Dec. 14, 2012
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Fifth-year senior Chris McDonald couldn't be happier about having the chance to play one more college football game before wrapping up his Michigan State career.
It doesn't bother the hulking offensive guard one iota that the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is named after a popular restaurant chain or that it will be played in the middle of the Arizona desert at 10 p.m. Michigan time.
McDonald is so enthusiastic about having his Spartan playing days extended, his blue eyes lit up at the mere mention of getting to endure more practice in advance of facing TCU on Dec. 29.
"I could go out every single day, put on the pads and go after it," McDonald said Friday in the lobby of the Skandalaris Football Center. "And that's with being an O-lineman, too, because we're the one who get the most beatings.
"I love it."
Practice? We're talkin' `bout practice here.
"I've been playing football since second grade," McDonald said. "It's my life. As long as I can keep practicing, I'm going to do it."
This is from someone who's just gone through a 17-week grind that began with preseason camp, which followed summer workouts, which came after spring drills, which followed winter conditioning.
For five straight years.
While McDonald acknowledged that he didn't speak for every Spartan, and that some struggle with the physical and mental toll on a weekly basis, he provided a glimpse of what makes highly competitive athletes tick.
"I'm just ready to go down there, enjoy the nice weather with my guys, enjoy the last few days of my college career as a football player, and just have a good time and hopefully come out with a win," he said.
The best part of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, according to McDonald, is getting to do something about Michigan State's unsatisfying .500 regular-season record.
The Spartans are in what amounts to an all-or-nothing situation under sixth-year head coach Mark Dantonio, and that's fine with them because the reward of finishing 7-6 is far greater than the risk of coming out of the game at 6-7, but either is preferable to standing pat.
"We don't want to be a team that left Michigan State during Coach Dantonio's era with a losing record, so we have a little chip on our shoulder and we're going to use that," McDonald said. "But if we have a good game and play our hearts out but come out with a loss, we'll still be happy."
The situation is comparable to 2009 when the Spartans fell to Texas Tech, 41-31, in the Alamo Bowl and finished with a 6-7 record.
"We had 11 guys not playing because of off-the-field instances, but we played great and just came up short," McDonald said. "We were proud of our team because we played our hearts out."
Now that final exams are over, sophomore defensive end Marcus Rush was also looking forward to getting back into the practice routine.
"It's a little bit weird," Rush said of the break. "Football is in your life everyday and then you sit back and you're wondering, `Why am I so bored?' Then you realize you're not practicing all the time.
"But when you get back into it, it's good. You feel like you're back in the swing of things and it's just exciting to be preparing for a bowl game."
In addition to having a chance to finish 2012 with a winning record, a victory would be almost like beginning 2013 with a 1-0 mark.
"Having a winning season is pretty significant for any program and we definitely don't want to have a losing season," Rush said. "It's always good to have a win under your belt and not have a bitter taste all through summer."