INDIANAPOLIS — Mark Dantonio showed just about every card he had in his hand. Run, pass, option, quarterback sneaks, even a gutsy onside kick attempt that almost worked early in the fourth quarter in a three-point game.
But when it really mattered, when Michigan State led 27-24 with 5:41 remaining, and when it had a chance to put the Big Ten title game on ice, Dantonio went with what had gotten him this far: Jeremy Langford. The offensive MVP of the team throughout the season, Langford was struggling to find any type of running room against a suffocating Ohio State defensive line. The Spartans junior back had just 67 yards on 19 carries, a measly average of 3.5 yards per tote.
Most other coaches would move on. Try something new. You could almost feel the anxiety of the Spartan faithful, wondering what was to come next? Are we going to give Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller one more chance?
But who were we kidding? Mark Dantonio’s team wasn’t going to let another Big Ten Championship slip through his team’s hands. Not this night. Not on this stage, with this much riding on the line.
The Spartans’ offense went right at that Ohio State defensive line, relying on what has been the staple of this Michigan State offense all season long — running the football.
“I knew my team was counting on me to put away the game,” Langford said. “I owed it to my teammates to answer the call.”
Langford burst through a hole for a gain of 16 on the first play of the drive. First down Spartans. Langford ran it up the gut of the Ohio State defense. Gain of eight yards.
And then, on the sixth play of the drive, Langford broke off a run that will forever be remembered in Michigan State football history. A burst of speed to the outside, past one defender, past two defenders, touchdown Spartans.
And just like that, minutes after you thought Michigan State’s offense was out of answers, the Spartans answered in the biggest way possible. And it couldn’t have been more fitting. Who better to put the game away than a guy who had switched positions more times than the number of fingers on your hand.
Langford was special all season long, 1,210 yards on the ground, 16 rushing touchdowns, and plenty of awards coming his way. But Saturday night, he was a man on a mission, showing the MSU faithful that Dantonio made the right decision to side with him as his starting running back this season.
“I think my past had something to do with this game,” Langford said. “I felt like I had something to prove.”
Here’s what he proved: 149 total yards, 116 of which came in the second half. Think about that, 116 yards in a half against one of the best run defenses in the conference, on the biggest stage he has ever played on up to this point.
It was fitting that Langford had the winning score — one that pushed the Spartans to their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1988.
A trip to Pasadena awaits. And for Langford, it was a dream come true.
“We left our place in history,” he said. “We’re going to be remembered forever.”
No one will ever argue that.
|About Sean Merriman||BTN.com web editor Sean Merriman covers football and men’s basketball and provides original content for BTN.com. You can follow him on Twitter @BTNSean.|