SpartanMag - Sullivan on State: Take a few moments to reflect on some moments
{{ timeAgo('2021-04-18 13:23:21 -0500') }} football Edit

Sullivan on State: Take a few moments to reflect on some moments

I had to get a new phone.

I didn’t even see the windmilling until later in the evening.

Michael Geiger put the exclamation point on one of Mark Dantonio’s finest masterpieces and State had taken a sledgehammer to Columbus University’s hopes for assumed glory - once again.

As the ball sailed through the uprights, I sprinted out of the house as the family lost its collective mind and, with my body no longer under my own volition, I dove into the pool (and, therefore, I would need a new phone).

It made sense at the time.

And, truth be told, I had to organically and instantaneously create yet another way to celebrate yet another epic, never-to-be-forgotten, last second, dreamy, oh-my-God Spartan victory.

A few Saturdays ago, Jalen Suggs made it clear to the nation that Fifth Third was open after hours – and, from the very moment that Suggs created that MOMENT, I couldn’t help but think about how Gonzagians were experiencing... a gigantic thing – a MOMENT….. for the first time and how Spartans have had roughly 84 of them just in the last twenty years or so.

Suggs delivered his MOMENT to Gonzagaors and that MOMENT will forever be remembered by sports fans everywhere.

Gonzaganders will be able to proudly tout that as their MOMENT for as long as the there are people who insist that the Gonzagaians play in an official, NCAA-sanctioned athletic conference.

Imagine being a maniacal, loyal, proud fan of a college sports program that only had a single MOMENT.

Now imagine being a Spartan.

Lucky for us, we don’t have to imagine it.

And, with all due respect to Suggs and that astonishing capper to an all-timer of a ballgame, MOMENTS don’t have to occur in the Final Four.

When you’re lucky enough to be a maniacal, loyal, proud fan of the university that delivers epic MOMENTS on the hard court and on the gridiron as often as Gonzaga apologists claim that the West Coast Conference presents the Gonazagers with stiff competition, it can be hard to even remember them all.

Lucky for us, we remember where we were, what we were wearing, who we were with, precisely what the stakes were, and, what each MOMENT meant to State and to each of us as human people.

CASSIUS & GOINS TAKE DOWN ZION AND WOJO

Wasn’t Zion Williamson supposed to be able to defeat State all by himself while juggling fiery sabres and playing the entire game atop a unicycle?

Wasn’t that Duke team filled with McDonald’s All Americans and players who were lauded by Doug Gottlieb to be NBA-ready and also capable of unearthing the reason why people think Malcolm Gladwell should be recognized as some sort of soothsaying sage?

R.J. Barrett.

Cam Reddish.

Wojo.

Alaa Abdelnaby coming in off the bench.

That Duke team was stout.

Cassius Winston was well-respected – but he was small and kind of slow, wasn’t he?

Did anyone other than you and I even know who Xavier Tillman was?

Kenny Goins?

A fifth-year senior and former walk-on entered this game with as much of a college basketball profile as Jon Zulauf.

Oh – and then there was that little dynamic which consisted of Tom Izzo being 1-48 against Duke.

Yes, Jalen Suggs called “glass” as he was gracefully floating through the air just past the midcourt line as the clock was about to expire and a trip to the title game was on the line – but am I allowed to say that he didn’t really have anyone in his face and that, even if he missed the shot, Gonzagaites would have had another overtime to play?

The second Kenny Goins received the pass, did anyone in Green and White have any doubt about him drilling the shot?

We all saw Zion thundering at him.

Goins looked like Danny LaRusso and Zion looked like all of the biker dudes in the skeleton costumes and it felt like James Spader from “Less Than Zero” was floating on a creepy carpet in the general vicinity just relaxing and smirking right at Goins as the skeletons drew closer to the fifth-year senior former walk-on.

Bucket.

MOMENT.

Hitting Zion with the slung stone, Duke being treated like the University of New Jersey, earning an 8th Final Four under Izzo and the school’s 10th overall, watching Wojo weep – it all was glorious and great.

But then, Cassius took that beauty of a dime from Xavier and dribbled and ran all over the place as if he was the 4th grader at recess keeping the ball away from the slow 8th grade football players on the playground.

Cassius appearing to giggle as he evaded the skeleton bikers and Spader for what felt like an hour was its own MOMENT after the Goins’ MOMENT.

