Sunday, February 25, 2024

Bye week lets players relax

For one week, the football players will get to relax and act like normal students.

Members of MSU's football team took advantage of their bye week by playing video games and catching up on some much-needed sleep.

"I felt like a normal student, just kicking back having nothing to do," junior defensive tackle Matthias Askew said. "We had a little (video game) tournament, a college (football) tournament going on - you know - but I couldn't jump in; I'm not a big Nintendo or Playstation fan."

Junior defensive end Clifford Dukes and senior linebacker Mike Labinjo won the two tournaments at his teammates' houses, according to Askew. Sophomore strong safety Eric Smith also mentioned that junior defensive tackle Brandon McKinney, one of the injured players head coach John L. Smith is hoping will recover and return to the field after this bye week, was another pretty good videogamer on the team.

But not all players of the No. 11 Spartans spent their free time indoors. Junior kicker Dave Rayner spent some time working on his golf game, which he described as "horrible" because he hasn't played in a while because of football.

"Monday, I played golf at Hawk Hollow," Rayner said. "It's a hard course and I haven't golfed since the season started. We just kind of relaxed, watched some movies, hung out and just got the rest we kind of needed."

But all was not fun and games, as players filled up the trainer's office to mend injuries.

"The training room was a lot crowded," Askew said. "A lot of players were in the cold tub and everything."

Perhaps the most important thing the Spartans (7-1 overall, 4-0 Big Ten) did was avoid losing focus or momentum heading into next weekend's game against No. 13 Michigan (6-2, 3-1).

Sophomore receiver Agim Shabaj, who has endured a nagging shoulder injury for most of the season, said he didn't think team members had lost any momentum and had their sights set on the upcoming game while nursing themselves back to health.

"I think if we got anything, it was the chance for people like me to heal," Shabaj said. "We've got a couple banged-up people and the bye week has kind of helped us out and relax for a couple days and come back and get focused."

After winning another down-to-the-wire game against Minnesota (6-2, 2-2) on the tough turf surface of the Metrodome, the banged-up Spartans were looking forward to some time off.

"I got banged around, but that's the Big Ten," senior quarterback Jeff Smoker said after the 44-38 win. "You're going to get hit, and on this turf it just doubles it. I've got bumps and bruises and scrapes everywhere, but this bye week falls at a good time."

Smith said he was thankful the week off was coming at a time when his players needed it most.

"Thank goodness we have the bye - that's really special at this point of time," Smith said. "We're band-aided up and patched together."

Smith liked the time off so players could heal, but still had mixed feelings.

"Gosh darn, the bad thing is we don't get to play," Smith said. "Because we're all on a roll, and the momentum is brewing and everybody's feeling good about themselves. But we can't change it, so what we have to do is say it's a good thing because we've got everybody healthy."

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