MSU's offense overpowers Indiana, wins 42-28
State News football reporters Dillon Davis and Stephen Brooks along with freshman running back Delton Williams discuss MSU’s 42-28 victory over Indiana.
During his 11 seasons as head coach at MSU, George Perles was best known for a specific, run-heavy type offense.
Run left, run center, run right.
It made a Heisman Trophy contender out of running back Lorenzo White, a star out of Tico Duckett and helped the Spartans compete in the Big Ten like they hadn’t since the days of Duffy Daugherty. On a weekend set aside to honor his most successful season in 1987, it’s only fitting the Spartans followed his formula down to the last detail in a 42-28 win over Indiana.
Run left, run center, run right. And a receiving touchdown here or there didn’t hurt either.
Junior running back Jeremy Langford scored a career-high four touchdowns to go along with a team-leading 109 rushing yards, while freshman running back Delton Williams added 92 rushing yards as the Spartans (5-1 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) defeated Indiana (3-3, 1-1) in the 500th game at Spartan Stadium.
“I feel like we played great; everybody played great,” Langford said. “The receivers did a good job making catches downfield and the quarterback did a great job finding them. The offensive line did a great job helping Connor (Cook) get the ball down the field when he ran for yards.”
Langford is the first Spartan to score four touchdowns in a game since running back Edwin Baker did it in a 31-8 win over Minnesota in Nov. 2010.
Head coach Mark Dantonio said the Spartans performed well running the football and made explosive plays which helped carry the team to a win.
“You have to give a lot of credit to our offense in terms of what we were able to do running the football,” Dantonio said. “Big plays in the passing game, explosive plays. We had different guys making plays. Felt like Langford could hit it and if he got a crease, he could take it the distance. He’s got great speed and you saw that happen.”
On the opening possession of the game, running back Tevin Coleman sprinted 64 yards to the end zone for an Indiana touchdown on a drive that lasted just 61 seconds. Coleman’s run was the longest offensive play of the first half, putting a brief scare in the nation’s top-ranked defense.
After failing to move the football on the first three drives, sophomore quarterback Connor Cook finally broke through to start the second quarter.
The catalyst of a 15 play, 83-yard drive, Cook capped the methodical series with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Langford — the first touchdown reception of his career — to tie the game at seven apiece.
The next drive out, Cook hit senior wide receiver Bennie Fowler in stride, as Fowler took the reception and maneuvered his way through the Indiana secondary for a 34-yard touchdown.
Fowler, who was not made available to the media after the game, now has back-to-back games with touchdown receptions longer than 30 yards, as he reeled off a 37-yard touchdown last week against Iowa in a 26-14 victory.
Cook said he met with offensive coordinator Dave Warner before last week’s win over Iowa, who advised him to trust the offensive line and allow time for plays to develop — an asset in a strong passing performance for Cook.
“It’s totally different, earlier I would have rushed throws, I wouldn’t have good footwork, I’d throw off my back foot, and I’d rush even quick throws. I feel like I am just doing a better job trusting my offensive line. Waiting for the routes to develop.”
A fumbled punt by sophomore wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr., gave the ball back to the Hoosiers with a little more than six minutes remaining in the half. From there, it took five plays for Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson to locate wide receiver Cody Latimer for a 3-yard touchdown catch.
On MSU’s final offensive possession of the half, Cook worked quickly, engineering a 14 play, 75-yard drive ending with a 5-yard touchdown run by Langford to head into halftime leading 21-14.
Coming out of the half, the Spartans opened with the ball and picked up right where they left off.
Highlighted by a 39-yard reception to redshirt freshman tight end Josiah Price, the team once again climbed on Langford’s back for a 2-yard touchdown run to go ahead 28-14. Price’s reception is the longest for a tight end since a 44-yard reception by Dion Sims against Northwestern last season.
Warner said the running game set up Cook and the passing game for more explosive plays, which the team reaped the benefits of multiple times during the game.
“Any time you can run you have the ability to mix in the play action pass and create big plays and that was pretty evident today,” Warner said. “That’s been our deal since we’ve been here is you have to be able to run the football. It makes my job easier because there are a lot of plays to choose from when the run game is working.”
Not going down without a fight, the Hoosiers took over on the next drive and scored a touchdown on a run by wide receiver Shane Wynn, which was set up by a 53-yard pass by quarterback Nate Sudfield to Wynn.
Trading shots throughout the third quarter, Langford scored on the eighth play of MSU’s next drive, outrunning the Hoosier secondary for a 32-yard touchdown, marking his fourth of the day to make it 35-21.
“I feel like we gained balance,” Langford said. “We’ve passed the ball well and ran the ball well. Like I said, the offensive line did a great job run blocking and pass blocking. We came together as a team and it clicked today.”
In the fourth quarter, freshman wide receiver R.J. Shelton took an end-around carry through the Hoosier defense and broke away for a 34-yard touchdown to complete a three-play drive in a span of 1:28.
A late interception by Cook gave way for a Hoosiers scoring drive, as Roberson led them into the end zone on a six play, 37-yard drive capped by a touchdown pass to tight end Ted Bolser.
Reflecting on the showing by his team, Dantonio said the key was being able to play well from start to finish, placing a tremendous amount of significance on the latter.
“We just want to play and win and that’s the basic mentality of our football team right now,” Dantonio said. “I thought it was tremendous that we scored in the red zone today and we also got explosive plays and we finished. When we had to make a play, we were able to finish.”