EAST LANSING - All week, Michigan State repeated one phrase: November is for contenders. From coaches to players, the sentiment echoed.
Saturday against Minnesota, that mentality was tested. But contenders are not judged on style, they're defined by wins and losses. And the Spartans used fourth quarter will to get theirs, outlasting a motivated Golden Gopher team 31-24.
Instead of the commonly used mantra of the Dantonio era (to go 1-0 each week and never look ahead), the Spartans switched gears and embraced November as a whole as a sort of playoff scenario. It wasn't pretty Saturday at Spartan Stadium, but Michigan State survived and advanced.
"We talked about emotion all week long,that Minnesota would come with emotion. We were going to have to match that." Mark Dantonio said. "That's exactly what they did. I thought they got off to a fast start, obviously. But we kept playing. Sometimes it's not pretty, but we continued to play.
"In the fourth quarter, I thought we were emotionally as good as we were the entire football game. If you want it at anytime, you would want it in the fourth quarter than in the first. Football is a game, there's no question, it's a game of emotion. It's a game of execution. There's so many different things that go on in a game. That's why I think it's so fascination to so many different people. There are so many elements and so many different players playing and so many different side stories and those types of things. 7-2, we'll take it and move forward."
In the second round of their November playoff, MSU head back on the road to face division-opponent Iowa. And no Spartan fan needs a reminder of last year's debacle in Iowa City to understand that motivation will not be an issue in East Lansing this week.
"Certainly it's exciting to go back there and get a chance to play much better than last year," Kirk Cousins said. "At the same time, we try to take each game individually and just go there and play. It's a new team this year on both sides of the ball.
"Obviously we want to make it personal each and every week to find as much motivation as possible, and with last year's result we can find a way to make it personal."
"We'll win any way we can." - Pat Narduzzi
"We believe in each other and we believe that even if something does happen, we can push forward." - Trenton Robinson