Spartans look to reverse luck at Horseshoe

EAST LANSING — Michigan State’s football players quickly turned their attention from a 45-7 whipping of Central Michigan on Saturday to their next opponent.

The Spartans (3-1) open Big Ten play at 3:30 p.m. Saturday with a trip to Ohio State (3-1).

“We’ve been waiting on this,” said fifth-year senior wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, who is from Westerville, Ohio. “It’s going to be a great crowd and atmosphere, and we have to execute and make sure we come out ready to play.”

No current MSU player has enjoyed a victory over the Buckeyes. The teams last met in 2008, when the Spartans lost, 45-7, at Spartan Stadium.

Mark Dantonio is 0-2 against the Buckeyes as MSU’s head coach. He was on Nick Saban’s staff as the secondary coach the last time Michigan State won at the Horseshoe, 28-24, in 1998. It will help the Spartans that Ohio State will be missing three of its best offensive players — running back Dan Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey and offensive tackle Mike Adams. They are serving five-game suspensions, along with defensive end Solomon Thomas, for their role in a memorabilia-for-tattoos and money scandal that cost coach Jim Tressel his job.

The Spartans got a confidence boost Saturday after intercepting four passes against the Chippewas.

“We are a confident defense and we can compete with the best,” said Isaiah Lewis, who returned one of the interceptions 37 yards for a touchdown. “They are a Big Ten team just like us and we know we can battle against them, and I feel as if we can dominate any opposing offense.”

The Buckeyes are coming off a 37-17 win over Colorado. True freshman Braxton Miller made his first career start for the Buckeyes at quarterback. He ran for 83 yards on 17 carries and completed five of 13 passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

The Spartans needed the game against CMU to get their running game back on track. Edwin Baker carried the ball five consecutive plays and 25 yards. That set up a 54-yard pass from Kirk Cousins to Cunningham. Le’Veon Bell finished the opening drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, the first of his three first-half touchdown runs.

“I think we got a sense of what it is we are trying to do,” offensive coordinator Dan Roushar said of the running game. “I will have to look at the film to get an evaluation of how well we did. Certainly, as we know, as we get into Big Ten play we are going to continue to improve.”

The game against Ohio State will start a tough stretch over the next month for the Spartans. After Ohio State, the Spartans host Michigan and Wisconsin, then travel to conference newcomer Nebraska.

“We’re ready,” Cunningham said of starting conference play. “The Big Ten will need to be won on the road, and that’s what we’re going to have to do. We’ve played in tough atmospheres before so we’ll have to go in there and somehow pull it out. We’re going to need to come out, ready to execute, just like we did (Saturday).”

Lewis said the game is “just another road game, and we see ourselves as road warriors and we are just going to do what we have to do to win. Just another game, and we are going to use the momentum from this game and take that with us to Ohio State.”

But Ohio natives might feel a little differently.

“I’m ready to be back at home,” Cunningham said. “We have a lot of Ohio guys on the team, too. We’ll play it like any other game though, come out hard and be ready to play. I was redshirted last time we went there so I’m excited.”

Senior safety Trenton Robinson said the Spartans’ goal of winning another Big Ten title is in front of them.

“We have goals and starting next Saturday that’s the first challenge for us to get where we want to be,” Robinson said. “We’ve been talking about it all year. We have to be road dogs. If you can’t win on the road you can’t win a championship.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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