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No. 24 Michigan State Spartans Again Have To Shake Off An Early Loss

Win or lose, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio understands the importance of moving on.

That's part of the reason his program has been so successful.

Wisconsin v Michigan State
EAST LANSING, MI - JANUARY 26: Michigan State Spartans head football coach Mark Dantonio speaks to the media at a press conference before the Michigan State Spartans and Wisconsin Badgers basketball game at Breslin Center on January 26, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State is facing criticism for its handling of sexual assault accusations on campus. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

"I've said this before: What are you going to do after big moments? What are you going to do after you win a big game? How are you going to respond the next week?" Dantonio said Tuesday. "Same thing when we've lost a game, when we've lost a moment. You know, how do you handle yourselves? What's the next step for you as a person?"

The 24th-ranked Spartans are facing the latter of those two challenges after dropping a game at Arizona State on Sept. 8. Michigan State had an open date last weekend, but now its Big Ten schedule begins Saturday night at Indiana in what could be a difficult game on the road. The Spartans have recovered nicely from early-season losses in the past under Dantonio.

Michigan State doesn't treat every game the same — just ask rival Michigan — but Dantonio has been able to keep his team reasonably even keeled through the years. Some of the Spartans' best seasons came after September defeats that could have derailed things.

The Spartans lost to Notre Dame in 2011 and still went to the Big Ten title game. They lost to the Irish again in 2013 but ended up in the Rose Bowl. A loss at Oregon in 2014 didn't stop Michigan State from making it to the Cotton Bowl.

Notre Dame v Michigan State
EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 23: Brian Lewerke #14 of the Michigan State Spartans runs for a long gain during the first quarter as Jalen Elliott #21 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish gives chase during the game at Spartan Stadium on September 23, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Last season, it was Notre Dame again that handed the Spartans an early loss, but Michigan State was still in the mix for the Big Ten title in November.

during the second half of the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Tempe, Arizona.

The loss to Arizona State gave the Spartans a tougher road to the College Football Playoff, but Michigan State can certainly still have a fine season.

"I think most people in life really genuinely handle adversity," Dantonio said. "At least their intentions are good. Now, can they handle it or not? But they get ready to go to their next challenge and that's what we're going to do. That's what we've done in the past and that's our intent."

Indiana v Michigan State
EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 21: Running back Morgan Ellison #27 of the Indiana Hoosiers is pursued by linebacker Chris Frey #23 of the Michigan State Spartans during the first half at Spartan Stadium on October 21, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Michigan State is 8-1 against Indiana under Dantonio, but the games have been more competitive of late. From 2007-15, the Spartans scored at least 42 points six times in seven meetings with the Hoosiers, surpassing 50 in four of those matchups. Then Indiana beat Michigan State 24-21 in overtime in 2016, and the Spartans won 17-9 last year.

Michigan State was down 9-3 last season before scoring two touchdowns in the final 5:59.

"Kind of struggled to move the ball a little bit — got stopped on third down a lot, made some plays at the end of the game," quarterback Brian Lewerke said. "We made plays at the end to get a win, that was kind of the story last year. Hopefully we don't have to do that sort of thing again this year."

Utah State v Michigan State
EAST LANSING, MI - AUGUST 31: Brian Lewerke #14 of the Michigan State Spartans throws a first half pass while playing the Utah State Aggies at Spartan Stadium on August 31, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The matchup Saturday will be another night game, the third in a row for Michigan State to start this season. It's the first time in school history the Spartans will play three straight regular-season night games.

Dantonio said night games have their appeal, but it's tough having to get back home so late.

"That takes a toll on you, not just from a football standpoint but from an academic standpoint, as well. I think you really see that in basketball," Dantonio said. "I talk to Coach (Tom) Izzo all the time. ... He's always talking about their night games and what time he has to get home and how the guys have classes in the morning and things of that nature, so it becomes a little bit difficult. ... This is our third straight night game. I believe in repetition makes you better, so we'll see."

© 2018 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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