Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio explains why this week's game against Maryland is a "program game." Geoff Robinson, Detroit News
East Lansing — It started in Ann Arbor. It came crashing down in Columbus. Now the question becomes: What’s next?
Michigan State has been put through an emotional wringer over the last six weeks, reaching the highest of emotional highs with a win over rival Michigan in early October.
Then came the lowest of the lows against Ohio State, a 48-3 drubbing that begs the question of where the young Spartans are at emotionally.
“Young people are resilient,” head coach Mark Dantonio said at Tuesday’s press conference. “Yesterday at practice was business as usual. Guys were dancing to music, things of that nature. They can let it go.”
Coach Mark Dantonio talks about facing Maryland in Michigan State's final home game of the season. Geoff Robinson, Detroit News
Up next is a 4-6 Maryland team with quarterback issues that would appear ripe for the picking. But when you’re dealing with young minds, nothing is ever a given.
“This becomes a program game,” Dantonio said of Saturday’s contest. “You don’t want to step back and play negatively after a negative moment. You’re going to be measured on what you do next.”
“We need to get up for our football game. I don’t know what it was (against Ohio State), but we didn’t play our best. We’ll try to get off that moment.”
MSU is heading for a bowl game, that much is certain. But if it were to drop one of its final two games against the Terrapins or Rutgers, the feel-good renaissance that’s currently under way in East Lansing might lose some of its shine.
MSU is an 11-point favorite over Maryland, and should be a heavy favorite in its final regular-season game against Rutgers. Two wins in the final two weeks will mean the team has flipped its record from 3-9 in 2016 to 9-3 this fall.
“I think it’s always important that you finish strong,” Dantonio said. “The focus on these next two games is going to be intense, and we need to see the product of that on the field. We will be ready to go. Let’s not go backwards.”
Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.