Michigan State finished one game over .500 after winning its final game by one point.
It was an appropriate ending to a season full of close victories and excruciating defeats.
The Spartans played nine games decided by four points or fewer, including their first seven in Big Ten play. They ended on a high note Saturday night with a 17-16 win over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, but the offseason will bring plenty of questions for a team that just a few months ago was hoping to make a run at a conference title.
“We stayed composed all the way through to the end,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “We won against Wisconsin very close. We won against Boise (State) very close. So our guys have won. It’s just that sometimes when you lose, it sort of gets magnified for all of us.”
After coming within an eyelash of the Rose Bowl the previous two seasons, Michigan State needed to replace quarterback Kirk Cousins in 2012. Andrew Maxwell became the starter, but in the bowl he ended up splitting time with Connor Cook.
So that may be the first talking point after a 7-6 season. Maxwell has another year of eligibility, but it was Cook, a redshirt freshman, who directed the drive that led to the winning field goal Saturday.
“I don’t want to slight anybody, say, ‘This guy is the new quarterback.’ There’s a lot of colleges across the country that play two quarterbacks or play guys situationally,” Dantonio said. “We just felt like we wanted to play a redshirt freshman and get him some reps in a bowl game.”
With the passing game in flux, the Spartans relied heavily on running back Le’Veon Bell. He ended up with 1,793 yards on a whopping 382 carries.