Interim head coach Harlon Barnett took over on Sunday after Tucker was suspended amid an ongoing investigation into claims that he sexually harassed sexual assault awareness speaker Brenda Tracy.
Barnett said the suspension was abrupt and the week was different than what anyone in the program has had to deal with but that he believes the team did everything right in moving forward to focus on the game against the Huskies.
“There were a lot of different things that came about, but it’s going to all settle down this week,” Barnett told reporters after the contest. “I got some things in my mind I want to do as far as me coaching and try to normalize us again. Whereas this past week, we were off-kilter a little bit.”
The Spartans’ defense gave up 713 yards of offense to Washington, a record for any Michigan State team. Barnett said he didn’t realize it was a record. But he said he is going to remember it and everything that took place in the game without excuses for what distractions might or might not have been out there this week for his team.
He said he recognized the difficulty of the week but that he believed his team prepared as best it could for a strong opponent. He explained he didn’t want to focus much on the past or what had happened with Tucker but rather on how he can galvanize the team moving forward and get back a sense of normalcy for his players.
“We are a week away from what happened,” Barnett said. “So, those guys, that’s out of their system; we played the game, played a really great team. And so, I think they’re ready to go and understand that all of our goals are still in front of us, so that’s a good thing.”
Senior offensive lineman J.D. Duplain said the Spartans players “bought in” to Barnett — who has been with the Michigan State program a total of 15 seasons throughout his career — and that there was no hesitation that they would trust him the rest of the way.
“Our team bought in to Coach Barnett; we trust him fully,” Duplain said. “We had good unity going into this weekend, guys were bought in. I think everyone was mission focused. We just made too many mistakes. And we’re going to go back and watch film, we’re going to learn from it, because the best teams, they learn from games like this.”
Senior wide receiver Tre Mosley echoed Duplain, saying the players did what they could to limit distractions without Tucker.
“The first day when it came out, it was a shock to everyone. But after that, we did a great job moving on because we had an opponent to get ready for,” Mosley said. “We couldn’t live in the past or start to cry, because Washington didn’t care what was going on with us in our program. So, we had to go out there and prepare for this game.”
Despite the loss, Duplain and Mosley said the team is eager to get back to work and try to fix the issues with Maryland next on its schedule.
With or without Tucker, Michigan State (2-1) is moving forward. And despite being thrust into the role, Barnett said he is ready to take the coaching duties head on now that he has more time to prepare the team.
“There are ups and downs, there are valleys you hit as well as the mountaintops,” Barnett said. “This is a valley moment. The good thing about it is you can always come back from a valley moment if you truly believe and trust and then start to work on the things that need to be worked on.
“So, valley moment right now, but we’ll get back up to the mountain.”