East Lansing — Michigan State got the win it needed on Saturday afternoon, but it might have come at a significant price.
The Spartans are already without linebacker Ed Davis and cornerback Vayante Copeland, who each have suffered season-ending injuries, and after the 30-10 victory over Central Michigan the tally of wounded players is growing.
The most significant was a left knee injury to junior left tackle Jack Conklin. He was injured in the first half and watched the second half from the sidelines in street clothes with his knee in a brace.
Co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner said adjusting in-game to the loss was a “major, major situation.”
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio will typically only address injuries if they are deemed season-ending, and after the game on Saturday he offered no details on Conklin’s status.
“We don’t talk about injuries, you guys know that,” he said.
No. 2 Michigan State lost its right tackle, Kodi Kieler, in week two against Oregon and the loss of its left tackle would be a significant setback. Conklin is a likely All-American this season who rates highly in next spring’s NFL Draft. He was replaced by sophomore Dennis Finley, who played the rest of the way at left tackle.
“Football is a crazy game,” senior wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. said. “It’s a physical game and when guys fall it’s up to other guys to step up and play the role that is expected of them, and that is to perform.”
Conklin wasn’t the only noteworthy injury on Saturday.
Junior Josiah Price, who earlier caught his MSU-best 14th touchdown for a tight end, injured his ankle late in the game and fifth-year senior safety RJ Williamson twice had to be helped off the field, failing to return after leaving the game in the fourth quarter.
Michigan State has depth at tight end with junior Jamal Lyles and fifth-year senior Paul Lang. The next move at safety, if Williamson is out, could include any number of players. Demetrious Cox played both cornerback and safety on Saturday alongside Montae Nicholson while true freshman Khari Willis also saw his first game action.
The Spartans were also without fifth-year senior defensive tackle Joel Heath, who did not play because of an undisclosed injury.
Put it all together and things are starting to pile up for the Spartans.
“It’s tough,” junior middle linebacker Riley Bullough said. “You never want guys to go down, especially starters. We’ve had some great guys that have gone down, but there’s nothing really we can do about it. That’s football. We need to get the No. 2 guys ready to go and fill the spot and match the intensity of the No. 1 guys, so that is really how we’re looking at it.”