With Florida Atlantic’s newly planned stadium not ready for prime time, the Owls picked Detroit’s Ford Field as its home field versus the Michigan State Spartans.
I’m sure Florida Atlantic wanted to play on the success the Spartans basketball team had experienced at Ford Field. MSU had established a world record for the most fans ever to witness a basketball game when MSU played Kentucky. That was followed with 2008 Final Four setting tournament records for attendance with MSU in the Finals.
I felt the game could have packed in more than the announced 36,124 if the ticket pricing would have been structured differently.
No matter. Following the Spartans’ 30-17 victory, all involved deflected any talk of crowd size as a negative. Although ticket sales started out slow, they picked up in the final few days leading up to the game.
“I was pleased with what I saw out there,” Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger said. “A team with our background, so little time to market it. I thought it was fine how it all worked out.”
Added Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio: “I and all the players really liked being in Detroit. We had a chance to play an away game basically as a home game.”
The Spartans football team made its first appearance in downtown Detroit since Oct. 27, 1944, when coach Charlie Bachman led the Spartans to a 32-0 victory over Wayne State at the old University of Detroit Stadium.
The meeting against Florida Atlantic was the second time the two teams have played. MSU beat the Owls 17-0 in 2008 at East Lansing.
What was memorable to me about that game was seeing Javon Ringer scoot for a career high 282 yards. On this Saturday in the Motor City, Highland Park’s Edwin Baker did not quite match Ringer, but he did flow through the Owls defense for 183 yards.
“He (Baker) did an outstanding job,” Dantonio said. “He ran with power, balance and broke tackles. He set the tone for this football team.”
Baker ran the ball with a purpose, helping set up Michigan State’s first four scores. But it was an early third-quarter run that knocked out any chance for an Owls upset.
On first down from the Michigan State 20-yard-line, Baker took a handoff and went off left tackle. He found a crease, ran out of a tackle and blasted toward the sideline, running 80 yards for the score.
It was the longest run of sophomore’s career at Michigan State and put the Spartans up 27-7 at halftime. He ended up carrying the ball 15 times and averaged 12.2 yards for per carry.
“I just saw a little daylight and ran toward it,” Baker said. “Once I got by the first tackler, I cut up and turn on the speed and they did not catch me.”
It was the second straight game the running attack dominated for the Spartans (2-0). They will need to continue that this Saturday when Notre Dame comes to East Lansing.
“I came into this game more eager, especially playing in front of my hometown,” said Baker, an Oak Park High graduate. “I had a lot of anxiety built up in me. I just ran with passion and ran for the city.”
Concurred former Renaissance High player Chris Norman, who started at the linebacker hybrid position: “It was great playing at home in front of friends and family. I wanted to come out here and represent my city in a positive way.”
Added freshman defensive end William Gholston, who prepped at Southeastern: “I had about 18 people here at the game. That was my state title game I wanted last year (Southeastern lost in the semifinals). It was amazing playing in Ford Field at home.”
Leland Stein III can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.