Harlon Barnett is 0-3 yet fans are blessed with a one-week recess to ease their pain

Note: Spartan football has a bye week so this is a much-needed week of contemplation because Spartan Football is at a tipping point. Mel Tucker should have never been hired and his hiring reflects poorly upon Michigan State athletic administration which failed to organize a coherent search at the time. After all, Tucker had never posted a winning season as a head football coach. Consequently, the ad hoc, improvised search lacked direction, focus and purpose, and it was neither coherent nor comprehensive. Consequently, Michigan State hired a coach who was improperly vetted and unqualified, yet the executive and athletic administration compounded the problem and threw good money after bad, when after posting just one winning season in 3 years as a head coach, Michigan State athletics doubled down and endorsed Mel Tucker for a $95Mn compensation package making him one of the Top 5 highest paid coaches in the land.

The scenario that brought Mel Tucker to Michigan State and the subsequent decision to compensate him $95 Mn would serve as a Master Class in organizational mismanagement and flawed compensation fundamentals at most business schools.

Now under the guidance of Alan Haller, who by all measures is an inexperienced Athletic Director, Michigan State stands to repeat its mistake unless the AD develops a proper search with guidance of a highly skilled and qualified Search Committee. Let’s make this clear, Alan Haller left to his own devices is not capable of bringing a Championship caliber coach to Michigan State.

So, in my next narrative, I will put forth the requirements for a “short list” of coaching candidates as well as qualifications for a “Blue Ribbon” search committee.

Until then, we will revisit Harlon Barnett’s audition as an “Interim Head Coach” which underscores that Michigan State Football is being led by yet another unqualified head coach.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you find this missive to be informative.


The last 3 weeks have been a nightmare:

Harlon Barnett had an auspicious opportunity to beat Iowa on the road last Saturday, but perpetual gaffes and blunders quashed the opportunity.

Consequently, those blunders essentially served up a 26-16 victory to the Hawkeyes.

Harlon Barnett is now 0-3 and his eyes are glazed over, but that’s what happens when a leader is lost.

Yet, for Spartan fans, this week is a bye week, a recess if you will, so it will ease their pain because there is no chance of further humiliation.

But it is a proper time for contemplation and to reconsider the last 3 humiliating losses, so let’s start with Iowa.

After all, Iowa’s Offense is one of the worst in the land and ranked #130 when measured against 130 FBS schools yet Iowa was even more unsteady last Saturday because it was forced to deploy its #2 QB (Deacon Hill) in the absence of Cade McNamara their #1 QB who was injured on Iowa’s second possession of the game and thereby forced out of the game.

So, essentially Iowa played the entire game with their “backup” QB, not just any backup but a backup who in 2 years had only thrown 35 passes for 164 Yards.

As you might expect, Hill’s stats against the Spartans were feeble, but they were enough. Hill completed 11 of 27 pass attempts (40%) for a meager 115 Yards, yet when it was needed, Hill converted a passing TD and efficiently managed the game and that was enough to hand Harlon Barnett and the Spartans their 3rd humiliating loss in as many tries.

In an improbably low scoring game (just 42 points total), Barnett’s team yielded 10 Points to the Hawkeyes in the final 3:45 of the game, including an improbable 70 Yard punt return.

Once again, Iowa Offense ranked dead last amongst 130 FBS Schools compiling just 240 YPG, and ranked #100 scoring, averaging just 22 PPG, yet Iowa scored 13 “unanswered” points against Barnett’s Defense in the final 4 minutes and that sealed another humiliating loss for the Spartans.

Gaffes are becoming Harlon Barnett’s signature in trade.


Penalties, Turnovers, and bad management

Last week the Spartans gifted 5 Turnovers to Maryland including 3 Interceptions and two fumbles.

Then against Iowa they gifted 4 Turnovers including 3 Interceptions and a Fumble.

Of course, penalties are yet another problem because they shift momentum into “Reverse” and against Washington, Barnett’s team committed 11 penalties for (-83 Yards). Against Maryland, the Spartans committed 6 penalties for (-70 Yards) and then committed 10 penalties at Iowa for (-94 Yards).

So, in just 3 games, Barnett’s team committed 27 penalties for (-247 Yards).

There were also Special Team gaffes.

Against Maryland, “Special Teams” (ST) were unable to defend a fake punt which gained 14 yards and a 1st Down; it also incurred a blocked FG and then fumbled a kickoff in the final minutes of the game.

Then, against Iowa, Special Teams conducted Master Class in undisciplined football.

On one hand, Ryan Eckley the Spartan Punter could be commended for averaging nearly 50 Yards per punt on 6 Punts (incl a long of 67) but inconsistency negated the good.

Eckley “shanked” a 15 Yard Punt in the 4th Qtr and Iowa used that favorable field position to kick a 36 Yard FG to tie the game at 16-16 with 5:19 remaining.

But things were about to go from bad to worse.

Shortly after Iowa tied the game, the Spartan Offense was stymied and with the football resting 4th & 13 from their own 22, Eckley sent a low punt down the middle of the field where Iowa gathered it at their 30.

