East Lansing — When Michigan State walked off the field at Oregon two weeks ago, it was dealing with emotions it hadn't had to face in quite some time.
To be precise, it had been 350 days since the Spartans lost a football game. Before the 46-27 loss to the Ducks — now the No. 2 team in the country — the last time Michigan State came out on the short end was Sept. 21, 2013 at Notre Dame.
After that game, Michigan State had a week off before going on the 11-game roll that included victories in the Big Ten Championship game and the Rose Bowl. Whether a similar streak is coming this time around remains to be seen, but if the week off has done anything, the Spartans say it has strengthened their resolve.
"I just think it really kind of woke them up," offensive line coach Mark Staten said. "I mean, heck, we hadn't lost in a year. So I think it really woke everybody up and was kind of a slap in the face, because it wasn't necessarily what they did, it's what we didn't do. And that's hard if you've got any pride in you."
The 11th-ranked Spartans (1-1) get a chance to fix many of the mistakes they made two weeks ago when they host Eastern Michigan at noon today.
While the competition won't be at nearly the same level it was against Oregon, the Michigan State players are more worried about themselves than the opponent.
"I think when you're in a room full of 100 competitive guys losing leaves a sour taste," guard Travis Jackson said, "whether you're playing football or sitting around with your friends playing a card game. We're a bunch of competitive guys that haven't lost in a while.
"We had to do some soul-searching and check ourselves and there's no better way to do that than playing another game, so we're excited to get back on the field."
And they'll be excited to put some of the miscues that led to the loss to Oregon behind them. The Spartans believe that while the Ducks are an outstanding team, they hurt themselves more than anything in that game, especially on the defensive side of the ball where the Spartans gave up touchdown passes of 70, 37 and 24 yards.
"They're a good football team," defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said, "but they're no better than us. We'd like to play them the next day and probably have a different result."
But there are no second-chances in college football, only the next game on the schedule. And that, alone, should have a defense that is used to dominating looking to get back on track.
The 46 points and nearly 500 yards of total offense allowed against Oregon were numbers not often seen with a defense that has been among the best in the nation for the past three seasons.
Sinking its teeth into an Eastern Michigan team that scored only three points in its last two games should be just what the Spartans need. The Eagles (1-2) are averaging just 11.3 points a game and are 12th in the Mid-American Conference in total offense at 243.7 yards a game.
"We are coming off a loss and coming off defensively probably the worst quarter of football that we can remember playing," linebackers coach Mike Tressel said. "Our guys want to get out there and it doesn't really matter who we are playing. We want to go back and prove that we're a great defense.
"It was one quarter. I don't care who we're playing. It could be Oregon again. We just want to get back on the football field and show who we are."
Who they are appears to be a work in progress. Replacing six starters for last season's defense has been a bit tougher than some expected and there could still be come changes, especially at linebacker.
The starters will remain the same today with Taiwan Jones in the middle with Ed Davis at the "money" (strong-side linebacker) and Darien Harris at the "star" (weak-side linebacker). But coach Mark Dantonio said the plan is to get plenty of young players on the field today, and that opens the door for several linebackers.
Mylan Hicks will continue to split time with Harris while Riley Bullough and middle linebacker Jon Reschke have been pushing for more playing time. True freshman Chris Frey could also join the rotation on the outside.
"Riley's effort I thought was phenomenal," Tressel said. "When you have a guy out there supplying that type of energy that can change the momentum right there. I love his energy. Both Reschke and Riley did well enough that you say, 'You need to get those guys more reps.' "
Eastern Michigan at Michigan State
Kickoff: Noon today, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Records: Eastern Michigan 1-2, No. 11 Michigan State 1-1
Line: Michigan State by 451/2
Series: Michigan State leads, 9-0 (Michigan State 23-7, Sept. 22, 2012)