EAST LANSING, Mich. — Each time he completed one of his pregame tasks on Saturday, Brian Allen said to himself, “This is the last time.”
Maybe that should have led to more emotion before his final game at Spartan Stadium. It didn’t. The stone-faced senior center even took some solace in knowing that he would no longer have to do the things he hated.
“I actually hate sleeping at the Kellogg [Hotel and Conference Center], so I’m kind of pleased I don’t have to stay there anymore,” Allen said. “The food’s great and everything. For whatever reason, I just can never sleep there. I don’t know. I’m excited I don’t have to sleep there anymore.”
It’s not that he and his fellow seniors haven’t enjoyed their time at Michigan State. But getting caught up in the emotions before a game can be detrimental. So they did their best to avoid it.
“I was fine, honestly, juggling the emotions,” said senior linebacker Chris Frey, the other captain alongside Allen. “I thought it was gonna be a little tougher than that. I just tried to focus on the game and the task at hand and getting the win today.”
Besides, the finality of senior day tends to be overblown. Michigan State’s 17-7 win over Maryland won’t be its last time hitting the field this season. The Spartans take on Rutgers in New Jersey next weekend and then face a not-yet-named opponent in a not-yet-decided bowl game.
At 8-3, Michigan State has already made a more-than-satisfactory response to its 3-9 finish in 2016. But the Spartans still want more. They want a 10-win season. That attitude has defined the seniors.
“To me, what sticks out about our senior class is that they’re the bounce-back class,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “After last season, they came in this year with a lot of young players, not a very big senior class, and they had to make something out of it, because it starts with them.
“It starts with their leadership, because at the very beginning, who were our leaders? They were our seniors.”
Most of that leadership comes off the field. But as they have all year, the captains led the way on it as well. Allen anchored the offensive line, and Frey collected 7 tackles, a pass breakup and half a sack.
They relished the frigid, wet weather in East Lansing, Mich., and in the end shared laughs and smiles instead of tears. They also gave the Spartans logo at midfield a well-earned kiss.
“It wasn’t a real one, because it was muddy out there,” Frey laughed. “I got close enough that my nose was muddy.”
And the seniors are almost close enough to smell their impending bowl game. But they haven’t reached that point yet, so now is not the time for tears.
“It still really hasn’t hit me,” Allen said, “and I’m sure when we get to that final week, I’m going to think, ‘Crap. It’s over.’ “