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The only noise in the ancient home-team locker room at Spartan
Stadium last Saturday afternoon was the sound of defeat. Showers
droned in the background, tape was stripped off beaten bodies,
butts were patted in condolence. Coaches paused at
green-and-white dressing cubicles to whisper fatherly support to
players with sore egos. In a distant corner, Michigan State
senior co-captain Ike Reese sat on a bench and stared at the
floor. "We tried," he said. "We really tried."

The investment is seven days. That's the rhythm of the fall.
Michigan State players and coaches had studied like med
students, trained like Navy SEALs and stoked their emotions
until it seemed as if all of them would implode. Then, in front
of a home sellout crowd of 79,687, they lost 23-7 to Michigan, a
beating that took the Spartans out of the Rose Bowl picture,
will subject them to a year of ridicule in the Great Lakes State
and betrayed their preparation. It only takes three hours to
lose a football game, but a week's worth of blood gets spilled.

SUNDAY, OCT. 19, 9 P.M.

The offensive half of Michigan State's coaching staff is in its
fourth hour of sitting in a windowless meeting room at the Duffy
Daugherty Football Building, watching tapes of Michigan's games
unspool. From Sunday through Wednesday, when the game plan will
be largely completed, the staff will spend more than 60 hours
and eat all its meals at the Duffy. "Oh, I talk to my family,"
says running backs coach Bobby Williams. "On the phone."

In truth, Michigan Week began for the Spartans late on the
previous afternoon, after senior kicker Chris Gardner's 28-yard
field goal attempt had been blocked as time ran down, preserving
Northwestern's 19-17 victory and leaving Michigan State players
to wander the grass of Ryan Field like extras from Night of the
Living Dead. The Spartans were losers for the first time in six
games this season. After a traffic-choked bus ride to O'Hare
Airport and a charter flight that landed in Lansing at 11:30
p.m., Michigan State video coordinator Tom Shepard and assistant
Dean Olson had worked through the night in their own bunker,
preparing tapes for the staff.

Now, Gary Tranquill, the Spartans' Yoda-like 57-year-old
offensive coordinator, holds the remote in his hand. Around the
table in the meeting room are Williams, assistant head coach and
wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett, offensive line coach Jim
Bollman and tight ends coach Pat Shurmur. Often they prop their
feet on the table, and they speak in a complex shorthand, dense
with football terminology. During a break Williams walks slowly
out of the room and barks to Tranquill, "Blitzes, blitzes,
blitzes. They're comin' after us. I quit, Trank. Nice knowing
you guys." His grim humor is appreciated by everybody in the
room. Michigan, 6-0 and ranked No. 5 in the nation, is superb on
defense: strong, athletic, aggressive.

It is nearly 10:30 when Tranquill stands and drapes a jacket
over his shoulders. He was the first to arrive, at 5:30 a.m.
"I'm tired," he says. "Let's go home." He pauses, then adds, "I
believe it would behoove us to stay simple against these guys."

MONDAY, 6:45 A.M.

A crisp autumn wind scatters leaves through the predawn darkness
as some 90 players scurry through the doors of the Duffy to
watch the tape of their game against Northwestern. Offense in
one room, defense in another. The sessions will last 75 minutes,
and they promise to be bloody.

Tranquill works the offensive room and clicks through tape as
players sheepishly sip fruit drinks. "I've been coaching 150
years, and I've never seen this many mental errors," he screams.
Early in the session, he's joined by coach Nick Saban, now in
his third year with the Spartans. After the film shows
fifth-year senior quarterback Todd Schultz fumbling a snap from
fourth-year junior center Jason Strayhorn, Saban shouts, "You
should play 40 years of football and this should never happen."
The rest of the meeting unfolds in a similar vein.

Saban joins defensive coordinator Dean Pees halfway through the
other viewing and near its conclusion bellows, "Mental errors!
The talent in this room far exceeds what we needed to win that

MONDAY, 8:15 A.M.

In the training room junior cornerback Amp Campbell lies on a
rubbing table with a reinjured right shoulder. He can scarcely
raise his arm. "I couldn't wrap anybody up Saturday," says
Campbell, who first injured the shoulder--a mild separation--in
practice during the second week of October. "They ran right
through me." Flanking him are standout 330-pound tackle Flozell
Adams, with a right shoulder sprain, and redshirt freshman guard
Shaun Mason, with a severe back bruise.

