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Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio looks back on the loss to Nebraska, and looks ahead to Rutgers. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News

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East Lansing – With nothing at stake this weekend in terms of playing for a championship, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has made it clear what he’s looking for from his team.

“Right now, I’m looking for is a response,” Dantonio said at his weekly news conference on Tuesday. “A response from our players, coaches, our staff, people that are involved. When you get knocked down, you get back up. That’s the message of this football game, the game of football.

“It’s not easy. I’ve said that many times. It’s not easy put a 320-pound guy on your nose and ask him to move him or to get a pass rush or whatever it is. You gotta be able to do those things and that comes with intensity. So, we’re looking for a response.”

The response comes not just from last week’s 9-6 loss at Nebraska, but from a season that has not gone as the Spartans (6-5, 4-4 Big Ten) expected.

The thought before the season was Michigan State would push for an East Division title and a shot at winning the Big Ten. Instead, the frustration has mounted week after week as the defense has played well while the offense has been ineffective.

With Rutgers (1-10, 0-9) coming to town Saturday for a 4 p.m. kickoff, Dantonio believes his team will have the right mindset.

“Our players have come to play every weekend,” Dantonio said. “The chemistry is good and we’ll come to play. So, sometimes when you’re facing difficult situations, you’ve got to move it forward and we will do that. But it’s an opportunity to win seven.”

Michigan State will recognize 18 seniors before the game on Saturday. The senior class has compiled a 31-19 record and has played in three bowl games, including the College Football Playoff in 2015, last season’s Holiday Bowl and this season’s yet-to-be-determined game. They also won the Big Ten championship in 2015.

“This is a moment for our seniors,” Dantonio said. “I think our seniors have experienced everything. They’ve experienced championship moments winning the Big Ten championship, going to playoff games. They’ve also experienced a tough 2016 followed by a 10-win season. So, it’s an opportunity to say goodbye to them and have a positive experience there.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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