Spartans hone skills for Eastern game

Bennie Fowler isn’t quite sure what happened in the first quarter of MSU’s 20-3 loss against No. 11 Notre Dame (3-0).

On first down, junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell found Fowler in the end zone for what would have been a 28-yard touchdown pass that would have knotted the game at 7-7.

But when the junior wideout reached out his hands, the ball dropped through them, and much like Fowler, the No. 21 Spartans (2-1) came away empty-handed after a missed field goal by senior kicker Dan Conroy.

Adam Toolin / The State News

“I just don’t even know how you drop that pass; I had it in my hand,” he said.

However, Fowler was able to shake the disbelief as he continued to watch the tape of Saturday’s loss.

“It was tough to watch it, but I learned a lot from that Notre Dame film,” he said. “We’ve got nine games left. We didn’t get what we wanted against Notre Dame, but the season’s not over, and we’re going to get better as the weeks go on.”

Fowler’s mishap is one that sticks out in a game of missed opportunities and offensive struggles.

The Spartans recorded seven dropped passes in the game, and their longest play of the night only went for 23 yards, accentuating an issue that’s plagued MSU all season.

The Spartans have had a noticeable lack of highlight plays in their three games this season — something sophomore wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett said his position group really needs to work on against Eastern Michigan on Saturday.

“We’ve got to be explosive,” Arnett said. “Every time we touch the ball, it’s got to be long, or it’s got to be a touchdown. If you’ve got a hitch, you’ve got to take it 60, 80 yards. We’ve got to.”

After that Notre Dame game, head coach Mark Dantonio said he and the coaching staff would have to make some “tough decisions” with the team’s personnel, including with the receiving corps.

“Those decisions have to be sort of laid out this week in practice, looked at, evaluated, and we’ll do those things as we move forward,” he said.

So far, the Spartans have trusted in the core of Fowler and sophomores Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery as their starters.

But with not much of a gap between experience level and a wealth of talent, it appears the door is wide open for Arnett, redshirt freshman Andre Sims Jr. and freshmen Macgarrett Kings Jr. and Aaron Burbridge to earn some reps and crack into the starting lineup.

However, Sims Jr. said each receiver needs to focus on getting better rather than looking at working his way up on the depth chart.

“It’s a race, basically,” he said. “If you look to the side, you’re going to get distracted; it’s going to throw you off your game.
“Basically, you’ve got to run straight and keep doing what you’re doing, and everything’s going to be good.”

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