Coaches understand that football, at its core, is truly a game of inches.
No one explained that more eloquently than Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday when comparing football to life in a classic quote for the ages.
To quote from the movie:
"You find out that life is just a game of inches.
So is football.
Because in either game
life or football
the margin for error is so small.
one half step too late or to early
you don't quite make it.
One half second too slow or too fast
and you don't quite catch it.
The inches we need are everywhere around us.
They are in ever break of the game
every minute, every second.
On this team, we fight for that inch
On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us
to pieces for that inch.
We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch.
Cause we know
when we add up all those inches
that's going to make the..."
We all know how the rest of the speech goes. Some of you are probably doing your best Pacino impression right now to finish off the speech.
Well, looking for ways to learn and move forward after their loss to Purdue last weekend, Mel Tucker used that inches theme to point out how their loss to the Boilermakers was an instance where it was "death by inches," according to Chris Solari.
"When you don't have success on a play...the margins are so narrow when you're competing at such a high level."
"All it takes is that one mistake, one mental error, one missed assignment to kill a play."
So Tucker and his staff put together a cut up of all the plays they were just an inch or so off, and the collection of those plays ended up being a big contributing reason for the Spartans first loss of the season.
With two games against ranked teams remaining, including a top-10 matchup with Ohio State in a few weeks that will decide a shot at the Big Ten title and, likely, a playoff spot, there will be a lot of eyes on how Tucker and the Spartans learn from a loss to a team like Purdue, who previously knocked off an Iowa team ranked among the top 5 in the country earlier this year.
Ranked #7 in lat night's College Football Playoff, and a spot behind a Michigan team they just beat head-to-head just a few weeks ago, Michigan State finishes their season with opportunities against Maryland at home this weekend, then hits the road to take on the Buckeyes, and wraps up with a home game against Penn State.