After all the controversy, all the suspensions and firings and all the backlash, the Valero Alamo Bowl actually revolved around one thing: football.
Who would have thought?
The game itself featured long touchdowns runs, trick plays, big passes, and big drama.
Simultaneously, there were fans holding signs which expressed their resentment for young Adam James, the center of the storm which resulted in coach Mike Leach’s urgent departure.
And there was an interim coach who stepped in for the beloved Leach and got his players ready to play.
While all of the drama surrounded the game up until kickoff and into the atmosphere of the entire contest, players and coaches did what they needed to do on the field. To borrow a Herm Edwards quote, you play to win the game.
That’s exactly what Texas Tech did. Taylor Potts was throwing the ball all over the field as if it was a video game. And when Potts suffered an injury, his replacement came in and continued the scoring barrage. The players played for each other, a scenario which must be appreciated considering all of the outside distractions they have been exposed to.
College football has become more than just a sport. It has developed into a business-like industry. Universities gain notoriety and financial retribution for the product they put out on the gridiron. When high-profile coaches are terminated, especially one like Leach, who has built the program into a national force to be reckoned with, it draws the ire of alumni, fans, and the entire sports world.
But in the end, coaches coach and players play.
All the Red Raiders from Lubbock could have done last night was win. And as many players said after the game, Leach is gone and it’s an issue which is over with, at least for now. The team will have a difficult time finding someone who ran the program like Leach, but that’s a whole other issue.
On the other side of the coin, Michigan State had to deal with some issues of their own.
With many players suspended, including significant starters, the team’s effort has to be applauded. Yes, the Spartans blew another lead, as they’ve done all season, but the game was neck and neck until the very end. It was hard for Texas Tech to play with a new coach calling plays from the sidelines, but it was 10 times harder for the Spartans, as they were missing key players who run such plays to perfection.
With that being said, Michigan State utilized weapons like Keith Nichol and Blair White. Kirk Cousins played his heart out as he attempted to match the Red Raiders offense and also make up for his own defense’s shortcomings. Freshman running back Edwin Baker played beyond his years, getting a long score and giving Michigan State a balanced attack.
Of course the outcome was not to coach Mark Dantonio’s liking, and it was his third bowl loss in three seasons in East Lansing. But when you miss your second best defensive player (Chris L. Rucker) and weapons like Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham, executing on the field just becomes that much harder.
Although Texas Tech should be congratulated for a hard fought victory, Michigan State still almost came out victorious after playing with a larger chip on their shoulder. We can all only wonder what the outcome would have been if the Spartans’ roster was fully active.