EVANSTON, Ill. - Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio isn't losing faith in his team.
He has seen the Spartans bounce back from difficult losses to make a run in Big Ten play and is banking on a similar scenario, starting with the game at Northwestern on Saturday.
"At the end of the day, you've got to regroup," he said. "You can't stand there and say -- you can't have the `poor me's.' You can't sit there and say, all is lost, oh, my goodness, what just happened. You have to rally back. I think it's very important that you rally back in terms of what you're trying to do."
The Spartans (2-1) could be excused if they had a touch of the "poor me's" following last week's loss to Arizona State.
They had Matt Coghlin's 42-yard goal negated in the closing seconds after a replay review showed too many players on the field. He had to try from farther back and hooked his kick left, denying Dantonio his program-record 110th win.
The Pac-12 later said an Arizona State player took a running start and leaped over the line in an attempt to block the kick. The league said a penalty should have been called, and the ball should have been moved halfway to the goal line, giving the Spartans one more chance.
Michigan State hopes to regroup against Northwestern, a team with three straight wins in the series. The Wildcats turned their season around last year with a 29-19 victory in East Lansing that helped propel them toward the Big Ten West championship and their first trip to the conference title game.
On Saturday, Dantonio gets another shot at the program record. The Wildcats (1-1) eye their second straight win after bouncing back from a season-opening loss at Stanford by beating UNLV 30-14 at home last week.
Dantonio is tied with Duffy Daugherty for wins at Michigan State. Dantonio is 109-52 in 13 seasons at Michigan State and 127-69 in 16 years as a college head coach. He has led the Spartans to three conference championship games, winning two, and the College Football Playoff in 2015.
Hyped as Northwestern's best quarterback prospect ever after transferring from Clemson a year ago, Hunter Johnson got off to a shaky start in a season-opening loss to Stanford. But the sophomore bounced back last week against UNLV. Johnson threw for his first touchdown as a Wildcat and ran for another. He was 12 of 25 for 165 yards and an interception. Not exactly eye-popping numbers. But they were an improvement over the opener, when he threw for just 55 yards and went 6 for 17 while getting picked off twice in his first appearance since mopping up in Clemson's rout of Miami in the 2017 ACC championship game.
Coghlin will try to bounce back from a rough game. The Michigan State junior missed all three field goals last week after combining to make all seven against Tulsa and Western Michigan. He was wide right from 47 and 31 yards in the second quarter, before that wild finish. Coghlin is 78.4 percent on field goals in his career and has made all 72 extra points, including nine this season.
Northwestern freshman Drake Anderson made quite an impression last week in his fourth career game, running for 141 yards and a touchdown. Anderson's dad Damien is Northwestern's second-leading all-time rusher, and his breakout performance sure came at an opportune time with two running backs sidelined. Isaiah Bowser, who emerged as the Wildcats' top ball-carrier last year after Jeremy Larkin retired due to a spinal condition, was injured in the season-opening loss at Stanford. Jesse Brown missed the second half last week with a lower body injury.
"He saw action in a few games last year," offensive lineman Jared Thomas said. "We all knew the potential was there. It was just on us as guys on the team, as his teammates, to just keep encouraging him. To stay at it, keep grinding, and it paid off for him."
SHUTTING THEM DOWN
Michigan State is off to a good start on defense, no surprise with Raequan Williams and Kenny Willekes anchoring the line. Both players received first-team All-Big Ten honors from the AP last year. The Spartans rank second in the nation against the run, third in total defense and are tied for fifth in sacks.