ROCKET

MOMENTS don’t have to occur in post-season games, bowl games, or games against one’s non-rival rival.

Sometimes a MOMENT happens when the stars properly align and the Masters of the Universe decide that fate will smile upon a certain group of human people.

Back in the glory days of the Big Ten when the divisions were smartly and cleverly labeled the “Leaders” and the “Legends” divisions, the nation was treated to one of the more incredible college football games with one of the most astonishing endings in the history of the sport when Bratwurst Bielema brought his Badgers to Beast Lansing on what was a glorious autumn evening along the banks of the Red Cedar River.

On October 22, 2011, State and Bratwurst were actually in the throes of a burgeoning rivalry after some epic battles that occurred while Mark Dantonio was getting the engine revved.

Before Russell Wilson was RUSSELL WILSON, he staged one of the more amazing individual performances by almost single-handedly having his Brats on the verge of having climbed their way back into the game and being alive for what was a certain overtime session after the squads had appeared to have reached the end of regulation time with the score knotted at 31.

Sure, there was the perfunctory final heave to be made by Kirk Cousins.

But momentum was with the Brats after Wilson clawed them back from being down 31-17 with only around seven minutes to play.

Cousins and State got a last shot with around thirty seconds to play and managed to reach midfield in time for the heave that would soar heavenward.

Do I really have to even describe what happened next?

How about this part?

Once the dust settled after a harum-scarum last-call-at-TheLandshark type of insanity, Weisswurst looked like he was back in 2nd grade and someone had taken his bologna sandwich.

And his pastrami sandwich wrapped in tin foil.

And his thermos of spaghetti and meatballs.

And his sandwich-baggy of hard-boiled eggs.

And his carton of Fig Newtons.

And his sack of Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies.

And his pail of fudge.

There should be a floor-to-ceiling image in Coach Novak’s weight room of Keith Nichol using every last ounce of his strength and guts to power the ball just enough and win the battle against Jared Abbredaris with a caption saying something groovy like “EVERY REP MEANS SOMETHING” or “PUSH AS HARD AS POSSIBLE AT ALL TIMES” or “THIS MOMENT HERE – COURTESY OF KEITH NICHOL – IS WHAT BEING A SPARTAN IS ALL ABOUT.”

SUMMERS AND HIS ROYAL FLUSH

Is it possible for a MOMENT to be an entire day or even an entire weekend?

On the one hand, you have Jalen Suggs strolling up to the teller at Wells Fargo and cashing out his account while winning the Lottery.

On the other hand, you have all of Detroit drenched in Green and White during a sun-soaked (and booze-soaked) weekend that featured a Final Four game for the ages culminating with one of the good guys delivering a royal flush and generating a thundering reverberation throughout the city that registered at least a 7.7 on the Charles Francis Richter Scale.

It didn’t end with what we all thought was the pre-determined result – Ole Roy saw to it that the party was shut down with a loud thud on Monday night.

But Saturday, April 4th, 2009 was a MOMENT and Durrell Summers will forever own the exclamation point.

The march to Izzo’s 7th Final Four had a typically epic win over 3rd seeded Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen, punctuated by Kalin Lucas’s lean-and-lurch three-point play late that sealed the win.

Then State took down the No. 1-seeded Louisville Cardinals, led by Table For Two Pitino in the Elite Eight – with everyone assuming Pitino would escort his club to the Final Four.

The Final Four in Detroit was, in effect, one overwhelmingly hearty, wild, beautiful, loud, proud, hilarious, and heartwarming celebratory bash at Crunchy’s with an endless supply of buckets.

UConn was the No. 1 seed from the West and the Huskies showed up for the game on Saturday.

But that crowd.

That entire mash.

The whole rumbling tidal wave of green just took over.

As the grudge match wore on, that thundering and rumbling mob desperately wanted to unleash everything that had been building up ever since the NCAA had announced that the Final Four would be held in The D.

With eight minutes left and State clinging to a four-point lead that felt like a seven-point deficit, Draymond Green scored four straight and UConn was on the ropes.

A couple of possessions changed hands.

UConn was hanging by a thread and it felt like a MOMENT was nigh.

Raymar Morgan deflected a pass intended for the high post and the ball went directly to Kalin Lucas.

Lucas pushed it.

As he hit the midcourt line, he fed a streaking Durrell Summers, who instantly hit the slow-mo button for everyone in the joint.

