Michigan State had no answers for Minnesota on the football field during a 34-7 beatdown at Spartan Stadium, and head coach Mel Tucker didn't want to give many too answers at his post-game press conference afterwards either.
The Golden Gophers had their way with the Spartans all throughout the night in East Lansing. Minnesota racked up 508 yards of total offense, and surrendering just 165 yards to Michigan State, until the Spartans' 75-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes of the blowout.
“I’m really not happy with what I’m seeing," Tucker said. "I don’t accept it, but – as I look at our team and I see things unfolding – I do understand what our issues are. I’m just not going to talk about them right now. I’m going to watch the film. I’m not going to say anything that I shouldn’t say at this moment, right after a game like this.”
A game like this — meaning one in which the opponent was better in every facet of the ball game.
The Gophers converted 10-of-12 of their third downs. Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan completed 23-of-26 pass attempts. Gopher tailback Mo Ibrahim ran for 103 yards on 22 carries — the first 100-yard rusher MSU has allowed in 17 games.
Are the defensive problems scheme-related, or personnel-related?
“I’m going to watch the film to get the total picture before I start to answer those types of questions," Tucker said. “Especially after a game like this, it’s easy to fly off the handle. I’m not going to do that.”
The problem with that is, after a game like this — in which Michigan State was beaten soundly on its own field, in front of a packed home crowd, coming off a loss already — it sounds as if Tucker is being evasive.
Maybe the head coach isn't providing answers because there are no answers right now.
Michigan State's offensive line was a big question mark this offseason. After these last two games, against Power Five defensive fronts, that question has been answered — the Spartans aren't good enough up front.
MSU's secondary was questioned as well after its well-documented struggles in 2021. We have our answer — the Spartans still can't defend the pass.
This week, even after a solid performance against Washington, factions of the fanbase questioned if quarterback Payton Thorne was the guy to lead this offense. I scoffed at that thought earlier this week, but after watching the redshirt junior turn the ball over three times, maybe that was a question I needed to be asking too.
Defensive coordinator Scotte Hazelton came under fire last week after Michigan State was torched for 397 yards through the air by Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. This goes back to that question from earlier — are the struggles scheme-related or personnel related?
"I just had a talk with some of the staff," Tucker said. "I’ve got some ideas, because I’ve kind of been down this road before a little bit. So, we’ll take a look at it when we watched the film.
Whether the scheme is too complicated or Michigan State doesn't have the personnel to be able to execute it, clearly something needs to change on that side of the football.
“I’m very confident in the coaching staff," the head coach said. "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.
“We have a lot of smart guys that care and are competitors and are willing to do what it takes to find solutions.”
Tucker's offseason solution to MSU's struggles in pass defense included hiring pass-rush specialist Brandon T. Jordan, replacing D-line coach Ron Burton with Marco Coleman and replacing cornerbacks coach Trevares Tillman with himself.
That hasn't worked.
Against Washington and Minnesota, the Spartans' pass rush was no where to be found again, and the secondary struggled — again. Back to the drawing board for Tucker.
“We’ll look at the scheme and we’ll look at the players," Tucker said. "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.”
Look, I understand that no head coach is going to stand in front of the media and lay out a specific plan to fix all of his team's problems. I understand the importance of watching film. I understand addressing problems behind closed doors.
But, I also remember a head coach and several players talking about competing for a Big Ten and national championship this season. The national title talk was always premature, most people knew that.
It looks like the Big Ten championship talk was premature as well. Michigan State is 0-1 in conference play, and still has Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State still to come.
Heck, after the way Maryland looked in Ann Arbor today, the Spartans had better not overlook next week's trip to College Park either.
Mel Tucker and his staff had better find answers quickly, or this could wind up a season for the Spartans to forget.