MSU, on brink of bowl berth, will take it 'step by step'
East Lansing — Entering the season, reaching a bowl game seemed a reasonable goal for Michigan State.
Halfway through the season, that goal is attainable — probably much quicker than many expected. But a victory Saturday at home against Indiana would do just that for No. 18 Michigan State, which enters the matchup with the Hoosiers at 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten.
That sixth win, while a key indication that Michigan State’s struggles last season truly were an anomaly, isn’t the main focus for the Spartans.
“Really, I’ve always approached it one game at a time,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “Even last year, coming down the stretch I felt like we could win that last football game. That’s the approach I’ve always taken here. There’s not a game we’ve gone into that we said, ‘We’re gonna lose that one.’ Conversely, we don’t go in saying, ‘You can check that one off, that’s a win.’ It just doesn’t happen. There’s too much parity in college football. It’s difficult.
“Right now, to be sitting at 5-1 with an opportunity to win six, that is goal No. 1. But I just try and take it step by step.”
That next step includes playing an Indiana team that has lost two straight and is winless in three Big Ten games. However, the Hoosiers pushed Michigan to overtime last week and first-year coach Tom Allen has them playing well on both sides of the ball.
And it’s the defensive jump that is most noticeable under the former defensive coordinator.
“They have come miles,” Dantonio said. “He’s done an outstanding job with their program.”
Sophomore wide receiver Trishton Jackson did not play last week against Minnesota because of an undisclosed injury. Dantonio, like he does often when injuries are not long-term, declined to give any specifics.
Jackson appeared in each of the first five games, starting four. He has nine catches for 121 yards.
… Freshman Connor Heyward was listed No. 1 on the depth chart at both kick and punt returner. He handled both duties last week at Minnesota, his first opportunity to return kicks this season.