After then-No. 24 Michigan State fell to then-No. 6 Michigan 21-7 Saturday afternoon, the mood during postgame interviews was grim.
Getting past the pregame shenanigans by U-M linebacker Devin Bush, the back-and-forth between coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio postgame and the numerous amount of tweets posted by players, this loss was key for the now-unranked Spartans (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten).
“Disappointing for our football team and for our fans,” Dantonio said. “Thought the crowd was outstanding in that regard, but … when you have an opportunity, you have to come up with it.”
And MSU didn’t, now with only five games remaining in the season, the Spartans’ chances of making the Big Ten championship are slim, barring U-M being upset.
Even worse, the deciding loss came against the now-5th-ranked Wolverines (7-1, 5-0). A game every Spartan and Wolverine fan, coach and player, looks forward to every year, no matter the teams' records.
“It’s very hard,” linebacker Joe Bachie said. “You come to Michigan State to beat these guys, and when you don't, you have to live with it for a year.”
And the Wolverines made sure of that, with defensive end Chase Winovich reigniting the “little brother” comment made by former U-M running back Mike Hart in 2007, amongst other things.
“This is Michigan vs. Michigan State,” safety Khari Willis said. “We both feel that way about each other, and I feel that is just the result emotionally with tempers flaring.”
In regards to the actual game, MSU’s offense had its worst performance since 1947, totaling a mere 94 yards and having the ball only 18:57 of the game compared to U-M’s 41:03.
On top of that, quarterback Brian Lewerke revealed he’s dealing with a right shoulder injury suffered against Penn State, after going 5-of-25 for 66 yards against U-M. And, go-to wide receiver Felton Davis III is lost for the season with a torn left Achilles', effectively ending his MSU career with 100 receptions for 1,450 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“My prayers go out to him for sure,” Lewerke said about his senior wideout. “Obviously it is not going to help our offense, that's for sure. We will see and have some other guys step up.”
Lewerke’s right. With Davis and Cody White (broken left hand) out, Laress Nelson (leg), C.J. Hayes (undisclosed) and wide receiver Darrell Stewart Jr. (apparent left ankle injury) all slowly coming back and easing into more playing time, the Spartans need production from wide receivers such as Cam Chambers and Jalen Nailor — who's dealing with an unknown injury of his own.
The injuries don't stop with the wide receivers, as starting right guard David Beedle (unknown left-arm injury) and center Matt Allen, who exited Saturday’s game with an unknown injury that Dantonio refrained from specifying, are out until further notice. And there’s also running back L.J. Scott who played for the first time in four weeks because of an apparent ankle injury.
Defensively, cornerback Josiah Scott is still out with a torn left meniscus, while Scott’s replacement, Josh Butler, is dealing with an undisclosed injury. Punter Jake Hartbarger is lost for the season as well, after suffering a bone bruise in his right leg against Arizona State Sept. 8.
And Lewerke said he just wants to see the injuries end.
“I am just waiting for it to stop, honestly,” Lewerke said. “I would love to have all of the guys out there.”
While Dantonio said, “you can’t have that attitude” when it comes to blaming poor offensive production on injuries, they do play a factor.
Especially when they are plaguing the three starting wide receivers, starting running back, starting right guard and center and now, even the starting quarterback has an injury to his throwing shoulder.
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And on the gridiron, the Spartans will have to try and forget about losing to the Wolverines and bounce back against a Purdue team that just crushed then-No. 2 Ohio State 49-20, a game I’m not sure MSU can win at noon Saturday on ESPN.
But defensive tackle Raequan Williams thinks his team can come back after losing to its most hated rival.
Because to him, that’s what Spartans do. And MSU better if it wants to keep alive any hope of getting to the Big Ten championship in Indianapolis.
“When you have setbacks, what can you do?” Williams, who had four tackles and a forced fumble against U-M, said. “I mean when someone pushes and pushes you into a corner, you got no choice but to fight. So, we up for any challenge and fighting anybody, and fighting no matter what. Because, that’s what’s installed in us as Spartans — Spartan Dawgs."
“It’s frustrating, but what we gonna do? Are we gonna let it happen, or we gonna do something about it?”
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