Capital One Bowl: Legacy on the Line

"Mike Bell. He's a guy nobody really talks about. Here's a guy that graduated in the summer and I took off scholarship and he came back just to be part of the team. He came back and we rewarded him with a scholarship midway through. It's just acts like that that speak volumes about our seniors." -- Mark Dantonio at his final pregame CapOne presser.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- When Michigan State seniors strap on that Spartan helmet for the final time in the Capital One Bowl, they'll be trying to tackle history.

MSU (9-3) is one away from double digit wins, a feat the program has accomplished only two times in its history, in 1965 and 1999. Contrast that to their bowl opponent, Georgia (9-3), who has had 10 wins in six of its last eight season under Mark Richt.

Head coach Mark Dantonio pointed to a special group of men as the catalysts of success at his final pregame press conference today.

"We've raised the bar for our football team, and that's something our seniors have done," he said. "You can always look at almost any one of them," he added, but the ball gets rolling with the team's MVP on and off the field.

"Javon Ringer, it goes without saying, has been a good role model for our team," Dantonio said. "Not just in terms of ability, but the work ethic and different things I constantly talk about -- the humility, the kind acts of leadership. ...

"Brian Hoyer has had an outstanding year in that capacity as well. Otis Wiley, Justin Kershaw, the four captains, but when you look beyond that I think Brandon Long has had his best season as a Spartan," Dantonio said of the defensive end. Long recorded 37 tackles, 6 that went for a loss of 40 yards, 4.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

Another senior D-end, used primarily in a backup role, also contributed with an outstanding effort, filling in for injured or nicked up players.

"I think Dwayne Holmes has had his best season as a Spartan," Dantonio said. Holmes, a converted tight end, recovered a vital fumble in a close win against Iowa this season. For the year, Holmes made 14 tackles, 4.5 for a loss.

"All of our seniors have done great things for this football team," Dantonio said. "They've all had a role."

Safety Mike Bell is a role player Dantonio specifically pointed to. The senior made only 2 tackles, but played in 9 games, an important contribution considering the injuries and off-field issues MSU's secondary faced all season.

"He's a guy nobody really talks about," Dantonio said. "Here's a guy that graduated in the summer and I took off scholarship and he came back just to be part of the team. He came back and we rewarded him with a scholarship midway through. It's just acts like that that speak volumes about our seniors."

Dantonio also mentioned the contributions of Deon Curry (WR), Ryan Allison (LB), Todd Boleski (K), Roland Martin (OG) and Jesse Miller (OT) to the team's improvement this season.

"I'm probably forgetting somebody," Dantonio said. (He was. The other seniors are versatile O-lineman Mike Bacon, kicker Matt Haughey, fullback Jeff McPherson and linebacker Kyle Smith.)

Besides 10 wins, MSU's seniors will be preparing their successors as well.

"I talked to our players the other day," Dantonio said. "Jan. 12, those juniors are going to be sitting in the first row of the team meeting room and they'll be seniors."

Having learned from this year's seniors, those young men should be well prepared. And if 10 wins is in the cards after the bowl game tomorrow, next year's leaders will look to set the bar even higher.

GSN's Joe Torok and Sean Scherer are in Orlando covering events surrounding the Capital One bowl


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