Iowa’s superb Punt Returner (Cooper DeJean) surveyed the field and eyed a wide gap along the sideline, a gap equal to an “Express Lane” and set sail for an unimpeded 70 Yard Punt Return to score a game winning Touchdown with just 3:45 remaining. Score, Iowa 23-Michigan State 16.

Then, in an epilogue, Michigan State receiver (Tre Mosley) incurred a big hit and fumbled at the Spartan 30 with just 3:29 remaining giving Iowa favorable field position. Then, 6 plays later Iowa drilled a 34-yard FG to seal the final score 26-16.


Of course, there were plenty of coaching blunders.

In the 2nd Qtr, with just 3:48 on the game clock, the Spartans had possession 1st & 10 at their 35 and a pass to Jaylan Franklin netted minus (-1) yard. Keep in mind, that was a pass play that netted minus 1 yard.

Then the Ball rested 2nd & 11 from 34 and a pass play to Jaron Glover was incomplete but a Holding penalty placed the football 2nd & 21 from 24 (Spartans were going in reverse).

Of course, we know for the past 4 seasons Mel Tucker’s staff has deployed one of “the worst” Rush Offenses in the land, perpetually ranking in the bottom tier of the Big Ten (except for KWIII era), and yet with 2nd & 21, Jay Johnson (O-Coordinator) called a hand off to Nate Carter in the “A” gap (the middle) on 2nd and long which garnered two meager yards. Iowa was clearly not fooled and those watching on TV were not fooled.

The Football then rested 3rd & 19 at 26 and the Spartans completed a 3 Yard pass (just 3 yards), and the ball rested 4th & 16 at 29 and forced a punt.

Overall, it was a pathetic Offensive demonstration.

The Spartans got the football back with 0:35 in the 1st Half, and Jonathon Kim kicked a 58 Yard FG, but the score was Iowa 10-Spartans 9 and a one-point deficit seemed like 100.

Then in the 3rd Qtr Barnett’s team exercised another Offensive boondoggle.

While protecting a narrow 16-13 lead with 7:38 in the 3rd Qtr, Spartans had the football 1st & 10 at their 42.

The Spartans attempted to run right but incurred an 8-yard loss and “flagged” for “block in the back”. Penalty was declined and the ball rested an ominous 2nd & 18 at 34.

This time, Jalen Berger got the call to run in the “A” Gap (the middle) on 2nd and long where he eked out just 4 yards.

The football then rested 3rd & 14 at MSU 38; Spartans threw an incomplete pass, then punted and there was an overwhelming sense Iowa was gaining control while the Spartans were fading fast.

So, there is plenty of blame to go around and lack of discipline and coaching blunders yielded yet another loss.

Of course, I’m sure we would all like to have some explanation from Ross Els, (Special Teams Coach) regarding “how” almost half his team broke lane discipline that resulted in half the field being undefended on a 70 Yard Punt Return.

But blunders, gaffes and confusion are constant companions for a team that lacks discipline!

At any measure, amongst a multitude of problems, the Spartan Offense has scored two (just 2) Offensive Touchdowns in the last 3 games: a Rushing TD vs Washington; a Passing TD vs Maryland and then failed to score an Offensive TD at Iowa.


At the bottom line (Barnett is unable to fix fundamental problems and defers to coach speak).

Barnett says everything you would expect to hear from a bewildered coach.

After the game he articulated incoherent and meaningless phrases seemingly extracted from the “Coach Speak Handbook” and here are a few examples:

“Once we clean that stuff up, you’ll see a much better team, we won’t be beating ourselves. People are actually going to have to beat us. We helped Iowa beat us tonight.” (unquote).

Barnett, also said:

“Our guys are playing with great, great effort – that’s the first thing I want to say. With all the distractions and things that have been going on, you cannot fault their effort. We just have to – I’ve been saying this for the last several weeks – have to play with more discipline. … That’s what we must clean up if we want to come out on the other end of what we’ve been coming out on here lately.” (unquote).

Yes indeed, Harlon, yes indeed, who would argue with your statements? But effort means nothing without discipline!!!

So, to Harlon we ask: “what are you going to do about it?”

After all, your team is committing a multitude of “bone headed” errors and it appears to be getting worse instead of better.

In fact, I would argue the fundamental breakdowns that have plagued the Spartans over the past 3 football games have been festering since last season, yet the entire coaching staff has left them untended.

So, to Harlon Barnett I say: problems don’t fix themselves, so, spend less time tweaking the “helmet logos” and spend more time “Crafting game plans and fixing fundamental Problems like lack of discipline”.

The season only gets more challenging and it’s virtually impossible to find a bright spot or an highly probable win.

So, the coaching search is “officially” underway, and in my next missive I will put forth the basic premise that Michigan State needs a fresh start which means, Harlon Barnett’s inexperience and inability to fix problems disqualifies him as a coaching candidate.

In my next missive, I will identify a “short list” of coaching candidates and review the qualifications of a “Blue Ribbon Search Committee”.

Thank you for reading.

Dayne Thomas


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