Mel Tucker has a message for Michigan State ahead of the Ohio State game that doesn’t seem too far off

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

It’s been that kind of work week for Michigan State football, in the midst 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 about what we have to do right now. So you learn from the past, whether it’s good or bad, and it’s yours.”

The recent past has not been good for the Spartans (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten). This is not the season or 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. 1, 2022, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

USC was outscored 100-48 and outscored 1,500-926 in Tucker’s first three-game losing streak of his three-year tenure and USC’s longest skid since dropping five straight in 2019. The most later Saturday, as Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 314 yards and Antwain Littleton II ran for 120 in the Spartans’ 27-13 road loss. USC’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 onside attempt.

“We’re all adults here, we know that everything isn’t always peaches and cream,” said Tucker. “There are bumps in the road, and some are severe and others not so much. But there is a struggle. It doesn’t get easier as you go. If you sit and wait here for the bus it’s easy to get around, the bus is easy. it’s not coming.”

Tucker, 15-10 at USC, still execute the maintenance of the problem and the same mistakes continue from the previous two losses, saying that it is “death-in-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.”

The Buckeyes make that task worse, 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 were 14th in allowing 14.8 points, 10th with 263.8 total yards allowed and 11th in third downs (27.1% conversion rate).

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USC 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 — its biggest streak 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 to Nick Saban on that 1998 USC team. “And you have to take the name off the jersey. You go to work and prepare and you will be ready to play the next play. Take it from the meeting room to the practice field.”

Since USC last won in the series in 2015, OSU is on a six-game winning streak with an overwhelming 233-64 scoring edge. Tucker has outscored the past two teams 108-29, last year giving up 49 points and 500 yards at halftime and 655 yards by the end of a 56-7 throttling at Ohio Stadium.

“Focus on cleaning it up and getting ready for the next game, that’s all you can do,” wide receiver Tre Mosley said Saturday. “Because of the past, that’s not going to do anything for us as a program.”

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See red?

South Gate's Tony Bucciarelli takes photos with Ohio State fans at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Nov. 27, 2021.

South Gate’s Tony Bucciarelli takes photos with Ohio State fans at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Nov. 27, 2021.

Ohio State fans are known for taking over rival situations, especially those within driving distance.

Tucker knows and saw the benefits during his time as an assistant coach for Jim Tressel from 2001-04. He hopes to prevent it Saturday in his home opener against the Buckeyes with fans in attendance. Fans were not allowed at Spartan Stadium in 2020, when OSU led USC, 52-12.

“It’s important. Very important,” Tucker said. “I know our fans are going to show up, and I know they’re going to be loud and into it. So it is very important that our home field is an advantage for us. … Of course, our crowd wants to see good football, great football and execution. And that is what we aim to deliver.”

Wisconsin time series

The Spartans’ homecoming game against Wisconsin on October 15 will be 4 pm (Fox).

The Badgers fired coach Paul Chryst after former coach Bret Bielema and Illinois were dumped, 34-10, on Saturday, for the Illini’s first loss at Camp Randall Stadium in 20 years. Wisconsin, like USC, is 2-3 and 0-2 in the Big Ten.

Tucker, a Wisconsin alum, said the midseason decision didn’t 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 in terms of football,” 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 the Detroit Free Press: Mel Tucker’s message for Michigan State football entering OSU

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