Worse, going into West Lafayette last week, the Spartans were facing a Boilermaker team on a six-game losing streak, yet they could not execute and collect the sixth win they needed to become bowl eligible. Now the Spartans are facing desperate times. They travel to Minnesota (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten), never an easy task, before finishing up at home with #6 ranked Penn State.
John L. Smith's press conference on Monday provided some insight on what has been a major problem with his team the last few weeks.
"We need to show some emotion, practice with emotion, play with emotion and have fun," said Smith. "We want to look back at last year and see the emotion that we played with and try to show them the emotion that we're supposed to play with because we're not good enough to win without that."
This week's key matchups take a different route because the biggest problems for the Spartans appear to be between their ears. This is the key matchup for the entire team because if they can't play with fire during games, then what is the point on focusing on the opponent at hand?
After Michigan State's first touchdown of the game, Smith exposed a problem of how only one guy was there to congratulate Jason Teague on his 16-yard touchdown reception. "All eleven guys on the field should be in there congratulating him," exclaimed Smith.
The Purdue game was a microcosm of Michigan State's football program under Smith tenure. In his first two seasons, his teams have had rough times finishing, having records of 1-4 in the last two years and already 1-4 this year after starting 4-0.
They started out this season with the mantra "finish", but if they don't win one of their final two games, they'll be finished.
After Eric Smith ran back a fumble by Curtis Painter for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half, the Spartans came out flat in the second half, showing no signs of building on the momentum gained from a game changing play. The Spartans led 21-14 at the half but did not score in the second half, appearing to be as flat as a pancake.
"We got good momentum there, but you've got to come out and play with more emotion. You can't let them come out and drive 75 yards," said Smith.
While the Spartans look to find themselves this week in practice, they will no doubt have Laurence Maroney on their minds.
Maroney has one of the best running backs in the country this season, amassing 1394 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He is also a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award, which is given to the nation's collegiate player of the year.
The Gopher's second running back Gary Russell has pitched in with 883 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, combining with Maroney to put Minnesota as one of the top rushing teams in the nation.
"Maroney is awful good. He's as good as there is, we have to get up there and crowd it and do what everybody tries to do against them which is try to take away the run and force them to have to throw it to beat you," said Smith.
Two games remain on the Spartans' roller coaster season and in order to still finish on a positive note for the seniors, Michigan State will have to find some emotion on game day and pull out at least one victory to put them into bowl eligibility.