In the midst of a two-game skid with its toughest opponents still to come, the key to MSUs fortune may lie in having the right mentality.
We have to stay positive as coaches, head coach Bobby Williams said. I have to stay positive and keep reinforcing all the good things that happened for us and get the kids to believe.
With losses to Northwestern and Iowa, MSU has dropped out of the national polls and is 3-2 overall, 0-2 in the Big Ten.
Williams said the team will focus on basic fundamentals this week.
In the two losses that weve had, weve kind of gotten away from that a little bit, everything from tackling to just covering a kick, he said. We need to emphasize those little things because what happens is they keep growing.
Things that dont seem so important at one point end up growing into a bigger problem down the road.
The main thing Williams said he has to do is convey a sense of optimism to the players.
I have to show a tremendous amount of confidence in my abilities as a coach and all the assistant coaches have to do the same because the players feed off of us, he said. If were walking around with our heads hanging, theyre going to do the same thing.
Sophomore tailback T.J. Duckett rushed 30 times for a career-high 248 yards Saturday.
Hes already gained 810 yards this year, surpassing his total of 606 yards from last season.
Junior wide receiver Herb Haygood became the fifth player in Spartan football history to reach the 1,000-yard mark in career kickoff returns with his 23-yard return at the start of the second half Saturday.
Averaging 26.4 yards per return, Haygood is ranked third in the Big Ten and 17th in the nation in kickoff returns.
Life on third down
Williams said the Spartans made some strides in converting on third down against Iowa, going 8-of-18.
Its just a tremendous improvement from being 0-and-11, he said. To me we made some improvement, but certainly were not where we want to be but we got better.
On the season, MSU 20-of-74 on third down, converting 27 percent of its chances.
Maximum Van Dyke
Though he was satisfied with the performance of junior Ryan Van Dyke, Williams said hell be looking to the Marshall, Mich. native even more to make plays as the Big Ten season wears on.
Hes going to have to play better for us because I dont think we can go through the season just relying on the running game, Williams said. Were going to have to be able to throw the ball a little bit more in order for us to be more successful.
Senior linebacker T.J. Turner dislocated his left shoulder and junior tight end Chris Baker sprained his ankle.
Junior safety Duron Bryan didnt play against Iowa because of an injured right hamstring. Williams said Turner will miss this weeks game. Baker is listed as probable.
Senior safety Richard Newsome, who hasnt played since the Sept. 16 Missouri game, is expected to return to action this week.