Week respite will allow Spartans to heal

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Finally, mercifully, Michigan State gets a week off.

MSU's Shane Jones celebrates defensive stop on a kick return in the second quarter. His teammates will be celebrating a week off.

After all the stress, all the injuries, all the nail-biting victories, the Spartans have reached their bye week — and, better for them, they've reached it 8-0.

The Spartans also enter the bye week knowing, for the first time in the Mark Dantonio era, he's giving them a week off practice during the season.

They'll still run and lift, sure, but the pads will stay in the lockers.

"I told them this past week on Tuesday that one of two things are gonna happen," Dantonio said following No. 7 MSU's 52-26 victory over Indiana. "Either we're gonna win the game and I'm gonna give you the week off, or we're gonna lose the game and I'm not gonna wanna see ya."

The bye week, really, is perfectly timed for MSU.

For starters, this is a team that's as banged up as any team in the Big Ten, let alone any team with national-championship aspirations.

With the eased-up itinerary this coming week, Dantonio is hopeful the team will be as healthy as it's been in some time when Michigan State play at Nebraska.

"It'll help a lot," offensive lineman Benny McGowan said of the bye week. "Healing up will be a big thing. We've gone eight weeks straight of just contact, games and practice and stuff."

Still, the bye week wouldn't have been nearly as pleasant following a loss to a talented Indiana team that nearly beat No. 1 Ohio State this season, and looked for awhile like it might take down No. 7 Michigan State, too.

"I remember Coach (Dave) Warner telling us," said McGowan, "it'll feel a hell of a lot better going into the bye week 8-0 rather than 7-1."

Said freshman safety Khari Willis, of the bye week off. "Oh, yeah, we all were happy about that, very excited. But we're still gonna do some work this week."

Michigan State was so fortunate in limiting injuries while finishing No. 5 in the nation last season, and seems to paying the piper for that this year.

Every week, from camp through the season, it seems there's been another big injury.

Now, the bye week will allow the Spartans to get some guys back for their next game. Most notably, center Jack Allen should return — a significant boost to an offensive line that is bruised and battered, and, thus, really struggling to create a run game.

"We need to heal up. We cannot take to practice this week and all of a sudden next week have more guys hurt," said Dantonio, whose staff also gets the added bonus of being able to get on the road recruiting the same weekend high school playoffs start in Michigan. "You play it as you go. That's where we are this year. That's what we have to do."