Hoosiers rally for unlikely win
EAST LANSING, Michigan — Michigan State quarterback Peyton Thorne’s final pass was defended and pushed out of bounds by Noah Pierre, and UI completed a comeback win that was as unlikely on the stat sheet as it was on the pitch.
The Hoosiers trailed the most all day. They struggled to move the ball and the defense imploded in the second quarter. And yet, it was Indiana who came off the sideline in celebration at the end, having snapped their seven-game losing streak and recovered the Old Brass Spittoon in the 39-31 victory.
The defense was inconsistent
In the first quarter, the IU defense folded but did not break. He 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 into the backfield for a save on fourth down.
The defense broke in the second quarter. MSU snatched touchdowns from 64, 69 and 34 yards to take a three-point lead before halftime (24-7). By late afternoon, Michigan State had passed IU 540-288. Jalen Berger rushed for 119 yards as he was able to consistently find space and get into the second tier. Elijah Collins had 107 yards and two touchdowns. The middle of the field was open all day for mid-depth completions. Thorne completed 25 of 37 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
But the ship was righted in the second half. IU made it off the field, holding MSU 2-8 on third down the past two quarters. A Jonathan Haynes interception put the offense in position for a field goal in the third quarter. The defense punctuated their turnaround in overtime, forcing a field goal attempt, which was blocked, then holding the Spartans back on their second drive for the win.
Dexter Williams is intriguing but far from a finished product
The work in progress that is Dexter Williams II at quarterback was on full display. It took four plays for the second-in-redshirt to show what he, and he alone among IU quarterbacks, adds to the offense. Set up by three rushes from Shaun Shivers, Williams faked the pass on the right and took off on the left, breaking a tackle and barely staying in bounds for a 34-yard touchdown.
There was also the inconsistent passing game. The Hoosiers kept the ball almost exclusively on the ground, not even trying to throw until their 12th snap of the game. Williams was 2-for-7 for 31 yards and handled the same porous offensive line that anyone who’s snapped for Indiana this season. This limited his options to fast routes near the line of scrimmage. His only deep shot was catchable for Donaven McCulley, if slightly underplayed, allowing Michigan State cornerback Ameer Speed to catch and break up the pass.
But Williams has done enough with her legs. When IU tied the score at 31-31 on a Josh Henderson touchdown, he set it up with 49 rushing yards on possession. And he made throws when needed in overtime, where more than half of his passing distance came.
IU couldn’t continue driving, but made big plays
Shivers’ long touchdown run nearly doubled the Hoosiers’ yardage up to that point, taking it from 81 yards to 160. The Hoosiers could rarely sustain anything offensively, but they had enough plays to make up for it. Williams’ first touchdown accounted for more than half of Indiana’s yards on that drive. Jaylin Lucas returned an 88-yard kickoff after Michigan State went up three scores in the second half.
Lucas made the difference all day. He helped put IU within range to set up the tied touchdown in the fourth quarter with an 18-yard run sandwiched between Williams’ runs. Including returns, he finished with 192 all-purpose yards. Big plays backed IU on a day when there were four threes and outs.