On Saturday night, the Michigan State Spartans snuck out with the win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in overtime. In the postgame press conference, a few MSU players and head coach Mel Tucker answered some questions and gave some insights into what was going on in their heads throughout the game.
First out to take questions were quarterback Payton Thorne and wide receiver Jayden Reed. When asked about the 62-yard punt return touchdown, Reed said it was something that the Spartans had been working on in practice for a few weeks.
“Probably two seconds after it was punted, I (saw) a wave of white and red go that way and I said like ‘Yeah, that’s six,’” Reed said.
Thorne mentioned next that even he didn’t know what was about to happen.
“They actually got me honestly, cause I’m not with special teams during the week,” Thorne said. “I had no idea...it was a pretty amazing feeling...credit to the whole special teams unit.”
To describe what it felt like to win a game like that, Reed said, “It was great seeing Spartan Nation stick with us through the entire game...It was an unreal feeling.”
Thorne reflected on his own play and mentioned that it was not his best game — he finished the game completing 14 of 23 passes for 183 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but missed some throws — but he continually praised the defense for all the hard work the unit had to put in.
“There was stuff that I missed a lot tonight,” Thorne stated. “What happened tonight was a result of some of those things.”
Next up for questions were cornerback Chester Kimbrough and safety Xavier Henderson. Both players were asked about the amount of time they had to be out on the field in the second half.
“That’s the way football goes sometimes,” Henderson said. “It’s our job to stop them.”
Kimbrough echoed Henderson’s feelings and said that their training prepared them and that nobody could wear them down. Henderson was confident heading into overtime, saying the following:
“Still a lot of work to do, but it was great,” he said. “Seeing that kick, I had a lot of confidence in Coghs (kicker Matt Coghlin), I mean this is what like his 10th year here?”
Henderson got a good laugh from group with that one, but what he said was the truth. Coghlin, now in his sixth year with the program, came through multiple times for this team last night, like the veteran kicker that he is.
Lastly, head coach Mel Tucker came out to give his statement and answer a few questions.
“I want to thank our fans,” Tucker started. “They were a huge factor in this game, they brought the energy...they were here early and they really helped sustain us...that’s what you call home field advantage.”
Tucker also spoke about the importance of the special teams units, which was a key factor in the Spartans’ victory.
“All week, we were showing our players examples of how special teams were impacting games,” Coach Tucker said. “Whether it was punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return...and we knew that our return game was on the verge of exploding.”
Tucker went on to talk a lot about some different things that the Spartans were doing to prepare for this Big Ten matchup throughout the week of practice.
“I showed our players earlier in the week (former Triple Crown-winning racehorse) Secretariat in the Belmont Stakes...I showed them that race and then I showed them a little excerpt from an article that said his heart was two and half times the size of a normal horse...the heart of the football team that I saw in Miami, I saw a lot of heart...this football team is special...old school playing with heart,” Tucker explained.
Tucker went on to praise his team for getting what seemed like an improbable victory, but as always, he knows there is more work to do throughout the season.
“This is a fun team to coach,” Tucker wrapped up. “These guys want to get it done in the worst way...we push them so hard during the week, and they embrace it. They understand that this is a tough game to play...we’ve shown that we can win games...the voices inside our building are going to be louder than the voices outside...we’re gonna go back to work...and get ready for the next one.”
Throughout all of the interviews a common theme was the atmosphere. Spartan Nation was with the team until the end, and as a direct opposite of the silence the team had to deal with last year, the crowd seemed to make a difference for a lot of these players and coaches. It feels good to be back! (I know this is already the fourth game, but I think that is going to be my motto this season because we are so truly lucky to be back for in-person football with this team!)
Go Green! 4-0!
September 25, 2021