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Wednesday, September 7, 2005
[ HAWAII VS. MICHIGAN STATE ]
Players staying cool
But the coaches aren't holding
MSU was on the bitter end of a 41-38 decision at Hawaii that completed its 2004 season. The Spartans had leads of 21-0 and 28-14. Quarterback Drew Stanton later said he was "absolutely disgusted" when he left Aloha Stadium.
Yesterday, though, returning offensive line starters Stefon Wheeler and Kyle Cook said they respect the Warriors, and even the Western Athletic Conference officiating crew that flagged them for 16 penalties for 119 yards, including many holding calls that astonished MSU coaches.
Wheeler, the Spartans senior left tackle, said he was called for holding in last year's game, and he might be guilty as charged -- even if the officials had been from the Big Ten.
He was asked if the WAC crew called it different than what he was used to in his conference.
"Honestly, I really don't know. They see what they see, and I can't do anything about it except try to adjust," Wheeler said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I did get called (for holding), but I really don't know if I did. (Big Ten officials) might have seen it that way, too. Things happen."
Cook, also on the phone after MSU's practice, refused to bite, too, when asked about the officiating in last year's game.
"It's their job to call what they see, and I think they do the best they can. Anyway, it's not something I'm looking at for motivation," the junior left guard said. "We look at every game as this is our next opponent, and what do we need to do to win. We're not trying to get people all geeked up about stuff like that."
UH coach June Jones and MSU coach John L. Smith are doing that, whether they're trying to or not.
Jones has said the Spartans should've been called for more penalties last year, to which Smith responded, "I don't react to some guy I don't particularly care for."
Smith later said he meant that as a joke.
On Monday, Jones spoke at length about Michigan State refusing to exchange videotape, and allegedly telling its opponent from last week, Kent State, to also not provide a tape.
Cook said the Spartans have been studying a tape of the ESPN2 telecast (less functional for scouting than team-shot video) of the USC-Hawaii game, and as far as he knows, MSU has not received a tape of the Hawaii game from USC.
During yesterday's Big Ten teleconference, a reporter asked Smith to provide "background" to the tale of the tape.
"There's no background behind that," Smith said. "We're not sending tape, they're not sending tape. It's that simple."
When Smith was asked if he asked Kent State (MSU's season-opening opponent) to not send a tape to Hawaii, Smith replied: "Not to my knowledge."
There was no comment available from Kent State yesterday.
UH had still not secured an MSU-Kent State tape as of yesterday's practice, and defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said he'd do his best with the tape from last year's UH-MSU game.
Warriors senior safety Lamar Broadway said the players don't think about such issues. He said the Spartans are opponents he holds in high regard because of what they have in common as football players.
"You respect any college athlete, because they're going through the same things you are. Double-days, just like us. Study hall, dealing with the media," Broadway said. "You give every player respect when you step on the field. I have no hard feelings."
Wheeler also said the players don't get caught up in peripheral issues. Last year's loss is motivational, but only to a point, he said.
"We definitely didn't want to end the season on a losing note." he said. "We want to go out and play well, and Hawaii will be a challenge. We worry about things we can control, try to keep mistakes to a minimum. We're definitely getting better. We are getting better, but we're never satisfied."