This was a MOMENT that felt like it played out over roughly six minutes.

Summers practically stutter-stepped his way into the lane and he kind of threw in a bit of a shimmy before he just demolished UConn’s poor Stanley Robinson with the royal flush to end all royal flushes.

I still wonder how the building withstood the shaking, the thunder, the damage being done by lunatics watching on monitors where refreshments were being sold, and how the Huskies managed to continue playing basketball for the final five minutes.

Clark Kellogg appeared on the verge of cardiac arrest as Jim Nantz referred to the shaking taking place.

CBS replayed the MOMENT 36 times before the next TV timeout.

The MOMENT wouldn’t last – but it sure as hell happened and we’re talking about it all these years later.

BY THE WAY…

Here’s the thing that Spartans can hang their hat on right now as it relates to the 2021 quarterback situation:

If Tucker goes with transfer portaler Anthony Russo, it’ll be clear that experience, maturity, size, assimilation into the program, decision-making, arm strength, motivation, and leadership will all be on display as State follows its transfer into battle.

On the other hand, if Tucker goes with Payton Thorne, it’ll be a clear indication that Thorne is about to bust out and begin what could be a very strong run as State’s field general.

Even when Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol were battling for the spot, we didn’t really know what the fellas had to offer.

Right now, we know Thorne has a whole lot of potential and that he’s shown flashes of greatness on the field.

And we know that Russo isn’t lousy, has been projected as a mid-round draft pick, and chose to come to State to boost his status and to win.

When was the last time there was a quarterback situation with this much upside during a “transition” period?

Gus Ornstein’s transfer?

THIS WILL JUST TAKE A SECOND.....

Memo to Lloyd Carr:

You deserved nothing.

The team that made the plays earned the victory.

UMAAers still whine and moan and whine some more about that last second that was left on the clock.

The whining out of that bunch is always misguided.

How about these facts from that war that featured the MOMENT that only needed one second to occur?

State ran the ball 53 times for 262 yards.

T.J. Duckett is best known from this game for corralling Jeff Smoker’s toilet paper toss for the game winner – but how about the fact that Duckett ran for 218 yards on 27 carries for an average gain of 7.8 yards?

UMAA ran the ball 30 times for 142 yards.

State possessed the football for 36:37.

UMAA held on to the football for 23:03.

How about penalties?

State was penalized twice for a total of 25 yards.

UMAA was flagged seven times for 76 yards.

First downs?

State earned 25 of them.

UMAA managed 14 of them.

State ran 90 plays in this football game.

90.

UMAA ran 57 plays.

How about kickoff returns?

State averaged a gain of 34 yards on kickoffs received.

UMAA averaged 18 yards on kickoffs received.

State picked off two UMAA passes and the Spartans did not turn the ball over.

And I guess it’s worth noting that State converted on the game’s final play – and a MOMENT was born and that MOMENT will live forever and ever.

Did Lloyd Carr ever bother to look at the stats (i.e. facts) from that game or was he too busy whining about what he thought Team 102 (or whatever the number of that team was) deserved?

UMAA didn’t even deserve to be in that football game based on the story that the stats tell.

Those stats tell the story of an angry velociraptor mauling an adolescent marsupial.

Spartan Stadium was electric for all moments on that crisp and sun-drenched November 3rd, 2001 afternoon.

But I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced a more electric Spartan Stadium than when State got exactly what it deserved in that MOMENT.

DJ SCOOPED AND SCORED

I managed to sneak into the Breslin Center on March 11, 1990.

I failed to purchase season tickets prior to the season but that was mostly due to me not paying very much attention to a lot of things that got in the way of my priorities and so I didn’t ever know anything about how a student would actually go about purchasing the season tickets, and I just kind of didn’t know very many things because I was focused on my priorities.

So, with Spring in the air and the Big Ten Championship on the line, Gene Keady and the Boilers combed-over their way into town to settle things on the final day of the regular season.

Not much was expected in the leadup to the 1989-90 season and, in fact, some folks were starting to mumble a bit about Jud.

Those people have since lost their mouths due to various karmic accidents that befell them.

That 1989-90 season had turned into a magical one with Steve Smith, Kirk Manns, Mike Peplowski, Matt Stegeinga, Mark Montgomery, Ken Redfield, Dwayne Stephens and plenty of others turning that winter into a non-stop shindig.

