Interim head coach Harlon Barnett and MSU football have yet to find success in the six games he has been at the helm. This weekend, though, he has a chance to send the seniors out on a winning note against Nebraska for their last game at Spartan Stadium, and Barnett has been nothing but positive with his guys to keep the mood in the locker room from derailing.
"I am a very positive person, and I am going to stay an encourager," Barnett said. "My mind goes to positive, win. I never think lose or be a spoiler."
For the seniors on the team, their time at Michigan State has been nothing short of a rollercoaster. They have been through two coaching changes, a shortened COVID season, a 9-2 season with a bowl win and the largest home loss in program history to their biggest rival. They have been a part of some tremendous highs and are now going through some extreme lows. Barnett says the team is sticking together through it all, and he has been appreciative of the upperclassmen who have led the way.
"We're on unsettled ground right now," Barnett said. "The way these guys keep coming out, you can tell they love football. Based on everything that's going on right now, you have to. I love football, and they love playing for their brothers next to them. That's why I love this team, and that's why I want to get a win so badly for this group this weekend."
It has taken a couple of games for this weekend's opponent, the 5-3 Nebraska Cornhuskers, to find their identity as a team this season under new head coach Matt Rhule. Barnett knows that they have established themselves now and that, like all of the games on the schedule this season, this match won’t be a walk in the park.
"With a new staff, it takes time for players and coaches to get used to one another," Barnett said. "I think they've found themselves a little bit and have gotten a rhythm going. They're playing well, so credit to them. They're just trying to use what they have learned this year to put their guys in the best position to be successful."
While a lot of eyes will be on the seniors to perform this weekend, there will also be many glued to two freshmen at the quarterback position. True freshman quarterback Sam Leavitt made just his third appearance of the season last week against the Golden Gophers after a slow start by redshirt freshman Katin Houser. Using both his legs and his arm, Leavitt moved the ball down the field effectively in his snaps and eventually found sophomore wide receiver Tyrell Henry for the Spartans' only touchdown of the game in the second half. Despite the positives Leavitt brought in Houser's absence, Barnett has made it known to them that it's anyone's job now.
"It's still competition mode," Barnett said. "We saw Katin not turn the ball over and run the offense efficiently, and then we saw Sam come in and move us down the field and score a touchdown, but we did have the two turnovers, so it's still a competition. The best players will play."
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