Friday, September 29, 2023

Mel Tucker reviews negatives and positives from first game of the season

September 4, 2023
Photo by Henry Szymecko | The State News

Michigan State football recorded their first win of 2023 last Friday against Central Michigan, using a 21-0 second half run to take a 31-7 victory heading into week two. While there were plenty of positives to take away, head coach Mel Tucker also noted that there is a lot of room for improvement in his weekly press conference

“Things like tackling you'll see that usually improves,” Tucker said. “We don't have any preseason games, so a lot of tackling is kind of shaky and it was for us in the first half. We got better as the game went on. You see a lot of dropped passes in college football in week one and that usually improves. Things like communication issues and substitution patterns—that's the type of improvement we want to see.” 

One of the main issues the Spartans had on Friday night was with penalties. MSU committed five fouls, giving up a total of 55 yards, with two 15 yard facemask flags coming on Central’s only scoring drive of the game. Tucker said that while there is a difference between foolish and aggressive penalties, practicing technique can help limit the amount of mistakes that can end up costing the team a win.

“You have foolish penalties—which are just false starts or too many guys on the field,” Tucker said. “Then you have ones that are bang-bang—PI’s or a facemask on a guy straining to get off a block. We’re not coaching a team to be penalty free, we just want to eliminate foolish penalties. If guys are playing aggressively, there is going to be some holds and PI’s. We’re going to clean those up by teaching guys how to be in better positions and understanding how it affects the game.”

Despite a first half that left more to be desired, Tucker was pleased with his team’s demeanor throughout the entire 60 minutes that allowed them to not get too low on themselves despite boos coming from the crowd about midway through the second quarter. 

“I really liked, in terms of things maybe people don’t see, our attitude,” Tucker said. “Our poise, confidence and patience was great. I told my guys this is gonna be tough sledding, stick with the process. That was the attitude of our players and coaches the entire game. I felt really good at halftime. Once the guys kind of got the jitters out, we started to play better in all three phases. That showed a level of maturity and togetherness.”

An underrated aspect of the struggles of last year's squad was a lack of consistency from the special teams unit and after undergoing a major offseason overhaul on top of getting healthy, Tucker considered their first performance a net win for the unit, highlighted by a 47 yard field goal to get the scoring going for the green and white by North Carolina transfer and graduate student Johnathan Kim.

“We had more pooch punts than they had,” Tucker said. “Both our punters punted and both our kickers kicked, so that was good. Having Hank back at long snapper was huge as we missed him dearly last year. Tyrell as a returner did a good job as well as the guys blocking for him. We’re still a work in progress, but we have some guys that are very capable of getting the job done.”


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