If you're skeptical about the 2009 Spartans' 1-3 start after Saturday's 38-30 loss at Wisconsin, don't share your doubts with George Perles this week. (Daniel Mears/ The Detroit News)
It's been worse. Just ask George Perles.
The former Michigan State coach started the 1988 season 0-4-1 before one of the most dramatic single-season turnarounds in program history.
So if you're skeptical about the 2009 Spartans' 1-3 start after Saturday's 38-30 loss at Wisconsin, don't share your doubts with Perles this week.
"You're never out of it until the last time you snap the ball," Perles said. "I don't see why we can't win the rest of our games this season."
A team featuring all-Big Ten talents Andre Rison, Tony Mandarich, Percy Snow and Blake Ezor did just that, winning six straight conference meetings.
That regular-season-ending streak under Perles hasn't been duplicated since. It earned MSU an appearance in the Gator Bowl, a game it lost to Georgia, 34-27.
Perles got "0-4-1" buttons made after that comeback campaign for the entire team so it could be reminded of a no-quit effort that salvaged the season.
"I gave all the players one so they would never forget," Perles said. "You just keep playing hard and don't look back."
At some point this week, Perles plans to stop by the Skandalaris Football Center and share some words of wisdom with coach Mark Dantonio.
Perles also will bring one of those '88 mementos, a simple, yet heartfelt accessory that still gives him a sense of pride.
"I'm looking forward to taking my button over there," Perles said. "What's happened has happened. The only thing that counts is what's going to happen on the next play."
Does a lack of execution on the field mean that MSU has a lack of leadership and commitment among its players?
Fifth-year senior cornerback Ross Weaver, one of four captains, sure doesn't think so, despite some problems in previous seasons.
"I've been in locker rooms in the past where some people (were) just playing for themselves," Weaver said. "Some seniors just wanted to get their stats up and get ready to play for the next level."
When pressed on the matter, Weaver declined to name names, but said he doesn't see any players like that now.
"I don't want to call anybody out or put anybody under the bus," Weaver said. "(On) this team, we pull together. We don't point fingers at each other."
It should be noted that receivers Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham didn't start against Wisconsin for disciplinary reasons.
Dell and Cunningham missed a meeting, Dantonio said Saturday.
Same Old Spartans?
Records of Mark Dantonio, John L. Smith and Bobby Williams through their first two seasons and first four games of a third season:
#Win over 1-AA Montana State. Smith and Williams didn't play a 1-AA team during their MSU careers.
*Failed to make bowl game
Tough to recover
1-3 starts in MSU history and season outcomes since 1984. It began Big Ten play in 1953:
|1998||6-6||4-4 Big Ten||Nick Saban|
|1992||5-6||5-3 Big Ten||George Perles|
|#1984||6-6||5-4 Big Ten||George Perles|
#Lost to Army in Cherry Bowl