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Quarterbacks option play dizzies team

November 12, 2001
Indiana rushed for 489 yards against the Spartans on Saturday, aided by fullback Jeremi Johnson’s 96 yards, including this 5-yard run in the 4th past junior cornerback Broderick Nelson (21) and freshman linebacker Ronald Stanley (44) stopped by senior linebacker Josh Thornhill

Indiana head football coach Cam Cameron was exhausted just watching his team rush for 489 yards - a season worst for MSU’s defense.

“You know what, I’d rather sit down,” Cameron said at his postgame press conference, “I’m worn out, I’m worn out.”

Cameron’s weariness came watching quarterback Antwaan Randle El as he tirelessly scrambled up and down the field for 149 yards and one touchdown rushing and set up two other major ground performances.

Running back Levron Williams flew 251 yards for three touchdowns and fullback Jeremi Johnson tallied 96 yards and a score of his own. And Randle El’s yards made him the NCAA Division I-A career rushing leader among quarterbacks.

Despite Randle El’s brilliant performance, he still gave Cameron a major scare while the Hoosiers were clinging to a 31-28 lead with 6:43 left in the game.

Junior cornerback Broderick Nelson hit Randle El as he tried to pitch the ball from MSU’s 1-yard line to Williams. Nelson’s hit forced Randle El’s pitch to miss its target and MSU senior linebacker Josh Thornhill recovered the fumble on MSU’s 5-yard line.

“Stupid, stupid play,” Randle El said. “I don’t normally say stupid, but that was just a bonehead play.”

But his teammate, linebacker Herana-Daze Jones, made up for it on MSU’s ensuing drive, fetching down sophomore quarterback Jeff Smoker’s pass midfield.

“When Herana-Daze picked that ball off, I tried to find him as quick as I could to give him a hug because that was big,” Randle El said.

Out of 63 Indiana rushing attempts, that play was one of the only times MSU foiled the option. And going into the game, it was no secret what Indiana’s game plan would be, Hoosier defensive end Kemp Rasmussen said.

“You know the option is coming and you still can’t stop it,” said Rasmussen, whose younger brother Kyle is a sophomore defensive tackle for MSU. “We have the right personnel to run the option, and they just do a real good job of it.”

The game was the only time the two brothers would ever play against each other. And while the win gave Kemp the ultimate bragging rights over Kyle, he said he wouldn’t rub it in too soon.

“After the game I gave him a hug, told him I loved him and that he played a hell of a game,” Kemp said.

The younger Rasmussen can blame MSU’s inability to stop the option for the loss, Randle El said.

“I don’t think it was a breakdown (for MSU),” Randle El said. “I think they were just trying to find ways to cover us. There’s not one defense you can stay in to cover the option.

“It’s not being boastful or anything, but we just have so many things we can do against their defense.”

MSU didn’t gamble by moving up its defensive backs to help stop the run, even though Randle El was a meager 3-of-12 passing, defensive secondary coach Troy Douglas said.

“You still have that threat of (his arm),” Douglas said. “So you still have to cover down field. But we didn’t execute, we didn’t get off blocks, we were soft in the middle and we didn’t make plays.”

Sophomore linebacker Mike Labinjo said he underestimated Indiana’s offensive power.

“I didn’t realize how good they are,” Labinjo said. “They have a top quarterback, top running back and their whole line blocked really well today. I don’t know if it was a lack of discipline. We made a couple of mistakes.

“I can definitely say that their emotion was probably higher than ours was today. Anytime you play a team with a quarterback that can move around and pass the ball you have to bring your ‘A’ game, and we didn’t have it today.”

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