Spartans in dire need of improvements


Since MSU’s first loss of the season, at home against then-No. 20 Notre Dame, we’ve become familiar with the Spartans’ mantra.

“All our goals are still in front of us.”

After barely eking out a victory over Eastern Michigan, a team that has yet to register a win six games into the season?

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“All our goals are still in front of us.”

After dropping the Big Ten opener by one point to Ohio State before a national audience?

“All our goals are still in front of us.”

After needing a big second half to overcome Indiana, a team that hasn’t beaten a conference opponent since the final game of the 2010 campaign?

“All our goals are still in front of us.”

And now, after the Spartans (4-3 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) suffered a Jose Valverde-caliber meltdown to lose in double overtime to the Iowa Hawkeyes in Spartan Stadium on Homecoming?

“I think we have to look at where we are as a program right now and what’s the next step for us,” head coach Mark Dantonio said.

Sure, mathematically, the Spartans still have a chance to win the Legends Division and earn a trip to Indianapolis. But their goals no longer remain in their hands.

In the time it took for junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell’s pass to deflect off of sophomore wide receiver Keith Mumphery’s fingertips and into the waiting arms of Iowa’s Greg Castillo, the Spartans’ Rose Bowl dreams were wrested away and now are contingent on the performance of the rest of the conference.

“As promising as things look, it’s like that,” Dantonio said with the snap of his fingers.

And that’s the way it is.

MSU essentially needs to win from here on in — no easy task with games at No. 23 Michigan and Wisconsin and against Nebraska looming in the next few weeks — and hope someone knocks off the Hawkeyes.

This is the part where Lloyd Christmas might ask, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?”

Yes, there is a chance. But that chance is about as slim as kidnapping Liam Neeson’s family and living to tell about it.

Still, there’s one goal sitting before MSU that rests solely in the players’ hands: beat Michigan.

The Spartans have the chance to beat the Wolverines for the fifth-straight year, a feat never before accomplished in program history.

MSU’s Rose Bowl dreams might be on life support, but a win in Ann Arbor certainly would be a step in the right direction if the Spartans want to save this season.

In fact, a win against MSU’s hated rivals likely would erase a lot of the ill will that’s been directed toward this team over the past few weeks. It might reignite the spark to propel this team to win its final five regular season games.

And maybe, just maybe, the Spartans could get just enough help from other teams in the conference to nudge them into the Big Ten championship game.

Things look bleak right now.

But you never know.

In mid-October last year, MSU found out miracles do happen.

And a deflected interception here, a desperate Hail Mary heave there and MSU could find itself back in the thick of it.

Just like that.
Jesse O’Brien is a State News football reporter. He can be reached at

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