Indiana had grown accustomed to falling behind early. The Hoosiers trailed in the first quarter of each of their first three games — and they won all of them.
On Saturday night, the deficit grew larger than it had in those early games, and the opponent was better than any of the previous three. The realities of the Big Ten East have arrived.
The Indiana offense struggled throughout the game against Michigan State, and their early shortcomings put the Hoosiers in quick hole.
After the IU offense produced a very quick three and out running up tempo offense on their first drive, they put their young defense right back out on a short field. Michigan State proceeded to march 60 yards for the early 7-0 lead.
Things quickly got worse, and once again the Indiana offense was the culprit. Quarterback Peyton Ramsey threw a rushed pass under pressure to Stevie Scott that was tipped and intercepted. MSU’s Shakur Brown ran the ball in untouched for a 69 yard touchdown, and IU found themselves behind by the largest margin of the season, 14-0.
Things went from bad to worse for the IU offense. After sustaining a drive into MSU territory, IU failed to convert on fourth down inside the MSU 30. The Spartans quickly advanced back into Hoosier territory aided in part by a questionable pass interference call on a ball that was intercepted by Indiana. The wheels looked to be coming off.
Instead, IU’s Cam Jones forced a fumble that was recovered near midfield by Jonathan Crawford. The offense responded with a 10-play scoring drive that ended with a 8-yard touchdown pass from Ramsey to Stevie Scott. In a game that felt like MSU was dominating, the Hoosiers only trailed by seven in the 2nd quarter.
Indiana’s defense got stops on four straight Spartan drives but the Hoosier offense resumed its struggles. IU’s defense couldn’t get a stop at the end of the first half, and the MSU lead swelled to 21-7 at the break on a Brian Lewerke TD pass to tight end Matt Dotson in the final minute.
Any hope Indiana had of mounting a comeback appeared to dissipate when star husky Marcelino Ball was ejected from the game for targeting in the third quarter. The Spartans concluded that drive with another touchdown and a seemingly insurmountable 28-7 lead. Indiana had forced a MSU field goal attempt on the drive, but Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio called for a fake and kicker Matt Coghlin ran it into the end zone on a pitch from six yards out.
The Spartans looked poised to cruise to another victory over Indiana, but turnovers left the door open for the Hoosiers. IU defensive lineman Nile Sykes got pressure on Lewerke deep in IU territory and forced an errant pass that IU safety Khalil Bryant intercepted inside the Spartan ten yard line. That led to an IU field goal and 28-10 deficit.
The Hoosiers got the ball back on a Cam Jones interception, and Ramsey connected with sophomore wide receiver Whop Philyor on a 65 yard touchdown pass. The Hoosiers converted a two point conversion on a Ramsey pass to Nick Westbrook, and the margin was down to ten. Philyor had 13 catches for 148 yards on the night, while Ramsey went 32 of 46 for 272 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Yet another stop by the Hoosier defense gave the IU offense the ball back, and the Hoosiers responded again with a field goal. Suddenly it was a 28-21 one score game with 3:28 remaining in the 4th quarter. The Hoosier had a glimmer of hope — and that glimmer faded away no sooner than it appeared.
Michigan State had seen enough. On their next play from scrimmage, running back Jalen Nailor took a jet sweep 75 yards untouched that put the game away.
The Spartans move to 2-1, while Indiana dropped their first contest of the season and drop to 3-1.
Notes: Starting defensive lineman Jacob Robinson and starting wide receiver Luke Timian did not play due to injuries. Stevie Scott, who came into the game eighth in the country in rushing yards, was held to just 18 yards on 11 carries. The Hoosiers travel to Rutgers next Saturday. Rutgers lost at home to Buffalo 42-13 today.
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