Rutgers linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi (3) knocks the ball away from Michigan State operating again Jordan Simmons (22) Saturday in East Lansing, Mich.
If anybody doubted the problem going through new Michigan State coach Mel Tucker, it must be apparent now.
The Spartans started the season at house in opposition to Rutgers final weekend — maybe the simplest sport on their schedule, in idea — and misplaced 38-27. It was the primary Huge Ten win for the Scarlet Knights since 2017 and left Michigan State with mainly no silver linings heading into its huge rivalry sport at Michigan this weekend.
“That is the start. It’s not the top. So we’re trying to make progress day-after-day, and work actually arduous,” mentioned Tucker, who took over in February after Mark Dantonio’s retirement. “You often make fairly a little bit of enchancment from the primary sport to the second sport, and that’s one thing that we’re trying to do.”
Michigan State’s information conferences Tuesday centered largely on the upcoming sport in opposition to Michigan.
In that sense, the Spartans are lucky to have that matchup on deck — it permits them to maneuver on rapidly from the ugly loss. However Michigan State didn’t look in any approach able to face its largest rival, and the Wolverines are favored by over three touchdowns.
Tucker appeared tired of calling Michigan by its identify — as an alternative utilizing “the college down the highway” — but when the Spartans are going to be aggressive, they’ve so much they should repair.
Michigan State turned the ball over seven occasions within the opener. A few of these appeared like the results of carelessness as an alternative of Rutgers stress — so the Spartans ought to be capable to clear that up — however Michigan State appeared a good distance from with the ability to put collectively prolonged stretches of mistake-free soccer.
“I feel there’s slightly little bit of a psychological aspect to it, with the brand new employees and the brand new offense, however finally, it simply comes all the way down to holding onto the ball,” quarterback Rocky Lombardi mentioned.
It was arduous to guage Michigan State’s protection at occasions, since Rutgers began with a number of quick fields, and Lombardi did throw for 319 yards amid all these turnovers.
“I feel we solely punted twice,” Lombardi mentioned.
An even bigger concern was Michigan State’s incapacity to determine a constant operating sport regardless of loads of makes an attempt. A pair fourth-down runs have been stopped quick, and Jordan Simmons had the very best yards-per-carry common on the staff at simply 3.1.
That’s not a very good signal heading into the Michigan sport. In that collection, controlling the road of scrimmage is commonly essential.
“One factor that’s essential to have the ability to deal with is, if actually you do lose a sport, how do you deal with a loss?” Tucker mentioned. “What’s your psychological disposition coming off of a sport like that?”
Michigan, alternatively, appeared impressively sharp in its opener, a 49-24 win over a properly regarded Minnesota staff. Every part about final weekend steered that Michigan was extra prepared to start out the season than Michigan State — and that was no shock, given the Spartans’ latest teaching change and the weird offseason that each one groups needed to take care of.
Michigan had little problem operating the ball in opposition to Minnesota, and the query now could be whether or not Michigan State can provide any extra resistance.
“I don’t wish to spend an excessive amount of time on final week, however I’ll say one factor we are able to enhance on is simply third down,” Michigan State linebacker Antjuan Simmons mentioned. “Getting off the sphere on third downs, that may assist us so much. … So far as all the things else, I’m not even desirous about Rutgers. It’s all Michigan from right here on out.”
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