SPARTANS LOOKING FOR A TURNAROUND

By: AP
By: AP

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Mark Dantonio expected growing pains in his first year as Michigan State's head football coach. After back-to-back three-point losses to Wisconsin and Northwestern, there's little doubt that he's smarting.
The Spartans (4-2, 0-2 Big Ten) know how close they came to an upset on Sept. 29, when they fell 37-34 at then-No. 9 Wisconsin. And they have a right to feel upset with themselves after last weekend's 48-41 overtime loss to visiting Northwestern.
It will take much better defense than that to stop the bleeding against explosive Indiana (5-1, 2-1) on Saturday. The Hoosiers' record might be a surprise to some, but not to the MSU veterans who lost 46-21 last fall in Bloomington.
Dantonio insists his team won't fold the way several recent squads did after an initial disappointment. And he should know the difference.
Dantonio was an assistant when Nick Saban's 1999 Spartans started 6-0, were blown away by 54 points in consecutive thrashings at Purdue and Wisconsin, then finished 10-2 with four more victories, including a win over Florida in the Citrus Bowl.
"If you'd said to me last spring, `You're 4-2 after six games,' you'd assume we weren't playing that awful," Dantonio said Monday. "The trouble is, the last two weeks were Big Ten games, and we had opportunities to win. But we don't make the plays to get over the hump. We don't make the calls to get over the hump. And we don't coach to get over the hump."
The Spartans' challenge is to learn from a string of costly mistakes. For quarterback Brian Hoyer, that means a focus on the immediate future and forgetting about the past 10 days.
"Watching that film yesterday made me sick," Hoyer said. "And it was hard to sleep on Saturday night. I kept thinking about a couple of plays where I should've done something different.
"But that's something you can learn from and make the right play the next time."
The play that kept Hoyer up was a rushed throw in overtime that barely missed wide-open tight end Kellen Davis for a tying touchdown. But Dantonio second-guessed himself, too, admitting that it wouldn't have been a bad idea to give the ball to tailback Javon Ringer, who was averaging 15.4 yards per rush. Instead, Hoyer launched four incompletions toward the end zone.
"We're all growing, including myself," Dantonio said. "We're all trying to get to the point where we're going to be successful. But this is a long-term project. As I said when I took the job, there are going to be times when we say to each other, `What happened? I wish this. I wish that.
"And there are going to be times when you don't want to get out of bed on Sunday morning. This weekend was one of those days. But we can't change what just happened."


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