EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State quarterback Peyton Thorne’s final pass was defended and pushed wide by Noah Pierre, and IU completed a comeback win that was as unlikely on the stat sheet as it was on the field.
The Hoosiers were behind for most of the day. They struggled to move the ball and the defense imploded in the second quarter. And yet it was Indiana who ended up flocking from the sidelines to celebrate after ending their seven-game losing streak and reclaiming the Old Brass Spittoon with the 39-31 win.
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The defense was not consistent
In the first quarter, the IU defense flexed but didn’t break. It stopped Michigan State three times from the 2-yard line to force a field goal on the Spartans’ first drive of the game. Then Aaron Casey and Alfred Bryant blasted Jalen Berger in the backfield for a stop in fourth place.
The defense collapsed in the second quarter. MSU ripped off touchdown drives from 64, 69, and 34 yards to take a three-point lead before halftime (24-7). By the end of the afternoon, Michigan State had surpassed IU 540-288. Jalen Berger rushed for 119 yards as he consistently found space and got to the second level. Elijah Collins had 107 yards and two touchdowns. The middle of the field was open for medium depth finishes all day. Thorne completed 25 of 37 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
But the ship was righted in the second half. IU was able to get off the field and held MSU in third place 2-8 through the last two quarters. An interception by Jonathan Haynes put the offense in position for a field goal in the third quarter. The defense broke their turn in overtime, forced a field goal attempt that was blocked, and then pinned the Spartans on their second drive for the win.
Dexter Williams is fascinating but far from a finished product
The work in progress, namely Dexter Williams II at quarterback, was on full display. It took four games for the redshirt sophomore to show what he, and only he among the IU quarterbacks, could do on offense. Set up by three Shaun Shivers rushes, Williams faked the right hand and fired on the left, breaking a tackle and barely staying within bounds for a 34-yard touchdown.
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Added to this was the inconsistent passing game. The Hoosiers kept the ball on the ground almost entirely and didn’t even try to throw until the 12th snap of the game. Williams finished 31 yards 2 for 7 and dealt with the same porous offensive line as anyone who snapped for Indiana this season. It limited its options to fast routes near the line of scrimmage. His only deep shot was catchable for Donaven McCulley when it was thrown back slightly, allowing Michigan State cornerback Ameer Speed to catch up and break up the pass.
But Williams has done enough with his legs. When IU made it 31-31 on a Josh Henderson touchdown, he built it up with 49 rushing yards in possession. And he made throws when he had to in overtime, which is where more than half his length of play came from.
IU couldn’t keep the drives running but made great games
Shivers’ long touchdown run nearly doubled the Hoosiers’ yardage to that point, taking them from 81 yards to 160. The Hoosiers rarely sustained anything offensively, but there were enough chunk plays to make up for it. Williams’ early touchdown accounted for more than half of Indiana’s yards on that drive. Jaylin Lucas returned a kickoff 88 yards after Michigan State went up three points in the second half.
Lucas was a difference maker all day. He helped put IU within reach to set up the touchdown in the fourth quarter with an 18-yard run between Williams carries. Including returns, he finished with 192 all-purpose yards. The big plays spurred IU on a day that saw four three-and-outs.