Michigan State football took a step back Saturday in its quest to achieve bowl eligibility. After a heartbreaking double overtime 39-31 loss to Indiana, the Spartans only have one more chance to get a sixth win and qualify for a bowl game.
The team will travel to Happy Valley next weekend to take on Penn State to close out the 2022 season. In order to end on a good note, they’ll need to find a way to bounce back from the loss and continue on.
First, the Spartans will need to reflect on the game they just played before preparation for Penn State begins.
“You just gotta soak it in for a little bit even when it’s not the good ones, so we’ll be back at it tomorrow and we’ll be ready to go, but you can’t always say on to the next one, ... you just gotta reflect on what just happened,” redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne said.
In terms of bowl eligibility, the team is still taking it one game at a time. With the stakes the highest they’ve been this season, MSU is still just focused on preparing for the Nittany Lions and not looking any further into the future.
“We just want to win the game,” fifth-year safety Xavier Henderson said. “Penn State’s a good team. We gotta watch the film. I mean obviously we'd like to make the bowl game but if there was no bowl games I’d be like shoot I still wanna win.”
This means the focus going into this week will remain the same as any other week.
“The preparation doesn’t change,” redshirt senior running back Elijah Collins said. “Knowing that there’s a bowl game on the line, yeah, that’s okay, but at the same time we sit here and do it week by week, for me personally it’s day by day. I mean, you can only focus on the team right in front of you, so ... yeah we would love to win and get a bowl game but at the same time we gotta sit there and watch the film, we gotta see how they play.”
After an 11-2 season last year, including a victory in the Peach Bowl, expectations were high for the Spartans heading into this season. Now with a 5-6 overall record and a 3-4 conference record with one game remaining, they’ll be fighting for a last minute bowl bid.
When asked if the team would have thought they’d be in this position at the beginning of the season, Henderson was truthful.
“No, we did not,” Henderson said. “So many college teams have such a small margin for error, people are on your head saying this and that, but we have not played to our expectations within the team, but it’s what it is now. There’s nothing we can do to change that, but we can do something to prepare this week and try to beat a good Penn State team.”
Despite the nature of the loss, Head Coach Mel Tucker has faith his team can rebound and come ready to practice and prepare for Penn State because of what he’s seen from his guys thus far.
“Our guys have shown that they can respond to adversity, pretty much all season,” Tucker said. “They have perspective and it’s a really good life lesson for our guys to know how to respond to adversity from a football standpoint because that’s how it’s gonna be in life. Things are not always gonna go your way, you get knocked down, you have to get up. That’s what we’re gonna have to do tomorrow.”
Although the postgame locker room mood was less than pleasant, the team leadership is making it known that the season isn't over and what work needs to be done ahead of the regular season finale in Happy Valley next weekend.
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