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November 23, 2013
Legends Again! 30-6
EVANSTON, Ill. - The brief history of the Big Ten Legends Division will show that no school won the title more than Michigan State.
The Spartans cinched their second Legends Division Championship in three years when they defeated Northwestern, 30-6, Saturday at Ryan Field.
"We're not done," said Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, as he held a Legends Division Champions hat in his hand, outside the Spartan locker room. "It's a great feeling to have this hat in my hand right now but hopefully we'll only be wearing it for two weeks and then we can switch it out."
No. 13-ranked Michigan State (10-1, 7-0) will finish the regular season next Saturday against Minnesota on Senior Day at Spartan Stadium. Then the Spartans will face Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis on Dec. 7, with the winner earning a berth in the Rose Bowl.
"Next week, we play Minnesota in our last home game, Senior Day, so it could be an emotional experience. We need to go out on an upswing. We need to go upward, swinging into that Championship Game. We will play for something additional this next week."
Next year, the Big Ten will re-align into East and West divisions. The Legends and Leaders divisions will be retired. Michigan State, in 2011, was the first team to win the Legends Division, and it will be the last.
"We have won 10 or more games three out of the last four years," Dantonio said. "That culture is here, that foundation is here, and it belongs to the players. The chemistry that is created here is created by the players. Coaching only takes you so far. Players make plays."
Junior running back Jeremy Langford rushed for 150 yards on 25 carries, with TD runs of 20 and 37 yards for the Spartans against Northwestern (4-7, 0-7). Langford has gained at least 100 yards in six straight games.
"Another great job by Langford," Dantonio said. "He has really come to play. His confidence is at an all-time high. He is doing everything right, not just on the football field. He's doing everything right with school, leading, and everything, and that's just at tribute to his character."
Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook zipped through frigid conditions and strong wind to complete 16 of 23 passes for 293 yards, including an 87-yard TD pass to Bennie Fowler in the second quarter, and a 15-yard TD pass to Josiah Price.
Six different Spartans had at least two catches. Fowler led the way with two catches for 99 yards.
"Once again, all of our wide receivers get involved in it," Dantonio said. "They're all playing."
Tony Lippett had three catches for 64 yards, including 48-yarder deep into a cover-three seam on the first play of the second half.
"They (Northwestern) made the decision to go against the wind in the third quarter, so we came out throwing it," Dantonio said. "The wind was definitely a factor, as you saw at the end of the first half (when the Spartans chose not to call a time out and ran out of time on the final drive of the second quarter despite crossing midfield). We just didn't want to give them the ball back with the wind.
"We continue to get better on offense," Dantonio added. "We're not just a great defensive team. We're a balanced team. We're a good special teams team. We're a good offensive team that has the ability to strike with big plays and run the ball as well. That's what we have tried to accomplish as the season has progressed."
Michigan State also played in the Big Ten Championship Game in 2011, losing in the final minute to Wisconsin, 42-39.
"We're a little different football team than we've been in 2010 and 2011," Dantonio said. "We have come here the hard way, a little bit of a Cinderella team in some respects because of some struggles September, and we're climbing the hard way, and that makes people appreciate things."
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