After a putrid start, No. 10 Michigan State found its footing in the second half and secured a 20-15 win against the Indiana Hoosiers.
Michigan State started the game with the ball, but three straight running plays to junior running back Kenneth Walker III were not enough, and the Spartans went three and out.
Indiana’s offense came into its first drive with a clear game plan: throw the ball early and often. Redshirt junior quarterback Jack Tuttle, who started for the injured Michael Penix Jr., threw the ball nine straight times to start the drive. This enabled the Hoosiers to march all the way inside the MSU six-yard-line after a pair of third and long conversions. IU finally turned to the run game, but the Spartans were ready for it and forced a chip shot field goal by Charles Campbell.
A wake-up call for the Spartan defense, they stepped up big time after a second punt from the MSU offense. Tuttle eyed down the Hoosiers’ leading target in tight end Peyton Hendershot on a slant route, but linebacker Cal Haladay saw it the whole way through. He picked off Tuttle, turned on the jets, and scampered down the left sideline for Michigan State’s first pick-six since the 2019 Pinstripe Bowl.
Michigan State’s redshirt senior punter Bryce Baringer, who had a fantastic first half of the season, struggled to get going Saturday with a few uncharacteristically bad punts in the first quarter. First, it was a 28-yard shank, followed by a 27-yard punt that gave IU a good field position on the MSU 43.
The Spartan defense surrendered just 17 yards on the drive, but the field position put the Hoosiers in field goal range, and Campbell was good on a 44-yard field goal. Then, Indiana took the lead on its next drive with a third field goal and had a chance for a fourth, but Campbell’s kick went wide left from 55-yards out as time expired in the first half.
Michigan State’s offense was stuck in the mud the entire first half, gaining just 25 yards and two first downs, but Haladay’s defensive touchdown and MSU’s defense kept the game well within reach to start the second half.
Needing a jumpstart, the MSU offense finally showed some signs of life at the start of the second half. The Spartan drive stalled on the Indiana 34, and Michigan State Head Coach Mel Tucker decided to try for the points. MSU kicker Matt Coghlin barely squeaked a 51-yard field goal over the crossbar, and the Spartans took a 10-9 lead early in the third quarter.
Michigan State quickly got the ball back, drove down the field again, but a pass down the middle intended for redshirt sophomore wide receiver Tre Mosley got popped into the air and picked off by redshirt sophomore defensive back Josh Sanguinetti.
However, the Spartan defense answered back with an interception of its own. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Jacob Slade hit Tuttle as he threw, causing the pass to be well short, and sophomore safety Darius Snow snagged the easy interception to set up a short field for the suddenly awake Spartan offense.
MSU offensive coordinator Jay Johnson could not help himself and called for some more of the weekly razzle-dazzle. It was no flea-flicker today, rather a reverse and designed throw from redshirt senior tight end Tyler Hunt. He got drilled as he threw it but floated it perfectly down the sideline for a toe-drag 15-yard reception by quarterback Payton Thorne.
Hunt, a former walk-on punter, was rewarded for his throw three plays later when Thorne found him wide open in the endzone for a 12-yard touchdown, his first career receiving touchdown and 17-9 lead for Michigan State.
The Hoosiers responded with a long drive capped off by a one-yard rushing touchdown from running back Stephen Carr. IU's attempt at a two-point conversion was stopped short, and Michigan State held onto a 17-15 lead early in the 4th quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Michigan State ate up four minutes on the clock while adding three points to the lead on a Coghlin 49-yard field goal.
For the remainder of the game, neither team found success moving the ball. It appeared that the Spartans had the game wrapped up when center back Chester Kimbrough came in on a disguised blitz and forced a strip-sack of Tuttle.
MSU took over on Indiana's 23, and, with a few runs and a field goal, they could have put the game away. Instead, Thorne attempted a shot at the end zone for wide receiver Jalen Nailor that was wildly under-thrown and intercepted.
The Hoosiers had life, but Michigan State's defense shut the door, forcing a turnover on downs in IU territory and putting an end to a close upset bid.
Walker was held in check for all 60 minutes carrying 23 times for 84 yards.
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With the win, Michigan State moves to 7-0. After next week's bye, the Spartans will face its toughest test yet with the University of Michigan coming to East Lansing.
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