And on that final Sunday, I did what I had done for every other game that first season in the sparkling new gem, the Bres – I walked through one of the service entrances with one of those long, tall, green, metal, corrugated doors that gets pulled up and down.

I had become pals with some of the fellas who worked on stuff at the Bres and, by then, they were hip to my jive and we even started to chat about the game at hand when I’d show up.

That afternoon, one of the dudes walked me right down to the base of the basket, put a sticker of some sort on my shirt, and I watched the game from that spot.

The intensity level from the very start was commensurate with the intensity level of a love making session between Sinatra and Lollobrigida.

The place was going wild in the hopes of being able to hang a Big Ten Championship banner in the shiny, new rafters.

But there was a special intensity in the joint since everyone was pulling for Jud to get the title that he had not been able to reacquire since Magic flew off to LA.

A title would go a long way toward reminding the people that Jud knew what the hell he was doing.

A title would go a long way toward erasing the pain of that damn clock in Kemper Arena.

And, while nobody knew it at the time, a title that day probably went a long way toward assuring that Jud’s chief lieutenant would eventually take the program to never-before-imagined heights.

The air in the place was thick and sweaty and heavy and the angst overwhelmed any feelings of “joy” on that afternoon.

As I look back and think about what that afternoon was like, I get feelings of suffocation, pain, fear, worry, stress about the ATL blue book exam I had the next day on a novel I had yet to purchase, thirst stemming from the suffocation, and severe tightness in my chest that makes me feel like a borneo pygmy elephant is upon my person.

There wasn’t really anything “fun” about that game.

The battle was like Bodacious and Dippin Tahonta ramming into one another after each had had their keneegees tied up by a thin but Herculean (in terms of its strength) wiry rope.

State trailed by five with 1:59 to play and people were losing their minds.

Eventually, Purdue was inbounding the ball with a 70-69 lead with :35 seconds to play and, after a chaotic sequence featuring the ball careening all over the place like a bouncing football and people having heart attacks and strokes and seizures all throughout the venue, Dwayne Stephens scooped up the loose ball and, strangely, he softly laid the ball in the basket as if it were a month-old human baby for what would end up being the game winner.

MOMENT.

Steve Smith made a free throw and then State had to withstand a final, furious effort by Purdue that consisted of various Boilers throwing the ball at the backboard/general basket vicinity.

Prior to the clock zeroing out, the court was absolutely covered by crazed Spartans who were celebrating basketball greatness for the first time in far too long.

Yes, the clock came back around to serve, once again, as the Angel of Death in a game against Georgia Tech in the Sweet Sixteen and, if that game were played today, State would have been in the Elite Eight against Minnesota and Jud would have almost certainly reached his second Final Four.

But, when Stephens scooped and scored in those insane final seconds, nobody even realized that he had secured the next 30 years of Spartan Basketball.

So, this MOMENT actually is largely responsible for the countless MOMENTS Spartans have enjoyed over the last three decades.

“HE DROPPED IT!!!!!  HE DROPPED IT!!!!!!!  HOWARD DROPPED IT!!!!  

Let’s get one thing really, really straight –

He dropped the ball.

It was right, smack in his breadbasket.

Keith Jackson was not an idiot.

Go back and listen to Keith Jackson’s call as the play unfolds.

As the play happens and in the immediate aftermath of the chaos that consumes this MOMENT, Keith Jackson YELLS and also says “HE DROPPED IT” a total of five times.

You want to win the game as the No. 1-ranked team playing against your non-rival rival in your home stadium?

Catch the football.

“HE DROPPED IT!!!!! HE DROPPED IT!!!!!!! HOWARD DROPPED IT!!!! HE DROPPED IT….. HE HAD IT.......AND HE DROPPED IT.....”

It was literally right in the young man’s hands, chest, and overall upper body cavity.

Desmond Howard failed to catch the football.

Was he interfered with?

Not according to the officials.

But what does that have to do with the fact that the football was literally laid into his chest as if it was the human baby that Dwayne Stephens laid in the basket just a handful of months earlier in the Bres?

How about these unavoidable goodies, too?

If you’re the No. 1-ranked team in the nation and you have 1st and goal from inside the 5-yard line in the first half and you fail to ram it into the end zone on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down and you elect to go for it on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line, if you get stuffed by a defense that showed that toughness has been one of the key differentiators between these two football programs for a thousand years, you don’t have any room to whine about officiating later in the same game.

