Michigan State gets big character test vs. Indiana

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

It’s been a while since Michigan State lost back-to-back games under Mark Dantonio, and the Spartans have no intention of beginning any sort of trend.

The last time Michigan State lost two straight was 2012 when it had consecutive losses twice, but since then have lost six games total, and never have they come in back-to-back weeks.

That’s what No. 17 Michigan State will be hoping to avoid Saturday when it heads into Memorial Stadium to take on Indiana. Last weekend’s 30-6 loss to Wisconsin was the most-one-sided Big Ten defeat for Michigan State at Spartan Stadium since 2009.

“Everybody is challenged,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. “There is one of two ways to go: take the high road and try to get better or go the other direction and say, ‘Hey, we can’t do this.’ Get desperate, and things of that nature.

“We’ve always taken the road that we’re going to get better and learn from our mistakes and carry on. There was no lack of effort (against Wisconsin). From the first play to the last play there was no lack of effort, no lack of toughness. When you have those two aspects going for your team usually people can rise up and bounce back.”

Resiliency hasn’t been an issue for Michigan State under Dantonio. More often than not, the Spartans have excelled at not allowing big losses or victories linger into the next week.

That was the attitude the Spartans had throughout this week in practice.

“We just go back to work,” sophomore linebacker Andrew Dowell said. “Go back to you principles. Coach D is preaching get back to basics and get ready to go for this weekend’s game.”

Much of the concern surrounding Michigan State (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten) is the offense. Last week was the first time the Spartans haven’t scored a touchdown in a Big Ten game since 2010.

Michigan State vs. Indiana preview: Bounce-back critical

Plenty of the heat has been on quarterback Tyler O’Connor, who threw three interceptions in the loss and has five in three games. Michigan State’s coaching staff, however, had issues with the entire offense, from the lack of a consistent running game to the failure to protect O’Connor.

And that includes the game plan, not that the execution was a whole lot better.

“Well our third-down package obviously wasn’t very good,” co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner said of the 4-for-13 effort. “Part of it was game plan, part of it was maybe preparation because of the blitzes. ... So obviously we did not prepare our guys for that as well as we needed to.”

And Warner, who also coaches the running backs, didn’t hold back on his group when it came to pass protection.

“Our pass protection was poor,” Warner said. “I’m not sure exactly what we were doing back there, but we probably should have recognized that sooner and made some adjustments.”

Warner, however, described all the issues as “fixable,” and has full confidence O’Connor will get on track against an Indiana defense that ranks eighth in the Big Ten in points allowed.

Defensively, the Spartans were put in bad spots against the Badgers because of four turnovers. The pass rush, however, still has been lacking, and the defense goes against Indiana’s Richard Lagow, the leader in passing yards in the Big Ten.

It’s a challenge defensive tackle Malik McDowell is ready to face.

“We lost a game and it’s our fault,” McDowell said. “But we can’t sit there and cry about it. We had our chance so there’s nothing else do about that.”

Which leaves tonight to prove whether this year’s Spartans are as resilient as those in the past.

“We’ve got good chemistry in the locker room and good leadership,” Dantonio said. “The culture here has been a culture of winning, so when you do lose, you know, it hurts you. You take it a little bit personal or a lot personal.

“Got to make plays and do things on the field, but I think that we can draw from things that went down and just push forward.”