Michigan State Football: 3 things that went wrong in loss to Rutgers

Rocky Lombardi, Michigan State football Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Rocky Lombardi, Michigan State football Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /
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What went wrong in Michigan State football’s Week 8 loss to Rutgers? It’d be easy to say “everything” but let’s narrow it down.

Can we just erase what we saw on Saturday from our memories? Michigan State hosted Rutgers to begin the Mel Tucker era and fell 38-27 in one of the ugliest losses in school history.

Was Michigan State the better team? It’s hard to say that because “better” teams don’t exactly turn the ball over seven times even though they out-gained Rutgers by over 100 yards. It was a sloppy game with silly penalties, bad turnovers and iffy play-calling and coaching decisions which led to the 11-point loss to Rutgers.

But what exactly went wrong for the Spartans on Saturday?

3. Situational play-calling

Jay Johnson has been receiving plenty of criticism after his opening performance as Michigan State’s offensive coordinator, and deservedly so.

While he didn’t call any jet-sweeps to the short side of the field and he did run up-tempo every now and then, he made some extremely questionable calls in certain key situations.

On first down, Johnson ran the ball up the middle almost exclusively. Whenever he had Elijah Collins in there, he refused to run anything other than a halfback dive right up the gut and that resulted in a three-yard performance from the sophomore back on nine carries. Fourth-down play-calling was also atrocious, running the ball up the gut when it hadn’t been working all game.

Mel Tucker may have had the final say on those fourth-down calls, but Johnson made some vanilla calls all afternoon long. Time to get creative and run more up-tempo.

And the decision to go for it on fourth down while trailing 28-20 instead of kicking a field goal was a big mistake and halted any momentum.