Saturday, January 22, 2022

HALFTIME: Indiana 24, MSU 0, 3 thoughts as the Spartans trail at home

November 14, 2020
<p>Junior center back Josiah Scott (22) dives under Indiana wide receiver Whop Philyor (1) during the homecoming game against Indiana on Sept. 28, 2019, at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans beat the Hoosiers, 40-31.</p>

Junior center back Josiah Scott (22) dives under Indiana wide receiver Whop Philyor (1) during the homecoming game against Indiana on Sept. 28, 2019, at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans beat the Hoosiers, 40-31.

Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

In its 66th meeting, the Indiana-Michigan State rivalry, also known as the battle for the "Old Brass Spitoon," started going Indiana's way for the first time since the Hoosiers last beat MSU in 2016.

MSU trails at the half 24-0.

Turnovers again come back to haunt MSU

MSU quarterback Rocky Lombardi threw three picks in a 49-7 loss to Iowa on the road last weekend. He looked hurt and again on Saturday, his first quarter interception — thrown to the far sideline while targeting Jalen Nailor on a deep ball while he was double covered — set up the first score of the game for the Hoosiers.

Stevie Scott carried the MSU defense into the endzone and the drive started by Lombardi's interception and IU took a 7-0 lead with 2:11 left in the first.

Then there was another.

Running back Anthony Williams Jr., the MSU sophomore, lost the ball on an inside handoff. IU scored two plays later and when you're facing one of the best teams, statistically, in the red zone in Indiana, that won't lead to a good outcome.

Michigan State had 10 turnovers, five lost fumbles and five interceptions, coming into Saturday. At halftime, they've got three more.

Things were sloppy in the first half. It feels like a broken record, but MSU's turnover margin is the biggest reason the Spartans are under .500.

Indiana defense playing well, MSU's not getting any help

IU's defense allowed zero net rushing yards through the first quarter. Whether it was the Jerome Johnson sack or the countless stops by IU's front seven.

They had a fumble recovery and interception, and Lombardi got sacked for an eight-yard loss to close out the first quarter too. The Hoosier defense, which was No. 5 in the Big Ten in yards allowed as a defensive group coming into Saturday, only gave up 74 yards at the half.

Lombardi's decision was more the cause of the interception, which Tiawan Mullen snagged to set up the Scott touchdown. But IU's defense gets it done, and Michigan State's did too for much of the first half.

But when a defense gets put in the positions that MSU's has so much this year, its hard to not give up points. Especially against one of the best offenses in the Big Ten and the No. 10 team in the nation.

The Spartans had bright spots. Shakur Brown's two interceptions, one on a pass in the endzone that took the Hoosiers off the field within the 20-yard line, were erased by the offense.

Antjuan Simmons, who was in and out of the Iowa game, came back and looked very healthy in the first half. He had nine total tackles at the break with a tackle for loss.

It was the same thing that fans saw against Rutgers, turnovers caused by both teams, but a Spartan team that couldn't get out of its own way in Week 1 showed back up in the first half of Saturday's game. It's like one radio broadcaster said on Saturday during the game, the 17-0 deficit that the Spartans saw with 9:22 left in the second, was on the offense.

Even without starting defensive backs Chris Jackson, Tre Person and Kalon Gervin, Dominique Long, Shakur Brown, Angelo Grose and Xavier Henderson held their own against Ty Fryfogle, even if he had over 100 yards receiving in the first half and Whop Philyor.

Indiana offense looks sharp, Payton Thorne takes the field

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Michael Penix Jr. wasn't great in the first half. He had only thrown one interception heading into the game and threw two in a quarter and a half. But he finished the second with 284 yards passing and after opening the game with a seven-yard completion, the sophomore who completed 25 straight passes in East Lansing last year had 20 completions through two quarters.

But Fryfogle was the star of the show who put up video-game type numbers in the first half: nine catches, 178 yards receiving and two touchdown catches. There isn't a whole lot else to say, but the senior receiver looks like the best receiver in the Big Ten with the game he had against Michigan and the first half today.

Indiana's offense is one of the best in the red zone in the country. They could have gone without the turnovers to succeed in this game, but they aren't complaining.

Lombardi, who ESPN reported during the game at Iowa was possibly injured, was benched during the second and redshirt-freshman Payton Thorne took the field.

Did he ever. The young quarterback from Naperville, Illinois, scampered, juked and carried the ball for 37 yards on his first snap of the game. It didn't go great from there. He started 1-of-4 passing in the game. His first completion was for nine yards to Nailor. But Thorne does provide something to the offense that Lombardi wasn't: mobility.

Lombardi might be hurt; it isn't clear. All those watching now know is that Mel Tucker has made the decision to go to Thorne. He might be the guy of the future for MSU, but that remains to be seen.

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