Michigan State University took a gut-punch to its nationally ranked defensive front after senior captain Joe Bachie tested positive for a performance enhancement drug, leaving him ineligible to play. The Spartans face hardship as they've lost a captain, but also face the possibility of the start of a four-game losing streak this Saturday.
"It’s adversity," senior linebacker David Dowell said. "Throughout this season we face a lot of adversity. As a team you’ve got to be resilient. Individually you’ve got to be resilient. Each time you step on that field you’ve got to be looking to make plays ...That’s our focus moving forward. We feel bad for Joe, but at the same time we know he wants us to continue to push forward and continue to be successful on the field."
Pushing forward is exactly what the Spartans are doing. Fresh out of their second bye-week, they will take on Illinois on Saturday at Spartan Stadium. The team is leaving the past in the past and focusing on the task at hand.
"I try to restart every single day," Dowell said. "Whether you had a good day or bad day, or a good week or bad week the week before, you've always got to restart. Just focus on what you need to get better at that specific day."
Even coach Mark Dantonio believes this is the most focused he's seen his team in a long time. It seems the chaos has caused the program to lock in on what's most important: the next game.
"All our focus is right here," Dantonio said. "It's on ourselves, what are you going to do now and it's on Illinois. I think the players are very focused right now in terms of what they have to do."
MSU looks at the glass half-full, knowing there is still one-third of its season left. Senior captain Brian Lewerke seeks to spark a winning streak.
“(We’re) trying to go eight-and-four, that’s a good as we can do. And trying to get to a good bowl game," Lewerke said.
Maybe not all hope is lost. The veterans of the program certainly highlight the team's resiliency.
“Just continue to move forward,” senior Tyriq Thompson said. “We’ve had unfortunate things happen to us here last couple years, so it’s not something that we’re not used to. It’s all about how you respond.”
The Spartans will be in the spotlight Saturday when it becomes their time to react to everything on and off the field. Dantonio is excited for the potential comeback but determined to test the strength of his team as well.
“I told our football team, at times, it can always get worse,” Dantonio said. “It really can. And I also said, how strong are you? How strong are you as an individual to hold up to things that happened, whether it's a missed play on the field or whatever case off the field? You know, how strong are you? What do you have to do to stick your foot in the ground and drive back forward?”
It seems like the Spartans have pushed the losses behind them and are ready to try for a four-and-zero end to their season. Only time will tell. The match-up between the Illini and the Spartans commences on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.