East Lansing, MI – Mel Tucker's debut as the 25th head coach of Michigan State football didn't go how anyone expected.
The Spartans looked sloppy, turning the ball over seven times, in a 38-27 week one loss to Rutgers.
But even though Michigan State failed to defeat the Scarlet Knights, Spartan fans learned how Tucker operates on the sidelines.
The 23-year coaching veteran elected to be aggressive, keeping the MSU offense on the field during fourth-down four times, and results varied.
Michigan State was 2-for-4 on those play-calls; surprisingly, their first punt didn't come until the second half.
"Going for it on fourth down, you've got one, two, three yards to go, it's not unusual in this day and age of football, especially when you're trying to be aggressive," Tucker said. "You're trying to score points when you're down in the game."
Against Rutgers, MSU didn't run the ball well, finishing with 50 yards on 39 carries and no touchdowns.
The staff played multiple backs, including Elijah Collins, Connor Heyward, Jordon Simmons, and Brandon Wright.
Collins, the starter from last season, carried the ball nine times for three yards and didn't look like his old self.
Already down two touchdowns, Michigan State's third drive of the game began near midfield, but after three consecutive run-plays, the Spartans faced a fourth-and-3, which Tucker chose to convert. Collins didn't get far, and MSU turned it over on downs.
However, Michigan State's next offensive series told a different story.
The Spartans went for it on fourth-and-1; Rocky Lombardi threw to Jayden Reed, who shook a defender and flew towards the sideline for a touchdown.
Tucker sent the kicking team out twice before halftime, where Matt Coghlin connected on 45 and 48-yard field goals.
With two quarters down, the score read 28-13.
Following two forced fumbles and a touchdown pass, momentum had shifted towards the Spartans in the third.
It felt like a game again.
But Tucker was met with a difficult decision.
Drew Beesley's ability to knock the ball loose gave possession back to MSU with excellent field position, yet, the drive stalled out with a run by Lombardi and back-to-back carries for Simmons.
It's now fourth-and-2 from the 21-yard line.
Coghlin is 2-for-2 and could easily bring the Spartans within five points.
Instead, Tucker made an aggressive decision with a conservative play-call by handing the ball to Simmons and turning the ball over on downs for a second time.
"We were just looking to be aggressive," said Tucker. "We thought that that was something that we could convert."
In two out of the next three drives, Rutgers scored 10-points and iced the game.
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