Mel Tucker has a message for Michigan State ahead of seemingly lopsided Ohio State game




EAST LANSING - Mel Tucker walked to the podium Monday and set an energy drink next to the water bottle already there waiting for him.

It's that kind of work week for Michigan State football, in the throes of a three-game losing streak with No. 3 Ohio State coming to Spartan Stadium on Saturday.

"The most important thing is what we do next," Tucker said Monday. "Anger, frustration, woulda-coulda-shoulda - all those things - they don't really help you move forward, because it's all about what we have to do right now. So you learn from the past, whether it's good or bad, and you own it."

The recent past has not been good for the Spartans (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten). Not this season nor in the past few years against the Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0).

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Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker looks on during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Maryland, Saturday, Oct.
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker looks on during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Maryland, Saturday, Oct.  

MSU has been outscored 100-48 and outgained 1,500-926 in Tucker's first three-game losing streak during his three-year tenure and MSU's longest skid since dropping five in a row in 2019. The latest came Saturday, as Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 314 yards and Antwain Littleton II ran for 120 in the Spartans' 27-13 road loss. MSU's offense managed just 75 yards after halftime, and the special teams left seven points on the field with a missed field goal, a blocked field goal and a botched extra-point attempt.

"We're all adults here, we know everything's not always peaches and cream," Tucker said. "There's bumps in the road, and some are severe and some not so much. But there's adversity. It doesn't get any easier as you go. If you sit and waiting here for the easy bus to come around, the easy bus isn't coming."

Tucker, 15-10 at MSU, maintained execution remains the problem and the same mistakes have continued from the previous two losses, saying it's "death-by-inches."

"The question is, well, how do you get better execution?" he said. "And that's our job, that's what we're working on right now."

That task gets compounded by the Buckeyes, coming off a 49-10 win over Rutgers. Ohio State's offense ranks first in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring offense (48.8 points), third in yards per game (529.6), second in third-down conversions (60.3%) and top 20 in rushing (226.2) and passing yards per game (303.4, 18th). On defense, the Buckeyes under new coordinator Jim Knowles rank 14th allowing 14.8 points, 10th with 263.8 total yards allowed and 11th on third down (27.1% conversion rate).

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MSU has struggled in each of those areas on both sides of the ball since opening the season 2-0, and is a 25½-point underdog - the largest line since overcoming a 27½-point spread on the road in 1998 to beat the No. 1-ranked Buckeyes, 28-24, according to killersports.com.

"First of all, you have to believe. That's one," said Tucker, who was a grad assistant for Nick Saban on that 1998 MSU team. "And you have to strip the name off the jersey. You go to work and preparation and be willing to play the next play. Just take it from the meeting room to the practice field."

Since MSU's last win in the series in 2015, OSU is on a six-game win streak by an overpowering 233-64 scoring edge. Tucker's past two teams were outscored 108-29, last year giving up 49 points and 500 yards by halftime and 655 yards by the end of a 56-7 throttling at Ohio Stadium.

"Just focus on cleaning it up and getting ready for the next game, that's all you can do," wide receiver Tre Mosley said Saturday. "Dwelling on the past, that's not gonna do anything for us as a program."

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Seeing red?

Tony Bucciarelli of South Gate takes photos of his Ohio State fans at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Nov.
Tony Bucciarelli of South Gate takes photos of his Ohio State fans at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Nov.  

Ohio State fans are known for taking over opponents' stadiums, particularly ones within driving distance.

Tucker is familiar and saw the benefits from during his time as an assistant coach for Jim Tressel from 2001-04. He hopes to prevent it Saturday in his first home game against the Buckeyes with fans in attendance. Fans were not permitted at Spartan Stadium in 2020, when OSU dominated MSU, 52-12.

"It's important. Very important," Tucker said. "I know that our fans are going to show up, and I know they're going to be loud and they're gonna be into it. So it's very important that our home field should be an advantage for us. ... Obviously, our crowd is wanting to see good football, great football and execution. And that's what we aim to deliver."

Wisconsin time set

The Spartans' homecoming game against Wisconsin on Oct. 15 will be a 4 p.m. kickoff (Fox).

The Badgers fired coach Paul Chryst after getting thumped Saturday by former coach Bret Bielema and Illinois, 34-10, for the first loss to the Illini at Camp Randall Stadium in 20 years. Wisconsin, like MSU, is 2-3 and 0-2 in the Big Ten.

Tucker, a Wisconsin alum, said the midseason decision did not surprise him and is something coaches understand when they voluntarily choose to be part of "a production business."

"Nothing shocks or surprises me. At all. In anything we're doing from a football standpoint," he said.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Mel Tucker's message for Michigan State football entering OSU

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