There is no secret that the Michigan State Spartans are struggling with slow starts. So much so that Max Bullough said after the Spartans win against Indiana that, “I think no question that we need to come out faster in the first half. That is no secret. I think (even) last year we went to the Big Ten Championship game. Always a little slow in the first half. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know?”
Last year the Spartans jumped out against Iowa and had a great start. They need to do that again this Saturday when the Hawkeyes step into Spartan Stadium.
Dantonio addressed the slow starts saying, “Well, I was very disappointed with this last week’s slow start. I think the Ohio State game got off to a fast start. Obviously a penalty helped them to get down there. I can’t think too far beyond that. What is in the past is past. We’ll try to change things up. All I can tell you is we’ll try to change things up.”
He is searching for answers. He said, “I thought our football team was ready to play. I think Indiana had something to do with that. Snapped the ball every 12 seconds. We got gassed. When you get gassed, things are not going to happen and we became disoriented, I really felt. But once we settled down and understood, it’s very difficult to simulate that type of rapid play calling.”
But the head coach doesn’t think the issue is preparation or coaching. He said, “We do a great job, I think, for the most part playing against that. But we did not on Saturday early in the first quarter. Then they hit us with a couple of big plays beyond that. They nickel‑and‑dimed us and hit us with a couple of big plays. But we on do try to change up things, bring it to our attention. As long as you focus on that, good things have a chance of happening. But inevitably, you have to make plays on the football field, and that’s what we’ll continue to try to do.”
Last week the Spartans spotted a terrible Indiana team 17 points in the first quarter. It was a watershed moment when the quarter ended. Dantonio gathered the entire team around him for one of the most public and spirited demonstrations he has given in his time.
Dantonio addressed that end of the first quarter speech on the field in Bloomington. He said, “I would say their body language was stunned as did mine. We’ve not had 17 points scored on us in the first quarter, let alone the most was 20 at this point in time. We had too many penalties and we were hurting ourselves in every direction defensively, offensively, or special teams.”
He continued, “More than anything, it was just let’s rally around each other. I don’t know what I said. Probably they don’t either. I don’t know. We just needed to calm ourselves and start from scratch right there and start moving in the right direction. The main thing was all around the country you see people get behind. You see people just stay the course and get back into it.”
Even QB Andrew Maxwell couldn’t avoid the questions of a slow start. He too is frustrated. He said, “Well, I wish there was a magic pill or magic solution to the slow starts, but there’s really not. It just comes down to execution in football and in offensive football specifically is all about execution.”
He concluded, “We really need to make that a point of emphasis. We obviously don’t want to fall behind like we did on Saturday. We don’t want to keep having these slow starts like we’ve had. But football, like a lot of things, is always about how you finish though. So if we can clean that up as well as keep finishing like we have been, then I think we’re going to have a real recipe for success.”
The point is simple. For whatever reason the Spartans start slow, they have to find a way to fix it. The Spartans are halfway through the season and the back half of the schedule is significantly more difficult. There isn’t one team left on their schedule that can’t beat them.
This weekend the Spartans have a chance to replicate last year’s fast start versus Iowa and possibly exercise their slow start nemesis.