Encyclopedia Athletica: Michigan State

Nebraska looks to keep its lead in the Big Ten’s Legends division in East Lansing on Saturday. Here’s your A-to-Z guide to everything Huskers and Spartans.

COLORS – Green and white are an underutilized color combo, but I enjoy State’s willingness to keep the black (and other unofficial school colors) out of the mix for the most part. According to school records, green first officially came into use in 1899 but wasn’t officially put into widespread use until 1903.

DAUGHERTY, DUFFY — Nebraska fans owe a debt of gratitude to Michigan State’s famous coach of the 1950s and 1960s. It was Daugherty who gave Bob Devaney his first college job as an assistant with the Spartans and eventually recommended Devaney for the Nebraska job (after turning it down for himself). Daugherty won national titles at Michigan State in 1965 and 1966. (See Also: Devaney, Bob)

DEVANEY, BOB — In his self-titled book, Bob Devaney wrote that he was about three years away from giving up on coaching entirely when Michigan State called to add him to its staff in 1957. “I was 37 years old. I had made up my mind that if a break didn’t come before I was 40, I was going to go back to get my master’s degree and take a boring administrative job somewhere,” Devaney wrote. The rest, as they say, is history. (See Also: Daugherty, Duffy)


FIGHT SONG – Spartanly titled the “MSU Fight Song,” the MSU fight song isa  nice, strong march. And if you like lyrics of “the good old college try” variety, this song is full of them. For example, it opens this way:

On the banks of the Red Cedar,/ There’s a school that’s known to all;/ Its specialty is winning,/ And those Spartans play good ball

A little later, there’s this:

Go right through for MSU,/ Watch the points keep growing./ Spartan teams are bound to win,/ They’re fighting with a vim.

If that doesn’t make you want to wear a letter sweater, nothing will.

MASCOT – There aren’t many better mascots out there than Sparty. The Leno-chinned, ridiculously ripped mascot is the epitome of what costumed mascots can be. The costume itself weighs in at 40 pounds, costs around $12,000, and employs special fiberglass technology similar to that of the Muppets. (Really.)

(Now that I’ve said a bunch of nice things, allow a small rant: Please don’t call Michigan State by the mascot’s name. I blame ESPN host Rece Davis for popularizing this. Nobody calls Nebraska “Herbie” or Wisconsin “Bucky” or Ohio State “Brutus.” Why? Because it sounds ridiculous. If you want to talk about Michigan State, fine. If you want to talk about Michgan State’s mascot, fine. But you can’t use the same word for both. Thank you for your attention to this matter.)

MARTINEZ, TAYLOR — With 115 yards of total offense, Martinez will become Nebraska’s all-time leader in total yards, surpassing Eric Crouch. The majority of that might need to come through the air. It’s hard to envision much early success for Nebraska on the ground — few teams have it against Michigan State — making Martinez’s performance in the passing game key. Look for offensive coordinator Tim Beck to lean heavily on the short passing game early as the Huskers look to loosen up the Spartans defensively.

MAXWELL, ANDREW — The first-year starter at quarterback shouldered much of the blame for Michigan State’s early struggles on offense, but he’s getting better quickly. Maxwell, a 56.4 percent passer on the season, has topped 60 percent in three of the Spartans last four games, throwing five touchdowns against only one interception.

SECOND HALF — Michigan State’s defense is tough no matter when you face it, but the Spartans are particularly adept at making in-game adjustments. The Spartans enter Saturday giving up just 15 points per game (10th nationally), but in the second half Michigan State is allowing an average of only 4.67 points and nearly 40 yards fewer than the first half. Early success will be key for the Huskers this week.

SERIES HISTORY – The Huskers and Spartans have met six times, with Nebraska holding a 6-0 series lead. Nebraska’s last trip to East Lansing came in 1995, with the No. 2 Husker’s rolling to a 50-10 victory. Running back Lawrence Phillips had 206 yards rushing on 22 carries and four touchdowns that day.

SPARTANS – Prior to 1925, Michigan State was known as Michigan Agricultural College and the teams, as one might expect, were known as the “Aggies.” But a new name meant a new nickname and the college sponsored a contest to find one. The winner was “The Michigan Staters” but George S. Alderton, then the sports editor at the Lansing State Journal, realized what a nightmare it was going to be to write things like “the Michigan Staters played with plenty of vim against the hated Wolverines last Saturday” so he changed it. Alderton got the voting slips, saw one included Spartans, and started using that in stories and headlines. Editors and writers everywhere appreciate the foresight.

THIRD DOWN — The Huskers have forced 16 three-and-outs in their past two games, elevating their national rank in opponent third down conversions to 26th nationally at 34.13 percent. The Spartans rank 17th at 30.83 percent.

UNIFORMS – Somewhat quietly, and when they’re not taking the Spartans things too literally, Michigan State has some really classy uniforms. The helmets have always been a personal favorite though I could do without the variable width stripe meant to represent an actual Spartan helmet flourish. Keep things simple, and Michigan State is in very good shape.