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East Lansing — Everything seemed fine with Michael Geiger's 35-yard field goal Saturday against Air Force.

Right up until the time, that is, the ball barely missed the backside of offensive lineman Donavon Clark and was swatted by Air Force defensive lineman Alex Hansen.

"Just didn't get my best hit on it and it stayed low, and it kind of got blocked or kind of hit the back of our offensive lineman," Geiger said. "I've got to be a little mentally stronger than that."

The mentally strong part will likely become even more important now for No. 2 Michigan State's junior kicker. He's missed two of his four attempts this year, the other wayward kick a 28-yarder against Oregon that was pushed wide right.

His struggles are coming after a difficult sophomore season when he finished 14-for-22, missing a field-goal attempt in six straight games at one point. All of that comes on the heels of an outstanding freshman season when Geiger missed just once in 16 attempts.

He had off-season hip surgery following the 2014 season and expected to round back into the form he had as a freshman. However, that has been slow to come.

Now Geiger needs to work to regain his confidence.

"I've talked to a lot of kickers and you have to stay even," Geiger said. "If you make one you don't want to be gloating and celebrating. You're only as good as you last kick or your next kick. For me it would be nice to see the ball to through, but I come here every day and compete, compete with myself and other people across the country. I have high goals for myself. I have to make the next kick."

The fact that competition is lacking — kickoff specialist Kevin Cronin has only kicked a field goal in the spring game — makes it even more crucial Geiger regains his touch.

He'll attempt to do that by taking as many reps as he can in practice, something he hasn't had much of in games this season.

"I feel just as confident as I was, but it's hard," Geiger said. "I got one (kick) in the game. That's my stage. That's my time to shine. So disappointing, but after Sunday meetings, wash it away, review all the film. Today, I had a great day in practice and coach has great faith in me and always talks to me. He's very upfront with me."

Dantonio was frustrated after the Air Force game, saying he wanted Geiger to be near him on the sidelines when he called for the field-goal unit. However, he hasn't wavered in his support of his kicker.

"I know I need to be ready for the next kick," Geiger said, "and just knowing your coach has the utmost faith in you helps yourself push yourself a little farther in your belief. Not that I need any more belief in myself, but it's something to lean on."

To be determined

Sophomore linebacker Drake Martinez has yet to play this season because of a foot injury. Dantonio indicated the junior college transfer is close to returning and after having a solid start to preseason camp, the expectation is to get him on the field.

Where that might be exactly is still up in the air for a player who had been working at both outside linebacker positions.

"We'll see," linebackers coach Mark Snyder said. "We didn't get a chance to see much of Drake. In our third-down package would be a place that Drake might be able to excel because you don't have to have a lot of knowledge of what to do. In certain situations that guy does one thing and one thing only. And then special teams will be a big deal for him."

Wrong place

With junior middle linebacker Riley Bullough sitting out the first half this week against Central Michigan because of his targeting penalty against Air Force, Snyder made it clear Bullough will be back in the game on the first play of the second half.

"We gotta keep him going," Snyder said. "Gotta keep him rolling."

And the first-year MSU assistant was kicking himself for Bullough being in the spot in the first place. With only minutes left in the game, Snyder said he should have had him out of the game was ready to put sophomore Shane Jones in when the penalty was called.

"I gotta be smarter at the end of the game, too. There's no doubt," Snyder said. "We had Shane sitting right there to go into the game and didn't pull the trigger then the penalty happens a play later."

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau

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