After then No. 6-rated Michigan State’s tough early season 46-27 loss against then No. 3-rated Oregon, Spartans’ head coach Mark Dantonio had one clear message on Sunday: “We’ll be back.”
At halftime of Saturday night’s big time match up against the Ducks, Michigan State looked well-poised to walk away with a hard-fought victory away from home. A win that would have possibly set the team up for a national championship run in the new college football playoff system. Instead, the opposite has happened.
There was a point in the game when the Spartans looked solid; when quarterback Connor Cook finally looked calm and composed, hitting his marks and Michigan State was racking up the points. You could see it in his demeanor and Cook realized it, too. Sadly, he also realized when it started to go all wrong in the second half.
“I just tried to keep a calm mindset. I tried not to get caught up in the game, caught up in the moment at all,” Cook said. “They just made more plays than us. We had some opportunities on offense and I needed to grasp them and I didn’t.”
Leading after halftime, MSU came out the of gate looking disjointed, or perhaps the Ducks were able to find their true rhythm, either way, it was all over for the Spartans once Oregon QB Marcus Mariota settled into his groove, finishing with 318 passing yards and three touchdowns.
“We had to stop the momentum and we had him dead to right and he got out. We had him. I even said, ‘He’s sacked.'” Dantonio said of Mariota’s game-changing 24-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman Devon Allen to cut the Spartans lead to two points. “But again, you have to credit him, that’s why he’s the player he is.”
Michigan State would not score again after that play, and the Ducks sailed to an easy 46-27 crushing defeat of the top-ranked team in the Big Ten. Oregon was the highest-ranked nonconference opponent that the Spartans had faced since they faced top-ranked Nebraska in 1996.
Dantonio’s new message as of Sunday to Spartans fans was simple: Don’t worry, we’ve still got big plans.
“People are disappointed we didn’t win the game, put ourselves in the national championship hunt after Week 2,” Dantonio said on Sunday. “But our goals and my goal has always been to get that Big Ten championship game and springboard to what we can do from there. We need to understand that, ground ourselves, regain our composure, which we will. … I think we’ll get stronger inevitably.
“What this program has been able to do consistently, I would say, when there have been difficulties or what I call storms, we have been able to push through those storms and come out the back end successfully.”
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.