Spartans in search of another "program win"

Michigan State found a program win in 2010 at Penn State, hoping for another come Saturday.

The last time Michigan State traveled to Penn State, it left with what senior wide receiver Tony Lippett called a “program win.”

Coach Mark Dantonio used the same phrase to describe the opportunity the Spartans have Saturday when they travel to State College with the chance to net their 10th win.

“It’s very important (to win),” senior Kurtis Drummond said. “Not only for us but for the program. If we can get that 10th win and really the benchmark this program has set itself at, it would mean a lot for us.”

The Spartans have won 10 or more games in three of the past four seasons, giving the opportunity Saturday to make it four or five.

That 10-win mark is what Dantonio believes now is the benchmark for the Michigan State program, while it is what defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett said makes him see the program as elite.

”I said it before the season, elite programs can lose guys and then the names change, but the winning does not,” Barnett said. “I think that is where we are now. We lost a lot of really good players football from last year’s team, particularly the defense. To still be able to have a chance to have a 10 win possible 11 win season, that is awesome. …

”It’s funny to hear now that, ‘Wow, you guys aren’t going to make the national championship’ and years ago it was just happy to make a bowl game.”

Those goals have been steadily rising since Dantonio, Barnett and others arrived in 2007. It is from those coaches that the expectations trickle down, offensive lineman Jack Allen said.

”They created the culture when they got here really,” Allen said. “Coach D and this staff have shown you can reach your goals and you are going to set your goals higher and higher.

”When they first got here, they hadn’t been to a bowl game in however long. Then they wanted to win a Big Ten championship and then they wanted to get to the Rose Bowl. It is just setting a higher standard every year.”

But those rising standards continued back in 2010 with a win at Penn State, as MSU took a share of the Big Ten title and the bar continued to be raised.

“It just set our standards higher,” Lippett said. “We know that was one of our goals to win a Big Ten championship. The next goal was to win a Big Ten championship and go to the Rose Bowl. It kept us more hungry. We couldn’t just be okay with winning the Big Ten championship the next year and it was still okay. We had to strive for more and strive for excellence.

That’s basically the mindset Coach D instilled in us: There is always more out there.”


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