East Lansing, MI
There is no other honest way to describe what happened to the Michigan State Spartans yesterday at Spartan Stadium then to simply express that the Badgers shellacked the home team. It was a 30-6 beat down that came in every part of the game.
Credit the Badgers who rolled the dice in an attempt to go from good to great. They benched a fifth year senior QB who only days before had beat a top five team for a freshman. They came in to the High Cathedral of the Spartan Nation, Spartan Stadium and went on the attack. Once they got the lead they never slowed down and put their foot on the neck of the Spartans never giving them the chance to get off the matt.
The loss was disappointing from many angles including with a house full of top level recruits in the stadium to watch. In the midst of the haze of a beat down, Spartan Nation must remember that isn’t common since Mark Dantonio arrived in East Lansing. There is some good positive news.
Just last year the Spartans went to Lincoln, Nebraska and were upset by the Huskers. When the sky is falling rhetoric of the nation media fell on East Lansing the Spartans kept their nose to the grindstone and kept working. Just like you’d come to expect from a Dantonio coached team.
Dantonio reflected on that yesterday after the game saying, “So when you look at it, we have to recollect ourselves, our destiny is still in our own hands just like the Nebraska situation last year, when we lost, we ended up playing all the people we needed to play to get that championship game, which is the Big Ten Championship game.”
MSU was a national darling all last week, but not today. Even if MSU had beaten a Badger team that looked more like a M*A*S*H unit then a football team, the narrative today would be that Notre Dame is terrible (1-3) and Wisconsin had injuries and a new freshman QB.
So while the haze of a beat down is still real and relevant, so is reality. Dantonio said it best afterward, “People have been saying a lot of good things about us lately, and now we’ll take some shots. And I think that that’s usually the case in these things, and we gotta regroup ourselves. Like I tell our players, you can always, always get worse. So we’re going to pick ourselves up and get ready to go and play Indiana, and that’s the nature of it.”
Since Mark Dantonio arrived back in East Lansing a decade ago he has taken this program to heights no one expected. Michigan State has gone from a national laughing stock to a national power.
Last year I wrote nearly the same thing after the loss in Lincoln and all MSU did was beat Ohio State and Michigan on the road, won the Big Ten title and played in the final four also known as the College Football playoff. To dismiss this season after yesterday is foolish.
R.J. Shelton referenced after the game the Spartans past of rebounding and how they can look back for a road map in going further. “I just think it’s the norm. I mean you want to back bounce from any loss to get you back in control and control your destiny. I think it’s just the norm that when you lose a game, you work hard and come back the next day and come out fast.”
Every single goal of the Spartans squarely rests in front of them. You may not like the mantra of Dantonio, but his goal of Back2Back Big Ten titles is squarely in hand.
The way the schedule looks MSU still has a road to that goal, the margin of error however is non-existent. There is no room for another loss to keep that goal firmly based in reality.
In typical straight forward Dantonio fashion he addressed the state of his team head on. “It’s never as bad as you think it is and it’s never as good. I think that’s the nature of things. And if you look back at things today and you hold on to the football and all of the sudden we’d gone down and scored, it would have been 13 all. The game changes.”
He elaborated, “But, it sort of is what it is. I don’t think that the game flip flopped drastically because of our abilities. I think we made mistakes. They forced us into mistakes, and they should be congratulated for that. The mistakes were made, and you can’t overcome those types of mistakes. Some of it, you’ve gotta snap down. Things happen.”
Fifth year senior and captain safety Demetrious Cox has been through some situations like last season in East Lansing. He is mature and understands the season isn’t over, but he knows the margin of error is nonexistent.
Cox said of moving on, “Well really it is just a mindset. We have to fight through the adversity. It’s what we do. We will be alright. We will watch the film tomorrow, go over all of our mistakes and see the little things we did wrong. We’ll get a lift in, work out and we will get our swagger back. We’ll be alright.”
The silver lining of the Spartans situation is that this team is experienced in fighting when down, but not out. That is why you can’t lose the end goal in the midst of a trial.
Cox said, “I wouldn’t say we are shell shocked. I just feel there are little things. The inches did not go our way today. We just have to play better as a whole and come out with more of a chip next week.”
He thinks the leadership of this team can get the Spartans back on track to the goal. “Myself, Riley [Bullough] and a whole bunch of leaders on the team are going to be ready to come back and get everyone focused. We have to remain confident as well. We lost a game, suck it up. We have to get ready to play next week. “
So now the reality of the situation is looking back in the mirror of reflection to the Spartans. The facts are that their margin of error if they are to reach their own set goals is zero. Mark Dantonio must closely take a look every phase of his program. From coaching, to players to philosophy must be thoroughly examined.
The other fact is that Dantonio has earned the right to be trusted by his fan base. The season is not over. The sky has not fallen and the MSU goals are not out of reach, nor do they depend on others.
Michigan State stands squarely in control of their destiny, and you can’t ask for anything more than that with a team entering week five of the season.
Do things look rough? Yes. Do things look difficult? No doubt. Has Mark Dantonio been in this situation before and led the Spartans to the promise land? You know it. He’s earned the trust and he’s worthy of the trust. Now make no mistake that the Spartan players and coaches need to look hard at themselves after every one of them was beaten by their colleagues on the Badgers, but that isn’t the end of the season or even close to it.
The Wisconsin loss stung and stinks, but the Spartan season still bright and sunny and for that Mark Dantonio deserves respect. He gets it from Spartan Nation.