EAST LANSING – So much for bowl eligibility lockdown.
Michigan State (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) gambled away a 17-point lead in the second half of a 39-31 loss in double overtime to Indiana (4-7, 2-6) in East Lansing on Saturday.
That means the Spartans need a win at No. 11 Penn State (9-2, 6-2) in next week’s regular-season finals to add up to six wins and qualify for the Bowl.
Here are insights and observations for Michigan State after the loss:
* After four straight double-digit losses in a massively disappointing first half of the season, the Spartans didn’t give up. They were severely undermanned, with eight players indefinitely suspended along with starter injuries in all three stages of play, to win three of four and be a win away from securing a bowl bid. And then they collapsed.
The loss to Indiana was perhaps the worst in coach Mel Tucker’s three seasons at Michigan State and perhaps the ugliest for the program since it shattered a 25-point lead in a 2019 loss to Illinois. Hobbled with seven straight losses and no postseason hopes, Indiana went 24-7 down at halftime on a cold, windy day on the road. Then the Hoosiers were the team that wanted it more on the track while the Spartans made critical errors.
Michigan State is ‘in disbelief’ after collapsing in 2OT loss to Indiana
Michigan State showed this season that it wasn’t going to stop, and that will be put to the test next week. A win at Penn State looks like a long shot, but the Spartans are their final opportunity to earn a sixth win and bowl eligibility, minus a 5-7 result on Academic Progress Rate results if it’s not enough Teams give to fill bowl slots.
* A week after special teams delivered Michigan State’s 27-21 win over Rutgers, that phase of the game was a disaster from the start. Indiana Jaylin Lucas returned the opening kickoff 43 yards to set up a touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead for the Hoosiers. Lucas also had an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter — the first conceded by Michigan State since 2017.
A week after the 2-on-2 at field goals, Ben Patton was 1-to-3. With a chance to win the game, Auburn’s walk-through graduate transfer missed wide left from 22 yards after regular time was up. A high snap also resulted in his 28-yard attempt being blocked in first overtime. Although Michigan State defensive end Michael Flechter clogged Karl CampbellHis 37-yard attempt to force a second overtime wasn’t enough. The Spartans are now 5 to 11 in field goals this season.
Michigan State Bryce Baringer entered the game first in the nation with punting average (49.6) and accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl this week. Then he averaged just 31.0 yards on three downwind attempts with a length of 41.
* Michigan State ended the game against Indiana with big advantages in overall offense (540 to 288), first downs (29 to 11) and time of possession (36:25 to 23:27). Despite dominating key statistical categories, the Hoosiers made explosive, game-changing plays.
In addition to Lucas’ kickoff returns, running back Shaun Schauer had a 79-yard touchdown streak on Indiana’s first offensive snap of the second half. quarterback Dexter Williams II had a 34-yard touchdown streak on the game’s opening possession.
The Spartans limited Indiana to just 3 to 12 on third-down conversions, but the damage was done on big games.
* Michigan State’s run defense remains a glaring weakness while exposed by teams struggling to move the ball on the ground. Indiana entered Saturday’s game last in the Big Ten and ranked 127th out of 131 teams in the nation by rushing just 85.8 yards per game. The Hoosiers finished the season with 257 yards and four touchdowns on 44 carries.
Williams, a redshirt sophomore starting in his third college game for the first time, was just 2-for-7 passes for 31 yards — stats that are remarkable for a winning team that only played once in Big Ten had exceeded 100 yards on the ground before Saturday’s play. That was the fewest passing yards the Spartans allowed since giving up in a 2014 win at Indiana 11. However, Williams had 16 carries for 86 yards while Shivers finished with 13 rushes for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
Michigan State unravels amid big plays, special teams miscues vs. Indiana
Michigan State, which ranked 15th in the nation in rushing defense last year (117.2), has now allowed five opponents to gain more than 200 yards on the ground this season, including four of the last six. Understaffing plays a part, but Indiana rushed for more yards Saturday than in the first five Big Ten games combined this season.
* Michigan State had a season-high 540 total rushing yards, but that only resulted in 31 points with too many missed opportunities. After taking 17 points at halftime without punting, the Spartans’ last nine possessions in the game, including overtime, consisted of one touchdown, three punts, one interception, two turnovers on downs and two missed field goals.
Michigan State was only 1-for-4 in fourth place and keeping the offense on the field with a questionable kicking play in difficult conditions factors in those decisions. However, the Spartans struggled to gain hard yards in critical situations and that was the case again on Saturday.
On Michigan State’s opening possession of the game, a pass interference call led to first-and-goal from the 2nd running back Jens Berger was stuffed without a win in consecutive games before an incomplete resulted in a field goal.
Berger, who scored from midfield at number four and one in the first quarter, was dropped on a four-yard loss. On third-and-1 in the third quarter, Berger was stopped a yard from the line of scrimmage. Play calling by offensive coordinator Jay Johnson was questionable at times on Saturday as well.
* Michigan State’s running game continued to show late-season growth while recording 48 carries for 242 yards and two touchdowns. It was the team’s fastest yards this season against a Power Five opponent.
Berger had 21 carries for 119 yards while appearing to be beaten up in the second half. To Jarek Broussard was eliminated in the first quarter due to injury, Elijah Collins put in a strong performance in his last game at Spartan Stadium. The fifth-year senior had 19 carries for 107 yards and two touchdowns, hitting triple digits for the first time since 2019. It was the first time Michigan State had had two 100-yard rushers in the same game against Indiana since 2014.
Outside the Michigan State Locker Room heard: Silence and it stings
Production in the running game came from behind an undermanned offensive line that missed two starters in the left tackle Jarret Horst and right guardian Matt Carrick. Right Guard Brian Greenwho started in place of Carrick last week was unavailable and a redshirt freshman Geno VanDeMark made his first career start.
quarterback Payton Thorn had a decent day in tricky conditions, completing 27 of 42 passes for 298 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The selection wasn’t his fault as it came on a deflected pass in the third quarter. Keon Coleman led the Spartans with eight catches for 107 yards and one touchdown and tight end Maliq Carr had his first touchdown catch of his career on a ball that bounced off Collins’ hands.
* In addition to the eight suspended defensive players, Michigan State was also without key players and starters alongside Horst, Carrick and Greene. defensive ends Jeff Pietrowski and Khris Boglecorner kick Ronald Williamstight end Tyler Hunt and beginning long snapper Hank Pepper were among those unavailable on Saturday.
The Spartans stayed on the sidelines with Fletcher and really thin Avery Dunn the only two real defensive ends to play against Indiana while converting tackles Jalen Hunt and Dashaun Mallory continued to fill the position. Dunn finished the tournament with a career-high seven tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, and a sack.
Related Football Stories from Michigan State:
Michigan State Announced at Penn State Kickoff Time
Michigan State gambles away 17-point lead in 2OT loss to Indiana
Michigan State still without suspended players, other starters vs. Indiana