If Saturday was the last time Michigan State fans would get to lay their eyes on Le’Veon Bell wearing the green and white during a regular season game, it was worth it.
Well, nothing is quite worth the thought of losing a talented running back like Bell to the NFL, but his performance was incredibly-inspiring all the same.
Michigan State rolled into Minnesota with a 5-6 record, teetering on the razor-thin edge of bowl-eligibility for the first time in years. Without a victory against the Gophers, the Spartans’ season would be done, and what many had hoped would be the biggest season for MSU in recent memory would have become a complete wash of outrageous proportions.
Well… clearly, it is still that in many ways.
But with their 26-10 win, Michigan State and head coach Mark Dantonio salvaged a bit of respect for their dismal season as they finish the regular season with a 6-6 record and a shot at a bowl game to keep that post-season streak alive; And just who do they have to thank for that? None other than Bell and the incredible MSU defense–both of which coach Dantonio praised after the game.
“I thought our defense, obviously, was dominant,” Dantonio told reporters.
Obviously. So obvious was the Spartans’ dominance, that the match up marked the fourth time this season that the green and white held an opponent from scoring an offensive touchdown for the span of an entire game.
“That’s the mind-set we had,” defensive tackle Micajah Reynolds said. “We wanted to be one of the most dominant defenses in the country and we’ve done that and we’re going to continue to do that as long as we have this coaching staff here. That will be our mentality.”
On top of that, the win at Minnesota also saw the fewest offensive yards for an opponent let up by MSU, as well.
“We talked about it all week,” linebacker Max Bullough said. “It’s a program win. We were in the same situation in 2007, I think it was, and needed to win the last game and go to a bowl game, a similar situation in 2009. So that’s something that people are going to remember. No matter how tough the season was if you can come back and win the last game to win and play in a favorable bowl game that’s a good sign.”
As for Bell, who had career-high 266-yards on the day and a rushing touchdown, should he decide to bolt the program in the off-season for the 2013 NFL Draft, it will go down as one of the top performances by a running back in school history.
“They challenged us to stop him and we couldn’t get that done,” said Minnesota defensive end D.L. Wilhite. “He’s a great player.”
And though the temperatures were freezing in the cold confines of TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Bell was clearly on fire despite the harsh, bitter weather.
“I felt real good today,” Bell said. “Cold day, but I like running in the cold.”
His fellow players respect him and they know their team stands a much-better chance in the future with him on the field, but in the end, only Bell himself can make up his own mind if staying another year at Michigan State would be right for him.
“He’s a player, man,” Bullough said about Bell. “He’s done that all year. If you give him the ball enough times, it’s going to be spectacular. He has been the past two-three years, so that’s something we’ve grown to expect out of the guy. Hopefully it’s for a couple more years.”
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