Indiana took away the ball from Michigan State three times in the first half in East Lansing on their way to a fast start and a big early lead.
When it was all over they took home the Old Brass Spittoon.
It looked like IU could be in for a long day when quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. threw an interception on the first drive and left the field with an apparent limp.
But as they have done throughout the first half of the 2020 season, Indiana’s defense provided a spark. By halftime, it was a Hoosier inferno on both sides of the ball fueled by three takeaways that led to a 24-0 advantage.
The 24-0 margin held up as the final score as the Hoosiers moved to 4-0 on the season.
“Getting a shutout, that’s pretty awesome,” head coach Tom Allen said after the game. “Coming on the road, this is a place where we’ve struggled to win games over the years, so very excited about getting win number four.”
Indiana’s defense delivered a fourth takeaway in the second half — their tenth interception of the season — as the Hoosiers completed their first shutout since a 35-0 win over Rutgers in 2019.
IU cornerback Tiawan Mullen stepped in front of a Rocky Lombardi pass on the first play of Michigan State’s second drive of the game to start the defensive onslaught.
Aided by a short field, IU went 7 plays for 50 yards, and Stevie Scott plunged in from 8 yards out on 3rd and 5 for a 7-0 lead.
Just two plays into MSU’s ensuing drive, IU linebacker Thomas Allen forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive end James Head at the Spartans’ 16 yard line.
It took Penix only two plays to find Ty Fryfogle for a 16 yard scoring strike and a stunningly quick 14-0 Hoosier advantage with 1:14 left in the opening quarter.
“The takeaways are just massive,” Allen said. “Flips the field, momentum, sets up our offense. They were very dominant today, our defense.”
Indiana also registered four sacks on the day, including two each by tackle Jerome Johnson and linebacker Micah McFadden
“We wanted to go in physical and outplay them being tougher mentally, physically and do all that we could do and I think we accomplished that in the end,” Johnson said.
A senior on the roster, Johnson has seen the defense make big strides over the last few years.
“Guys are starting to buy in and believe that they can do what they need to do in order for us to succeed,” Johnson said. “A lot of guys are starting to realize that they are capable of much more than what they have applied. So with that comes great responsibility and we are doing what we need to do.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Penix and Fryfogle were just getting warmed up.
After a Charles Campbell field goal made it 17-0 Hoosiers, Penix found Fryfogle’s back shoulder along the sidelines. Fryfogle streaked down the field for 65 yards and a score as the Hoosiers expanded their lead to 24-0 with 4:56 left in the first half.
Penix topped 300 yards for the second straight week. The redshirt sophomore was 25-of-38 for 320 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Fryfogle set career marks for the second straight week with 11 catches for 200 yards.
“He’s so steady, so consistent. And as you saw on that long one, he does have speed too,” Allen said of Fryfogle. “Just really proud of him to be rewarded for all of his persistence.”
The IU offense stalled out in the second half as IU produced just 108 yards and 7 first downs after the break.
Allen sees that as something that will need to improve before a showdown with No. 3 Ohio State next weekend.
“We just weren’t sharp. We didn’t execute at a high enough level. It was a little ugly for my standards,” Allen said.
But the story was Indiana’s defense, which held Michigan State to just 191 yards. The Spartans only had 9 first downs on the day and averaged just 3.7 yards per play.
NOTES AND NUMBERS:
Indiana is 4-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1987.
Kicker Charles Campbell missed the first kick of his career on a 41 yard first half field goal attempt.
Mullen recorded two interceptions on the day, the first two of his career. Indiana now has ten interceptions through four games after amassing just seven in 2019. “I just saw the ball and attacked it,” Mullen said after the game. “I was in the right position. I listened to Coach Shelby.” Reese Taylor also grabbed an interception, his first of the season and second of his career.
Running back Stevie Scott carried it 23 times for 84 yards (3.7 ypc) and a score.
McFadden led IU with 9 tackles, including 5 solo and the 2 sacks. Fellow linebacker James Miller added 6 tackles as he filled in for much of the game for starter Cam Jones, who left with an injury.
Head coach Tom Allen’s son Thomas had to be carted off the field with an undisclosed leg injury. The entire team came out to send off Allen as father and son embraced.
Indiana took possession of the Old Brass Spittoon for the first time since 2016. The win was IU’s first in East Lansing since 2001.
UP NEXT: No. 10 Indiana (4-0) will travel to No. 3 Ohio State (3-0) for a noon ET kickoff in Columbus with the Big Ten East lead on the line. The game will be televised on Fox.
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