Recap: Mel Tucker previews Michigan State vs. Michigan

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Mel Tucker meets with the media on Tuesday at noon to preview Michigan State's game against in-state rival Michigan. James Hawkins of The Detroit News will provide live updates on Tucker's comments throughout the MSU coach's media session.

Opening statement on UM game: "It's really special to me and our players, important to our coaches, former players, fans and people in the state of Michigan. It's a special game and we treat it as such. It's going to be one the most physical games we play this season, so we've really got to focus on being fundamentally sound, taking care of the football. First and foremost, we've got to be physical on both sides of the ball."

"We're building a foundation and it's a process...We're looking to get those things right this week."

Earliest memories of UM-MSU rivalry: "Obviously playing at Wisconsin you're aware of the rivalries in the Big Ten and always Michigan-Michigan State has been a huge one. And being here as a graduate assistant was really able to experience it firsthand and feel the passion and the energy. Not a day goes by where you don't hear about this game from someone...It's certainly not just a game and that's what makes college football special is these types of rivalries."

On getting team prepared to play UM after Rutgers loss: "One thing that's important to handle is if you do lose a game, how do you handle a loss? What is your mental disposition coming off a game like that? The process is, win or lose, it's a 24-hour rule and then it's time to move on to the next game because the most important game is the next game. Obviously we do self-evaluation, we watch the film, we see the things that need to be corrected and put a plan in place to do that. We make sure players understand where we fell short and how we can get better.

"But you also want to look at the positives and things that you can build on. After you make those evaluations, you quickly turn the page and focus on the next game. We've done that." 

On concern with running game after Rutgers loss: "First and foremost have to give Rutgers credit. They played hard up front. They did a really good job on some of their movements. They gave great effort up front. Our guys fought. When I came out of the game and I left the field, I felt like in the trenches we weren't able to get the movement that we needed to get. When I watched the film, it was not as bad as I thought that it was coming out of the game. We've got to run the ball better. We've got to be able to run the ball on our terms because having balance on offense and not being one-dimensional is critically important."

On whether team is limited with who is available on O-line: "Guys that are available are the guys we think can get the job done. Football is a game of injuries. All around the country, college and pros, with COVID you've got guys in quarantine and guys are injured. I've never been about talking about who you don't have. It's about who you do have...The guys that we have available to us are who we're going to go to work with this week and we're not going to make any excuses or explanations about personnel."

On improving pass protection: "First we want to run ball on our terms and second is we want to protect the quarterback...We had some guys who were open and we couldn't get the ball to them. We're really going to focus on communication and making sure we're making proper calls up front and make sure we're picking up pressure that's coming, keep our quarterback upright and clean in the pocket.

"The key is getting all 11 guys on same page on a consistent basis. But when you're not on same page, oftentimes you're not going to have success and it's harder sometimes to pinpoint from afar where the breakdown was. Oftentimes it's more than one guy. We've just got to get guys on the same page and communication is going to be a huge emphasis for us today on both sides of the ball."

On creating vibe in practice for UM game: "We're doing things in-house to emphasize what this game means in terms of educating our players or reminding our players what's at stake. We have some coaches on our staff that have played in this game and just talking about the history of the game. We've shown guys videos just framing it up for them to put in perspective of not only what this game means now, but what it has always meant for us here at Michigan State."

On how essential UM game is for establishing program: "Everything that we do is about establishing our culture, our brand of football and laying the foundation for our program. Every meeting, scrimmage, practice and game, and this game is no different. Rivalry games are important for so many reasons and you're often judged by how you coach in rivalry games. That's part of the beauty of it and that's what makes it special. That's something that we embrace. Obviously we're looking to put our best foot forward and we have a lot of work to do between now and Saturday to prepare for that. It's something I look forward to and our players are really focused on it."

On if Tucker's has crossed paths with Jim Harbaugh in NFL: "I coached against him at least once when I was in Chicago and he was in San Fran. We were able to match up. I actually know his brother (John) better than I know him. I know he's a fantastic coach and he's a football guy who comes from a football family. Obviously I have respect for all of our coaches in this conference and all of the coaches we get to compete against."

On Rocky Lombardi's start against Rutgers: "I told Rocky immediately after the game I thought he did some really good things. He made some good throws, he was poised, he was a good leader. He was never rattled and continued to play the next play...Just like all of us, we've got some things to work on and improve.

"We're going to build on some of the things he did in the game and some of things he needs to clean up, he's coachable and his 'want to' factor is very high...I never felt there was a need or discussion about taking Rocky out. I'm happy with way he competed in the game."

On not saying Michigan by name during his news conference: "The school down the road, I think we all know who it is. I think it's pretty obvious."

Mel Tucker

Michigan vs. Michigan State

Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor

TV/radio: Fox/WWJ 950, WJR 760

Records: Michigan 1-0, MSU 0-1

Line: Michigan by 25

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