Spartans use 2011 feeling as fuel this time

Back in Indianapolis, Spartans remember two years ago and want to leave with better feeling in their second chance.

Two years ago, Dave Warner sat in the hallway of the Spartans' hotel in Indianapolis late into the night.

Their wives and children asleep, he sat with a couple other coaches and just talked.

"I couldn't tell you what time it was," he said. "It was quite a while."

In the same hotel, punter Mike Sadler lay awake, unable to sleep as his mind raced through all the what-ifs of Michigan State's 42-39 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.

"I think that was one of the hardest games to swallow that I've ever been a part of," Sadler said. "I think we were about a minute and a half away from having the roses clenched in our teeth and it just kind of all got ripped out from us on one play."

Fortunately for Sadler and many current Spartans, it wasn't their final chance at claiming a Rose Bowl berth, but the memory of the of the devastating loss lingers.

"There was people crying that I never thought I'd see cry – it was just unbelievable," Max Bullough said. "To me, I was a sophomore, to me it wasn't the end of the road. To me it was we'll be back here next year. Let's just win next year or the next year.

"So to see the way those players reacted, I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen a game affect so many people – I've lost to Michigan before, and I don't know if I've ever seen a single game affect the amount of players that it did, so negatively. Usually, you get over the game after a couple days at the most, even for a week I remember guys like Kirk Cousins were still down, still hurting about it."

Seeing the looks on the faces of the seniors who fell just short of going to Pasadena two years ago stuck with Bullough's fellow linebacker, Denicos Allen, who said it has only served to motivate the current group of seniors.

"It was just all those things runs through my mind this year," Allen said. "I'm pretty sure it runs through every other senior's mind, too. …

"Going into this game we promised ourselves that we're not going to go through that feeling again."

Cornerback Darqueze Dennard said the knowing how close the Spartans came in that game provided the motivation to see a different outcome this time.

"It really drove us throughout this offseason and the year before, just knowing that it really motivated everybody to get back to Indy," he said. "It drove us this year, it drove us last year, as well, but this year was special because I know for me and the rest of the seniors, this is our last opportunity to go back to Indianapolis and play in that game."

Traveling to Indianapolis this time around, the Spartans don't want to be up late wondering about what could have been.

They want to have the roses firmly placed between their teeth and new memories in Indianapolis.

"This year we want to be sure to not have any what-ifs after the game," Sadler said.

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