It did not matter that the Buckeyes were down a head coach, a couple of assistant coaches, 17 scholarship players or multiple starters today. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, running back Trey Sermon, wide receiver Chris Olave and company proved just how wide the talent gap between the two programs is at this current juncture.
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker met with the media after the game and had a clear message that this kind of performance simply will not be tolerated — no matter who the opponent is. While Tucker gave Ohio State credit for being a great team, this level of play was unacceptable in his eyes.
“I was very disappointed today on how we played. We need to do a better job with our guys to get the best out of them...outings like this are not acceptable, I don’t care who we play...when I turn on the tape, I’m going to be sick,” Tucker says.— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) December 5, 2020
“Like I told the team, the only thing that I know how to do is immediately go back and watch the tape,” Tucker said. “Look to see what happened and look to make the corrections. That’s part of the process. There’s no 24 hours about it, we’re gonna need to do that right now — I told the players they need to watch the tape tonight and then get started on Penn State tonight, which we will do as a staff, so we can get ready to move on to the next one, so we can have a better performance.
“I was very disappointed today on how we played,” Tucker added. “We need to do a better job with our guys to get more out of them. We need to figure how to do that, and we need to figure it out quickly. Outings like this are not acceptable — I don’t care who we’re playing. Even though that was a good team, when I turn on the film, I’m going to be sick to see some of the things that we did, some of the plays we left on the field, and that’s execution.”
Tucker then sent out his thoughts and prayers to Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and those in the OSU program who were affected by COVID-19 and were forced to miss the game.
After that, Tucker did not mince words about what he continues to demand from his players and his program. While he understands that patience is key in a rebuild, he wants to see more immediate results.
“It takes what it takes,” Tucker said about building the Michigan State program. “At some point we will be consistent, and we will be able to play at a high level and we will be able to beat good teams. And I’m looking for that to happen sooner rather than later. Because even though there’s a certain amount of patience that you have to have in order to to build and establish culture and hammer the process, there’s also a high level of urgency and intensity that goes with that because obviously things like this only fan the flames. We’ve got to get better faster because I’m not about this long term deal. We need to get something done right now.”
While the Spartans were clearly outmatched today by a much more talented Buckeyes team, Tucker did not feel today’s effort reflected who the Spartans are or what they could be. He puts some of the blame on himself for not having his guys completely prepared.
“Quite frankly, I believe we’re better than this,” Tucker says.— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) December 5, 2020
“Ultimately, I have to do a better job of getting out of these players what they have,” he adds.
“Quite frankly I believe we’re better than this, Tucker said. “Some may disagree, but based upon what I see on tape, we’re better than what we showed today. Ultimately, I’ve got to do a better job of getting out of these players what they have because we’re not playing up to our full potential in my opinion. That’s my mindset moving forward — what do we need to do immediately to get better right now? We need to have a much better football team when we go to Happy Valley, when we go to State College, when we go to play Penn State. We’ve got to be better on offense, defense and special teams.”
One of the other storylines of today’s game, as it often is with Michigan State, was the quarterback position. Rocky Lombardi struggled today, completing just 45 percent of his passes with an interception. Lombardi exited today’s game in the second quarter with an injury after it appeared his head bounced off the ground. Lombardi was able to walk away under his own power, but did not return to the game.
“Rocky’s banged up, I don’t know what the extent is (yet),” Tucker said, adding that he would get an update on Lombardi’s health after the press conference. “Well see how he is and I know he’ll be ready when he’s ready.”
Redshirt freshman Payton Thorne then entered the game for Lombardi, which allowed a struggling MSU offense to move the ball more frequently, but still not consistently. Thorne completed his first 11 passes, and ultimately finished 16 of 25 (64 percent) for 147 yards, along with 42 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown. He did have two turnovers, however, with an interception and a fumble.
Tucker noted that Thorne helped the team move the ball “in spurts” and did some “good things,” but that those things aren’t quite good enough.
“Payton did some good things, obviously we were able to move the ball,” Tucker said. “We weren’t able to sustain drives consistently, but we were able to move the ball in spurts. We need to be able to build on the things that we did well, just like every week. But spurts aren’t gonna get it (done). You can’t play in sections, you can’t play in spurts, it’s gotta be a consistent performance and can’t just come from one guy.”
Tucker was later asked about a play in which linebacker Chase Kline was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty. Tucker was clearly livid about Kline’s undisciplined penalty, and threw his headset in the vicinity of a referee, which then drew another 15-yard penalty. Tucker had this to say about the incident:
“I don’t like those (when our guys commit unsportsmanlike penalties),” Tucker said. “It’s called discipline. If you don’t have the discipline to do your job, eventually you’re gonna hurt the football team. It’s just not acceptable. It’s either correctable or it’s not. If it’s not correctable that means we need to make a change. So we’re gonna find out if it’s correctable or not.”
To be quite frank, there was very little that Tucker could take as a “positive” from his team’s performance today. He did like the fight from his players, and the fact that they never gave up, but at the end of the day he is just thankful the Spartans have a chance to redeem themselves next week.
Tucker says he “can’t think of any” positives from today’s game. He does note that his guys kept playing despite the lopsided score.— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) December 5, 2020
“The most positive thing I can think of right now is that we have another game, thank God,” Tucker adds.
“Positives?” Tucker asked. “No, I can’t think of any right now. I know that the guys continued to play. I didn’t see guys quitting in the game. I saw guys wanting to go out and play and still felt like we could get a drive going or feel like we could go out there and stop them. And I saw guys that it bothered them when we weren’t able to make the plays and they care. So those are positives.
“The most positive thing I could think of right now is that we got another game, thank God, and this wasn’t the last game of the season. That’s a positive for me because we got an opportunity to go back, look at the tape and get ready for the next one. If this was the last game of the season and we had to end like this, it would make for a long offseason. The positive deal is that we got an opportunity next week.”
As Tucker notes, Michigan State will end the regular season next week against Penn State in Happy Valley/State College. The Land Grant Trophy will be up for grabs. This Spartans will look to bounce back from today’s embarrassing effort.