Sunday, April 21, 2024

Spartans look forward to second half of season

October 17, 2002
Senior safety Thomas Wright intercepts a ball at the MSU 3-yard-line while Notre Dame wide receiver Maurice Stovall tackles him earlier this season at Spartan Stadium. —

The season for the MSU football team has not developed the way anyone could have imagined.

The Spartans (3-3 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) have dropped three of their last four games - two of which have been blowout losses.

“We’re not anywhere near where we should be or where I expected this team to be,” head coach Bobby Williams said at a Tuesday press conference. “But we really have a chance to correct a lot of things that went wrong in the first half of the season and come back in the second half and make up for it.”

The Spartans start the second half with the surprising Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-1, 2-1) who became bowl eligible with a 45-42 win over Northwestern last week. The game is scheduled to start at 12:10 p.m. Saturday at Spartan Stadium.

Williams said junior quarterback Jeff Smoker, who was benched for three series Saturday, will start against Minnesota. The third-year coach hinted there would be shakeups on the roster, but was not specific.

“We’re looking at some personnel issues,” Williams said.

Junior center Brian Ottney said the Spartans start was disappointing, but a turnaround is possible.

“We just need to start doing the little things,” he said. “When you take care of the little things and pay attention to detail, the big things take care of themselves.”

Injury update

Freshman flanker Agim Shabaj is listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game against Minnesota. He bruised his knee against Iowa.

Freshman quarterback Aaron Alexander also is doubtful for the Minnesota game. Alexander broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot in an Aug. 10 practice. He has missed every game this season.

Spartan honors

Despite a horrendous team performance Saturday, three players caught the collective eye of the MSU coaching staff. Senior strong safety Thomas Wright was selected as Spartan Defensive Player of the Week for the third consecutive week after making 12 tackles against the Hawkeyes. He leads the team with 57 tackles.

Junior offensive guard Joe Tate and freshman safety Eric Smith garnered the honors for the offensive and special teams units, respectively.

Big Ten honors

Indiana’s quarterback Gibran Hamdan and Minnesota’s running back Terry Jackson were named the Big Ten Co-offensive Players of the Week after their performances Saturday.

Hamdan led the Hoosiers to a 32-29 victory over Wisconsin. He passed for 310 yards and four touchdowns - both career highs. Jackson rushed for 239 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-42 win against Northwestern on Oct. 10.

Iowa safety Derek Pagel was selected Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. He made seven tackles and returned an interception 62 yards for a touchdown against the Spartans.

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