A surprise visitor hobbles in--Schultz, whose left ankle is
sprained, swollen and beginning to discolor. He had twisted it
against Northwestern, unbeknownst to the coaching and training
staffs. During the week injuries will become a daunting theme
for the Spartans, who have only 72 scholarship players (of a
maximum of 85), the result, in part, of NCAA sanctions handed
down in 1996 for recruiting violations that Saban and his staff
had nothing to do with. "At some positions the drop-off from
first team to second team is huge," says Saban. "But it doesn't
do any good to play guys hurt if they can't perform. This game
is too intense to play hurt."


Saban gathers his staff around a conference table in the
defensive meeting room. They get together at this time every day
during the season, except game days, to discuss all aspects of
the football program, from academics to recruiting to game
plans. The 45-year-old Saban has spent most of the previous day
and several hours this morning watching tape of Michigan by
himself. He tosses out succinct, early observations:

--"We're definitely going to directional kick [punt] away from
number 2 [Charles Woodson].

--"They play hard, man. As good a college defense as I've seen
since we played Nebraska [September 1996].

--"For our defense, this is as simple as it gets. Make them beat
us with the pass."

The implication of the last remark is clear: Put the game in the
hands of Wolverines quarterback Brian Griese. "If you were
playing the old Chicago Bulls," Saban will say later, "you'd
rather have Horace Grant taking the last shot than Michael
Jordan or Scottie Pippen." Griese is Horace Grant.

With one pronouncement, Saban tries to set the tone for the
week: "Look, our guys were a little humbled this morning. They
needed it, man. Been telling them for two weeks that it's not
that easy to keep winning."

MONDAY, 3:25 P.M.

The entire team gathers for meetings only twice during the week
(not counting game day), on Monday and Friday afternoons. In his
press conference at noon, Saban said that last year's 45-29 loss
to Michigan in Ann Arbor would be no motivating factor in this
year's game, but those were simply respectful words for the
Wolverines to read. "I usually don't talk about the past," Saban
tells the Spartans, "but I was embarrassed by our performance
last year, and I was embarrassed by the job I did as a coach.
We've all had to live with that for 365 days, and we'll have to
live with it for another 365 days if it happens again."

Then he tells a parable, as is his style. "If I put a
two-by-four on the ground and asked you to walk across it, how
many of you guys could do that?" he asks rhetorically. "You
could all do it, because you'd focus on the board. But what if I
took that same two-by-four and put it 10 stories up, stretched
between two buildings? Then it's hard to focus on the board,
because you're focused on your fear of falling. Focus on your
goals. Don't be distracted by your fears. Concentrate on the
two-by-four and we'll get it done."

MONDAY, 5:30 P.M.

Practice unfolds each day on two scruffy, side-by-side grass
practice fields next to the Duffy. A full-sized indoor field is
also available but seldom used. "Like my man Woody [Hayes] used
to say, 'If you're going to fight in the North Atlantic, you've
got to train in the North Atlantic,'" says Saban. A cool wind
whispers across the fields, forewarning of the bitter cold that
would arrive on Tuesday and stay for the week. Practice is
divided into periods, varying in duration from seven to 22
minutes, with each period devoted to a particular phase of the
game. Offensive and defensive scout teams, composed of redshirts
and walk-ons, mimic Michigan's units, but it's often a laughable
exercise. "They line up right--sometimes--and that's about it,"
says Pees. "But every school has that problem."

Alone on one of the fields is sophomore punter Paul Edinger, who
hurt the Spartans with 28- and 11-yard punts against
Northwestern. He's booming spirals into the sky. "I was kicking
great in practice last week, too," he says with a shrug.

TUESDAY, 8:45 A.M.

Fifth-year senior guard Scott Shaw fills the hollow of the
Duffy's new 9,000-square-foot weight room with piercing screams
as he pounds through a series of leg lifts. Players lift as
ambitiously during the season as in the off-season. Shaw can
bench 500 pounds and do 35 repetitions with 225 pounds. For him
lifting is therapy. "When I'm on the bench, I imagine I'm
pushing a Wolverine off me," he says. "When I do high reps, I do
one rep for every Big Ten team and one extra for the Rose Bowl."

"It's true," says strength coach Ken Mannie. "Sometimes he
shouts them out loud." Shaw also shaves his head bowling-ball
smooth each Thursday night, a ritual that is central to his

TUESDAY, 3:15 P.M.

