Oct. 15, 2011
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
The fascinating thing about tradition is, it's kind of like a time machine. Provide a reason for pulling it out of the archives, and there's an immediate understanding of how things were way back then.
Michigan State did just that with a 28-14 manhandling of Michigan in Spartan Stadium on Saturday.
This Spartan team is the first to beat U-M in four-straight games since 1962, and just like that, Edwin Baker, who rushed for 167 yards against the Wolverines, could relate to what Dewey Lincoln felt like when he put up 139 in a 28-0 victory over U-M 49 years earlier.
This group of seniors, led by the likes of offensive guard Joel Foreman, also has something distinctly in common with Larry Fowler, a guard on Michigan State's 1953 team, which also completed a four-game sweep of the Wolverines.
And what was it like when Michigan State College capped off an 18-game winless streak against Michigan with four consecutive wins from 1934-37?
Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins doesn't have to channel Sidney Wagner and Art Brandstatter to find out.
He knows for himself.
"You're looking at three seniors right here from the state of Michigan," Cousins said while flanked by Foreman and safety Trenton Robinson during the postgame press conference, "and for the rest of our life, we will walk the streets of this state (undefeated against U-M).
Cousins further distinguished himself by becoming the only Spartans quarterback to beat Michigan in three-straight starts. In fact, it would be interesting to find out if there's ever been another quarterback in the country, including those who played at Ohio State, who can make such a statement.
"I can walk away from my career never having lost to them as a starter," Cousins said. "I said earlier in the week to go 3-0 as a starter against them and to win four in a row as a part of this team would be as special a feeling as anything we've accomplished here.
"It's very, very special. We as a team, and we as individuals, have been underestimated for a large part of our careers. Wins like this are very, very satisfying for that reason."
Numerous former MSU players were in attendance, and there's a certain kind of energy that comes from tradition that only current and former players can share.
"Our fans were tremendous out there, outstanding," said Coach Mark Dantonio. "Anybody who's put on a green shirt that says `Spartans' on it is going to feel personal about this game.
"Now, you take that further (with) a guy that has played on this football team at some point and has gone through the trials and tribulations that go with playing football in general, (and) there's a lot of emotion. It links our players with every single player that has ever played here.
"That's strong. That's something that lasts a lifetime."
It's often said that MSU lacks the tradition of other national powers. Maybe it's just been dormant.
"We've been doing things since Coach Dantonio got here that are `firsts' or haven't been done in a long time here," Cousins said. "It's a credit to Coach Dantonio and the program he's building, and a credit to the guys who are a part of it."