And if you miss a chip shot field goal toward the end of the first half, you need to look yourselves in the mirror and consider that you might have been outplayed.

I sat in the very last row in the corner of that student section with some pals and absolutely loved it when the UMAAers starting chanting “We’re Number 1!” after Desmond Howard returned a kickoff 96 yards to tie the game at 21 mid-way through the 4th quarter.

The people forget that despite a weird mark of 1-2-1 heading into that game, State was in the middle of a pretty damn good run as a program.

George Perles had a Big Ten title, a Rose Bowl victory, and he had two wins over UMAA in the previous five games played.

On this picture-perfect Autumn day, Perles drew even with Michigan over that six-year period with a classic, epic, bruising win that reverberates to this day.

It also played a key part in Perles winning his second Big Ten Championship (shared with Iowa, Illinois, and UMAA).

State manhandled UMAA all afternoon in the trenches, where truly tough teams win football games.

In retrospect, the manhandling sort of reminds me of the way my good friend, associate, and expert on things, Ferdinand Zhlugue, once destroyed five Rodeo Burgers (with everything), six hot dogs (just ketchup), and nine bottles of Budweiser at The Peanut Barrel on an otherwise humdrum Wednesday night.

Destruction and domination were the only things on the mind of Zhlugue on that particular Wednesday night.

State executed four brutal, time gobbling, Spartan-esque drives that each ended with brilliant touchdowns.

You’re whining about Desmond Howard dropping the ball?

Look at this:

52 rushes, 236 yards.

That’s what State did on the ground that afternoon.

That’s Ali – Wepner stuff right there.

How about this one –

25:14, 34:46.

The first number is UMAA’s time of possession.

The second number is State’s time of possession.

That’s sort of like the way Alice always had Sam The Butcher wrapped around her pinky finger.

First downs?

State had 15.

UMAA had 10.

Third down conversions?

State was 8 for 15 – good for 53%.

UMAA was 5 for 12 – good for 41%.

The statistics (i.e. the facts) should have led to the Big Ten mandating that UMAA players and coaches participate in the rest of its games nude.

UMAA was fortunate to be IN this football game, people.

But UMAA is UMAA and so the game came down to a mistake made by the officials.

The previous year, UMAA gutted out a well-earned 10-7 win at East Lansing and Schembechler, who, in his final season before transitioning into firing Ernie Harwell, was growing very annoyed with the way Perles and his program weren’t abiding by the rules that called for State to genuflect, said this after the game with familiar contempt and arrogance:

“The better team won.”

On October 18, 1990, in the bowels of UMAA Football Field, George Perles readied himself for the press in the immediate aftermath of a 28-27 win over the No. 1 team in the nation and the No. 2 team in the state.

He had his statement prepared for a full year.

It didn’t matter to Perles that Schembechler was gone.

And what Perles offered up didn’t have a hint of arrogance or contempt.

“The tougher team won.”

That was one hell of a MOMENT.

BY THE WAY....

In Mel Tucker’s first “season” as head coach at State, the Spartans finished 8th in the Big Ten against the run, allowing 157 yards a game, 3.9 yards a carry, and 20 touchdowns in seven games.

That’s not great.

Nobody in the program said it – but it had to be challenging for these guys to adjust to the 4-2-5 scheme with less practice time than Chrissy Metz spends wondering if she should just go ahead and add the sour cream, bacon bits, cheese, chocolate syrup, Fruity Pebbles, walnuts, and marmalade to her twice-baked potato.

Can we agree that Jalen Hunt was on the way to having a hell of a good season?

Have you seen the clips of Jalen Hunt in the weight room over the last few months?

I can’t be the only person who thinks Michael Fletcher – 6’6”, 265 pounds - has some Will Gholston in him, can I?

Jacub Panasiuk didn’t choose to play another season because he likes the smell of Luke Campbell’s breath.

Drew Beesley has gone from serviceable to being a guy I want on the field at all times.

Drew Jordan is 6’3”, 285 pounds and he didn’t come to East Lansing because of the fact that Duke doesn’t have a single academic kiva on its campus.

Would State’s defensive line be better with Jack Camper on the team or not on the team?

Zach Slade hasn’t come this far to get dominated by dudes who play for Northwestern and Maryland, has he?