Pees runs the defensive team meeting and shouts one point among
many: "They will try to screw you with substitution late." The
coaches feel that the Michigan offense takes unfair advantage of
the liberal rules regarding substitution, running players into
the game very late in the cycle of the 25-second play clock and
even hiding them near the sideline (one instance of that was
seen on film, in Michigan's Oct. 4 win over Indiana) to make it
nearly impossible for opponents to make matching defensive
substitutions. "The rule says, Don't attempt to confuse," says
Saban. "I think they've gotten away with murder with respect to
that rule."

The Spartans' coaches also suspect the Wolverines of stealing
the signals that backup quarterbacks send from the sideline to
the signal-caller who's in the game. For Saturday's game,
Williams, who gets the play from Tranquill via headset, will be
flanked by two quarterbacks, each signaling. "One signal will be
real, the other one won't," says Williams.

TUESDAY, 5:30 P.M.

Schultz bends awkwardly to retrieve a dropped snap late in
practice and injures his lower back, which had also been hit in
the Northwestern game. He gingerly walks off the field and
desperately seeks out assistant athletic trainer Sally Nogle.
"Sally," he says. "Where's Sally?" He doesn't take another snap.

TUESDAY, 6:10 P.M.

Practice has been sloppy and lethargic, inexcusable for the week
leading up to the game against Michigan. Saban gathers the
Spartans at the finish and erupts. "You just got your asses
kicked by Northwestern," he screams. "And if you keep practicing
like this, you're going to get your asses kicked by these guys.
Again! You control your own destiny. You've got your big games
in your own stadium, and how are you getting ready? Like
horses---! Somebody better call a team meeting, and I mean right
away." The next morning, after watching tape of the practice,
he'll say, "Practice wasn't as bad as I acted, but it's a good
thing [the players] think it was."


Head trainer Jeff Monroe gives Schultz an injection of Toradol,
an anti-inflammatory drug, in hopes of unlocking his back and
allowing him to sleep.


Schultz walks into the training room rigid with pain, his eyes
glassy from sleeplessness, and says plaintively to graduate
assistant athletic trainer Mike Peters, "Help." As Peters guides
Schultz to a rubbing table, Schultz says, "That was the longest
night of my life. I didn't sleep. I couldn't move." Nogle
hurries over and begins massaging his back. Schultz groans.
"S---! Oh, s---!" he says. At this moment, it seems
inconceivable that Schultz, who is also still receiving therapy
for his sprained ankle, will be able to play a game anytime soon.


The defensive staff finishes its plan for Michigan. Pees sits at
one end of a conference table, surrounded by outside linebackers
coach Greg Colby, secondary coach Mark Dantonio and line coach
Todd Grantham. Saban, who was defensive coordinator for the
Cleveland Browns from 1991 through '94, also attends most of the
defensive meetings. "I know a lot of defensive guys who get a
head-coaching job and right away decide to start drawing
offensive plays," says Saban. "I don't want to do that."

The defense's preparation for Michigan has been astounding,
including an exhaustive film study of the Wolverines done last
summer. From the study, the Spartans' staff confirmed what it
had suspected: Michigan uses a run-heavy, two-tight-end,
two-flanker, one-back formation (called Silver in Michigan State
terminology) far more often against the Spartans than against
any other team: 61 out of 76 snaps against Michigan State in
1996 compared with less than 25% of snaps against other
opponents. The Wolverines have other obvious tendencies: When
true freshmen running backs Anthony Thomas and Demetrius Smith
are in the game together, Michigan almost always runs the ball.
When junior Clarence Williams is in the backfield with senior
Chris Howard, the Wolverines almost always pass. When they line
up in Silver Trips (the Silver formation with both wide
receivers to one side), they almost always have Griese throw a
bootleg pass. Also, tight end Jerame Tuman is dangerous but runs
virtually only two patterns: a deep corner route and a cross
with his counterpart on the opposite side. The double cross is
Michigan's pet play on passing downs.

Pees, Saban and the defensive staff design several new schemes
to use specifically against Silver: 40 Point Waco 9 (a run-stop
formation with the middle linebacker reading and playing in the
gap) and 40 Point Mickey 9 Peel (a passing-downs formation
featuring a middle linebacker blitz). The defense will try to
get into its nickel scheme whenever Clarence Williams is in the
game and, ideally, whenever a pass is a possibility so that
there will be a defensive back, rather than a linebacker, on
Tuman. This will be difficult to do if Michigan subs late (a
certainty). Against the double cross, the Spartans will "cut"
Tuman as he crosses, football terminology for making what
amounts to a basketball-like switch. If any Michigan State
linebacker finds himself looking for something to do, "just look
for number 80 [Tuman] and flat-head him, knock his ass," says

In all, the defensive plan is heavy on jamming the run and
equally heavy on finding Tuman and pressuring Griese. "Their
quarterback, he'll just throw it anywhere, right to us
sometimes," says Campbell. "And their receivers aren't fast."

