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John L. sticking with defense for lack of better option

October 18, 2005
MSU head coach John L. Smith watches the final minutes of Saturday's game against Ohio State at Ohio Stadium. The Spartans gave up a three-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose to the Buckeyes, 35-24.

The Spartans football season has been marked by a stellar offense and an inconsistent defense through six games this year.

Although the defense shined in wins against Kent State, Hawaii and Illinois, the tables turned in a loss to Michigan and Saturday's loss to Ohio State, in which the defense surrendered passing touchdowns of 51, 57 and 46 yards.

MSU head coach John L. Smith said he isn't in a position to make big defensive changes, notably to the struggling cornerback core of senior Jaren Hayes, senior Ashton Watson and junior Demond Williams.

"You're playing three guys right now," he said. "And three will continue to play. If we felt that there were a guy better, we would be playing him."

Hayes was singled out in Saturday's 35-24 loss on Ohio State's long scores because of missed tackles that led to big plays and points for the opposition. Smith said that despite the mistakes, Hayes made progress.

"(Hayes) played almost — had he made a couple more tackles — as good a game as he has played," he said. "He made some plays. He played better. (He's) still got to be more consistent and not give up the big one."

Smith said his defensive unit needs to be almost perfect.

"There is no margin for error," he said. "That's why this last one this week ... it rips your heart out. But that margin has to gradually grow."

Putting the past behind

Smith said that the tantrum he displayed on the MSU sidelines following the blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown Saturday, has been resolved with his coaching staff.

"We got that definitely cleaned up," Smith said. "I'm open mouthed, insert foot. I've done it all my life. The emotion was speaking at that point."

Although Smith still insists that the coach who called for the field goal unit remain unnamed, he said the coaching staff is determined to never let a mistake of that magnitude occur again.

Injury update

Senior offensive lineman Stefon Wheeler is likely to play in Saturday's game against Northwestern, Smith said.

Wheeler, who left the Ohio State game in the first half because of a rib injury, was back in practice yesterday after X-rays came back negative.

Sophomore cornerback Irving Campbell, who was expected to be back last week, has shown little progress. No timetable is set for Campbell's return.

In the kicking mix

Smith said while junior kicker John Goss is still slated to be the starting kicker, freshman Matt Haughey is making progress in practice and might pressure Goss in the future.

"Chips-a-Haughey gets the ball out pretty consistently," he said, using his nickname for the freshman.

Haughey didn't play on Saturday.

Smith said the kicking decision will be made based on progress on the practice field.


There are still about 500 tickets left for MSU's 90th Homecoming contest against Northwestern on Saturday. Kickoff is set for noon.


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