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'Makes your program soft:' Michigan State coach Mel Tucker takes shot at those who whine about referees

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Mel Tucker on Monday reserved judgement on referee calls he had questions about in Michigan State’s first loss of the season Saturday at Purdue.

He didn’t hold back about his feelings about those who lodge their complaints publicly.

“I don't like to talk about bad calls,” Tucker said during his weekly news conference. “That's not part of our culture. We don't like to make excuses about anything. I think that makes your program soft. I think it gives your coaches and your players a way out, so I don’t even like to talk about it that much.

“But we do turn them in, because we need clarification. And if I disagree with something, I'll tell them and then we move on, because that's not gonna change the outcome, actually. It happens every week. It's a human performance business, and there's a lot of judgment calls as well.”

Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker looks on during the second quarter of the game against Michigan.
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker looks on during the second quarter of the game against Michigan.

The not-so-subtle jab came about 25 minutes after Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was asked by a reporter in Ann Arbor if the Big Ten office called him to discuss the overturned strip-stack-fumble recovery touchdown by Aidan Hutchinson in the first half of Michigan State’s eventual 37-33 victory against the Wolverines on Oct. 31. Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne's shin was ruled down by replay officials on the sack by Michigan's David Ojabo.

Harbaugh: “Yeah, as we all expected, all saw, mistakes were made."

Reporter: “You heard from them?”

Harbaugh: “That was the response, they made a mistake.”

Reporter: “On that call?”

Harbaugh: “Yeah. And others.”

Reporter: “So they said they said they made mistakes on other calls?”

Harbaugh: “Yes.”

Reporter: “Just being clear.”

Harbaugh: “Can't be any more clear than that."

Reporter: “Well there were a lot of calls, that's why I wasn't sure.”

Harbaugh: “Yeah, there were. The film doesn’t lie, you know.”

A Big Ten spokesman did not immediately respond for comment if league officials made that determination or to confirm that conversation happened.

Possible intent for continuing to bring up plays from a rivalry game two weeks ago is the jockeying for postseason positioning in the College Football Playoff poll.

The Spartans were No. 3 in last week’s debut rankings after beating the Wolverines, then lost their first game of the season Saturday to the Boilermakers, 40-29, in West Lafayette, Indiana. Michigan was No. 7 last week, beat Indiana, 29-7, on Saturday and is looking to leapfrog Michigan State in this week’s rankings, which will be released Tuesday night.

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker signals his team to "keep chopping" during the second half of a 40-29 upset loss to Purdue.
Michigan State coach Mel Tucker signals his team to "keep chopping" during the second half of a 40-29 upset loss to Purdue.

Tucker said MSU submitted plays from Saturday’s loss to the Big Ten office Monday morning and expected to hear back from the league later that day or early Tuesday. Two in particular stood out, and they came on back-to-back plays in the third quarter after the Spartans tied the Boilermakers at 21-21 — an unnecessary roughness call on cornerback Chester Kimbrough on a slam-tackle along the sideline before the whistle blew, and a targeting ejection on defensive tackle Simeon Barrow, who hit Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell helmet to helmet after the quarterback began to run and lowered his head just before contact.

Discussing the call on Barrow, who will miss Saturday’s first half against Maryland, is what incited Tucker to bring up his opinion on criticizing officials’ calls.

“We'll get the feedback from the officials' office on what they saw on the play, concerning several plays, then we'll get the feedback,” Tucker said. “I'll hold my comments until I get that back. They may have some information that might enlighten me or might be able to help us coach the guys better or whatever. So we'll have to see.”

Tucker improved to 2-0 against Harbaugh with the win, becoming the first Michigan State coach to beat Michigan in his first two seasons. The Spartans won 27-24 in 2020 during Tucker’s debut.

Free Press reporter Michael Cohen contributed to this report.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State's Mel Tucker takes shot at those who whine about refs