Michigan State ready to regroup ahead of Big Ten opener
Mark Dantonio's message this week was a lot different than two weeks ago after Michigan State's win against Western Michigan. It was also different from when he called out his offensive players after Michigan State's 28-7 season opening win against Tulsa.
Surprisingly, spirits were somewhat high in the Spartan football program this week despite their 10-7 loss to Arizona State.
Why? Because, this weekend Michigan State has a chance at renewal when it starts conference play.
“That was kind of the biggest thing with the team meeting that Coach D called on Monday, which was just make sure everyone was alright," Joe Bachie said after Tuesday's practice. "Everyone’s head’s on straight and understand we’re 0-0 right now in the Big Ten Conference. This one, they all count one. We’re 2-1 right now overall, but this is when it all starts.”
Michigan State's game this Saturday at Northwestern (12:00 p.m., ABC) gives the Spartans a chance to regroup. Forget what happened against the Golden Hurricane. Forget the win against Western Michigan and put the loss against the Sun Devils in the rearview mirror.
“I think we have a positive vibe in the locker room," Dantonio said during his weekly press conference. "I think we have good chemistry. I've said that over and over throughout. And when you have a situation like this when we could’ve been 3-0 right now, but we’re not, at the end of the day you have to regroup.
"You can’t sit there and say 'all is lost, oh my goodness.' You have to rally back. It’s very important that you rally back in terms of what you’re trying to do."
Both Michigan State's offensive and defensive units have reasons to rally back after Saturday's loss to Arizona State.
For the second time in three games, the Spartans scored only seven points on offense despite gaining over 400 yards. Promising drives were killed by turnovers, penalties and missed field goals, and that ultimately led to the Spartans' first loss on the season. After a dominant 55-plus minutes, Michigan State's defense crumbled on Arizona State's final drive as Eno Benjamin scored from 1-yard out to effectively win the game for the Sun Devils.
But this Saturday's game is somewhat refreshing to those units. It's a chance to put phase two — what Dantonio calls non-conference play — into the archives.
“We kind of just put everything to bed from last week and just kind of try to move on to conference play," Mike Panasiuk said.
Naturally, Michigan State's players were frustrated after losing. But, they also know bigger goals are ahead.
“Obviously we were pretty upset after the game and I was, definitely," Brian Lewerke said. "But you kind of get over it after a while. They're team from over 2,000 miles away that has no impact on our conference play right now.”
That's the mindset the Spartans want to have as they head into conference play. In a lot of ways, last week's loss was depleting, with the chance to finish undefeated in non-conference play and to get Dantonio's record-setting win at Spartan Stadium.
That didn't happen. The worst thing that Michigan State can do is dwell on it.
So, the goal this week is simple.
Time to regroup.
"The main thing that you better be able to do is you better be able to regroup when things go wrong with your program, or inside or you personally. You better be able to regroup," Dantonio said. "If you can’t regroup then that’s a problem."
"We will regroup, I can promise you that. We will coach with energy, I can promise you that. I can promise you that we will address the issues and we’re going to continue to get better."