Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 12/20/11
EAST LANSING, Mich. Trenton Robinson, one of Michigan State's senior captains, admires teammate Isaiah Lewis for his constant tenacity, every game and every practice. "If he's going to mess up, he's going to mess up 100 mph," Robinson said. "He goes hard all the time." Occasionally in sports, that type of determination can lead to your downfall, too. In Lewis' case, it happened at the worst possible time for the Spartans. His running-into-the-punter penalty will be remembered as the final dagger for Michigan State, wiping out a long punt return and allowing Wisconsin to run out the clock, in a heartbreaking 42-39 loss in the Big Ten championship game earlier this month. Instead of possibly ending the program's 24-year Rose Bowl drought, Lewis and the Spartans are headed to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., to play Georgia on Jan. 2. "You just have to move past it," Lewis said Tuesday, the first time he's talked to the media about the play. "If you keep on dwelling on it, it will hold you back. "I used to play baseball. You strike out one time, you forget about that play. That's what I'm doing." Lewis, a strong safety, also was unable to break up a 36-yard pass on a fourth-and-6 play that set up the winning touchdown a couple minutes earlier. Here was a 20-year-old sophomore, back in his hometown of Indianapolis, with numerous friends and family members watching in the crowd, in the biggest game of his life, trying to make a play to send his team to Pasadena but failing to do so both times. As Lewis walked off the field that night at Lucas Oil Stadium, two of his teammates, defensive backs Darqueze Dennard and Jairus Jones, came up on each side to try to console him. "I don't really remember what was said," Lewis said. "You saw that. You know that we have a good team. The guys are going to support you. They'll pick you up no matter what happens." Coach Mark Dantonio also went up and gave Lewis a hug after the game. Lewis called Dantonio "a real guy" because "he's going to be there for you at all times." Dantonio, who took the blame immediately afterward for putting the punt-block on, wants his team to play to win and not be afraid to lose in those pressure situations. It's that type of approach that's helped him change the culture within the Michigan State football program over the last five years, even though it might have backfired this time. "We're doing everything we can and not holding back, playing aggressively, to try to win a football game," Dantonio said. "That's what we do. Sometimes maybe it doesn't work out, but we're going to go after it. "That's what I can appreciate about Isaiah Lewis and a lot of our players. They don't stand and watch. They go make plays. If you're a great football player, that's what you have to do. "Whether it's a Michael Jordan or a great NFL player or great college player, they take chances and they go after it and make a play. That's what he did." Not everyone was so forgiving. Lewis confirmed he received some negative feedback, mostly through messages on Twitter, for his untimely mistakes. "I don't really want to talk about it," Lewis said of the derogatory comments. "I deal with it. It's not going to put me down. I'm going to keep playing. "It don't matter to me. It don't faze me at all." Lewis said he knew he was going to face questions about what happened in the Big Ten title game when he appeared at Tuesday's news conference to preview the Outback Bowl. "I'm cool with it," he said. In some ways, it might even serve as some semblance of closure for him, although Lewis insists he already had moved on. He said he watched the tape "personally, I didn't feel like I hit the guy" but only to learn from it. "I don't think about it that much," Lewis said. "I'm focusing on Georgia. "Things like that happen. You've got to learn from your mistakes to get better. You've got to fall to get better. I deal with it." Some players might have trouble rebounding from this type of setback, but Dantonio doesn't think that will be a problem with his young defensive back. Lewis, who tied for the team lead in interceptions with four and was tied for fourth in tackles with 71, was selected as a second-team all-Big Ten player this season by the conference coaches for a reason. "He's a quiet, unassuming individual who always goes to work with a smile," Dantonio said. "We wouldn't have 10 wins without him on our football team. He's an extremely valuable, extremely productive football player." It just goes to show that in football, sometimes bad things happen to good players.
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