When Jeremy Langford busted a 26-yard touchdown run with 2:16 remaining Saturday night, effectively sealing the Big Ten Conference football championship for Michigan State, former Spartan Eric Gordon celebrated by sending his boss an email.
He asked if he could have time off over the holidays to go to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
After a quick affirmative response, Gordon was booking his flight.
“Thank God I booked my flight right then because when I looked at the prices (Monday) they went up about $300 a ticket,” he said.
Mark Brammer, another former Spartan, was at work in Buffalo on Monday — with Pasadena on his mind.
“I thought about going,” he said. “I’ve been sitting here all day thinking about my business, things we’ve got to get done before year’s end, and I don’t see it in the cards right now.”
Brammer, an All-State player in Traverse City under Jim Ooley in the 1970s, has never been to a Rose Bowl. That despite the fact Brammer was the starting tight end on Michigan’s State’s 1978 team that won the Big Ten. The Spartans were on probation then and could not accept the bid.
“It’s one thing to know that going into the season so you can take it in stride,” he said. “But then when you actually win the Big Ten, and to know you could have gone, that was tough.”
Gordon, an All-State performer at Traverse City West, played on three bowl teams at Michigan State, but not in the Rose Bowl, the oldest bowl game in college football.
So, now as a fan living in Royal Oak, he wasn’t about to miss this opportunity. In fact, some of his former teammates — his best friends — will be joining him.
And the few who have not committed to go yet?
“They’ll be hearing from me if they don’t go,” Gordon said.
Although Gordon waited until the final minutes Saturday night to ask for vacation time, he felt confident the Spartans would beat Ohio State.
“I just felt like they had it,” he said. “I don’t know how to describe it, it was just the swagger they were playing with. You could tell they were just so much more pumped. I didn’t have a doubt.
“I thought the team really came together as a whole. I felt this was their (moment). They were there in the championship game in 2011. They knew what the environment was like, especially the seniors. They were ready for it. Everybody in East Lansing has been ready for the Rose Bowl since Coach (Dantonio) got there.”
Although recruited by John L. Smith, Gordon was a four-year starter under coach Mark Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. He started 49 of 51 games at linebacker, the school record for the most games as a starter. He ranks among Michigan State’s all-time leaders in tackles for loss, tackles and sacks.
Dantonio is a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, while Narduzzi is a finalist for the Broyles Award, given to the top assistant.
“He’s an awesome person,” Gordon said of Narduzzi. “He’s a crazy guy. A lot of it is because of his passion for the game. He’s a coach you want to play for. I learned a lot from him. He knows how to motivate his defense, especially when he comes down on the field. Then you know it’s really on.”
Gordon, a business development manager for MCM Staffing, was a senior when current Spartan middle linebacker Max Bullough was a freshman. Bullough, an all-stater at St. Francis, has started the last three seasons, making it seven years in a row a Traverse City player has started at linebacker for State.
“He’s had a great year,” Gordon said of Bullough. “He’s just a sound middle linebacker. He makes plays and he communicates so well. When he was a freshman, playing behind Greg Jones, he picked up that defense like he had been running it for years. He’s really intelligent on and off the field.”
Brammer, who had watched Michigan State during the season, said he also saw a team come together Saturday night.
“I was so impressed with how solid they looked for most of the game,” he said.
And when the Buckeyes fought back to take the lead, Brammer said, the Spartans made the necessary adjustments to shut down quarterback Braxton Miller to regain momentum and seize control.
“The fourth quarter, that to me was just proving the point they deserved to be there, and they played like they deserved to be there,” he said.
Brammer was “pleasantly surprised” with the offense firepower the Spartans displayed.
“That was the one area a lot of people were concerned about,” he said. “Their offensive skills just didn’t seem to be there on a consistent basis (throughout the season). But they brought it Saturday night.
“(Quarterback) Connor Cook did a good job. You could see his confidence grow as the year went on. At the beginning of the year you were wondering if they were going to score at all.
“I’m very happy for coach Dantonio. He’s very deserving of this.”
Although he played on the offensive side of the ball, Brammer has become a big fan of the Spartan defense.
“They just dominate,” he said. “They’re fun to watch.”
And he, like other Spartan fans, will get one more look New Year’s Day.