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Notes & Quotes: Michigan State’s Mel Tucker says “I’m really not happy with what I’m seeing”

Minnesota v Michigan State Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

Michigan State fell at home to Minnesota on Saturday by a final score of 34-7. The Spartans drop to 2-2 on the season after a second-straight loss.

After the loss, Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker spoke to the media about his team’s performance.

Tucker complimented Minnesota to open the press conference.

“Give Minnesota credit,” Tucker said. “They have a really good football team. They know who they are, and they play to their strengths. They do a really good job. They’re well coached. They’re tough. They’re physical. My hat goes off to them. They played a really good football game today.”

The Golden Gophers had 508 yards of total offense and ran 29 more plays than Michigan State. Minnesota dominated the time of possession. The Gophers kept the football out of the Spartans’ hands for over 42 minutes of gameplay.

Defense continues to struggle

Tucker went on to address the defensive concerns. Michigan State allowed 32 first down conversions by the Minnesota offense. The Gophers also went 10-for-12 on third-down conversions.

“We’re not good enough on either side of the ball…We have to get stops on defense,” Tucker said. “We were terrible on third down today, defensively. We get these teams in third-and-long, and we have to get off the field. We’re not tackling well enough; too many low tackles, yards after contact and yards after the catch.

“We’re not getting enough pressure on the quarterback. It’s too easy for the quarterback, and all of a sudden, we have to play tighter in coverage, but the rush and coverage hasn’t worked together.”

The Spartans gave up 268 passing yards on Saturday. It is still a major concern for the team going forward.

“I just had a talk with some of the staff,” Tucker said. “I’ve got some ideas. I’ve been down this road before. We’ll take a look at it after we watch the film.”

The defensive scheme and personnel were big topics heading into Saturday’s game after the loss to Washington. The 34-7 loss to Minnesota will only add more fuel to that fire.

“We’re looking at the scheme and we’re looking at the players,” Tucker added. “We’re going to have to find out what we can do with the players we have out there.”

Minnesota halts Michigan State offense

On offense, the Spartans struggled all game to move the football. Michigan State tallied 240 total yards. Michigan State struggled to get the ground game going. Turnovers were also a problem for Michigan State, as the Spartans turned it over three times.

“Offensively, when we do get the ball, we got to do something with it,” Tucker said. “When we don’t do something with it, we put the defense back out there, and that’s not complementary football.

“I’m really not happy with what I’m seeing. I don’t accept it, but I do understand what our issues are.”

Tucker didn’t specify what the “issues” are with his team. He will address those “issues” after he watches film from the game.

The Spartans had a poor rushing performance for the second-straight week, only gaining 38 yards on the ground against Minnesota.

“From where I am, I’m just looking for push and surge,” Tucker said. “Sometimes it’s there. Sometimes it’s not.”

Quarterback Payton Thorne accounted for all three of Michigan State’s turnovers in the game, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble. Tucker addressed Thorne’s confidence level.

“I didn’t see a lack of confidence in him,” Tucker said about Thorne. “We were moving down there, driving the ball. We were going in to score. There was no time during the game where I didn’t feel he was confident in what he was doing.”

Slow Starts becoming a theme

Starting slow has been a constant for Michigan State this season. That continued against Minnesota.

“It’s going to come down to execution,” Tucker said. “Everything we do is designed to work. Why it’s not working? I have to watch the film. Obviously, we have to start faster on both sides of the ball.”

Tucker was then asked about his team’s motivation, competitiveness and whether or not the players felt beaten on the field.

“That’s up to the individuals,” Tucker said. “If you feel beaten, then what are you going to do about it? That’s an individual deal.

“I can’t say if guys felt like they were beaten or not. I saw guys continue to play, but the execution wasn’t there. I don’t sense any lack of motivation from the kids.”

The coaching staff was also a big talking point heading into this game. Tucker still feels confident in his staff despite recent results.

“I’m very confident in the coaching staff,” Tucker said. “I’m confident in the type of guys they are. We’re just going through a tough stretch right now...We can figure things out because we have a really good coaching staff with a lot of smart guys that care.”

Tucker was asked if he was “blindsided” by the lack of execution by his team.

“We knew what their game plan was — running the ball, controlling the clock and time of possession, that’s what they do,” Tucker said. “We knew we had to stop that, but I’m not blindsided by the lack of execution. There’s really nothing that happens out there that shocks me just because I’ve seen too much football.”

Tucker addressed the disappointment and scattered “boos” from the crowd throughout Spartan Stadium.

“It’s a tough situation when you’re out there and you see the scoreboard and the game is pretty much over,” Tucker said. “It’s kind of dead in the stadium. You get some ‘boos’ and things like that and that’s when it’s the toughest. That’s when you have to show some character. There’s a lot of disappointed guys, and it’s really bothering those guys in there.”

Defensive end Khris Bogle went down with an injury twice on Saturday. He hobbled to the medical tent in the second quarter and was not seen on the field after that.

Tucker was asked about the injury to Bogle, but he didn’t have an injury update.

Up next for Michigan State is a road trip to Maryland. That game will be on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on FS1.