Published September 18, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Mark Dantonio is eager to put his team's loss to Notre Dame in the past — even if it were to mean moving the next game on the schedule up a few days.
"I wish we were playing tomorrow. I wish we were playing today," the Michigan State coach said Tuesday. "That's how we feel. That's how you feel after what happened last Saturday. You want to just get on with it and get back on the game field. You want to try to right a wrong."
The Spartans will have to wait until Saturday for their next game, against Eastern Michigan, and there isn't much for them to feel good about after their 20-3 loss to Notre Dame. It was the second straight year the Irish beat Michigan State by double digits, and although the loss doesn't directly affect the Spartans' Rose Bowl hopes, it did raise questions about their prospects.
Michigan State (2-1) played pretty well on defense, allowing a couple touchdowns in the first half but otherwise keeping Notre Dame in check. It was the offense that had problems, managing only 237 total yards.
"I think I got inaccurate at the end of the game. That's the worst possible time to become inaccurate," quarterback Andrew Maxwell said. "Last couple drives, when it was sort of our last-ditch effort to get something going, get a drive, get some points on the board, I can think of a couple throws, they were open, I was just inaccurate and we didn't make the play."
Running back Le'Veon Bell, who began the season with a tremendous performance against Boise State, was less of a factor against the Irish. He had 77 yards on 19 carries, and Maxwell was 23 of 45 for 187 yards.
The loss snapped a 15-game home winning streak for the Spartans.
"When you look at us offensively, we didn't have enough explosive plays," Dantonio said. "I think myself, I got impatient in the second half a little bit."
The Spartans have leaned on Bell and tight end Dion Sims so far this season offensively. Maxwell is still working his way into a comfort zone in his first season as the starting quarterback, and Michigan State lost some of its top receiving threats from a year ago, making the transition harder.
"I've always said I don't want to be the piece of the puzzle that holds this back, I don't want to be the piece of the puzzle that we have to wait on to be pumping on all cylinders to go. I don't think I have been," Maxwell said. "Saturday was just an unfortunate night that it just happened we couldn't get anything going. But I'm taking it on myself."
One encouraging sign for the Spartans is that the rest of the Big Ten hasn't exactly distinguished itself. Michigan was blown out in its opener by Alabama, and Wisconsin lost to Oregon State and squeaked by Utah State. Nebraska dropped a game to UCLA.
Last season, the Spartans lost to Notre Dame 31-13 but rebounded to reach the Big Ten title game. They can still make it back there if they can get past Michigan, Nebraska and the rest of the Legends Division.
After playing EMU, the Spartans open their conference schedule with a home game against Urban Meyer and his Ohio State team.
"We're going to be able to get up when we've been knocked down, same thing we've done before," Dantonio said. "We want to improve as a football team. We want to get ready for the Big Ten football season. We want to play Eastern Michigan tough and make a statement. As I said earlier, we'd be ready to play tomorrow."