Spartans Tough Loss to Notre Dame NOT the Story, How they Respond is!

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Losing to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday does not give the Michigan State Spartans 2012 season a death sentence. Far from it in my personal opinion. What I do think it offers is a time of reflection. Last season the Spartans had two losses handed to them as bad if not worse. At Notre Dame and at Nebraska we devastating, and the Spartans responded.

Mark Dantonio stressed that it is how the Spartans handle this that will define them and not the loss. He said, "It's always going to be about how you respond to diverse situations. That's what this game should teach you and that's what it's all about. People have praised us and now they are going to say it's an aberration. It is what it is and we will start fresh. The main focus will be what we do now and how we respond. We have to bring it next weekend."

The players and the coaches shared the word frustrating after the Notre Dame loss. It isn’t like the people who spend 100 hours a week working towards the goal don’t care.

MSU QB Andrew Maxwell talked about his frustration with the Spartan offense and their futility. “It is frustrating because that's not the identity of our offense. We want to establish the run first and foremost, get plays like that going on first and second down, leave ourselves third and medium or third and short. But we left ourselves too many third and longs. When you're in third and long seemingly every series, it doesn't matter how good of an offense you are its hard to convert third down on a third and long. That's something that we have to get better at and that's not our identity, that's the frustrating part.”

MSU OC Dan Roushar echoed his QBs sentiments. There is no doubt that Roushar will work harder than anyone to fix the issues. He was blunt and honest after the game with his thoughts. "Frustrating, it's not for lack of work. We just didn't execute well enough. They did a good job. Early in the third quarter, we start into two minute mode, trying to get something going. Maybe we have to wait for what we should have. I don't know, we will have to evaluate and look at it. It is very disappointing, we can be better than that and will look to do that."

You can’t overlook that how the Spartans respond will be the key. Since Mark Dantonio arrived all you have to do is judge is track record and see that the Spartans are in good shape.

When your leader Max Bullough, lays down the gauntlet, that is good news. He won’t let his teammates forget it or blow it off. He said of the loss, "It's an eye opener. As much of an eye opener as it was last year, it is this year. There were missed opportunities as much as there was of anything. Talking about the defensive side and myself, I had a lot of missed opportunities in the first half that could have changed the game. Those are the things you have to make, those are the plays you have to make against rivalry teams, especially Notre Dame. We didn't make them tonight, so we're going to go back to the drawing board and get better tomorrow." No doubt he gets it. No doubt that the leader of this team knows what has to happen.

After the game MSU RB LeVeon Bell said that he wouldn’t let his team lose another game. Great thoughts, but he doesn’t play the other 21 positions. That means he will have to lead. Something I am confident he can do.  He also added after the game, "That's the thing about football, it's a whole team sport. It takes a total team effort. We're going to get better as a team and continue to get better."

Heading into this weeks practice, Chris Norman knows what has to be done. He said, "I think there were a lot of things we could have done better. Whether it's being in the right position or being more physical here or doing this or doing that, we've got to get better. We're going to take that approach going into practice this week." Norman carries the respect of his team and they will follow.

It is no secret that Bennie Fowler is key to this team having success. He was frank in what went wrong when he said, "Personally, I feel like I let the team down. If had caught that touchdown, it'd be a different game. We'll be alright. We'll get better as a team and continue to get better. It's a long season, but personally I feel like I let the team down on that drop." He went on to add, "For the receivers, it was just a lack of concentration. (Andrew) Maxwell was doing well, he was staying in the pocket, staying poised. It was all on the receivers. This game is the receiver's fault." What is telling is that this is not a team of people pointing fingers. This is a team. Under Dantonio you are seeing why they have had the success they have.

Mark Dantonio doesn’t take short cuts. Mark Dantonio is building a program. One built on accountability.

The Spartans are hurt, this was personal and that is a big statement on why the Spartan Nation should be hopeful. TE Dion Sims said, “We just have to put it behind us and keep moving forward. Remembering this loss, I'm sure this will have a big impact for a lot of guys and we'll come back and we'll work all next week to continue to get better."

I think they most telling quote about the impact of the loss came from William Gholston. He said, “We have to take it one game at a time. When we lost this game, it's one game out of the season. We've got a lot more games to play and the way we come out next week is going to show what this game means for us.” Emphasis added by Spartan Nation.

I hope that what the coaches and players are saying brings you hope. It was an ugly loss. According to Dantonio it was, “A tough day at the office.” There is hope and certainly there is no despair as some are acting. One loss. Not the end of the world, but how they deal with it will tell. Not against EMU, that is a scrimmage. How they respond against OSU is the story.

Based on Dantonio’s track record and the words of accountability voiced from staff and players, I think the Spartan Nation certainly has reason for concern, but not consternation.