Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 10/19/11
EAST LANSING, Mich. Football is played just a notch below total rage. It's that extreme intensity that makes the sport so popular and fills stadiums around the country every week. There are going to be late hits and personal fouls at times. You can't be on the verge of rage and not cross the line occasionally. Controlling the rage isn't easy for these guys. Itrequires tremendous discipline to take it to the limit and then totally shut it off in an instant. Michigan State defensive end William Gholston, a 20-year-old sophomore, clearly crossed the line a couple times in last week's game against Michigan. He punched a player and dangerously twisted the helmet of another at the bottom of a pile. He also stood at midfield, waving his arms in the air to get the crowd pumped up, while the game was stoppedbecause an opponent was on the ground injured. Both of the actions warranted an automatic ejection, not just 15-yard penalties. The reaction, meanwhile,completely lacked class. Gholston needs to be disciplined and quite likely, based on precedent, will receive a one-game suspension. Because of these incidents, the question being asked this week is whether Michigan State is a dirty team. The Spartans were called for 13 penalties, totaling 124 yards, in that 28-14 victory over Michigan. Five of the penalties were personal fouls. They played on the edge and crossed the line several times in an emotional rivalry game. "A lack of composure is frustrating," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "But we're not coaching that. I don't think that's been evident in this program. "I think when you evaluate our program," Dantonio added, "you have to evaluate it over 50-plus games and not over one game." Perhaps the worst incident under Dantonio came in 2003 when he was Ohio State's defensive coordinator. Linebacker Robert Reynolds intentionally choked Wisconsin quarterback Jim Sorgi after a play, bruising Sorgi's vocal cords. Reynolds was latersuspended for a game. There hadn't been anything remotely like that or even what Gholston did since Dantonio took over at Michigan State. Michigan's players and coaches, at least publicly, were not calling the Spartans dirty, either immediately after the game or 48 hours later. And they were given every opportunity. Asked if he considered Michigan State a dirty team, Michigan tight end Kevin Koger answered, "No, I would not say that." Neither would coach Brady Hoke, who added, "It's football." Some of the things Gholston did after the whistle shouldn't be part of the game, however, and that's why he'll likely get punished. Gholston wasn't available for interviews Tuesday, but he did talk in Saturday's post-game session. If you stereotype him as a "thug," you're totally wrong. He's friendly and well-spoken. "I was trying to play with reckless abandonment,"Gholston explained. "Everybody makes mistakes when you're trying to go hard." Michigan State, over the years, has been known to cross the line more than most teams, especially in the emotional games. It goes back to the George Perles era. In the end, the undisciplined plays often hurt the Spartans, who were their own worst enemy at times. But that's not been the case so much since Dantonio replaced John L. Smith in 2007. They've been a physical, aggressive team with anundisciplinedpersonal foul here and there. Before Saturday, there hadn't been any recent out-of-the-ordinary incidentson the field, at least that were reported, toindicate the Spartans were a dirty team or dirty program. Tough, yes. Dirty, no. In their first five games, they averaged 6.6 penalties for 47 yards per game. Not great discipline, but certainly not scandalous. But one high-profilegame can quicklyput you in the spotlight. Everyone will be watching the Spartans closely now, including the officials in Saturday night's showdown against No. 4 Wisconsin. The Michigan State defense, which ranks No. 2 nationally behind Alabama,has beenshowing quite a swagger these days. The Spartans are playing tough and talking tough. Pat Narduzzi, MSU's animated defensive coordinator, said they want to play "60 minutes of unnecessary roughness," a good quote that somehave takentoo literally in the wake of Saturday's events. Defensive back Isaiah Lewis also talked about facing Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson with reporters Saturday, saying, "Our linemen are getting after the quarterback and they're going to hurt him." The Badgers will be ready for all of it. "I'm not going to say that they're dirty, but I do know that Michigan State plays through the whistle," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said during the Big Ten teleconference. "They're going to do certain things, whether it be before the snap, during the snap or after the snap, that can cause you to react. We have our scout team emulate those types of things." One game, a few plays, shouldn't define an entire program, but it's got everyone's attention, and rightfully so. The Spartans have to walk a fine line now. They can't back off what's made them successful, but they also can't continue to get penalized. Theyneed to play theirtough football with an attitude,justwithout last week's stupidity. They have to control the rage.
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