On senior day in Bloomington, Indiana football couldn’t get the job done.
The Hoosiers honored their seniors before the game, and then fell to Michigan State, 24-21, on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Michigan State (4-7, 2-6 Big Ten) took the lead with 1:19 to play, when freshman quarterback Katin Houser hit junior tight end Maliq Carr for a 36-yard touchdown. Carr — 6-foot-6, 260 pounds — is difficult to bring down, and the Hoosiers had trouble with him all afternoon. He finished with 88 yards on eight receptions with two touchdowns.
Indiana (3-8, 1-7) got the ball back with a chance to tie or win, and had momentum going. Head coach Tom Allen made a bold decision to go for it on 4th and 1 from the MSU 27, instead of kicking the field goal, and the Hoosiers converted with 12 seconds left. But on the ensuing play, Brendan Sorsby had a miscommunication with E.J. Williams Jr., and threw it to the end zone with no receivers nearby, drawing an intentional grounding penalty. That forced the Hoosiers to attempt a 48-yard field goal to send the game to overtime, but Chris Freeman pushed it wide right.
“Obviously our guys had a chance to go win the game defensively; didn’t do it,” Allen said after the game. “Guys didn’t finish. It’s frustrating, without a doubt. Got a lot of young guys out there playing hard, but defense didn’t finish.”
IU outgained Michigan State, 408-323, overall on Saturday. The Hoosiers leaned heavily on the running game, with 216 yards on 45 attempts as a team, including sack yardage. Redshirt sophomore Trent Howland recorded career-highs with 19 carries for 77 yards.
The Spartans marched down the field with relative ease on the game’s opening possession, and cashed in on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Houser to Carr. Meanwhile, IU picked up just one first down in the entire first quarter.
But the Hoosiers eventually responded in the second quarter with an 11-play scoring drive, capped off by a four-yard touchdown run by Howland. The redshirt sophomore was shaken up multiple times during this game, but he had a big day with his second score of the season.
Indiana slightly outgained Michigan State, 126-119, in the second quarter, but the Spartans regained the lead near the end of the period. Michigan State wideout Montorie Foster Jr. made a nice one-handed catch, and then IU defenders whiffed on several tackle attempts as he took it in from 29 yards out.
The Hoosiers got the ball back with around a minute left before halftime, and they got into Freeman’s field-goal range. But his 45-yard attempt was tipped at the line of scrimmage and missed to the left.
IU fired back on the first possession of the second half and tied the game at 14. Sorsby had some struggles earlier in the game, particularly passing, but he threw his best ball of the game to that point on a 38-yard reception by Donaven McCulley. That set up a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end James Bomba one play later.
Indiana redshirt freshman cornerback Jamari Sharpe, later in the third quarter, made an interception that could’ve been a game-changer. But he coughed the ball up on the return, and the Spartans got it back.
Michigan State went back ahead in the middle of the fourth quarter, on a booming 43-yard field goal by Jonathan Kim.
The Hoosiers got the ball back and orchestrated a crucial scoring drive. They ran it on seven straight plays to get inside the Spartans 10-yard-line, and then Sorsby — on his first pass of the possession — hit tight end Trey Walker for an eight-yard touchdown. That put IU ahead, 21-17, with 4:06 remaining.
IU will wrap up its season next week with the Old Oaken Bucket on the line at Purdue.
Allen said the team will be particularly motivated for that rivalry matchup.
“We’re playing for the Old Oaken Bucket, the biggest trophy opportunity this team has in a given year outside of the postseason. So huge game, massive game,” Allen said. “We’ve got guys that are going to be playing their final Old Oaken Bucket game, so that’s going to be the motivation, without question. here’s a strong locker room, I promise you that. Strong locker room. I’ve got their back.”
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