Things started off differently this week, as both wide receivers coach Courtney Hawkins and redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne kicked things off, speaking about the team’s struggles and how the Spartans can move forward as a unit.
“It has to be together,” Thorne said of what the team needs to do to end the current losing streak. “(Head coach Mel Tucker) talks about the best way to get what you want is to help somebody else get what they want.
“Good things happen to players on good teams.”
When asked about the challenges the offense will face against the Wisconsin defense, Hawkins talked about the Badgers’ physicality and emphasized the Spartans’ need to prevent mistakes.
“Wisconsin, they’re a Power Five, Big Ten team,” Hawkins said. “They’re big up front, they play solid on the back end, they’re gonna pressure the quarterback. We’ve got to be on our deal, fundamentally, technically sound, play fast and when the opportunities present themselves, we’ve got to capitalize.”
Speaking on the fans’ support, Hawkins said the team needs and relies upon that support, adding that Michigan State will right the ship and get back to winning.
“We need the fans every week,” Hawkins said. “The fans are a huge part of what we do.
“Come out and support us through thick and thin, we’re going to get this thing turned around.”
When asked about how he felt about the team’s loss to Ohio State, Thorne made it clear that he, as well as the team as a whole, has put the loss behind him and is focused on getting the Spartans back in the win column.
“We’re onto the next, so to be honest with you, I’m not really thinking about this (past) weekend,” Thorne said. “We’ve put that past us now and we’re thinking about Wisconsin, that’s our focus.”
When asked about Michigan State’s lack of explosive plays compared to last season, Thorne said the team has faced different coverages designed to prevent those explosive plays and that the offense has had to come up with more designed plays to exploit those different coverages. He added that the offense needs to execute better to connect on the big play opportunities the Spartans get.
Speaking on his mobility, Thorne said he has not felt completely healthy since the first game of the season versus Western Michigan, leading to his lack of participation in the running attack.
“My running has been a little bit affected since Week One, my body hasn’t been necessarily one hundred percent since Week One, so my running has not been the same as it always is,” Thorne said. “I’m working my best to get back to that point, but I have a few different things going on right now that don’t allow me really to run full speed.”
Thorne continued to say that he has learned that he shouldn’t always take hits in order to keep his body healthy this season, adding that the season is a marathon, not a sprint.
One of the sole bright spots of Michigan State’s season thus far, sixth-year senior punter Bryce Baringer, was named the Ray Guy Award Punter of the Week for his performance against the Buckeyes, downing five of his seven total punts on the day inside the 20-yard line and averaging 48.9 yards per punt.
Baringer spoke on the team’s mindset during the losing streak, saying the team is focused on moving forward
“We try not to think about it too much,” Baringer said. “Our big team mantra is the abbreviation ‘W.I.N., What’s important now,’ and all we’re really working toward and focusing on right now is the next game.”
Baringer said he enjoys the shorter punts in which he has an opportunity to pin opponents deep more than his longer punts, adding that his main goal when he comes onto the field is to try to help the defense as much as he can.
Redshirt junior receiver Tre Mosley came out and spoke on the difficulty of continuing to refocus in the midst of a losing streak.
“It’s tough, especially after dropping four in a row, it is hard,” Mosley said. “Being a competitor, you can’t focus on the losing too much because it will continue to happen, so you have to learn from mistakes and clean it up.”
Asked about the importance of the quick passes that allowed the Spartans to move the ball against the Buckeyes, Mosley said that will be something the team can continue to rely upon moving forward.
“Absolutely, just taking what the defense gives us,” Mosley said. “Sometimes, defenses might take away the vertical threats down the field, so just taking underneath things until they come down, then we can go over the top.”
Mosley said the bond him and his teammates feel has been strengthened through the team’s struggles and everyone has held themselves and each other accountable during the four-game skid.
“It definitely brings the team together, which usually doesn’t happen when teams go through tough times like that,” Mosley said. “Accountability has been the best thing that has helped us throughout this time.”
Michigan State plays its homecoming game against Wisconsin at 4 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on FOX.