To say that the MSU football team struggled in 2001 would be an understatement. Picked by several publications to finish first in the SEC West, everyone had dreams of a championship and a major bowl berth. By season's end, high expectations had turned to disappointment when the Bulldogs finished last in the West, going 3-8 on the year."> To say that the MSU football team struggled in 2001 would be an understatement. Picked by several publications to finish first in the SEC West, everyone had dreams of a championship and a major bowl berth. By season's end, high expectations had turned to disappointment when the Bulldogs finished last in the West, going 3-8 on the year.">

JOHN MICHAEL MARLIN: READY FOR A COMEBACK

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01players/football/2001/jmmarlin120-160.jpg" alt="John Michael Marlin" align="left" width="119" height="161"> To say that the MSU football team struggled in 2001 would be an understatement. Picked by several publications to finish first in the SEC West, everyone had dreams of a championship and a major bowl berth. By season's end, high expectations had turned to disappointment when the Bulldogs finished last in the West, going 3-8 on the year.

One player who seems especially disappointed about sitting at home during the holidays instead of playing in a bowl game is MSU kicker John-Michael Marlin. "We had a tough year. We all had a tough year but we tried to pull it off in the end."

Rumors were circulating among the MSU faithful that internal fighting or poor team chemistry was the reason for the team's struggles. Some speculated that the influx of a large number of junior college players negatively affected team unity. Marlin doesn't think so, "We had a rough year but I think we stayed together real well through the whole thing. (A team) is not going to get along all the time anyway, and with a year like we were having, it was kind of difficult to stay as close as we were in the beginning. I think we did real good staying together and helping each other out."

So if team chemistry was not the culprit, what was the reason for an eight-loss season? Marlin attributes the off year to the Snowball Effect. "We just didn't get the breaks early. I don't know, sometimes you get them and sometimes you don't. At the beginning of the year, we just didn't get them. It went downhill from there."

Marlin was also disappointed in his own performance. He was 8 for 16 from field goal range and missed 3 extra points. "I had a tough year. I didn't do anything I expected to do. After I struggled at the first of the season, that just kind of kept it going. But coach Sherrill helped me. He kept me believing in myself and believing I could do it."

Although the season ended only a month ago, it already seems like ancient history to the Bulldog kicker. After all, a lot has changed since then. John-Michael and his wife now have a new 2 1/2 week old son and they are very excited about this new beginning in their lives. The new father is also excited about the 2002 season. "Next week I'll start kicking 2 or 3 times a week and working on my leg speed in the weight room," Marlin said. "We're all excited about next year and ready to come back strong."

I think it's safe to say that MSU fans and players are ready for a new season to begin. With determined players like Marlin, it's sure to be a better year. When asked if he had anything to say to MSU fans, he said this: "I would like to thank them for what they did for us this past year. Even though we had a tough year, they were always yelling - even in the tornados we had. They're great fans and I want to tell them that I appreciate it, and to keep it up."


Brent Bozeman is a correspondent for Gene's Page. He can be reached by email at bozeman@telepak.net.

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