After two straight losses and countless questions regarding a lack of toughness, MSU head coach Bobby Williams decided this week was the time to mix things up in practice.
So for the first time all season, the Spartans first-team offense squared off against the first-team defense on the practice field.
We get real excited when we get to go against the first-team offense, sophomore linebacker Ronald Stanley said. We know theyre going to bring all they got and were going to bring all weve got. We just look at it as a big opportunity when we get to go up against the first team.
Williams said the decision to include more first-team on first-team action is intended to elevate competition and intensity, which he hopes will translate into more toughness on game days.
Weve got to do this, Williams said. Its very evident that weve got to become a tougher football team.
When youve got the first offense going against the first defense, somebodys going to win and somebody is going to lose, he said. But thats the whole intent.
With someone walking off the field as the loser every day, the Spartans should become more adept at handling adversity. And thats something Williams also said needs to improve.
What MSU had been doing obviously wasnt working, as its 3-4 record proves. And many within the team, including defensive coordinator Bill Miller, feel raising the level of competition in practice was the right move.
I think its always very healthy and very good from a competitive standpoint, he said. Competition, I think, elevates play.
Junior wide receiver Charles Rogers has said for the past two weeks that something needed to change. Hes admitted he didnt know what, but said pitting the first teams against each other will help.
I think thatll bring a lot more intensity and focus, he said. Itll get practice off to a good start as well.
With the recent two-game losing streak, Rogers said the mood on campus has changed, adding the players feel like theyve only got each other.
The only way to get rid of the frustration is to go out there and compete, Rogers said.
Junior quarterback Jeff Smoker agreed that the frustration has made things difficult.
Obviously, when you lose games youre not having fun, Smoker said. I mean, I love playing football and I have fun every day. But its not fun when you lose.
Somewhere along the way weve got to get our spirit back and start having fun on the field. But youre only going to start doing that if you start winning.
Whether the move translates into victories is yet to be seen. But the fact remains, its a popular move amongst the Spartans.
I just believe thats the way you practice, Miller said. Thats the way you get ready.