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A Spartan's Revenge
AUSTIN MURPHY
October 03, 2005
Quarterback Drew Stanton has Michigan State averaging nearly 50 points a game and contending for its first Big Ten title since 1990. This week he'll be out to settle a personal score when he takes on rival Michigan
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October 03, 2005

A Spartan's Revenge

Quarterback Drew Stanton has Michigan State averaging nearly 50 points a game and contending for its first Big Ten title since 1990. This week he'll be out to settle a personal score when he takes on rival Michigan

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When Drew asked Carr what he was talking about, the coach--who knew Gaylord was a Michigan State alum--replied, "Your dad Sparty's not here with you."

Drew wasn't inclined to explain to Carr why his parents couldn't make it, but Gaylord says the upshot was that "Drew soured on [ Carr] right away."

Later, father and son had a cordial meeting with Carr. "Lloyd's a good guy," Gaylord allows. But first impressions were lasting: Drew cast his lot with Michigan State. After redshirting his first year, he excelled in the team's '03 spring practice and wanted badly to be the guy lining up behind the center.

He got his wish. Sort of. The quarterback job was won by Jeff Smoker, who had senior savvy and an NFL-caliber arm. Stanton was relegated to "personal protector"--the guy who picks up rushers while hoping the punter doesn't propel the ball up his backside. While he was crushed by Smith's decision, Stanton buttoned his lip and went to work, leading the punt team in tackles.

Stanton did such a swell job that the coaches couldn't resist asking him to play on other special teams. It was a gamble, letting your quarterback of the future run under kicks. But it paid off for the Spartans ... until the final game of the season. Covering a punt against Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl, Stanton was hit from behind and tore the ACL in his right knee.

A week into practice for the 2004 season his surgically repaired knee ballooned. Repeated drainings did not help; the knee needed rest. Stanton did not start until the fourth game, at Indiana. After struggling in the first half, he led Michigan State to 23 unanswered points in the second. In a 51--17 rout of Minnesota he rushed for 102 yards and passed for 308. Two weeks later he had rushed for 80 yards against Michigan when Woodley separated his shoulder. To the astonishment of his teammates, he returned two weeks later and directed the Spartans to a win over No. 4 Wisconsin. "I don't know if crazy's the term," says right guard Gordon Niebylski, "but he is tough and fearless and loves to do things that people think he can't do."

Scintillating as he was last season, rushing for 687 yards and passing for 1,601, Stanton put up those numbers "on a leg and a half, or with a bum shoulder, or both," says quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier. Come spring practice Stanton was forbidden to run the ball, serving the dual purposes of allowing him to heal and forcing him to get in the habit of going to his second and third reads. Last season, says offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin, "if his first read wasn't open, his second read was his feet."

The spring practice restriction changed that. He is healthy and has a firm grasp of a complex system, a one-back set with plenty of three- and four-wideout packages. The only downside, according to his teammates, is that he isn't running as much. Stanton's rushes are a source of yardage and amusement: Smith calls his frenetic, crazy-legged gait "the drunken sailor." Says guard Kyle Cook, "Against Indiana he was so busy with fakes and moves that he tackled himself." Adds flanker Kyle Brown, "Let's just say you can tell he didn't run track in high school."

Stanton's running and passing may not seem all that amusing to his cross-state rivals this Saturday. The quarterback remembers lying on the turf in Ann Arbor while Michigan fans cheered his injury. They may come to regret their bad manners.

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