Head coach Mel Tucker of the Michigan State Spartans talks to C.J. Stroud #7 of the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 20, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State won the game 56-7.

Head coach Mel Tucker of the Michigan State Spartans talks to C.J. Stroud #7 of the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 20, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State gained the sport 56-7.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – I don’t suppose Mel Tucker wished to get into a giant image dialog with the sting of Saturday’s belittling loss to the Buckeyes so contemporary. Not with two seniors he respects, Xavier Henderson and Connor Heyward, standing off to the aspect of the rostrum, ready their flip to elucidate a 56-7 loss at Ohio State that would have been a lot worse, if not for the mercy of their opponent.

However what transpired on the sector Saturday — the 49-0 first half — encapsulated completely the big-picture activity at hand for Tucker, and the broad hole between two packages separated by simply three locations in the latest School Soccer Playoff rankings.

The takeaway isn’t that Michigan State ought to second-guess the 10-year, $95-million donor-driven contract extension it supplied Tucker. The takeaway is that that is why they’re making an attempt so laborious to carry onto him — as a result of who the Spartans are as a soccer program isn’t who they wish to be. They usually consider that he, greater than anybody out there, can get them there, so it doesn’t appear to be this towards Ohio State. The early returns with Tucker — on the sector and in recruiting — have been promising and so it grew to become price a struggle to maintain him.

MORE: Couch: Mel Tucker’s massive new Michigan State contract is the cost of chasing dreams and avoiding regret

Saturday didn’t make the primary 10 video games of this season a mirage — the Paul Bunyan Trophy remains to be theirs. However it was a actuality examine, a reminder of the explanation MSU employed Tucker lower than two years in the past, with hope he might elevate the Spartans’ expertise. With that in thoughts, Tucker relented.

“Recruiting is the place we’ll shut the hole,” he mentioned, his remaining reply in a 15-minute press convention. “As a result of we want extra depth. And we want extra guys that may win one on one. I feel that’s apparent. And I do not suppose that’s information, really, if anybody’s actually paying consideration. It is execution, clearly, after which we’re going to need to recruit like loopy, like we have been doing. We’re going to proceed to try this. And we’re simply going to be relentless in doing that.

“And we’re constructed to try this. We’re constructed to recruit at a excessive degree. And we’ll proceed to work to enhance our workforce (this season), get as wholesome as we probably can and prepare for this subsequent sport. However massive image, that is what we have to do. We have to recruit like loopy.”

That’s a perspective that’ll soothe the spirits of Spartan followers, who rightfully received caught up within the bliss of two months of exhilarating soccer and, like MSU’s workforce, by Saturday, had been easing themselves into hope that this system was nearer to Ohio State’s degree than it’s. We even have to know that if these two groups had met on Sept. 24 — as they’ll subsequent season — it wouldn’t have appeared like this. The diploma of Saturday’s blowout was aided by MSU’s accidents, the trajectory of every groups’ play this month and by MSU’s greatest weak spot, its go protection, going up towards the Buckeyes’ power. And, maybe, additionally by an Ohio State workforce motivated by going through a well-hyped Heisman Trophy candidate at operating again.

“We didn’t wish to be a kind of groups that he did what he wished towards,” Ohio State defensive finish Tyreke Smith mentioned of Kenneth Walker. “We simply had that mindset and we had been going to close him down all week.”

Walker, who Tucker admitted afterward is “somewhat banged up,” carried solely six occasions for 25 yards. He by no means had an opportunity to be the story. MSU’s protection couldn’t get a cease. Ohio State scored touchdowns on their first seven possessions after which took a knee 30 seconds earlier than halftime.

“From a training standpoint, there have been no surprises on the market by way of what we noticed,” Tucker mentioned. “Only a matter of they out-executed us after which they gained some one-on-ones. Quite a lot of occasions it does come all the way down to one-on-one matchups, and so they gained these.”

This was solely concerning the Jimmies and the Joes. MSU’s personnel was too overwhelmed to execute.

“Typically, guys look quick on movie and also you get on the market — I imply I’ve performed towards these dudes so I knew how briskly they had been,” Henderson mentioned. “However a few of the guys that have not performed towards them (and) it is laborious to essentially inform how briskly dudes are till you get on the market and also you’re on the sector with them. They had been throwing the ball over our heads.”

What’s made Tucker’s first season at MSU so dazzling, till now, is how a lot he and his workers have gotten out of this roster — largely a mixture of holdovers from the Mark Dantonio period and several other notable transfers, together with one dwelling run in Walker. It’s how ready MSU has appeared, how resolute the Spartans have been, the event of key gamers and the way in which they’ve come by way of in key moments. The teaching acumen, as a lot because the recruiting, has bolstered the assumption in Tucker.

This can be a new type of problem for him with this workforce — getting a bunch that’s believed in itself all yr, that now is aware of it doesn’t come near measuring up with the most effective, to bounce again after being “embarrassed” in entrance of 110,000 followers, as Henderson put it. The excellent news is the attendance was really lower than 102,000. The unhealthy information: It was additionally televised nationally.

“In case you’re on this sport lengthy sufficient as a participant, as a coach, you are going to have days like this,” Tucker mentioned, after his workforce fell to 9-2. “It is simply inevitable. It may occur and you do not need it to occur. … However when issues like this do occur, it is all about the way you reply.

“I instructed them (after the sport), ‘Pay attention, we win as a workforce and we lose as a workforce. I instructed them that what was most essential is what’s subsequent. And what’s subsequent is we now have to (look) the video … see precisely what it’s, what is the fact, the place had been the breakdowns, why? Who? After which personal that. We’ve got to personal that. There is not any excuses.

“It is actually a take a look at of character as a workforce and as a person man. As a result of it is simple when issues are going proper and also you’re successful. I imply, that is simple. However when it will get powerful is when you might have a efficiency like this — excessive expectations, you get blown out on the highway, after which all of the opinions take flight. And so now what are you going to do now? How are you going to deal with that?”

MSU won’t be wholesome sufficient to be at its former greatest subsequent week towards Penn State. The Spartans won’t be adequate proper now to win that sport. However we’ll know the way they deal with it. We noticed the final time MSU didn’t deal with a deflating loss at Ohio State nicely — the 34-10 measuring-stick defeat in 2019 that, every week later, spiraled right into a 38-0 loss at Wisconsin.

Earlier than Tucker and Co. can add pace to the defensive backfield and maybe nab a go rusher from the switch portal and welcome what appears to be like like a gifted incoming recruiting class, they’ve received to shepherd this present squad to what might nonetheless be a satisfying end to a unprecedented season.

After what transpired Saturday, that’s a large take a look at.

MORE: Couch: 3 quick takes on Michigan State’s humbling thrashing at the hands of Ohio State

Contact Graham Sofa at gcouch@lsj.com. Comply with him on Twitter @Graham_Couch.

This text initially appeared on Lansing State Journal: Ohio State blowout is why MSU football is fighting to keep Mel Tucker