to simply start the rebuilding process surprised the nation with 10 wins. For that, Dantonio deserves as much credit as he got criticism after last season.
The Spartans largely stayed out of the news away from the field and made the biggest headlines for what it did on it. Faced with close battles, they almost exclusively came out on top, showing a level of maturity rare for a team this young.
3. Excitement for the future should only be growing
Sure, seniors made some good plays. Quarterback Damion Terry ran in for a touchdown in his final game, and linebacker Chris Frey recovered a fumble. But the consistent production came from the youngsters.
Sophomore linebacker Joe Bachie was all over the place, finishing with 6 tackles. Freshman wide receiver White reeled in 2 touchdown catches and finished with 3 grabs for 41 yards. Sophomore Justin Layne locked down at cornerback. The list goes on. Only a small handful of contributors are expected to depart Michigan State, but the vast majority of the rotation returns. After a 10-win season, there’s no reason the Spartans shouldn’t be better next year.