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Notes & Quotes: Michigan State players search for answers following loss to Minnesota

“After a loss like that, there’s really not much to say,” Payton Thorne said.

Syndication: Lansing State Journal Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne entered Spartan Stadium’s media room, perused the lights and cameras awaiting him, and exhaled.

He settled and prepared to answer for himself and his team after suffering a 34-7 blowout loss to Minnesota at home. As head coach Mel Tucker noted that it’s easy to “fly off the handle” after losses like the one his Spartans endured Saturday night, he largely deferred to watching film to explain MSU’s miscues. Thorne followed suit.

As Thorne aptly put in the postgame press conference, “After a game like this, there’s not really much to say.”

Moving forward

As Thorne attempted to provide some substance in an otherwise empty showing for the Spartans, he was asked on the team’s outlook on moving forward after being doubled-up in two-straight losses by a combined score of 73-35.

“Good teams and teams that are families — they come together during tough times and they move forward together,” Thorne said.

Thorne posted two interceptions and a fumble, the latter coming inside Minnesota’s 10-yard-line as Michigan State put together its first drive into the red zone early in the second half. He finished with a final stat line of 17-for-24 for 132 yards with the three turnovers and no scores.

“We didn’t do enough will the ball tonight when we had it,” Thorne continued. “We needed to do better job on third down. We weren’t good enough through the air. We need to get the ball in the end zone. That starts with me.”

Slow Start(s)

Although Michigan State found itself in another three-score deficit early on, the Spartans had ample opportunities to claw back into the contest.

Where last week Washington jumped to a three-score lead before MSU answered with points, Minnesota did the same, but the Spartans could only move the ball into the red zone before turning it over. Michigan State found its only points late in the fourth quarter, after the game was already decided, when backup quarterback Noah Kim connected with true freshman wide receiver Germie Bernard on a 27-yard-yard score in garbage time.

“It feels like we’ve done some things well here and there, but all of it clicking at once, it hasn’t really felt like that,” Thorne said of the offense. “It feels like every time we’re rolling, there’s a little setback… Obviously that first drive of the second half, we’re rolling, we’re rolling, we’re rolling, and then fumble.”

Michigan State senior linebacker/defensive end Jacoby Windmon also spoke to the media following the loss.

“It kind of reminded me of last week,” Windmon said of MSU’s start. “But that’s in the past, and we were expected to come out here and play better ball this week.”

Windmon forced a fumble in a defensive effort that saw the Spartans cede 286 passing yards to Tanner Morgan, allowing the Gophers quarterback to rush for 27 more on three attempts in instances where MSU again lost contain in critical spots. Mohamed Ibrahim led Minnesota with 103 yards rushing and a touchdown.

On Michigan State’s aforementioned drive that brought the Spartans deep into Minnesota territory before the fumble, MSU completed a pass on three of its first four plays run on first down, two of which moved the chains. It seemed to mirror the week prior as MSU refrained from throwing the ball beyond the sticks until it found itself down three scores.

“I think it’s a rhythm thing, redshirt junior wide receiver Tre Mosley said. ‘If we can’t get in a rhythm, it’s hard to call deep shots, because defenses are sitting back and they’re allowing us to catch things underneath, but they’re playing over the top.

“It’s definitely hard to stay warm and be ready to go out there when the opposing team is managing the ball so well,” Mosley continued. “You still have to stay focused.”

Redefined Goals

Retaining focus will likely be increasingly difficult after suffering two losses through four games, which historically eliminates teams from contention in the College Football Playoff.

When greeted by reporters, Windmon described his attitude following the game as “day by day.”

Through Michigan State’s first two contests, Windmon recorded 5.5 sacks and appeared to be the answer the Spartans sought to create pressure on the quarterback. Of course, the last two weeks resemble each other also, as Windmon failed to record a sack in each contest, and MSU struggled to generate pressure or get off the field on third downs.

Mosley mentioned that MSU’s Big Ten aspirations are still in front of the team following last week’s loss to Washington, which they still are, but those aspirations took a hit following a loss in the Spartans’ first conference game.

“It takes maturity and experience to know that it was a bad day, but don’t throw everything down the drain because of one bad day,” Mosley said. “You still have to keep your head up.”

Mosley finished the game with three catches for 28 yards. Redshirt junior Cade McDonald led the Spartans with 31 receiving yards on three catches, while sophomore Keon Coleman (25 yards) and redshirt senior Jayden Reed (21 yards) led MSU in receptions with four each.

Senior safety Kendell Brooks summed it up in the tweet below, saying Minnesota didn’t do anything “special,” but MSU still wasn’t able to stop the Gophers.

When asked about vocal leaders in the locker room, Mosley quickly pointed them out.

“Myself, and Jayden (Reed), of course, Xavier Henderson, Jacoby Windmon,” Mosley said. “We have a lot of guys who are local leaders, so it goes a long way. It shows that guys care.

“Football season is a long roller coaster ride,” Mosley continued. “There’s going to be some ups, there’s going to be some downs. But keeping sight on what our end goal is the only way you can get through tough times like this.”

Michigan State (2-2) will prepare to visit College Park to face Maryland (3-1) Oct. 1 at 3:30 p.m.