Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Big Ten Memories - Michigan State

East Lansing has become one of my favorites places to travel to. The stadium is set close to campus and on the banks of the Red Cedar. And most often Hawkeye fans are guaranteed a good game when going there. Not always is Iowa on the winning end, but typically the game goes down to the final minutes.

My first trip to Michigan State was in 1990. It would be the first of two road wins in the state of Michigan, an accomplishment that is rare. It was a defensive struggle and the Hawkeyes prevailed. On my way out of the stadium that day I heard a few fans disappointed with head coach George Perles and lauding the job done by Iowa's Hayden Fry. One fan walked aside me on the way to the field afterwards from my perch in the end zone. He wasn't happy with the loss but wanted me to tell Hawkeye fans how fortunate they were to have a coach like Fry.

Our first trip with Head Coach Kirk Ferentz came after his first win as Hawkeye head coach. We felt good with the win but knew we were facing one of the Big Ten's best in the Spartans. Not only were they the best that day, but we helped make them look like national champs. It didn't matter which phase of the game, Michigan State was 100% better than us that day as we lost 49-3. The highlight came when Tim Dodge returned the opening kick off of the second half deep into Michigan State territory. I don't remember getting a first down and we settled for the field goal. The highlight of the day was that we finished in less than three hours and were able to quickly return to Iowa City.

The last two trips had some of the more memorable games in the series. In 2008 Shonn Greene was stopped on 4th down and Michigan State ran the clock out attaining one first down. The next year it was a cold damp night game, one of the few in the history of Spartan Stadium. Many will remember the final play of Stanzi to McNutt for the touchdown setting a school record of consecutive wins to start a season at 8. Prior to the game we showed our motivational video to the team. It was my week to create it and Ricky Stanzi suggested the song. We like to take requests and use them the best we can, but for this game, with what was riding on it, I was skeptical to use the suggestion. But it was very appropriate.

Early in the week Stanzi dropped by with his suggestion. My response was that I'm a big fan of the song, but didn't know if the team would like it. He strongly encouraged me to use it as the team would find it very motivational. I'm an 80s guy and get motivated by the music of the era, but didn't know how it would relate to players born at the end of the decade. Well, it worked and Stanzi found me in the locker room afterwards telling me that it was because of the song that the team was able to get it done at the end. I laughed inside knowing it didn't have anything to do with it. The video found its way again later in the season, re-edited again for the public. It was played on Hawk Vision, amended with highlights later in the year, and the motivational part taken out. The song of that video and hit film was Journey's "Don't Stop Believin.'"

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