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MSU's Michael Geiger counters talk of kicking slump

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

College Park, Md. — While Michigan State's offense came out of the first half of Saturday's 37-15 victory over Maryland kicking itself for failing to put the ball in the end zone on four of its opening drives, there was a silver lining.

It was that sophomore kicker Michael Geiger got the chance to work his way out of a slump that has been gripping him for the bulk of the Big Ten season. On Saturday, he was nearly perfect, hitting his first three field goals before coming up short on a 47-yarder late in the first half.

"I think his kicks tonight were great for his confidence," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "Obviously we would have liked to see him make the 47-yarder but it's great to see him kick three in a row. He's a very sure-minded guy, he's got a lot of confidence in himself. He's just got to keep kicking."

It had been difficult for Geiger this season after he went 15-for-16 last year as freshman. Entering Saturday's game he was just 8-for-14 on the season and had missed a field goal in five straight games. He also missed four consecutive kicks before kicking a 40-yarder against Ohio State.

And as much as the pressure was mounting, Geiger never believed things wouldn't turn around.

"Mentally I knew I was there," Geiger said. "The misses were only a yard here and there. Some the conditions were not favorable, but that's an excuse. I just knew to go back, look at the film and I have a good support group with my family and friends. I never considered it a slump. Obviously I was frustrated but a kicker has to keep confident and keep going to practice and games thinking they're going to make every kick."

Geiger said he got plenty of help over the past few weeks from Dantonio, who started coming up with different times in practice for field goals to keep Geiger alert and even started adding some running in practice to break up some of the misses.

And when his first three kicks — from 22, 34 and 35 yards — all sailed through the uprights, Geiger knew the hard work and focus was paying off.

"I felt like it had been a long time coming," Geiger said. "To stroke three like that is a testament to the guys sticking behind me and Coach D having faith in me."

Cook good enough

Coming into Saturday's game, quarterback Connor Cook had thrown a touchdown pass in 16 straight games, tying him with Kirk Cousins and Drew Stanton for the school record.

That came to an end against the Terrapins, not that it mattered to Cook.

"I didn't even know about that," Cook said. "I've always said no matter what the stats are, as long as we win you're happy. Last week was a career-night for me passing but if I throw for 80 yards, no touchdowns and two picks and we walk away with the win, I would have much rather had that. A win is a win, obviously. I'm disappointed in my play but you can't beat a win."

Cook finished 14-for-31 for 240 yards but managed to avoid any interceptions, thanks to a couple of drops from the Maryland defenders.

"I think we look at records and say that it's the best ever," Dantonio said. "But the bottom line is, what did you do today? We probably didn't throw the ball as successfully as we have in the past. The bottom line for today was that we were able to run the football effectively and secure the football game."

Langford express

Fifth-year senior running back Jeremy Langford ran 25 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns. It was the 14th straight game against a Big Ten opponent that Langford had run for more than 100 yards and the 13th straight regular-season conference game.

His final touchdown run of 33 yards put the game out of reach.

"We were able to bust some big runs in the fourth quarter," Dantonio said. "Jeremy Langford's run capped it for us."

Extra points

Michigan State's victory was its ninth straight Big Ten road win, setting a school record. The last loss on the road for the Spartans came in 2012 at Michigan.

… Fifth-year senior defensive end Marcus Rush started in his 50th career game, surpassing Eric Gordon and Joel Foreman for the most starts in school history.