Playing in Indianapolis evokes a lot of emotions and memories for many Spartans who were on the field at Lucas Oil two years ago.
But only one player calls Indianapolis home and returning home Saturday will call to mind a difficult night in 2011.
With less than two minutes left in the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin, then sophomore Isaiah Lewis was called for a running into the punter penalty as Michigan State looked to get the ball back down by three.
The Badgers ran the clock out and claimed a spot in the Rose Bowl.
Lewis said the hurt from that play lasted for almost the entire next year.
”I tried not to think about it for so long, I tried not to let it affect me going into the next year,” he said. “I tried to forget about it before my junior year came up the next year. But yeah, it kind of lets you think about it for a little bit, just makes you think for a little bit, but at the same time you do have to let those things go so it doesn't affect you in your future.”
Max Bullough said the response was quick from the rest of the team to come to Lewis’ side – including the seniors who missed their final shot at going to Pasadena.
”He's my classmate, my teammate, one of my good buddies, and really I think he kind of thought it was all on him after the game,” he said. “We were back in Indianapolis, playing in his hometown, and he gets that penalty. So I think he really took that hard, at least right away, right after the game.
”I just remember going up to him and feeling obligated to talk to him, feeling obligated to make him understand that it was absolutely in no way his fault we lost the game.”
Coach Mark Dantonio repeated throughout this week as he did that night that the responsibility is on him or calling the play and not on Lewis for trying to make a play.
Lewis said the support of Dantonio and his teammates meant a lot then and still does.
”Him and my teammates, the whole staff around here, I know they have my back,” Lewis said. “I know they're not going to leave me hanging, any tough times I have, I know they're not going to just leave me hanging out there.”
His fellow defensive back Darqueze Dennard said he was talking to Lewis after the game and he said it would never happen again. Since then, Dennard said Lewis has just kept growing and maturing.
”Throughout these past two years he's been busting his tail and doing everything he was asked to do, doing anything coach has been telling him to do, and also he's been stepping up as a leader, as well,” Dennard said. “He's grown since that game, been mature. He handles stuff way better.”
Now, Lewis is coming home again and wants to leave with a different taste in his mouth and book a trip to Pasadena.
“It's special, man, it's crazy for me because two years ago, it was a bad experience for me, bad ending for the game,” he said. “Just to just get back in my hometown in front of people that I know, it's going to be fun for me. It's going to be the experience of a lifetime to come down there, and this year we're going to win that game, go out there and win.
”Just make sure it's not the same story as last time.”