Speaking of Cleveland, Jacob Slade goes 6’4” and tips the scales at 310 as a defensive tackle – just have him stand out there.

How about Deshaun Mallory? He’s 6’2”, he weighs 300 pounds, and he’s good at football. Let’s keep him.

Jeff Pietrowksi is going to be pushed by the staff to bulk up but the last name makes me think he knows how to mash people on opposing teams.

Brandon Wright – sure, let’s get this stud into the mix and see if he can’t throw some oil in the faces of the dudes on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

I just listed 37 members of the 2021 Michigan State defensive line and none of them are crappy at football.

Another year in the system.

Another year of experience playing together.

More toughness and meanness instilled over the last year.

State’s had some defensive lines over the last 10 years or so that have been among the best in all of college football thanks to NFLers in the rotation.

But I really don’t know the last time that this program had a defensive line with this much depth and such little drop-off from top to bottom.

The 157 yards a game this defense gave up last year – it’s a safe bet that the number dwindles in 2021.

The fellas have to get to the quarterback from the edge, though.

Do that…….. then watch out, people.

COLD PIZZA WASN’T JUST A MORNING SPORTS SHOW ON TV

I once worked with a diminutive UMAAer who carried his UMAAness really well.

A few days prior to the 2013 Big Ten Championship football game in which State was squaring off with No. 2 Columbus, my colleague (he wasn’t on equal footing with me within the company’s corporate structure but I’m trying to show professionalism and I’m choosing to respectfully call him my ‘colleague’) asked me what I thought was going to happen that Saturday night in Minneapolis.

I had to correct him and let him know that the Big Ten Football Championship Game was held in Indianapolis each year.

I told him it was an understandable mistake and that I had just recently made a similar sort of mistake when I insisted to someone that the Outdoor World Archery Championships were held annually, not knowing that it has skipped a year since its inception in 1931 and that I had made the mistake due to a simple unfamiliarity with the event.

Once I had gotten past that with my colleague - we’ll call him Dirk Morgenflap - I told him that I had already said to my pals that State would beat Columbus 34-21.

Morgenflap laughed in my face.

Actually, he laughed up at my face since he went about 5’4”.

Columbus was, of course, a juggernaut and State was, according to Morgenflap, lucky to be there.

Denicos Allen made his case for MOMENT DELIVERER when he stymied Braxton Miller on 4th and 2 with the game in the balance after the two heavyweights exchanged blow after blow for more than three hours.

But, for some reason, Jeremy Langford’s dash for paydirt that went through, around, and over a punch drunk, overmanned, and out-toughed Columbus defense will always serve as the MOMENT from this one for me.

It happened in slow motion.

As Langford appeared to power into the open field, the Immaculate Deflection in the corner against Notre Dame in 1990, the blocked field goal at Evanston in 1997, the inability to cover Braylon Edwards in 2005, Iowa picking off Yarema in the endzone in 1986, Hyland Hickson fumbling in the waning moments against Jeff George and the Illini in 1989, and the fourteen things that happened in the final two minutes at West Lafayette in 1997 all washed away.

Urban Meyer, at the time, was considered to be a water walking virtuoso and there were even rumors that Meyer would agree to co-host a weekly show on global socioeconomics with Christiane Amanpour on CNN.

The image of him sitting in that golf cart eating cold Domino’s Pizza - what were his handlers thinking, letting him sit there to look like a naked Cheswick playing cards against McMurphy?

Ah, but, for me, my real MOMENT that stemmed from this MOMENT came on Monday when Morgenflap was so eager to point to the supposed mistakes made by Columbus and I apologized for getting my predicted final score so wrong.

BY THE WAY...

On Halloween of 2020, Ricky White caught eight passes for a total of 196 yards.

One of the eight catches was a touchdown.

Ricky hauled in spectacular catches all day but the one that went for 50 yards down along the Spartan sideline that afternoon went a long way toward securing the gut punch.

Ricky was a freshman last season and while he didn’t ever recapture the magic from Halloween again, he sure did show me that he can play football.

Jalen Nailor and Jayden Reed are poised to bust out as stars.

The new guy that Tucker just plucked from the transfer portal – he’s 6’4”, 215 pounds and his name is Christian Fitzpatrick.

I can’t be the only person who thinks that Tre Mosley – at 6’2”, 190 pounds - feels a little bit like a slicker and speedier Keith Mumphrey, can I?

