It's never too early in the season to say that it is make it or break it time for the Michigan State Spartans (3-1), thanks in large part to the team and coaching staff's ability to always find themselves in a predictably bad situation early on.
On Tuesday, head coach Mark Dantonio acknowledged that his Spartans' failure at Notre Dame two weeks ago was certainly a game that threw the team off track, but he claims that focusing on this weekend's upcoming match up in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) is all his players need to do to refocus their efforts.
“That's what we're chasing — it goes through Iowa City at this point,” Dantonio told reporters. “That's all we know. We've got to move our football team. We've got to move our rock or our foundation to Iowa City to make it happen.”
Though Michigan State's offense looked better against the Fighting Irish under now-starting quarterback Connor Cook, the squad still has a long ways to go when it comes to being totally effective against elite defensive squads. In fact, Michigan State is one of only three teams in the entire FBS to have only one play of 30 yards or more (they're tied with Temple and Massachusetts for one play each).
Even more frightening is the fact that MSU is the only FBS team without an offensive play of 40 yards or more.
Folks, that's out of 123 FBS teams in the country; Michigan State has zero. Every single other team has at least one.
“That’s crazy,” Spartans sophomore receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. said when told the numbers. “I didn’t even know that because I don’t really look at newspapers and stuff like that, I try to stay focused. But that’s real crazy. I’m looking for a change this week against Iowa, someone’s gonna, whether it’s me, Bennie (Fowler) or Tony (Lippett) or Aaron (Burbridge), somebody’s gonna break loose this game.”
Co-offensive coordinator Jim Bollman was a little more defensive.
“It’s still an overall situation where someone’s got to rise up and make some plays, you know?” Bollman said. “Explosive plays are sometimes built on schemes but more often than not, they’re the result of people. Maybe a guy breaking a tackle, maybe a guy making a great catch, a guy making a great throw. Certainly as coaches we’re always working on the scheme part of things, but you’ve got to execute and you’ve got to get into a rhythm, get in sync and some of those things can happen.”
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.