Published December 30, 2003
Stanton may need surgery
MSU's backup QB injured knee on special teams play
By Mark Feather
|Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press|
Slipping away: Michigan State wide receiver Agim Shabaj (20) evades a tackle by Nebraska's Pat Ricketts (rear) as Michigan State teammate Joe Tate (68) tries to make a block in the first quarter Monday. The Spartan offense failed to score a touchdown in a 17-3 loss.
For the Lansing State Journal
SAN ANTONIO - Michigan State may be feeling its Alamo Bowl loss to Nebraska next year.
Backup quarterback Drew Stanton, the early front-runner to replace Jeff Smoker next season, injured his right knee covering the Spartans first punt and he may need surgery, said MSU coach John L. Smith.
"He is not good," Smith said. "We're probably going to have to go in there and operate."
Stanton was carted off the field with 1:45 remaining in the first quarter and did not return to the game.
He watched the second half standing on the sidelines without his pads, but with crutches and a knee brace.
Stanton has been used on special teams for most of the season as a punt coverage man.
"My foot was planted, and I got hit," Stanton said. "I didn't even see him. It was very disappointing because I wanted to play."
Another major injury occurred on the special teams in the third quarter when junior kicker Dave Rayner limped off the field after he punted. Rayner punts for Brandon Fields when the Spartans use a rollout, rugby-style kick to pin their opponents deep.
"I think he is going to be OK," Smith said. "I believe it was an ankle."
Michigan State also had injury scares on defense.
Defensive end Clifford Dukes and linebacker Seth Mitchell both needed attention on the field. Dukes was carted to the locker room just before halftime but returned to play in the second half. Mitchell also returned to action.
RECRUITING TOOL: MSU's appearance in the Alamo Bowl couldn't have been more strategically picked in its location for recruiting purposes.
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl, a high school all-star game, will be played at the Alamodome on Saturday. That means about 80 blue-chip recruits from across the country, many of whom still are undecided, were in town to see the excitement surrounding the bowl game.
"It's really cool. Their bowl game is being way more hyped than ours," said Tim Jamison, a defensive end/linebacker recruit from the Chicago area who's being recruited by the Spartans. "The environment for the game and all the fans down here is awesome."
The universities were not allowed to bring the high school players to the game and it wasn't part of the players' trip itinerary. The players could attend the game only if they purchased a ticket.
"I'm going to watch it, for sure," said Roland Martin, another MSU recruiting target as an offensive lineman. "I'll probably just go back to the hotel or something."
MSU had a third major target in Nader Abdallah, a defensive end from Metairie, La., playing in the game.
All three players took part in a team dinner at McDonald's on Monday night.
"It's a great opportunity not only to play early, but for good school and coaching staff," Abdallah said of MSU.
Abdallah, Jamison and Martin all plan on finishing the allotted number of official college visits before making a decision.
The Spartans have 18 verbal commitments to date and plan to pick up the recruiting pace heavily upon returning home.
"We're doing good. We just have to continue," Smith said of the recruiting process. "We are talking about 10 more guys that could add some frosting to this recruiting class."
PRIME TIME: Alamo Bowl officials were a bit dismayed by MSU's slow ticket sales for the game, but they said they were still glad with their choice of the Spartans to play. The personal saga of quarterback Jeff Smoker and the team's turnaround under Smith make for great TV, said Rick Hill, bowl vice president.
"That's really the big thing for us, getting the ratings," Hill said.
The game was the only football game on television Monday, taking over Monday Night Football's usual time slot.
And Nebraska has some drama of its own, with the recent firing of coach Frank Solich. Last season, the Alamo Bowl between Wisconsin and Colorado was ESPN's highest-rated college football game all season.
LONE STAR PLAYERS: Walk-on freshman Gary Elmore is the only MSU player from Texas, and over the years, only 12 letterwinners have come from the state.
But of those, three were impact players for the Spartan football team.
Former defensive end Charles "Bubba" Smith, wide receiver Gene Washington and guard Earl Lattimer earned All-America honors while in East Lansing.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES: Ithaca graduate Chris Patrick is the lone Cornhusker from Michigan. He is the younger brother of Joe Patrick, an offensive lineman for the Spartans from 2000-02 who was forced to end his career early because of a back injury.
Chris Patrick is in his redshirt freshman season as a defensive end.
A SPARTAN GIFT: MSU fans provided 356 San Antonio area residents with tickets to the Alamo Bowl through a donation program with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
A separate T-shirt donation also helped to dress the children in green and white for the game.
UNIFORM CHANGE: MSU was dressed in all white as the away team in the Alamo Bowl against Nebraska, a stark change from the white tops and green pants they wear on the road.
The change was spurred by a Smith tradition of wearing either light on light or dark on dark in bowl games.