Lansing State Journal from Lansing, Michigan on December 30, 2003 · Page 17
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Lansing State Journal from Lansing, Michigan · Page 17

Lansing, Michigan
Issue Date:
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Page 17
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Tuesday December 30, 2003 SCOREBOARD Nebraska Michigan State BIG PLAY With 5:24 remaining in the game, Nebraska senior cornerback Pat Ricketts intercepted a Jeff Smoker pass, ending a 10-play, 72-yard drive by the Spartans. Michigan State had second-and-7 on the , Cornhusker 17-yard line when the Spartans were hit with a 15-yard personal foul. On . second-and-22, Smoker forced the throw and Ricketts sealed the Nebraska win. QUOTABLE "We had some pent up anger, about a month of it and we came out and kind of unleashed it on Michigan State tonight "Defensively and offensively we put a hurting on them." - Barrett Ruud Nebraska linebacker UNSUNG HERO The Nebraska secondary. The Cornhuskers had three interceptions and held MSU quarterback Jeff Smoker to 156 yards passing. MORE ONLINE A photo gallery of Monday night's Alamo Bowl will be available after noon today at SCHEDULE Houston Bowl Navy vs. Texas Tech When: 4:30 p.m. today TV: ESPN Holiday Bowl l Washington State vs. Texas When: 8 p.m. today TV: ESPN Silicon Valley Classic Fresno State vs. UCLA v When: 10:30 p.m. today TV:ESPN2 ,.- Music City Bowl . - I Wisconsin vs. Auburn When: Noon, Wednesday ';-TV: ESPN V. Sun Bowl ft Minnesota vs. Oregon When: 2 p.m., Wednesday TV:Ch.3,6 Liberty Bowl ft Utah vs. Southern Miss. When: 3:30 p.m., Wednesday TV: ESPN Independence Bowl ft Missouri vs. Arkansas When: 7:30 p.m, Wednesday TV: ESPN San Francisco Bowl ft Colorado State vs. Boston College When: 10:30 p.m., Wednesday TV:ESPN2 Outback Bowl ft Iowa vs. Florida When: 11a.m., Thursday TV:ESPN Gator Bowl ft Maryland vs. West Virginia When: 12:30 p.m., Thursday TV: Ch. 4, 8, 10 Capital One Bowl ft Purdue vs. Georgia When: 1p.m., Thursday TV: Ch. 7, 12, 41, 53 Rose Bowl ft Michigan vs. USC When: 4:30 p.m, Thursday TV: Ch. 7, 12, 41, 53 Orange Bowl : ft Florida State vs. Miami When: 8:30 p.m, Thursday TV: Ch. 7, 12, 41, 53 Cotton Bowl ft Mississippi vs. Oklahoma State When: 2 p.m, Friday TV: Ch. 17, 47, 66 Peach Bowl ft Clemson vs. Tennessee When: 4:30 p.m, Friday TV: ESPN Fiesta Bowl ft Ohio State vs. Kansas State When: 8 p.m., Friday TV: Ch. 7, 12, 41, 53 Humanitarian Bowl ft Tulsa vs. Georgia Tech When: Noon, Saturday TV:ESPNorESPN2 Sugar Bowl ft Oklahoma vs. Louisiana St When: 8 p.m., Sunday TV: Ch. 7, 12, 41, 53 A! Lansing 2-, ;V if . 1 "S I- , i -AJ i wmmtm fa";;-'":'-mnmni m , f . ' ', ." "? . . Trapped: Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker (9) is brought down Nebraska throttles Michigan State offense to win Alamo Bowl ByJoeRexrode Lansing State Journal SAN ANTONIO, Texas Nebraska was faster, stronger and better than Michigan State in Monday's Alamo Bowl. the : Cornhuskers were also craftier in the trenches, and their option quarterback, Jammal Lord, was somehow a sharper passer than MSU dropback star Jeff Smoker. Add all that up, and it's a wonder MSU only lost 17-3 in front of 56,229 fans at the Alamodome. Lord and running back Cory Ross wore out the Spartans' defense, and the MSU offense was suffocated like no other time this season making for a disappointing end to Smoker's MSU career. "They're very very big strong and athletic," MSU coach John L. -Smith said. "You saw some of the real guys playing tonight. ... That's our goal We're gonna be there." The loss wraps up a surprising 8-5 season under first-year coach John . L Smith. That's just the sixth season of eight wins or more in the past 37, and it comes on the heels of last season's 4-8 implosion. For all its wondrous success, it ended bitterly. MSU needed a near-perfect game Monday, and it simply didn't happen. The Spartans had a slew of personal fouls on an evening filled with hostility between the players and missed on a few rare down-field passing opportunities. "If you take a look at the film, they were cheap shot artists," linebacker Seth Mitchell said. "And through the course of the whole game, they played dirty." MSU still had a chance late, driving to Nebraska's 20 with six minutes to play. But