"We're not trying to be the gurus that shut down Michigan's
offense, because nobody does that," says Pees. "It's a lot
easier on film, when you can stop the reel and look at the
formation. The players have to do it a lot faster, and Michigan
has good players. We're just trying to give ourselves a chance."


Philip Greenman, a 69-year-old osteopath with a full head of
thick, silvery hair and the hands of a bricklayer, is working
over Schultz's body like a pizza maker kneading dough. Schultz
groans occasionally. Officially, he has a left rotational sprain
of his sacroiliac joint, which sent most of the muscles in his
back into painful spasms. Translated, he threw out his back.
After 20 minutes of "muscle balancing," Greenman promises that
Schultz "will notice a lot of difference in 24 hours." Indeed,
Schultz will practice on Thursday and play on Saturday.


Taking his cue from Saban, Reese calls a players-only meeting
before practice and begins it with a tirade. "You can't just
throw a switch on Saturday and be ready for the Michigan game,"
he shouts. "Anybody who doesn't remember last year's game can
come on over to my house and watch the tape with me, like I've
been doing all week." Reese would later recall, "I was so angry,
I felt like I wanted to reach out and strike somebody." Instead,
he beckoned sophomore tailback Sedrick Irvin to speak. "Sedrick,
you're somebody who the team respects, for your work ethic and
your talent," Reese says at the meeting. "But now it's time for
you to take a leadership role. It's time for you to speak."
Irvin rises and at one juncture in his short speech asks his
teammates, "Do you want to go back to El Paso [the Sun Bowl, in
which Michigan State played last year] or do you want to go to


The offensive plan is complete. True to Tranquill's wishes, the
Spartans will keep it relatively simple. They will run far more
often than usual from their Green Formation (two tight ends, one
wideout, two running backs). The reason for this is that
Michigan likes to run multiple defensive sets and zone blitzes,
jumping in and out of gaps wildly until the snap. "Teams like
Michigan are doing so much crap on defense that you just decide
it's better to be simple and make them be a little more simple,"
says Bollman. "If we're not spread out, they can't spread out.
Two tights, two backs."

Irvin, who has run for 591 yards in the first six games, will be
vital to this attack. In many ways the Spartans are handing him
the game. "He's the only guy we've got who can make a big play,"
says Tranquill. "Otherwise we're trying to sustain 80 [yards] on
every series, and that's really hard to do."

There will be four gimmick plays in the offensive package, all
involving Irvin: 1) a halfback pass, which Irvin has thrown
effectively in the past; 2) a counter screen left to Irvin off a
play-fake to him; 3) a halfback option, in which Irvin would
take a handoff from Schultz and assume the role of a wishbone
quarterback, with the option of pitching to trailing back Marc
Renaud; and 4) a devilish fake field goal, called Ranger, in
which Irvin would linger near the sideline as the kicking team
ran onto the field late (more than one team can play the late
substitution game) and catch a pass from holder Bill Burke.
Saban was so protective of this play that he didn't run it in
practice after Tuesday, fearing somebody connected with Michigan
would find out. Can Irvin do all of this? "He can do anything,"
says Baggett.

There will be no special attempt to avoid throwing at Woodson.
"Derrick Mason caught 10 balls on him last year," says
Tranquill. "Our receivers this year aren't as good as Derrick
was, but we're going to run some double cuts, some hook-and-gos
on Woodson. He's aggressive and he's good, but he makes
mistakes, too."


Practice is crisp and lively, and at the finish Saban begins
playing to the pride that he challenged a day earlier. "Do you
guys want to live with this crap from Michigan for another
year?" he asks. "Do you? Last year you had people yelling at you
that the reason you're at Michigan State is because Michigan
didn't want you."


Irvin stands in front of a small, rectangular mirror in his
spare on-campus apartment. He flexes his bullish upper body and
stares into his reflection. "Can you do this?" he asks angrily.
"Can you do this?"

Every day of Michigan Week he repeats this ritual. Since Irvin,
the cousin of Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, came to
East Lansing from Miami two years ago, this is the opportunity
he has sought. "I want the burden on my back," he says. "I want
my teammates to say, 'Sedrick, let us ride you.'" Later he falls
across a couch and reads a Detroit newspaper column in which a
Wolverines defensive player is quoted as saying he's happy that
Michigan State is good this year, because Michigan wants the
best the Spartans can deliver.

