And there it was. After the last few years of MSU's football team attempting to claw their way to the top and finally get the national respect they thought they deserved --- the lights went up on the big stage. A showdown with mighty Alabama in the Cotton Bowl -- a national semi-final.
The Spartans were promptly humiliated with the whole country watching. The 38-0 score was no coincidence or fluke. The Tide rolled over them like a tsunami washing away kiddy sand castles on a beach. It was a beatdown, slaughter, men against boys, whales consuming plankton, like that. MSU might as well have stood for Merciless Systematic Unraveling.
Going in, the Spartans knew they had to keep Alabama's Heisman trophy winning running back Derrick Henry in check. And they did. Problem was, they were thoroughly trashed in all other aspects of the game.
The offensive and defensive play of the "lines" wasn't even a close call. Bama was clearly superior with the big boys up front. Unheralded QB Jake Coker of Alabama went 25-30 for almost 300 yards and two TD passes against MSU's supposed stout defense.
Meanwhile, Spartan QB Connor Cook, the anointed one of the green and white faithful, who's supposed to be "all that", likely slid down the NFL draft boards next spring a few spots with the dismal performance he turned in. Given his chance to finally strut his stuff against a top-flight opponent in a pressure packed game, CC crashed and burned. He threw a few interceptions and likely should have had a few more picked off. Cook appeared clueless to the defensive coverages Alabama showed throughout the contest. Either that, or his receivers weren't capable of getting open. For a supposed hot-shot quarterback, having a zero for his team on the scoreboard staring at them when the game is over can only boil down to one thing. They were taken to the proverbial woodshed by the opposing defense. Defanged, neutered, spayed, like that.
Their special teams play just added more salt in the already gaping wounds. Bama ran wild while State was routinely stuffed.
One team blew several defensive coverages which allowed the other's receivers to catch easy passes for big gainers. The other was in lockdown coverage all game long. Guess who was who?
Maybe that's why the final score was 38-0. It was indicative of the lop-sided contest on all fronts. Did I mention men against boys?
So now MSU has to limp back to East Lansing. They finally got their shot to get over the proverbial "hump" of being second class citizens -- and were promptly dismantled, obliterated, nuked -- like that. As the fairy tale goes, the little engine that could -- threw a rod and blew up when it mattered most.
So now it's back to the drawing board for MSU. Conner Cook has played his last game, and they have 20 other fifth year seniors, including a couple key offensive linemen, that are going bye-bye as well to wherever life takes them. That's a sizable turnover.
This was MSU's best shot since forever to finally prove their skeptics wrong, and take center stage by storm. No more of that Rodney Dangerfield no respect stuff -- we're here, dammit, whether you like it or not.
Instead, against Alabama they were a colony of ants among a family of aardvarks, mosquitoes in a swarm of bats, a male daring to appear on "The View" -- like that. Let's just say all the above is likely to be eaten alive.
So after Clemson turned the Oklahoma Sooners into "laters" in the other semi-final, the #2 Crimson Tide will face off against the #1 Tigers for all the marbles, or at least the college football championship.
And somewhere my buddy George, a good ole boy who's never forgot where he came from, is smiling. He's been saying for years the South will rise again. Alabama and a Clemson team from South Carolina duking it out for college football supremacy? It doesn't get much more old school southern than that.
As for the Michigan State faithful? It was a nice run over the years, but like the outlaw Josey Wales once famously stated -- a man (team) has to know his (its) limitations.
If a 38-0 massacre wasn't convincing enough, maybe they should buy season tickets to the Detroit Lions. Those people have been delusional for decades in their never-ending Quixotic tilting at windmills quest of getting to a Super Bowl, much less actually winning it.
But you never know. Anything's theoretically possible. Haley's comet makes a u-turn and comes back next year. The entire Middle East sees the errors of their ways and the whole region turns into a Woodstockish love-a-thon foreverafter. Pete Rose is unanimously elected into the baseball Hall of Fame. Yours truly wins a Pulitzer for this blog post. And like that.
But chances are these things aren't going to happen. Just like Michigan State being the best football team in the country. It was a mirage.
38-0 says it all......