In the final post-game press conference of the season, interim head coach Harlon Barnett kept it short and simple when describing the 2023 Michigan State football season.
“It was the season of adversity...” Barnett said after the 42-0 loss in which redshirt freshman quarterback Katin Houser was sacked six times and where the defense allowed sophomore Penn State running backs to both rush for over 150 yards. "This was something that you have to keep pushing through, do not stop or give up. You have to kill me to stop me. I said to my team that they have to have that mentality, that Spartan dog mentality. If you operate like that, then the sky's the limit.”
After finishing 11-2 in 2021, MSU football fan’s hopes were sky high with former head coach Mel Tucker at the helm. Just 14 games later though, Tucker was removed from his position after allegations of sexual harassment were exposed to the public in a report, in which he ended up being officially fired with cause for a little while later.
With the news coming out of left field, MSU football was left without a leader before the biggest game of the season at that point. Week three of the season came against the best team in the deepest conference so far, the Washington Huskies.
Barnett was named the interim from there and tried his best to keep a team that was coming off the heels of a 5-7 season afloat.
In some ways he did achieve that goal, and in some ways he didn’t.
He was able to garner two wins in the 10 games he was the leader of the Spartans — winning on Senior Day and on the road against Indiana. He also lost by a combined 160 points in the four games they faced top-11 teams in, only scoring 10 of their own. On top of not being able to get a single win against any of the top teams they played, they broke the program record for the worst loss in a season to Michigan. Despite the downfall of a four year era in the program’s history, players decided to stick together for each other, only losing a single digit number of team members to the transfer portal.
For the players that may or may not come back after refusing to enter the portal during the season, redshirt sophomore running back Nathan Carter said he wants to see fire in the eyes of the guys who decide to stay.
“I want to see the guys have a hunger to not let this happen again...” MSU’s leading rusher said. “We need to remember this year. I’m ready to fight alongside any player or coach they bring in.”
For a graduating guy like sixth year linebacker Aaron Brule, who led his defense in sacks on the season with five, even though times were tough in the last two years of his college career, he believes that the setbacks will help MSU come out on the other side better for it.
“I’ll be around to help in any way that I can,” Brule said. “Whatever anybody needs, younger guys or older guys. I definitely see big things coming for this program in the future.”
MSU officially finishes 2023 with a 4-8 record and looks to address its head coaching search as early as this week.
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