EAST LANSING — Indiana took less than two minutes to strike a major scare in Michigan State football on Saturday. It seemed like a small mistake.
It turned out to be more than fleeting fear in the cold air. It was a harbinger of an epic catastrophe to come.
The Spartans disastrously gambled away a 17-point lead in the second half, with failures at every stage of the game. A 79-yard touchdown run by the Hoosiers’ Shaun Shivers, then an 88-yard kickoff return by teammate Jaylin Lucas. A Payton Thorne interception in the next MSU game resulted in a field goal. Then a ground march pulled Indiana into a tie with Josh Henderson’s 1-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
MSU kicker Ben Patton missed a 22-yard field goal attempt wide left when time was usually up and then had a second blocked in overtime. The Hoosiers scored a touchdown and a two-point game in the second overtime, holding off MSU from a 39-31 win in front of a nearly empty crowd at Spartan Stadium.
The crushing defeat means the Spartans (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) are now set to play next Saturday’s regular-season finale in the No. 12 Penn State must win to qualify for a bowl game. Game time and TV network are yet to be announced.
Shivers became the eighth straight running back to rush for 100 yards and finish with 115 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns, including a 1-yarder in second overtime. Quarterback Dexter Williams II, 1-on-6 for 7 yards in regulation and the first overtime, hit AJ Barner on the first play of the second OT for 24 yards and connected with Barner for the two-point conversion. Williams ran 16 times for 86 yards and a score.
MSU had one last chance and got to the 10 yard line, but Payton Thorne’s pass to Jayden Reed was outside the end zone and incomplete.
Thorne finished 27 of 42 for 298 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Jalen Berger had 21 rushes for 119 yards and Elijah Collins had 107 yards with two touchdowns on 19 carries. Keon Coleman caught eight passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
The Spartans beat Indiana 540-288, had 30 first downs against the Hoosiers’ 11 and dominated possession time.
Indiana (4-7, 2-6), who had lost seven straight games, opened the game with a 43-yard kickoff return from Jaylin Lucas to start his first drive in midfield. It only took four games for Dexter Williams II to dash around the left end, slip through Xavier Henderson’s diving tackle and dance the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown. The replay of whether the quarterback was out of bounds proved inconclusive to the umpires, and the decision was made to give the Hoosiers a 7-0 lead after 1:48 into the game.
MSU’s defense held the Hoosiers to 31 yards in the first half after that drive.
The Spartans responded with a 19-yard field goal from Patton on their next possession, stopping at the 2-yard line with two straight runs and one incompletion.
Thorne directed a touchdown drive set up by a 29-yard run by Berger early in the second quarter. The junior quarterback attempted to hit Collins at the flat, but the throw was too quick and went through the running back’s hands. However, the ball was deflected to tight end Maliq Carr, who slipped and caught it for a 5-yard score, his first touchdown catch of his career that gave MSU a 10-7 lead.
Berger launched a 36-yard rush on the Spartans’ next possession, Thorne hit Tre Mosley for 13 yards on the third and seven, and Collins ended it with a 1-yard TD run for a 17-7 lead.
MSU forced a three-and-out, and Coleman forged a 24-7 advantage at halftime from a two-yard reception.
Thorne ran 13 of 15 for 153 yards and two touchdowns in the half, and Berger rushed for 97 yards with 14 carries. The Spartans overtook the Hoosiers, 274-81.
The Spartans opened the second half by nearly fumbling away the kick-off, then went three and out after a missed flea flick and a dropped third pass from Thorne to Daniel Barker.
Indiana needed a play to get back in the game. Shaun Shivers took a handoff from Williams on the right and found nothing but open space in front of him. He passed Henderson for a 79-yard touchdown just 1:20 of the third quarter to reduce the Spartans’ lead to 24-14.
MSU responded with a six-play 69-yard drive that was topped by a 31-yard run by Collins after catching a 22-yard swing pass. Thorne also hit Reed for 22 yards on the third and fourth to extend the drive. The Spartans looked set for an easy win, 31-14 with a 6-17 to play in the third game.
From that moment everything collapsed.
Lucas meandered through MSU’s kickoff coverage unit and passed Chester Kimbrough to the end zone, only to make it a 10-point game 13 seconds later. Then, after the Spartans took the subsequent kick-off, Thorne’s pass to receiver Germie Bernard was slammed in the air after the freshman was hit just before the ball arrived. Indiana’s Jonathan Haynes snapped it out of the air at MSU 29.
The Spartans’ defense held IU to a 40-yard field goal, but the Hoosiers leveled the game with a nine-game 70-yard drive that lasted into the fourth quarter.
Williams and Lucas set Indiana up for the touchdown with big runs, then Josh Henderson converted a fourth-and-1 into the MSU 1 with a 2-yard run. He scored on the next play.
MSU marched 70 yards in 14 games and gave Patton a chance to win it with a 22-yard field goal attempt. But the left-footed Auburn transfer missed wide left and had blocked his 28-yard attempt in overtime after a high snap.
However, the Spartans’ Michael Fletcher blocked Indiana kicker Charles Campbell’s 27-yard field goal attempt to send the game into a second overtime.