Oct. 20, 2012
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The entirety of Donavon Clark's playing experience at Michigan State was barely enough to earn him a varsity letter, let alone a starting assignment at left offensive tackle in front of 113,833 fans in Michigan Stadium.
But that was the situation the red-shirt freshman found himself in Saturday when 20-consecutive-game starter Dan France was ruled out of MSU's game against Michigan because of a concussion.
All that was missing was Clark's storybook ending, because the Spartans suffered a 12-10 defeat.
"You work all week, you work through winter conditioning, and all the reps you do, and to come up short like this...," Clark said, ending his thought before expressing what it would have felt like to be one of MSU's heroes in victory under such circumstances. "But, it is what it is and after this we just have to move on to the next one."
Clark was forewarned on Friday that his number could be called and wasn't daunted by the nod.
"I just had to make sure I was in the right mind-set at that time," he said. "I just had to stay focused on what I had to do and go through all the plays in my head."
After a false-start penalty on the Spartans' third play, Clark settled down and held his own against the Wolverines.
"The jitters were mostly all gone by the end of the first quarter," Clark said. "I thought I did pretty good. I just did what I had to do for the team."
With Clark responsible for protecting quarterback Andrew Maxwell's blind side, Michigan State's depleted and patchwork offensive line allowed just one sack. Maxwell completed 21-of-34 passes for 192 yards and one touchdown in what he called a "heartbreaking" defeat.
The running attack, led by Le'Veon Bell with 68 yards on 26 carries, produced just 112 yards on 31 rushes.
"I think we did good and we just have to make sure our eyes are still set on our goals," Clark said. "Unfortunately, we came up short but we can do is move forward like men. We're one strong group. We just have to make sure we stay humble and family-oriented.
"This was a big game and we know we could have easily beaten them. But, mood is we gave it our all and just couldn't get it done in the end."
Clark's only previous appearance took place in the 41-7 victory at Central Michigan. He played one series in the first quarter and the entire fourth quarter. The experience he gained against the U-M should prove invaluable in the remaining games.
"This was my first start and I'll learn a lot of stuff from watching film," Clark said.
Coach Mark Dantonio said better days are ahead for Clark.
"I'm sure we'll see great growth there and that's the thing we have to look at," Dantonio said. "You play a guy and you strengthen your team overall (because) he won't be the same guy the next time he plays.
"That's the positive."