Defense, at best, looked the same as last year. In fact, it might have been worse. (In all fairness, Michigan State was missing three key players.) The offense was not good at the start of the match. After falling 7-0, MSU responded by running five plays on the next drive before taking the kicks.
In the first round, Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne went to hand it to Jarek Broussard, but there was some kind of misunderstanding, and the first-year-old seemed to be going in the wrong direction on the play. In MSU’s second possession, Broussard slipped and fell into the end zone to abandon safety. The team was out of sync and inadequate in both attack and defense. It couldn’t be worse for MSU.
Fans are particularly upset with Michigan State’s defense, leading them to call in the job of defensive coordinator Scottie Hazleton. Today, we will delve into and analyze each one of these overreactions to MSU’s loss.
Scottie Hazelton should be fired.
Don’t get me wrong. Michigan’s defense looked poor. In fact, it looked like the MAC team was playing against the Power Five. The players were out of position and biting down on fakes from Washington quarterback Michael Bennex Jr. It was like training for him. Penix threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns.
However, Hazelton is worth the benefit of the doubt.
Michigan State was missing out on senior defensive tackle Jacob Slade, top safety Xavier Henderson and rookie linebacker Darius Snow. These are the vital artifacts that just disappeared.
Plus, let’s stop pretending that this team – even without injuries – is a top-tier defensive team. Is it possible that Hazelton is running the plan that he trusts the players to run? When players are constantly losing missions, biting a fake off a quarterback and dropping 102 yards into the air on goals (just as defensive linebacker Chester Kimbrough did), it’s a sign that the team isn’t good enough.
This does not mean that Hazelton does not deserve any criticism. Bennix faced hardly any pressure from Michigan State. Senior linebacker/defensive end Jacoby Windmon, who had 5.5 sacks in his first two games, was barely noticeable. It’s also concerning that Michigan State’s coaches – in attack and defense – have all struggled to adapt to what Washington was offering them.
However, we shouldn’t be surprised by Michigan’s defense. This is a team built mostly by transfers. Head coach Mel Tucker is still building this team. This talent gap can only be rebuilt through recruitment.
On the struggle of Payton Thorne
Of course, this is no longer a problem, but it is worth noting here. After playing Akron last weekend, fans wanted Thorne to go. They wanted to support quarterback Noah Kim.
If Michigan State were really in doubt about the quarterback, this season would be in trouble.
This was all set against Washington, I thought. It looks like Thorne and his receivers are the only ones who actually sync up the entire game. Thorne was 30-for-42 with 323 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also had 12 yards flush.
First-class wide receiver Keon Coleman truly stepped up to the Michigan State team in this game. One specific motive comes to mind and it came at a critical time.
Coleman had nine receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
The offense missed senior receiver Jayden Reed, who was knocked off through injury after being pushed to the bench against Akron. It was a huge blow considering the relationship between Thorne and Reed.
Mel Tucker doesn’t deserve his salary.
After going 11-2 last season, Tucker earned a 10-year contract worth $95 million. At the time, this was the third largest contract awarded to a college football coach.
Even if Michigan State is a football team with seven wins this year, the path that Tucker has taken to the program is a much better place. Recruitment is strong as well as training. Just see how Thorne talked to the guys on the sidelines. He made everyone believe that MSU could win this game even when it was clear that the Spartans wouldn’t.
Victories against Michigan, Nebraska and Pennsylvania State last season would not have happened without Tucker. He’s also using the new college football rules, such as transfer gate, name, photo, and example to his advantage.
Let’s call this game what it was: loss. This is tough, but have you watched the rest of the league? Hard to win.
And, as mentioned, it was disappointing to see a lack of change from the coaching staff at Michigan State. I know crime isn’t Tucker’s business. But when you can’t run the ball more than two yards at a time, why keep trying when the score is out of balance?
I need to see an improvement in offensive coordinator Jay Johnson’s strategy. Michigan State kept calling running plays when there weren’t any. The offensive line was clearly not helpful. They couldn’t run a block or protect Thorn. Then MSU ran the ball off the gun in third and 1. If you’re going there, you deserve the score, which wasn’t the first.
Therefore, it is difficult to say that the coaches did it right in this match. There hasn’t been any in-game adaptation and tweaks that should be better. But saying Tucker was washed out over one early season loss? This is ridiculous.
Michigan State will face Minnesota at home next Saturday. The game airs on the Big Ten Network and will start at 3:30 p.m. ET. Currently, Michigan is one vulnerable point. Minnesota may not have been great last season, but the Gophers could win the Big Ten West this year. It is more important than ever that MSU win this game.