a personal foul on receiver Aaron Alexander cost the Spartans 15 yards. Smoker threw a wobbly interception his second of the night on the next , play, ending any hopes of a comeback. Words were exchanged early and often, most notably between MSU defensive end Greg Taplin and the assortment of Huskers he pointed his finger at be-, fore kickoff. But Nebraska State Journal TrTTlX T M A 77T TTTT1 r1 IN H H WVV H NT' r.i' Qv. f L.'f Jv,-. rs, "V y-' - C ; vfc---1 . C, i y o - yfT-:-:'x ' ; - k ' - - -si 4 lv AMY CONN-GUTIERREZAssociated Press In for 6: Nebraska's Cory Ross (22) breaks into the end zone for a touchdown against Michigan State in the second quarter of Monday night's game at the Alamodome in San Antonio. my came out and gave the first shot, a sack of Smoker on the game's first play from scrimmage. Defensive end Trevor Johnson burned MSU tackle Steve Stewart on the play TTTT T -mm-' ' I - I s - -.-s -" T": 1 "V. "JJ-w . . " V AMY CONN-GUTIERREZAssociated Press by Nebraska's Jermaine Leslie (second from left) and Adam Hassebroek during the first quarter of Monday night's Alamo Bowl. mm . iiuw.i iii m WJ-m ? I" '1 x w f:- A and dropped Smoker for a loss of eight Two plays later, Johnson came up the middle and got Smoker again, this time for a loss of nine, and it looked like a long night might be in store for the CHIGiYsiy No chance: Michigan State's DeAndra Cobb (21) is buried by Nebraska's Fred Thorne(lO) and Ira Cooper (11). Associated Press Spartans' offensive line. Third stringer Sean Poole started at left tackle in place of starter Stefon Wheeler and backup Gordon Nieb- See MSU Page 2 ..i' rJj0" ''V'v-'-:':-'7 doesn't But its still a happy one, despite loss O AN ANTONIO In the end, the Jeff Smoker story did not produce a made-for-televi--sion ending. There was no mushy . parting moment or last-second magic for MSU's senior quarterback in Monday night's Alamo Bowl. Just a faceful of red and a perhaps a bit of a red face as Nebraska whipped the Spartans, 17-3. "Obviously it's not die way I wanted it to end," Smoker Todd Sghulz 377-1051 , said. "I've just got to move on. I've got to look at the entire season. It was a pretty good season V , Smoker was harassed all night by the Huskers' . speedy defense and, as unlikely as it seemed, out-shined by their quarterback Jammal Lord. He was intercepted three times as MSU produced a season low in points. "I felt like if I wasn't running or getting sacked, I was getting hit right after I threw the ball," Smoker said 'They were coming, thafs for sure." In a perfect world, Monday's game would have crowned Smoker's courageous comeback from last season's suspension for a substance-abuse problem. Smoker has covered a lot of ground off the field and plenty of air on it in one Smokers story perfect ending - ' ," Brent Neal ; Sports Editor 37-1071 E-mail: sportsIscbm get a flip of the calendar. But apparently, the folks in Lincoln didn't receive the script that sent Smoker out a star. Perhaps that's just as well because today the 22-year-old starts life in the real world not a perfect one. "You can't always have a storybook ending," se- mor guard ram JtiarKer said. "Sometimes reality sets in." The next step in Smoker's quest for success and sobriety could prove as scary as the thousand he took to get back on the team at Michigan State. Beating defenses doesn't figure to get any : : u xtttt r:. for defeating addiction. "Jeff still has some tests in life ahead without a doubt," MSU coach John : L. Smith said. ,.' Smoker's long, strange trip from golden boy to outcast and back to record-setting hero was amazing and inspirational. Perhaps it was also the easy part. Smoker baby stepped his way back to health and the Michigan State huddle with Smith dangling the carrot in front of his face-mask the entire way. Relapsing simply wasn't an option if he wanted to stay a Spartan. Had Smoker stepped out of line, his kooky but caring coach have been standing there with a big stick. Crazy as it sounds, there had to be some comfort in that "The reins are going to get loosened," said Smith, whose common-sense plan for Smoker included pre- buiirise wurKuuis anu visus to soup kitchens. "There will come a day when we're not there and he's on his own." ' TSEESaiULZPage2

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