EAST LANSING - I spent the bye-week weekend in my hometown of Lansing.
Saturday, I made use of my father's Michigan State season football tickets and watched two teams that couldn't beat WMU -- at least on that day.
Illinois is bad, always. MSU is beginning its yearly collapse, perhaps a week or so ahead of schedule.
After reading Spartan head coach John L. Smith's response to his team's performance, a 23-20 loss to the Illini, which followed a disasterous choke job against Notre Dame a week earlier, I thought about how the Broncos' Bill Cubit would have handled this entire situation -- and if he would even ever be in such a pickle.
Cubit and Smith both sport wide-open offensive attacks. As far as I can tell, that's where the similarities end.
It should be known, I've never covered Smith. I am fairly well-versed on MSU's football program, however, through coverage by others.
From what I've read, Smith has allowed a bevy of second-chance, questionable-character guys to be part of his program. At times, he's even let them stay after incidents as members of the football team.
I've also seen Smith meltdown in television interviews (Ohio State, 2005), in press conferences several times and read that his staff has seemingly done so during stressful moments on the sidelines.
Against Notre Dame, when MSU needed badly to run the football in the fourth quarter, Smith and Co. didn't have the discipline to do so.
Now to Cubit ...
WMU's coach gave a bunch of guys who couldn't handle his disciplined approach, or had character issues, the boot in the months after he took the job in December 2004. This includes players such as safety Kevin Ford, who would have been a senior starter in 2005 and could have solidified a young secondary as it learned on the fly.
Ford's off-field issues were more than Cubit wanted to deal with. The same goes for others who, talent-wise, could have helped. Cubit was willing to suffer a few more growing pains on the field to have a solid foundation. His principles on discipline have quickly proven a benefit to the Broncos program, on and off the field.
As far as meltdowns, I've never seen it from Cubit. Sure, he'll go off on his players from time to time, but he never appears to not have control of practice -- Smith is quoted in Sunday's Lansing State Journal as saying, "We can't get them to go hard in practice." Cubit also is always composed during interviews. His calm rubs off on his players. Smith's reactions ... well, look at the results.
Cubit, like Smith, would much rather throw the ball often than not. Against Virginia, however, with a backup quarterback, Cubit knew the way to win was on the ground, no matter how slow and unexciting the process. It worked. He never deviated from the plan, nor showed that he was tempted. I don't think WMU wins at Virginia with Smith coaching it.
In the coming years, there may be times the Broncos struggle or give away a game because of mistakes. That happens. It's college football. It's somewhat unpredictable. I doubt, however, you'll ever see anything like what's happening in East Lansing because the man in charge at Western coaches nothing like the man in charge in East Lansing.