Mark Dantonio didn’t have much to smile about following the MSU football team’s 31-27 victory over Indiana in Bloomington on Saturday.
The Spartans (4-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) came into the game heavily favored to deliver another drubbing to the Hoosiers (2-3 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) after last year’s 55-3 blowout in Spartan Stadium.
However, in a blink-and-you-miss-it first quarter, the Hoosiers took MSU by surprise, jumping out to a 17-0 lead before the Spartans had a chance to wake up.
“It was awfully quick,” sophomore defensive end Marcus Rush said. “We practiced tempo, high tempo … We weren’t expecting that fast. They were completing passes (and) running on us, and we just never had the big stop to slow it down.”
The Spartans eventually adjusted to Indiana’s no-huddle offense, although not before the Hoosiers took a 27-14 lead into halftime.
Led by junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-40 passing, the offense went on a 17-point run of its own to take home the Old Brass Spittoon.
Maxwell’s favorite target of the day was true freshman wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, who hauled in eight catches for 134 yards. But the eventual game-winning score came from the man Burbridge replaced in the starting lineup, junior wide receiver Bennie Fowler.
With 6:43 left in the game, Maxwell found Fowler on the left sideline, who spun away from a defender and cut through the middle of the field for a 36-yard touchdown that put the Spartans up 30-27.
Fowler finished with four receptions for 57 yards in what he described as the receivers’ best game of the season thus far.
Although MSU ultimately was able to squeak by the Hoosiers and leave with the victory, Dantonio still expressed concerns about the first half, in which the Spartans had six personal fouls for 90 yards.
“We’re 4-2, but that first half is something you don’t forget,” he said.
However, Dantonio said he was impressed with how his players fought through adversity. “Just keep playing, and good things will happen,” he said.