EAST LANSING - Michigan State's players are down to the only two goals that are attainable for the 2007 season, have a winning season and go to a bowl game.
In Mark Dantonio's first season, those are reasonable and attainable goals as he attempts to build the program back from the depths of the John L. Smith regime.
Following yesterday's practice, it was clear the players have embraced those goals and have a focused mindset on attaining them.
"We're just going to play hard and do whatever we have to do to get this bowl game. We're going to prepare well and take the mentality that we've got to get it done," said wide receiver Devin Thomas.
Thomas, a junior from Canton, MI., said a bowl would mean a lot to everyone involved with the Spartans.
"It would mean a lot because it's been a while since we've gotten a bowl [bid] here at Michigan State. I think we need it for (both) the team and the fans. It would be a big morale booster for us going into next year so it's a goal we most definitely need to reach."
Michigan State lost two critical games to Northwestern and to Iowa that most observers felt the Spartans should have won, especially with them up 17-3 in Iowa City, but junior safety Otis Wiley said the Spartans have needed to go through every experience they have this year.
"You can feel (the emotions for this game," said Wiley. "We worked so hard in the off season and the summer just to get to this point. I wouldn't trade any (team's) record for our record because it's making us (men) and it's building us up as a team.
You could go back and say if you would have won those game, Northwestern and Iowa, you'd be bowl eligible already, but it's just kind of letting us know we need to play hard, focus and have fun and we're in a bowl game."
Junior tackle Jesse Miller says MSU needs to stay in sync. "We definitely can play with anybody in the nation. Everybody's got to be in tune on both sides of the ball and play your best (every down) and it would be a different season."
The Spartans aren't going to have an easy time accomplishing either of their goals. Purdue is already bowl eligible at 7-3 and is pointing toward a goal of a ten-win season. Penn State, also 7-3 has a goal of a New Year's Day bowl game, most likely the Citrus Bowl if they can win out.
"It's going to be tough because both of the teams have (their) backs against the wall trying to get into these bowl games. It's going to be a tough one, but we've got to get it done," said Thomas.
He said the lingering effects of the tough Michigan loss and the postgame smack talk by UM's Mike Hart have been put in the rear view mirror.
"We've put that away, we've put that in the closet and let it go because we've got to go down to Layfayette and win the game and get into this bowl game. That's pretty much over with, with the Michigan game."
But Miller couldn't resist one last jab when asked about MSU's effectiveness running the ball in the Michigan game.
"It's more or less demoralizing to the opponent. If you can run the ball, it takes away there confidence, and usually you win. Sometimes people get lucky and pick up fumbles."
Last Goals: Winning Season, Bowl Game
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