Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio is a pretty humble guy, especially considering the amount of success he has attained in his rather short tenure with the Spartans over nearly the last decade, but that doesn’t always mean he doesn’t deserve credit. On Tuesday, a piece was released that seems to finally be giving Dantonio a bit of what he’s due.
ESPN writer Dan Murphy has released his grades for the Michigan State Spartans this year, and while MSU has shocked a lot of the analysts with their Big Ten Conference championship and trip to the playoffs, it should come as no surprise that the coach himself receives Murphy’s highest marks with an A+ rating. In a year that saw injury fell the Spartans throughout the season, as well as suffering a heartbreaking loss to Nebraska, Dantonio remained a constant bright spot for his team. His motto for the season of “Reach Higher” seeming to finally pay off with that Dantonio has been striving for all along: A playoff berth and a chance for his first-ever national title.
Just because Dantonio scored high marks according to the piece, doesn’t mean that other key aspects of the overall whole for MSU are lagging far behind. The offense was given a solid B ranking thanks in large part to their gun-slinging quarterback who fought through injury in Connor Cook, who is playing his last year with Michigan State. The wide receivers (especially the likes of favorite weapon Aaron Burbridge) and fresh running game in the latter-half of the season also factored into the ranking. As for the defense, their strong performance in the tough conference series match ups and final three games which included battles with Ohio State and Iowa earned them a B grade, too.
The only item getting less than a B grade on the team was the special teams, which ended with a C+ grade according to Murphy. Their struggles early in the season were painfully-hard to forget for many MSU fans and hopefully a thing of the past.
Cook earned the “player of the year” nod (as well as winning the very real 2015 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award this week, too) and the “play of the year” mention went to former unknown player Jalen Watts-Jackson, who ran in the fumbled kick for a Michigan State touchdown in the final seconds of the Michigan game that will likely go down as a “play of eternity” candidate for all Spartans fans.
Another shocking note from the piece is the “stat of the year”, which was twenty-seven seconds, or the total amount of time left on the clock when Michigan State sealed its three biggest victories of the year in 2015 (Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa). It was truly one of the most nail biting and exciting seasons in Michigan State history… and it’s not over yet – Michigan State will play Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on New Year’s Eve.