"Gonna get it," Irvin whispers.


In blustery cold, a tall, bearded man in sweats, who calls
himself John Spirit, sits vigil in front of the 10-foot-tall
Spartan statue, called Sparty, that sits just down the road from
the stadium. He's protecting it from the advances of
maize-and-blue vandals from the east. John Spirit's sanity
notwithstanding, the rivalry simmers with dislike. The word most
often used by Spartans fans in reference to Wolverines rooters
is arrogant. Jokes about Michigan Staters abound. For instance:

Q: What do you call a room with 32 Spartans in it?

A: A full set of teeth.

Perhaps Michigan can spread its emotion evenly among Notre Dame,
Ohio State and Michigan State, but for the Spartans, there is
only Michigan. When Saban approached Campbell on Wednesday
afternoon to ask if he could play with his painful shoulder,
Campbell said, "Coach, you can't make me sit this one out."

THURSDAY, 10:30 A.M.

The coaching staff meets with Dr. Roger Grooters, associate
athletic director for student-athlete support services, and his
assistant, Chris Helms. The tenor of this meeting, in the same
room where strategies are debated and players evaluated in salty
locker room English, is almost surreal.

Michigan State has three players in serious academic trouble,
and a fourth, a redshirt freshman, who is headed in that
direction. Only one of the four plays much. "Get these guys in
to see me," says Saban. Helms follows the bad news with some
good: Spartans players, including Irvin, senior linebacker
Tyrone Garland and sophomore tailback Leroy McFadden, have been
praised for their participation in a reading program with local
schoolchildren. Saban pauses and runs his hand through his hair.
"You know, we're always getting on guys when they don't get the
job done academically," he says. "I'd like to let them know when
they're doing something good, too. Try to get a note to me
whenever a kid gets an A on a test or does something good in the
community." The room is briefly silent.


Saban stands by a window in his office, looking out at the gray
afternoon. He's a disciplined football man who revels in
planning strategy. He seems perfectly suited to the NFL, but
last year he turned down an offer to become coach of the New
York Giants. He has cleaned up a soiled program, restored its
dignity and made it a national power again. From last winter's
crossroads, he came to understand his own place. ''I think
college coaching is a better job," he says. "I mean, sure, it's
difficult to recruit and there are tough issues, social,
academic and disciplinary. But the pro game is a business, and
with the rules now you can't even build team chemistry over
time. I look back on the Browns and think about a guy like
[16-year Browns linebacker] Clay Matthews. Man, he was a
Cleveland Brown. But that doesn't happen anymore. Guys are gone
in a year. In college there are so many intangible rewards. You
can be a part of the community. The kids [Saban and his wife,
Terry, have a 10-year-old son, Nicholas, and a six-year-old
daughter, Kristen] can say, 'Dad, let's go see Sparty,' and we
can do that." He shakes his head, as if surprised.

Saban is nearing his biggest game as a coach, and he is
anguishing over which buttons to push. It is his style to
educate rather than to harangue. "I like to tell little stories
that I find in motivational books [Miami Heat coach Pat Riley's,
for instance], like the one about the two-by-four," he says.
"I'm running out of stories." For Friday's final meeting with
the whole squad, he's considering bringing in a guest speaker,
"To balance me with something emotional." He's also considering
getting emotional himself. "I'm not a Knute Rockne kind of guy,"
says Saban, "and I don't believe kids generally respond to that
stuff. But for a game like this, a really hard, emotional game,
they might."


A light drizzle falls as the week's final full practice ends.
"Forty-two hours," Saban shouts at the finish. "For the next 42
hours, I want you to keep thinking to yourselves, We are going
to beat...their...asses."

The last to leave the field is Gardner, whose kick was blocked
at Northwestern. "I'll take the same situation, again," he says.


Tranquill stands in a doorway outside the Duffy, sheltered from
the sprinkles, smoking a cigarette. Will you win? he's asked.
"Michigan is really good," he says. "I know we'll play hard."
Hours earlier, Saban had spoken precisely the same words. No


For the final team meeting, Saban ditches his motivational books
and speaks from the heart. The room is stone silent as he
challenges his linemen to dominate the line of scrimmage and his
special teams to make the play that decides the game. "Remember,
we've got Ranger," he says of the fake field goal play. Then he
touches the nerve endings of this rivalry. "Whatever happens
tomorrow, you're going to remember it for 50 years," Saban says.
"If you win this game, the pride will never leave you. And
remember last year, how it's been sticking in your craw for 365
days. Are we ready to do this? Are we ready? We are ready."