C.J. Hayes is a Spartan.

Montorie Foster was rated the No. 3 wide receiver in the state of Ohio as a high school senior – and he gained valuable experience in every game last season as a freshman. The fact that he’s still on the roster says all I need to know about what he might be able to do.

The point?

When it comes to wide receivers, State has some guys.

These dudes aren’t chumps.

Give either Russo or Thorne some time, make sure these dudes run crisp, disciplined routes, fill them up with rusty Catsrol GTX Motor Oil and opposing defenses are going to have to deal with these guys.

KYLER ELSWORTH CAN BORROW MONEY FROM ME ANY TIME HE NEEDS MONEY

Seriously, if this cat ever needs any money, I’ll happily loan him some and I’ll give him a very gracious interest rate.

Like Kenny Goins, Kyler Elsworth was originally a walk-on.

My wife told me that if she was a student at State during the time when Elsworth was roaming around, she would have liked to have given him an open-mouthed kiss.

Considering what this Spartan did to provide us all with one of the best MOMENTS of our lives, I’d be fine with my wife planting an open-mouthed kiss on Kyler right now.

The MOMENT was so quintessentially Dantonio Era and it so appropriately represented the climb and the work and the toughness and the pride and the ability to defeat the program with a high-ranking assistant coach who said it would “intellectually stymie” State in the leadup to that Rose Bowl.

Kyler Elsworth intellectually bludgeoned Stanford and decades of frustration when he perfectly stopped the Cardinal on that 4th-down play with the sun disappearing behind the San Gabriel Mountains in a MOMENT that will forever be frozen in my mind.

When Jalen Suggs calmly created the Gonzaga MOMENT, he did it as a key member of the Zagalanians’ squad with averages of 14.1 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, 4.6 assists per game, and a 50.2 field goal percentage so it wasn’t as if Suggs had to learn the offensive sets prior to the tilt.

Kyler Elsworth didn’t exactly have to learn the defensive schemes in the week leading up to that Rose Bowl – but he did need to step in for All Everything Star Legacy Middle Linebacker Max Bullough after Bullough was nixed from the game for doing bad stuff.

Elsworth left his hotel room only for practice and for the Monday night karaoke in the hotel bar – other than that, he kept his eyes on film of the Cardinal and was literally ready for the exact play that Stanford went with on that 4th down.

Sure, if the winner of the game was to be determined by the intellectual understanding of Rudi Dornbusch’s economic theory of Exchange Rate Overshooting, maybe Stanford might have stymied State (although I wouldn’t have bet my Dornbusch against State on that).

Elsworth’s commitment to intellectual mastery of the Stanford offensive platform created a MOMENT for us.

I have a photograph hanging on my wall in my basement that a friend of mine somehow managed to capture at the exact moment at which Elsworth reached the apex of his jump and stymied whoever the guy was from Stanford who meekly tried to advance the ball for a first down.

I think the Stanford assistant who said State would be “intellectually stymied” is now serving time as the passing game coordinator for Brady Hoke at San Diego State.

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I’ve always found it interesting that when there are cultural analyses and esoteric testimonials offered by true giants of Americanism on the impact UMAA’s Fab Five had and, apparently, continues to have on all corners of the American zeitgeist, this game that was played on March 4, 2000 and served as an epilogue to the Fab Five’s “accomplishments” isn’t ever referenced.

Failing to include what Tom Izzo, Mateen Cleaves and the eventual National Championship Spartans did to the UMAA basketball program that day is like failing to include that one part about Richard Nixon’s life as a civil servant where he was forced to resign. Tom Izzo knows every nook and cranny of the lead up to the way the Fab Five “changed things across the landscape.” Jud wouldn’t stoop to Bill Frieder’s level nor would he even acknowledge that Bill Frieder’s successor was born on 3rd base. What UMAA did to deliver the Fab Five to America gets so blatantly overlooked and ignored.


