Michigan State suffered its second consecutive loss on Saturday when the Spartans fell to Minnesota, 34-7, to fall to 2-2 on the young season.
MSU head coach Mel Tucker discussed a variety of topics at his post-game press conference following the game. Here's are the five quotes that stood out the most:
1. “I told you guys at the beginning of the week that [Minnesota's] plan was to run the ball and control the clock and time of possession. That’s what they do. We knew that we had to stop that.”
Minnesota's offense is centered around controlling the line of scrimmage, staying on schedule with the run game to produce third-and-manageable, and converting those into first downs. The Golden Gophers play at a methodical pace to shorten the game and control time of possession.
That's easy to see when you watch Minnesota, and Tucker and his staff knew that was the Gophers' plan coming into this game...and the Spartans could do absolutely nothing about it.
At no point in this game did Michigan State force Minnesota to make adjustments to its game plan. The Gophers did whatever they wanted, all day long. That doesn't bode well for future opponents who play a similar style of football — I'm looking at Wisconsin and Michigan, specifically.
2. “We’ll look at the scheme and we’ll look at the players. We’re going to have to find out what we can do with the players that we have out there. That’s really what it comes down to.”
Michigan State has the same problems on defense as they had a season ago. They haven't produced enough pass rush to help their struggling secondary in either of the last two games.
The Spartans have suffered a lot of injuries on defense — Darius Snow, Xavier Henderson, Jacob Slade, Jeff Pietrowski, ect. — and it's clear that MSU does not have the personnel to match its defensive schemes.
The coaching staff has to figure out a way to put the available players in position to be successful, or this season will get away from the Spartans in a hurry. Speaking of the coaching staff...
3. “I’m very confident in the coaching staff. I’m confident in the type of guys they are. We’re in a tough stretch right now, but I don’t have a lack of confidence in any one of my coaches, on either side of the ball or special teams."
Michigan State's coordinators, Scottie Hazelton and Jay Johnson, have come under fire recently for their schemes and play-calling. That will only intensify after Saturday's performance.
Hazelton hasn't been able to find a way to cover up the Spartans' deficiencies in pass coverage, and Johnson hasn't found the right mixture of pass and run to help MSU move the ball offensively.
Tucker expressed confidence in his coaching staff, as you would expect from a head coach in Week 4 of a season, but its clear that changes need to be made. What those look like, and how effective those changes will be, we won't find out until next week against Maryland.
4. “We’re not good enough on either side of the ball to not play complimentary football. We’re not good enough to leave it up to one side of the ball or the other.”
Michigan State's lack of playing complimentary football has been the main message we've heard after each of these last two losses. The Spartans' defense isn't getting the ball back to the offense, and the offense isn't staying on the field long enough to give the defense a break.
Before the season began, I expected MSU's defense to take a sizeable step forward and be the anchor of this team while the offense built chemistry. Then, after the first two weeks of the season, my opinion changed to the offense needed to carry the defense, which has suffered from injuries and still struggling on the back end.
But, Tucker is right. These last two weeks have been a complete failure on both sides of the football.
Michigan State isn't doing anything very well right now, and with a tough schedule ahead, they are running out of time to find solutions.
5. “I’m not really going to break this thing down until I see it. That’s not a good formula, especially after a game like this, to give specific answers about how we’re going to fix things and do things until I watch the film and get with the staff.”
Tucker gave several answers similar to this one after the game, and it was pretty frustrating to me.
I understand that he wants to watch the film, and get with his coaches to come up with solutions. I understand he's not going to start throwing people under the bus. I understand keeping a level head.
But, all we heard this offseason was about the high standards, the high expectations and this program competing for championships. Michigan State is clearly no where close to that level right now, and it comes off as Tucker being evasive to questions.