Spartans aim to navigate through time of adversity
Michigan State players react after Michigan place kicker Brendan Gibbons makes a game-winning field goal from the 38 yard line. Michigan defeated Michigan State, 12-10, on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 20, 2012, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. Justin Wan/The State News
Since Le’Veon Bell stepped onto MSU’s campus three years ago, he’s only ever known one thing: winning.
The running back is part of a junior class that was a part of MSU’s only back-to-back 11-win seasons in the program history, yet in the past six weeks, the MSU football team (4-4 overall, 1-3 Big Ten) almost has lost as many games as the team had in the previous two years combined, something Bell said has been difficult to deal with.
“It’s a lot different, especially for me,” Bell said. “I’m not a guy who likes losing. It just gives me a bad taste in my mouth. Every time we lose, I come back (and) watch the film, and I see the little things that we could have done to prevent us from losing.
“It’s definitely different for us, especially winning in high school, coming here (and) winning here the first two years, and now we’re struggling a little bit. We’re going to get better. This team is still young. We’ve still got a lot of things to do to get better.”
MSU’s three conference losses have been by a combined six points, which has been especially difficult for junior tight end Dion Sims, who specializes in making plays in the red zone, but has missed parts of the past three games with an ankle injury.
“It’s a play here or there that could have made the difference,” Sims said. “We can’t mope on it; we just have to move on and just keep playing throughout the season and finish strong.”
One of the few juniors who have experienced the tough times of losing at MSU is junior linebacker Denicos Allen, who said he remembers back to 2009 when MSU finished the season 6-7.
Allen said there are many lessons to be learned from that year, and senior defensive tackle Anthony Rashad White said one of those lessons is to remember the disappointment of this season and use it to avoid a similar fate next year.
“You’re going to go through changes … and I think you’re going to get ups and downs. That’s the way to success,” White said. “I think this is a great experience right now; even though it’s not the best, it’s going to motivate the players for next year.”
Offensive line coach Mark Staten said it’s the coaching staff’s responsibility to help the players navigate through the adversity that comes with a college football season, and one of the ways they do that is through a mentorship program led by the coaches that offers players the resources to get through difficult times.
“I’m the kind of guy that when it gets rough, that’s when I insert more of myself — that’s the true testament of who you are as a person, and that’s what we try to teach these guys,” Staten said. “‘Hey, it’s not the way you guys want right now. What are you going to do about it?’”