MSU's Mel Tucker takes shot at those who whine about refs: 'Makes your program soft'

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EAST LANSING — Mel Tucker on Monday reserved judgement on referee calls he had questions about in Michigan State football’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.

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Michigan State's head coach Mel Tucker looks on during the second quarter of the game against Michigan on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.
Michigan State's head coach Mel Tucker looks on during the second quarter of the game against Michigan on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.

“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.”

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 MSU’s eventual 37-33 victory over the Wolverines on Oct. 31. MSU quarterback Payton Thorne's shin was ruled down by replay officials on the sack by U-M'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.”

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A Big Ten spokesman did not immediately respond for comment if league officials made that determination or to confirm that conversation happened. The U-M coach made his comments about 15 minutes before Tucker’s weekly 12:30 p.m. news conference, which started about 10 minutes late.

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. U-M was No. 7 last week, beat Indiana, 29-7, on Saturday and is looking to leapfrog MSU in this week’s rankings, which will be released Tuesday night.

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Michigan State Spartans coach Mel Tucker signals his team to "keep chopping" during the second half of a 40-29 upset loss to the Purdue Boilermakers, Nov. 6, 2021 in West Lafayette, Ind.
Michigan State Spartans coach Mel Tucker signals his team to "keep chopping" during the second half of a 40-29 upset loss to the Purdue Boilermakers, Nov. 6, 2021 in West Lafayette, Ind.

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 (4 p.m./Fox), 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 MSU 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. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: MSU's Mel Tucker takes shot those who whine about referees