Spartans still chasing it

With Rose Bowl in hand, national title, No. 1 the new goals in East Lansing. The Spartans talk about expectations and the redefining of success for the Spartans.

Watching Monday's BCS national title game between Florida State and Auburn, there was little doubt in Shilique Calhoun's mind the Spartans could stack up with either team.

"I have faith in my team against either one," the defensive end said. "That's just how I feel about this team and how collectively we are together and how we play as one. We coulda won that game.

"We woulda won that game."

While the Seminoles edged the Tigers 34-31, safety Kurtis Drummond went as far as to say it didn't matter who was playing in the game, Michigan State could stack up.

"I have faith in our guys to play with anybody," he said. "Regardless of who the teams were in the game, I would put us against them."

Nevertheless, Drummond and the Spartans were content with the program's first Rose Bowl victory in 26 years when they beat Stanford 24-20 last week.

That contentment isn't about to become complacency, though. Drummond said the bar has been raised moving forward for the Michigan State program.

"It's just cool to see our hard work pay off but at the same time, you gotta realize once you get to the top people are trying to knock you down," Drummond said. "Coach D says once you get to the top of the mountain, there's another mountain to climb. There will be new challenges and new goals for us."

So with the Rose Bowl goal set by the program since Mark Dantonio arrived in East Lansing before the 2007 season reached, the next mountain already is defined: A national title and the nation's top ranking.

"Be No. 1," Calhoun said. "You want to be No. 1, so that's our motivating coming into this year is trying to be No. 1. You want to make it to the national championship and don't let anything stop you. You have to be there and that's where you wanna be.

"We're still chasing it."

Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook, who led the Spartans to the school's first 13-win season, said the expectations have to be sky high after a decorated season.

"After winning the Rose Bowl and being Big Ten champs, expectations are so high and anything less than that is a failure," he said. "I think with us winning this Rose Bowl, that puts us on the map to be a contender to be a national championship team."

This much is clear: The Spartans feel they have closed the gap on the elite programs in the nation – and the success is only going to fuel more.

"Success, once you've tasted it a little bit you want to keep it," Dantonio said. "Once you tasted that type of success and you understand what it took to get you there, you have a better chance of getting there again, resurfacing."

So as the team watched the national title game together earlier this week, cornerback Trae Waynes said feeling like they could be on that field is essential to reaching that level.

"A lot of the guys watched it together," Wayne said. "We felt like we coulda been there, but that's a big goal for next year."

Time to start chasing it again.

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