EAST LANSING (AP) – Michigan State is trying to bounce back from two ugly losses.
One took place at Notre Dame last weekend. The other was two years ago against the same Central Michigan team that will visit Spartan Stadium on Saturday.
“I think the additional motivation comes from not only this past game,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said, “but from what went down here in 2009 in terms of beating us and how it went down at the end of the game.”
Leading 27-20 in the final minute, Michigan State allowed a touchdown with 32 seconds remaining. After stopping a 2-point conversion, the Spartans failed to recover an onside kick, giving Central Michigan one more chance.
Well, two more chances, actually. Andrew Aguila missed a 47-yard field goal attempt, but Michigan State was offside, and Aguila converted from 5 yards closer to give the Chippewas a 29-27 win.
The Spartans have avoided careless losses like that recently, but things are by no means perfect in East Lansing. After last weekend’s 31-13 defeat at Notre Dame, Michigan State dropped out of the Top 25 and faces significant injury problems on the offensive line.
“That’s one of those games that is kind of like a shocker for us, like a reality check,” defensive back Trenton Robinson said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
Michigan State struggled to run the ball against the Irish, and although quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 329 yards, the Spartans had a hard time finishing drives. Worse yet, Michigan State is now down three offensive linemen. Tackle Skyler Burkland is expected to miss the rest of the season after dislocating his left ankle against Notre Dame, and Dantonio said tackle Jared McGaha and center Blake Treadwell both have MCL injuries.
The Spartans (2-1) don’t have much time to break in new players up front. After hosting Central Michigan (1-2), Michigan State faces a difficult October with games against Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Dantonio insists his team can’t abandon the run and won’t alter its approach because of the injuries. He’d also like to see a better performance on special teams. Last weekend, Michigan State allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown and failed to execute a fake field goal near the Notre Dame goal line.
“I take responsibility for the fake kick, this last time. … We should not have tried it at that yard line,” Dantonio said. “You win games on special teams. This time, it caught up to us.”
Dantonio will be coaching against one of his old acquaintances. Central Michigan coach Dan Enos was an assistant for Dantonio at Cincinnati and then at Michigan State. In fact, he was Michigan State’s running backs coach in 2009 during the shocking last-second loss to CMU.
“That game was a long time ago,” Enos said. “There’s not many guys on this football team right now that were there.”
This year’s Chippewas have their own problems to resolve. Two weeks ago, they led Kentucky at halftime before losing 27-13. Then they were blown out 44-14 by Western Michigan. Ryan Radcliff threw for 215 yards in that lopsided loss, but Western Michigan went 10 of 15 on third down and broke the game open with three first-quarter touchdowns.
“Obviously, things don’t get any easier,” Enos said. “We’re just going to try to move forward and get better.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)