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Smith: 'We're making progress'

November 22, 2005
Head coach John L. Smith has a quick word with junior quarterback Drew Stanton on Saturday after Stanton threw one of his four interceptions.

Following Saturday's 31-22 loss against Penn State, the Spartans trotted off the field while watching the Nittany Lions celebrate a Big Ten championship on the turf of Spartan Stadium.

After a perfect 4-0 start slipped away, the Spartans finished at a 5-6 mark — giving them a sub-.500 record and bowl absence for the second consecutive season.

Still, MSU head coach John L. Smith said he remains optimistic.

"We're making progress," Smith said. "I hope we're making progress."

Although the verdict is out on the quality of the coaching staff, junior quarterback Drew Stanton is one returning player who is sold on the foundation of the program.

"(Smith's) system is established right now," Stanton said.

"He's getting his guys in here, and we're getting a good sense of what he's all about, what he wants to accomplish and what it's going to take for us to be successful under his system."

With players like sophomore bandit Sir Darean Adams, freshman running back Javon Ringer, junior receiver Jerramy Scott and Stanton returning, the future of the program is promising.

Which begs the question: When will the Spartans be able to celebrate a championship in Spartan Stadium?

"It could be next season," Stanton said. "It's a mindset that we need to get into right now, though.

"Some of us have gone through the close games and the games where we kind of had letdowns. We need to learn from that stuff and continue to grow."


The future

One reason Smith remains upbeat about future seasons is because of the players he's brought into the system.

"The character of these kids is a start," Smith said.

"There's not a kid in that locker room that's a bad-hearted kid, who you wouldn't be proud to take home to Thanksgiving dinner."

In order to improve, Smith said the program needs to continue to bring good players into the system.

"We still have to get our numbers up; we have to have a great recruiting year," he said. "It's going to take a while. You have to start somewhere."


A kicker?

Between junior John Goss and freshman Matt Haughey, MSU's kickers combined to go 5-for-16 on field goals for the season.

Although Smith said he is unsure whether Goss will return to the team next season, he is sure that he needs to bring a capable kicker into the system during the offseason.

"We're going to go out and recruit a kicker and then as personnel gets better around us — we'll be all right," Smith said. "We're going to start there."

Goss is currently on scholarship; Haughey is not.


Stanton sets school record

Despite playing the final three games of the season with a thumb injury on his throwing hand, Stanton's 3,415 yards of total offense this season mark a school record for individual total yards.

Stanton also set a single-season school record by throwing 22 touchdown passes.

As an offensive unit, the Spartans set the school record for most first downs in a season with 284.

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