He stops for a beat. "Listen, guys. Of all the dogs in the
world, this is the one dog that we don't want doing anything on
our ground!" The room ripples with approval.

Just to be safe, Saban invites former Michigan State defensive
lineman Robert Viney, a member of the 1965 team that played in
the Rose Bowl, to address the Spartans after their light, indoor
practice. "This isn't a game," Viney tells them. "This is a war."

SATURDAY, 10:30 A.M.

The Michigan State players and coaches make the traditional
half-mile walk from the Kellogg Center, the on-campus hotel
where players sleep on the eve of home games, to Spartan
Stadium. Frenzied crowds build along the way, until just outside
the stadium, the team can barely pass. A brass band plays just
above the entrance tunnel, but when the players reach the
dressing room, a metal door is shut behind them and the
celebratory noise turns to nervous silence. Irvin is dressed,
padded and taped, helmet on and mouth guard in, 90 minutes
before kickoff. Reese paces the room, shouting, "Ain't a good
day to be here unless you're wearing green and white!"

Saban walks into the equipment room and finds his son sitting
quietly in a corner. They exchange a gentle hand-slap for luck.

SATURDAY, 12:35-3:45 P.M.

Ranger works to perfection. With 3:39 left in the first quarter,
Burke throws a 22-yard touchdown pass to Irvin, who stealthily
remains on the field and goes unnoticed by Michigan. The play
gives Michigan State a 7-3 lead. It will be, however, the
highlight of the Spartans' afternoon.

Tranquill's plan to keep the offense simple is largely
successful, and it allows the Spartans to stay within six
points, 13-7, into the fourth quarter. But the strategy is
ultimately sabotaged by Michigan State's own mistakes.
Unencumbered by the ankle and the back injuries, Schultz plays
but throws five interceptions in one of the worst games of his
career, and Michigan State is hit with 10 penalties for 96
yards. It proves ill-advised to challenge Woodson, who gets two
of the interceptions. The turnovers have a snowball effect,
allowing Michigan to play conservatively, thus never putting the
game in Griese's hands. He throws for 102 very safe yards. "We
didn't force him to make plays," Reese will say afterward.

Tranquill calls the halfback pass in the fourth quarter, but the
Wolverines play it well. The same is true of the halfback
option, on which Irvin pitches adroitly to Renaud, but a short
gain is wiped out by a holding penalty.

The Spartans' defense plays heroically. Tuman (two catches for
14 yards) is stopped, and Michigan, which hardly uses Silver at
all, gains just 275 yards. But on a second-quarter running play
the Wolverines' Howard goes 51 yards to the Michigan State 33.
It's the defense's only major mistake against the run all day,
but it is enormous, as Michigan goes on to finish a 95-yard
drive with a touchdown that gives it a 10-7 lead at the half.

More than an hour after the game, Saban walks back into the
stadium after a long session with visiting recruits, who must be
convinced that what they had just witnessed was not typical.
"Mistakes," Saban says resignedly. "Too many mistakes." His
words eerily recall his Monday-morning admonition. Mental


A dark room at the Duffy. Coaches sitting around a table
watching a screen. Ohio State is next. Seven more days.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAMIAN STROHMEYER Dressed to kill at 10:30 last Saturday, Saban led his team to Spartan Stadium to do battle with the Wolverines. [Nick Saban and members of Michigan State football team]

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAMIAN STROHMEYER Despite Nogle's best efforts, Schultz, who threw his back out on Tuesday, missed most of the week's practices. [Sally Nogle beside supine Todd Schultz]

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAMIAN STROHMEYER The training room was a busy place all week; here Reese (foreground) and Schultz get treatment on Wednesday. [Todd Schultz and Ike Reese on training room tables]

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAMIAN STROHMEYER The Spartans got their fill of tape on Michigan, with Pees leading this defensive skull session at the Duffy. [Dean Pees and Michigan State football team members watching football game on screen]

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAMIAN STROHMEYER Woodson (2) played better than Michigan State expected, making two interceptions and pressuring the passer, in this case backup Bill Burke. [Charles Woodson and Bill Burke in game]

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAMIAN STROHMEYER Mike Austin and his teammates had little time to wallow in their sorrow; in seven days they would face Ohio State.

"Whatever happens tomorrow, you're going to remember it for 50