EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) By halftime of Michigan State’s loss at Ohio State last weekend, it was obvious the Spartans were overmatched.
In fact, the game was reminiscent of two of Mark Dantonio’s most one-sided defeats as Michigan State’s coach.
It was Alabama that inflicted those, beating the Spartans 49-7 in the 2011 Capital One Bowl and 38-0 in a 2015 national semifinal. Saturday’s game at Ohio State – a 48-3 loss – was similar. It may actually have been worse than the playoff game against Alabama, which didn’t really get out of hand until the second half.
”I just asked my players one simple thing: Do the very best you can to prepare emotionally, physically and from a football standpoint. Do the very, very best and bring your best in every single football game,” Dantonio said Tuesday. ”I do not think we did that last week. That’s on everybody to look at themselves and ask themselves: Did I get enough sleep? Did I eat right? Did I watch enough film? What was my mental state when I went to the football game? That’s on all of us.”
Those blowouts against Alabama and Ohio State are easy to list because they haven’t happened that often since Dantonio came to East Lansing. The Spartans have often exceeded expectations against Ohio State, for example, so it was unusual for them to be so quickly outclassed. It was 14-0 after one quarter and 35-3 after two.
”We were going to have to continue to overachieve, as I always say, to be in that football game, and we did not,” Dantonio said. ”Then the wave of momentum and everything else, you saw what happened.”
The difference between this game and the two Alabama routs is that this one didn’t end the season. The 22nd-ranked Spartans (7-3, 5-2 Big Ten) host Maryland (4-6, 2-5) next weekend in Michigan State’s home finale. Dantonio said his players have moved on from last weekend’s setback.
”I think young people are resilient. I really do. I think they practiced yesterday, business as usual. Guys were dancing to some music and things of that nature,” Dantonio said. ”I feel a little bit ticked off still, but they can let it go.”
The Spartans weren’t expected to contend for the Big Ten title this season. Although victories over Michigan and Penn State raised the stakes prior to the Ohio State game, the loss to the Buckeyes should be kept in perspective. With young players in key spots, Michigan State can still feel good about the steps the team has taken after going 3-9 last season.
”We’re not playing for a Big Ten championship but we still have a lot to play for. We’re going to a bowl game, we have two games left (in the regular season),” linebacker Chris Frey said. ”There’s been seven other teams in Michigan State history to win 10 games and we have that opportunity.”
Last weekend’s game was certainly a reality check, and it will be worth considering when setting expectations for next year’s Michigan State team. But the Spartans can still finish strong.
”If you take last week, we were playing for really to be in control of who was going to go win the (Big Ten) East. Had we won we would have needed to win one of these two games. So they would have been bigger games,” Dantonio said. ”We lost the football game. So now this becomes an even bigger game because I think this becomes more of a `program game.’ And you don’t want to step back and play negatively after a negative moment. So it becomes an even bigger moment.”
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