Spartans Look to Rebound Against EMU

By: AP
By: AP

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- OK, so Michigan State didn't return home from the West Coast with a season-opening victory.
The 2008 schedule offers the Spartans a good chance to rebound with three straight home games against beatable opponents.
Michigan State hosts Eastern Michigan on Saturday. The Spartans have never lost to the improving Eagles, who started the season by routing Indiana State 52-0.
Florida Atlantic visits Spartan Stadium on Sept. 13, followed by Notre Dame on Sept. 20. Neither of those teams are cupcakes, but the Spartans figure to be favored in both contests thanks in part to their home field advantage.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio wasn't looking ahead -- or behind -- during his weekly press conference Tuesday.
"We will continue to focus on the present, and the present is Eastern Michigan," Dantonio said. "I don't believe they will be intimidated at all. It will be our first home game, so it will be exciting for all of us. And we've got to get better. This is a chance to take a step in that direction."
Michigan State knows all about the hazards of road openers. The Spartans tripped on a couple of them during last week's 38-31 loss at California.
The Spartans (0-1) committed eight penalties, got a punt blocked for a touchdown and had an untimely turnover to take away a scoring chance. Still, Michigan State didn't fold and challenged the Golden Bears (1-0) until the very end of the season-opener for both teams.
The West Coast trip gave Michigan State an early chance to discover how it stacks up against quality competition.
The offensive line, which has new starters on the left side this season, must improve to give running back Javon Ringer a better chance to shine. Ringer was bottled up near the line of scrimmage much of the night against Cal and gained only 81 yards on 27 carries.
But two receivers, Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham, stepped up to provide quarterback Brian Hoyer a variety of targets.
The defense struggled to stop the run, giving up an average of 5.6 yards per carry. But the secondary played fairly well and made some big plays, including two interceptions by safety Otis Wiley.
"When you play a good football team, you're not going to be able to make mistakes, especially on the road and in a tough environment," Dantonio said. "The positives are that we competed. Hopefully we gained some valuable lessons and learned some things."
Competing has become a trademark for the Spartans under Dantonio. All seven of the Spartans' losses under the second-year coach have been by seven points or less.
Starting safety Kendell Davis-Clark, who appeared to injure a shoulder against California, was listed as a possible starter for the Eastern Michigan game. If Davis-Clark can't go, Danny Fortener likely would start in his place.
Receiver Deon Curry missed the Cal game with a back injury but could return against Eastern Michigan.


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