The glorification of “the run” that failed to win a single championship of any kind tempts me to just ignore the 108 years of futility that preceded the Cubs’ World Series Championship in 2016 and refer to the title as the continuation of the 1907/1908 dynasty. You don’t think the destruction that took place in the Breslin Center on that Spring day in 2000 was a MOMENT? My close friend, associate, and expert on things, Ferdinand Zhlugue, put it to me this way just last night while we were settling into our booth at Ponderosa in Fairlington: Michael Corleone never banked one in from near half court in overtime to win a Final Four game - but when he took out all of the heads of the Five Families (and Moe Greene) while he stood with solemnity over the Baptism of his son, that was a MOMENT. Izzo didn’t take his foot off the gas. UMAA helped by being a feckless gaggle of roosters that wouldn’t have competed in the Central Suburban CYO High School Basketball League. Whatever the banners were that the NCAA told UMAA to take down, that punishment was like a tasty rhubarb pie compared to what UMAA knew it deserved, earned, and had to endure on the afternoon that ended with Izzo and his program - with Jud watching - just pounding the life out of a program that had been living a fraudulent existence theretofore.

HE’LL HAVE TROUBLE WITH THE SNAP ALWAYS FOREVER INFINITY ETERNALLY

Nothing will ever change what happened.

It’s like wondering if Hobbs is maybe going to whiff on the last pitch.

He’s not going to.

He’s always forever infinity eternally go yard and the lights are always going to explode into a fireworks display.

Nor is Balboa ever going to fail to beat Creed on the count.

Balboa is always forever infinity eternally going to manage to work his way up the ropes and Creed is always forever infinity eternally going to slump to the canvass.

Nor are Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise ever going to fail to get the tubes and socks and bags and ropes and tape and batteries and things connected properly in order to successfully follow all of the gimbal calculations so that they can re-enter the earth’s atmosphere without succumbing to any fiery explosions so that they can safely return to the planet.

One of the more under-addressed elements of this MOMENT is this:

Nobody will ever convince me that if the Australian doesn’t have trouble with the snap that the Spartans do not absolutely demolish that poor kid before he gets the punt off.

There were eleven locomotives STEAMROLLING at full speed at the Australian and those missiles were all going to plow into their mark – and, from my perspective, this was the major factor in the Australian having trouble with the snap since he saw the avalanche coming and he peeked up for an instant and mistook the football players for starved hyenas and rabid members of the Sons of the Harpy.

Jake Butt was seen as some sort of folk hero by UMAAers and he’s gotten off scot-free ever since the MOMENT occurred for playing football like Waylon Smithers Jr., and just flat-out curling up into a baby ball and then trying hard to look like he was doing his best to save the day with a tackle but, oh, he didn’t quite get to making the tackle in time, it seems.

How about the fact that nobody ever asked the UMAA Ira and Norris Kloomfoggle Head Football Coach if he or anyone on his staff had ever actually explained to the Australian kicker that American college football rules (which were the official rules of the game being played that afternoon) do not require the ball to be kicked in that scenario?

“Coach - Blake O’Neill is from Australia and the rules of football and curling and darts are different where he’s lived and played these sports his whole life. When he arrived at UMAA or even in the huddle during that last time out, did you ever say to him that if he bobbles or drops the ball or if he has trouble with the snap, he can just fall on the ball and he won’t get a ticket from the police for doing that?”

Seems like that might have been something people might have considered asking after this MOMENT but what do I know? I’m just a basement dweller.

The ball is always forever infinity eternally going to softly plop right into Jalen Watts Jackson’s arms like a pillowcase filled with marshmallows and gumdrops.

The UMAA punting unit is always forever infinity eternally going to be so shocked and stupefied to do anything other than sort of kind of traipse after Jalen Watts Jackson, who is being escorted to the endzone with more protection, security, assurance, and intense commitment than John F. Kennedy was when ushered by the Secret Service into the various back entryways of the White House with friends of his who he was hoping to simply watch Jack Benny with up in the residence in peace and without all of the distractions of the nattering nabobs.

This MOMENT is a true MOMENT.

It won’t ever change.

It will exist always forever infinity eternally.

Did it win a Final Four game or a championship?

No.

It actually won more than that.

Thanks for reading – I’ll be back in a moment.

Crowley Sullivan is a 25-year veteran of the sports media industry. He spent ten years at ESPN where he won two Emmys and a Peabody Award for his work as a Producer on the iconic series “SportsCentury.” As an Executive, he led ESPN Classic and ESPNews Programming and served as an Executive Producer for ESPN Original Entertainment. He also has served as EVP/GM of Campus Insiders, he’s been a USA Today Sports contributor, and he now oversees UFC Fight Pass as its VP/GM. And, he once at lunch and dinner at The Peanut Barrel for 26 consecutive days/nights.