By: Will Burchfield

The Michigan State football team is off to its worst start in conference play since 2007, when Mark Dantonio was in his first season as head coach.

Back then, the Spartans were a perennial also-ran, far from the national power they’ve become in recent seasons. Their climb to the top was arduous, and Dantonio feels some-early season adversity might remind his players of the struggle that precedes success.

Michigan State is 2-2 on the year and 0-2 in the Big Ten.

“I don’t want to be too critical, but some guys have been born on third. You know what I mean? They haven’t experienced the pain that others have gone through to get this place to where it’s at,” Dantonio said.

Nearly all of Michigan State’s current players have grown up in a program that’s known nothing but success. The Spartans have won at least 11 games in five of the last six seasons.

“Sometimes you need to go back and you need to take stock in where this place has come from, what has happened to get it there. It doesn’t just happen,” Dantonio continued. “Just because you show up here doesn’t mean that you automatically get a win.

“Whether you’re the head coach and have that success, you have to reexamine what you’re doing, reexamine how you’re doing it, and make some good decisions. As a player, you have to dig deep a little bit sometimes. But I think when you do dig deep, you build equity, you invest. And in that investment comes success.”

In the wake of Michigan State’s slow start, the team’s fan base has struck a frustrated tone. The Spartans have fallen out of the Top 25 for the first time in three years, and Dantonio isn’t surprised some people are viewing the team strictly through the lens of its recent results.

“Not in this world, not in this world. All you have to do is turn on the TV. That’s the way it is. This is a supply-and-demand, instant-gratifications world that we’re living in and you guys all know that. So when the good things come, you get an overabundance of praise, and when the bad things come, you might get an overabundance of criticism as well,” Dantonio said.

And the coach acknowledged it’s his responsibility to keep an even keel through the ups and downs.

“That’s why you’re hired. You’re hired to steer the ship in the stormy waters. We can’t always be just floating along and sail,” he said. “But I will say this, when you have problems, there’s usually great growth. There’s leadership growth. There’s growth in terms of what it takes to be able to accomplish things, and that’s natural.

“Nobody felt like we’d be 2-2 at this point during the season. I’m sure most people thought we’d be 4-0, but here we are, and it’s a place we haven’t been for a while, but doesn’t mean we’re not going places. So we’ll get there.”

Michigan State will look to get back on track this weekend versus BYU. The two teams will kick things off on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Spartan Stadium.

“We’re not cashing out this year yet,” Dantonio said. “We’re a 2-2 football team.

“Our goals are still in our own hands in terms of what we want to accomplish here.”


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