In 480 B.C. the Spartan king Leonidas led 300 of his finest warriors to block the Persians at Thermopylae. Leonidas and his men fought for three days and ultimately held the pass at Thermopylae pass for seven days before ultimately being outflanked. It is one of the most dramatized and studied battles in history.
Fast forward nearly 2,500 years and it’s safe to say none of Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio’s Spartans would have made the cut.
The Spartans made the NCAA Playoff last season. This year they might not become bowl eligible.
Dantonio didn’t mince words after the game.
“I believe this program’s been built on a pretty solid foundation,” Dantonio said. “It’s taken nine years to do that. It’s taken that long to get to where we’ve been. The ride up the mountain is difficult at times, but that ride down is sometimes very quick.”
MSU allowed 398 total yards, 10 third-down conversions, two fourth-down conversions and five sacks as the BYU football team left Spartan Stadium with a 31-14 win.
“Great game,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I’m proud of our players. All three phases were clicking. We hit some adversity early on — it seemed like they were up 7-0 (for) a long time. But our guys kept fighting and the second half was ours.”
Sitake’s right. The Cougars dominated MSU in the second half, outscoring the Spartans 28-7.
The BYU offense was once again bolstered by Jamaal Williams.
After exploding for a school-record 286 yards last week, Williams took 30 carries for 163 yards and two touchdowns against a Spartan defense that was ranked No. 16 in defending the run.
“The x-factor is just that our players are great leaders,” Sitake said. “We have great guys like Jamaal (Williams) take over the offense.”
Williams is now second in the nation in rushing, with 866 yards. He trails San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey by just 25 yards.
Williams is also second in the nation in rushing touchdowns. His 10 scores trails only Louisville’s Lamar Jackson’s 14. After the win, Williams was getting recognition from national pundits and his name began popping up on Doak Walker Award watch lists.
While MSU is struggling this season — the loss dropped the Spartans to 2-3 on the year — it was still a monumental win for Sitake and his staff. The Cougars traveled to East Lansing and left with a convincing win over a Power Five opponent with a quality coach and talented players.
It was arguably the biggest win of Sitake’s head coaching career.
The Cougars were certainly animated, finding the first-year head coach on the sideline and delivering a Powerade shower to him as the clock wound down.
Sitake said he was “excited to celebrate the victory,” but added that his team still has plenty of work left to do.
“There’s always room to improve,” Sitake said. “And you have to give a lot of credit to Michigan State. They’re a great team and have a lot of talent.”
The Cougars have now won back-to-back contests, improving their record to 3-3 on the season. Their three losses have come by a combined total of seven points and their schedule doesn’t get any easier.
Next up is the Homecoming game against Mississippi State on Oct. 14, then the Cougars will travel to Idaho to take on No. 15 Boise State, which will mark BYU’s third game in 12 days.