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Michigan State Football: Weekly Press Conference Coverage

The Spartans come up short in Tempe

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State football couldn’t break the streak of losses for Big Ten teams in Tempe, Arizona last weekend, losing to ASU 16-13. The Sun Devils had the ball for the last 4:50 leaving the MSU offense and Brian Lewerke on the sidelines for the remainder of the game.

“First of all, I thought we handled the trip very well, handled the time change, handled the weather. We didn’t have any problems with that, I thought we had a lot of energy. Obviously, we expected a tough game and got one or at least we went through it,” Dantonio said while at the podium this morning.

The Spartans left Sun Devil Stadium 1-1 (0-0 B1G) and will have two weeks to prepare for Indiana.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t the first time MSU has stumbled early on, only to regain their composure later in the season and end up being one of the more successful teams within the Big Ten. “We’ve gotta stay resilient, and I think when you have these type of situations and we’ve been in them before,” said Dantonio. “I think you go one direction, either people get pulled apart or people get brought together and it’s my feeling that things like this forge unites, forges solidarity, perseverance, and probably the most important thing is it forges action.”

Action is something this Michigan State team needs. For the first time Dantonio might actually be appreciating time off early in the season because it gives the Spartans an opportunity to regroup and work on things they may not have the ability to fix outside of having a week off.

Last week it was reported that the Spartans were heading to Arizona already shorthanded due to injuries and other undisclosed situations. MSU would be without their starting defensive end Jacub Panasiuk and strong-side linebacker Tyriq Thompson.

In football injuries can sometimes pile up and the Spartans learned that Saturday night when LJ Scott got banged up in the first half and sat on the sidelines with his helmet off for the rest of the contest. The Spartans were forced to use multiple running backs including La’Darius Jefferson and Weston Bridges.

On top of that, Michigan State lost Jake Hartbarger during the second half. He suffered what appeared to be a leg injury on a fourth down punt that was called dead due to a false start by the Spartans. “Jake is out for six to eight weeks. He’s got a bone bruise or maybe a slight fracture in there. So we’re going to miss him and Rocky Lombardi will be the punter,” said Dantonio when asked about the Hartbarger injury.

Dantonio didn’t want to comment on the referees handling of the play saying “I'm not gonna go into that, I’m not going to make excuses. I’m gonna concern myself with the things we can control and I can control.”

Michigan State v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Additionally, the Spartans were without their starting left tackle — Cole Chewins for the second week in a row (he took the field for one play before coming off the field) and it’s a big reason why the O-line and pass protection has struggled. His replacement, Luke Campbell, simply hasn’t gotten the job done and it’s contributed to Brian Lewerke constantly being under pressure and their run game not being what it has the potential to be. Without consistent offensive line play their offense will continue to be stagnant.

“Well we got pressure, we were only sacked twice and that was at the end of the game. I think in both cases we could have avoided the sack. The ball could have been thrown,” said Dantonio. “We did get pressure throughout the entire game, but as I said on Saturday night they bring a lot of different pressures from a lot of different places.”

Arizona State pressured the Spartans throughout large portions of the night regardless of the number of times they were able to get to the QB. The Sun Devils may have only had two sacks but they had five tackles for loss and continuously disrupted Michigan State’s offense. MSU ran the ball 27 times for 63 yards and no touchdowns.

It’s unusual for an opponent to completely shut down the Spartans run game but ASU was able to take the Spartans outside of their comfort zone.

“This game got tight, there’s no other way to say it. Obviously you don’t want it to be like that,” Dantonio said. “You’ve got 28 points of opportunities in the red zone and you come away with 13. It’s frustrating and there are reasons behind that. Some of them are physical, some of them are mental, and some of them are coaching errors. The thing I want our people to understand is this is all of our issues, it’s not one particular group.”

Michigan State v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images