Michigan State 31, Indiana 27: first half domination turns into second half stagnation.

Joe Robbins - Getty Images

Indiana led 17-0 early and answered when the Spartans pulled to within three. Unfortunately, in the second half, the excellent Michigan State defense tightened up and IU's defense, which played a very good game overall, ended up wearing down.

IU led for nearly the entire game, but not the most important part, and Michigan State escaped with a 31-27 win. It's a game in which the overall statistics are nearly useless because they say nothing about the flow of the game. I said before the game that I didn't think IU had a chance in a clean game. While there were no turnovers in the game, IU's 17-0 early lead and 27-14 halftime lead were aided by a bunch of Michigan State personal foul penalties. One of them was a bit touchy, but most of them were ridiculous, including a mugging of punter Mitchell Voss that forced him out of the game with an injury. Unfortunately, and it felt this way at the time, IU didn't take full advantage of the Spartan implosion. Nevertheless, IU was very good offensively in the first half. Coming in to the game, Michigan State had allowed no more than 20 points in a game. IU bested that number by halftime. The IU defense also played very well, holding MSU to only 12 yards on the Spartans' first three possessions. Even in the third quarter, when IU's offense was doing nothing, the defense preserved the lead, allowing only 79 yards and a field goal in the third quarter. Unfortunately, the inability to put anything on the board in the second half caught up with IU, and the Spartans took their first and only lead with under 7 minutes remaining.

As I mentioned, it wasn't a game in which anything strange happened. There were no turnovers either aided IU's early lead or preventing IU from scoring in the second half. Each of IU's second half possessions ended in a punt. The only real controversy came a fourth quarter IU punt, when Michigan State fumbled. It appeared that there was a premature whistle on the play, and at least a decent chance that IU recovered the fumble. MSU came away with the call, and tight end Ted Bolser was ejected from the game for, as far as the replay showed, doing absolutely nothing. Perhaps there was something awful in the pile, but it wasn't at all apparent.

IU's 310 yards of offense, not a good number overall, arose from a great first half and from a completely hapless second half. The 410 yards allowed by IU's defense aren't awful, but obviously were concentrated in the second half.

Individual performances:

  • Cameron Coffman took all of the snaps at QB, and was excellent in the first half. He finished with 33-48 for 282 yards and 3 touchdowns, but did very little in the second half. Many of the second-guessers will suggest that Nate Sudfeld should have gotten some snaps in the second half. I can see it either way. I think it's tough to yank a QB with a lead.
  • IU did nothing on the ground. Ten carries for 22 yards for Stephen Houston was nearly the extent of it.
  • Nine different Hoosiers caught passes, led by Shane Wynn with 12-70-1.
  • After Voss's injury, Erich Toth, a redshirt freshman walkon from Brebeuf in Indianapolis, did pretty well, averaging 41 yards on 7 punts.
Well, I don't think this game is any reason for discouragement. But, after decades of this, more than encouragement would be nice every once in a while. IU is now 2-3 and 0-2 in the conference, and the Buckeyes come to visit next. More on that game later.
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