Monday, December 12, 2011

Ticket sales and other updates from Outback Bowl luncheon

This story originally appeared on

OKEMOS — With the No. 12 Michigan State football team set to play in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2, the natural place for a media luncheon would be Outback Steakhouse.

At lunch, athletics director Mark Hollis updated tickets sales, which continue to be slow. About 5,000 of the 11,500 allotted tickets have been sold.

MSU plans on aggressively marketing toward the more than 20,000 MSU alumni in the southeast United States, hoping to boost the ticket sales. But after tens of thousands of Spartan fans spent their money in Indianapolis only to have their hearts ripped out, the desire to spend money to go to a bowl that isn’t the Rose is low.

“Our aspirations are to play in the Rose Bowl,” Hollis said. “And when that fell through, there’s disappointment. You have to get over that. You have to move forward. You have to look at what this group of seniors brought to Mid-Michigan over the past four years.

“They’re deserving of a game. I think if the crowd can come out for that class, that would be amazing.”

Hollis said the players got over the loss in the Big Ten Championship quicker than coaches, fans or even himself. They’re ready to get on the field and face No. 18 Georgia.

“It’s an exciting matchup. Georgia is obviously an awesome team,” freshman center Travis Jackson said. “They have an awesome defense, a 3-4 look. You see them on film, they’re big and fast and they play in a tough conference. We have to come ready to play Jan. 2 and we’re going to have to be prepared, because they’re a great team.”

MSU hasn’t won a bowl game since 2001, and for all the accolades the current senior class (the winningest in school history) has, a bowl win is still a step the program has yet to take under head coach Mark Dantonio.

“We want to win a bowl game. That’s something that this senior class would be very proud of to do, and we need to do that around here at Michigan State,” senior guard and former Milford star Joel Foreman said. “We’ve done great, bringing multiple (10-win) seasons and making the championship game was important, but it’s really important for us to go out there and win a bowl game. No matter where we were going to be (for a bowl), it was going to be important.”

Still a Spartan

Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi brushed aside a question about reports he is a candidate for the head-coaching job at Akron. Narduzzi’s name has been thrown around for a few jobs, but he has not been willing to talk openly about anything other than MSU.

“I really haven’t talked to anybody about that, to be honest with you” he said. “I’ve been on the road recruiting for the most part. Let Coach Dantonio answer all those questions. I’m not answering any of those.”

Dantonio was not at the luncheon, as he was in Ohio.

Last year, former MSU offensive coordinator Don Treadwell was named head coach at Miami (Ohio) the day before the Spartans were pounded by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl.

Short on the defensive line

Narduzzi confirmed that senior defensive tackles Kevin Pickelman and Johnathan Strayhorn likely would not be available for the Outback Bowl.

Pickelman injured his knee in the Big Ten Championship Game and Strayhorn injured his knee against Iowa.

Without the two seniors, junior Anthony Rashad White will move into a starting role and Micajah Reynolds, who has been practicing on both sides of the ball, will be the No. 3 defensive tackle, leaving the Spartans thin on the defensive line.

Scoreboard facelift

On Friday, the MSU Board of Trustees approved the planning process for scoreboard upgrades at Spartan Stadium. The hope is for them to be approved and completed in time for next season’s opener against Boise State.

“It’s time. It’s not just fun. The stadium is antiquated in so many ways, that’s one of them,” Hollis said. “(Deputy athletics director) Greg Ianni is leading a study that looks at a lot of components; from restrooms to entry areas to gates. Obviously the scoreboard is one a lot of people want to put the attention into. It’s something that’s desperately needed in Spartan Stadium.”

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