Will Big Red show up for Alamo Bowl?
As we told you exclusively hear last week, Michigan State's received the bid to play in the December 29th Alamo Bowl over the objections of the University of Minnesota. This came in spite of the lobbying efforts of the Gopher faithful who tried to convince the San Antonio Bowl committee that their reputation for not traveling well was in the past. But the bowl committee saw through that ruse and looked to the bottom line where the Spartans have a well-deserved reputation for following their team and packing the coffers of the merchants in the bowl cities. There is no question that the Spartans faithful will be there, but what about their opposition? MSU is facing legendary powerhouse Nebraska and while the team has fallen on what the Big Red fans consider hard times. MSU isn't sure which Nebraska team will show up, a fired-up team looking to circle the wagons and win its 10th game or one just going through the motions after the firing of Coach Frank Solich. Solich was fired for posting only a 9-3 season and a 58-19 overall record in six seasons as Cornhuskers' head coach. Athletic Director Steve Pederson issued a terse statement saying he "refused to let the program gravity to mediocrity." This after a 9-3 season. Defensive coordinator Bo Pellini was tabbed to coach the team in the Alamo Bowl. Harker said "they could come out and play hard or they could pack it in and say this is all over." MSU head coach John L. Smith only the second first year coach in school history to coach his team to a bowl game says Nebraska will be Nebraska. "They're going to do what they do and they're going to do what they've done all year long. They're going to go out and they're going to play for this guy. We don't think about that; we'll just go out and prepare for what we see on film." Rather than overly concern themselves with Nebraska's state of mind, Michigan State can concentrate on their 0-4 record vs. the Big Red. In their last meeting, with current LSU head coach Nick Saban atop the program, the Spartans suffered through a 55-14 pasting with a team Saban thought was ready for prime time. MSU finished the year 6-6. Still Harker is excited about facing the Cornhuskers in his senior season. "To go to the Alamo Bowl and play a team like Nebraska, I couldn't have written a better story," he said. "They've got a lot of tradition. But I think we'll be all right because we've played a lot of teams with tradition. We've played Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan." MSU coach John L. Smith, knows the problems that Nebraska presents. "I know they have a great athlete at quarterback in Jammal Lord, and I understand their three running backs are really good. From that standpoint, Nebraska is a little bit like Minnesota where they have a stable of running backs. And you know they're going to be physical up front." While MSU players and staff were elated about the trip to San Antonio, Nebraska players appeared to be weary of the controversy surrounding their football team and ready to get the season over. "We're going to a bowl game, I'm excited about that," said senior offensive lineman Dan Vili Waldrop. "[But] I saw my dreams go away the minute Oklahoma lost. I wanted to go home [to California's Holiday Bowl]." "It wasn't a huge deal to me," junior linebacker Barrett Ruud said. "You're right on the Riverwalk so there's a lot of things to do. It should be a lot of fun." Not exactly the ringing endorsement the Alamo Bowl committee was hoping for is it? But for Smith, who loves to wear a Cowboy hat and boots, going to San Antonio couldn't be more fun. "We're going to Texas and you know, I've heard they make cowboy boots in Texas. I told the team and the captains, 'This is a great deal. We get to go horseback riding, we get to get new boots, what more could we ask for?' "I've never been to the Alamo before. It's going to be exciting and it's going to be fun. We've heard nothing but positive things about San Antonio. I've not spent any time there, and I assume that most of our football team has not, so this should be a great experience for us. It will be something they remember all their lives, and that's what it's all about. That's what the bowl system is for; reward them with something that they will remember forever."