EAST LANSING, Mich. – Riley Bullough hadn’t played in a football game in nearly one month. His team had lost three straight games without him on the field. He’ll be the best teammate he can on the sideline, cheering his guys and pointing out things he sees on the field, but Bullough was not happy to be forced into that role.
Bullough was determined to get back on the field Saturday against Northwestern.
Michigan State did get back its captain and middle linebacker but Bullough’s return was lost in the shuffle of a 54-40 loss to the Wildcats on homecoming weekend at Spartan Stadium.
Instead of a triumphant celebration, Bullough and the Spartans were once again grasping for answers to their fourth straight loss that dropped them to 2-4 on the season and 0-3 in the Big Ten.
“It’s tough. None of us, college or high school, never probably lost four games straight,” Bullough said. “It’s uncharted territory for us but we’re here and all we can do is work as hard as we can and get a win. Week to week it’s work as hard as we can. That’s all we can do.”
Bullough, whose injury has never been specified, said he practiced this week although not at full capacity. He knew he was going to play for the first time since the game at Notre Dame on Sept. 17. When he came out for pre-game warmups it was easy to tell Bullough had a greater sense of urgency about his stretching and running.
“It was great to have him out there. He did bring an emotional lift, especially early,” said co-defensive coordinator Mike Tressel. “There’s no doubt the checks we ask him to make, he’s able to make, and I think that he’ll have as much of an impact coming off of a loss like this than at any other time, because after the last few weeks, he’s been a guy that wasn’t even on the football field.
“So it’s hard to lead when you’re not even playing. He’s a fighter, he’s a fighter. So he’ll be in the forefront of getting this thing right.”
The 54 points allowed are the most by Michigan State since Mark Dantonio took over the program in 2007.
“We’ve got guys playing hard. That’s not the problem,” said Bullough, who finished with 12 tackles. “It’s just things here and there that we’ve got to clean up. Penalties and not hitting our gaps hard enough. Whatever it is. We’ve got to do better at it. We’ll do everything we can.”
Kevin Goheen covers Michigan State for Landof10.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CincyGoGo