Offensive letdown slows IU in 17-9 loss at Michigan State

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Indiana pushed another ranked opponent to the brink of an upset.

This one, too, ended like so many others before it.

The Hoosiers failed to finish an otherwise outstanding defensive performance, wilting in the final six minutes of regulation. The IU offense, meanwhile, landed few punches and struggled to provide the needed assistance in a 17-9 loss at No. 18 Michigan State on Saturday afternoon.

Consider it the latest letdown for a program synonymous with them.

“Man, just getting to the end there, you gotta finish,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. “We gotta finish these ballgames out.”

Yet again, Indiana did not.

It squandered red-zone opportunities and settled for three field goals from Griffin Oakes. It suffered defensive miscommunications at critical moments. It received little help from the officiating crew and it failed to make the plays that separate winning Big Ten teams from those that are merely average.

Take, for instance, the Michigan State scoring drive late in the fourth quarter that gave the Spartans their first lead of the game.

After MSU was aided downfield on the first play by a questionable pass interference call against corner Rashard Fant, Indiana responded with aggressive coverage. On second down at the IU 40, linebacker Chris Covington forced his way to Brian Lewerke, bringing down the Spartan quarterback on a sack nine yards behind the line of scrimmage.

But freshman receiver Cody White sprung open over the middle on 3rd-and-19, picking up 16 yards. His classmate, Hunter Rison, followed with a four-yard reception for a first down.

Three plays later, Lewerke found receiver Felton Davis wide open in the corner of the end zone to put Michigan State ahead 10-9 with 5:59 remaining.

“I don’t like the call that I made and that’s my fault,” Allen said about the 3rd-and-19 breakdown. “It’s on me. … That’s one that’s going to really bother me.”

On the field, IU players blamed a miscommunication that allowed White to break free over the middle on the fateful third down.

“There was a little bit of confusion between the linebackers and the defensive backs,” safety Chase Dutra said. “We were kind of on different pages and they just spaced us out pretty well and connected on it.”

The Hoosiers conceded an 18-yard touchdown run to MSU running back LJ Scott on the Spartans’ next possession, keeping the final 1:49 to themselves to mount a potential game-tying scoring drive.

That mission ended with Ramsey getting hit as he threw on a 4th-and-9 pass at his own 38.

Credit a typically stout Michigan State defense for keeping Indiana without a touchdown. But this was a contest that saw the Hoosiers do themselves few favors.

Indiana wasted several prime opportunities to find the end zone Saturday. Conservative play calling coupled with a long list of poorly-executed plays kept the Hoosiers without a touchdown.

Perhaps most frustrating, the Hoosiers wasted their first takeaway since Sept. 30.

A fumble forced by IU defensive back Tony Fields, and recovered by Jonathan Crawford, positioned the Hoosiers at the MSU 15-yard line late in the first quarter. But back-to-back draw plays by Ramsey, followed by an incomplete fade route to slot receiver Luke Timian in the end zone forced Indiana to settle for a 33-yard field goal from Oakes.

The Hoosiers blew another shot late in the second quarter, when Ramsey started the series from the IU 46 with a poor throw over the middle that was dropped by Whop Philyor. Running back Mike Majette was flagged on the next play for a chop block, effectively killing the drive.

Indiana’s offense finally demonstrated some zest midway through the third quarter.

IU traveled 61 yards in 13 plays and advanced as far as the Michigan State 24 before the possession came to a halt with an ineffective screen pass. The Hoosiers settled for a 44-yard field goal from Oakes to take a 6-3 lead with 5:31 remaining in the period.

IU’s ensuing possession was much the same, featuring just enough power to bend Michigan State’s defense but not enough to break it. The Hoosiers’ 12-play, 63-yard drive advanced as far as the Spartan 2 before stalling with three consecutive inside runs. Oakes cleaned up the mess with a 20-yard field goal to increase IU’s lead to six points with 12:29 remaining in regulation.

The lead wouldn’t last long.

“We just didn’t get the ball in the end zone,” Allen said. “You gotta score touchdowns. We know that and didn’t do that.”

The result? The same unsatisfying feeling this Indiana team knows all too well.

“We just didn’t finish,” Covington said. “We gotta finish. That’s what we pride ourselves on being. That was one of the breakthrough moments and, obviously, we didn’t break through today.”


  1. Victimized again by another terrible PI call against Fant. Then the refs ignore a blatant PI against Cobbs a couple series later. Both mistakes came in the fourth quarter, when the game was on the line. The replays made both errors obvious, and the commentators agreed. Coincidence? I don’t think so. You’ll never convince me that these refs don’t have a bias in favor of the higher ranked teams. Or maybe it was just home cooking today. Regardless, they were huge errors that hurt IU.

  2. The playcallin once again was perplexing inside the 20 you go 3 straight runs holy moly man you have to take advantage at that moment the oc lacks imagination he’s 63 years old and calls plays like and old man too.smh

  3. Mindsets r dangerous. Again another let down by poor play calling; obviously md doesn’t know how to think out of the box and mh doesn’t know how to utilize his players talent. But then again, does he even know the talent that he has? The disastrous duo

  4. Throw a fade route to simmie cobbs your best player that was just odd hell they couldn’t run the ball at all except for 3 or 4 decent gains thats about it

  5. I hate to say this, but maybe IU should have let Mike Debord go into retirement. Give me Kevin Wilson offense play calling any day. Well IU has one more opportunity for “breakthrough” against Wisconsin. Other than that, the IU fan needs to hope that IU can win 3 of 4 games from Maryland, Purdue, Illinois and Rutgers to make a minor bowl appearance (provide we have enough players without injuries).

    1. And what is wrong with “a minor bowl appearance”, for a third straight bowl game, the first such string in decades? Allen has a great eye for defensive talent. But IU needs offensive talent!

      1. nothing is wrong with a “minor bowl appearance” for the third straight year, if you make it!! but as I recall most of the fans on this blog where upset because Kevin Wilson had not provide IU with a winning record in six years (6-7 the last couple of year). An IU was only going to minor bowl games after six years. What do you mean Allen has great eye for defensive talent?? Allen is still playing/coaching with Kevin Wilson recruits….lets see how this defense does next year when they loose 8 starters. An as everybody is quick to point out that IU needs offense talent??? Well just remember IU changed the whole offensive coaching staff and the current staff does not run the same type offense as the previous coaching staff. Mike Debord coaches a “PEDESTRIAN – CONSERVATIVE” type offense, something completely different from the previous coaching staff, so maybe we need to wait on the player personnel changes. If coach Mike Debord was any good major college programs would have been after his talent, retirement would not have been an concern.

  6. Can’t blame lousy attendance for the loss ’cause it was a road game, but then there’s always the lousy officiating. Yep, eyeswideopen, mindsets are dangerous.

  7. you cannot blame officiating for poor play calling!!! IU had the lead in the game in the fourth quarter all you have to do is finish the game. Blame this game right on the coaching staff (where it belongs)!!!

  8. PR is not a consistent playmaker and consequently cannot be called on very often to do so. The other problem is RL is the only QB that can make our WR’s playmakers. Which is hard to do with your helmet off and a clipboard in your hand.

    1. If you think that Lagow could have won these last two games, you are wrong! He is a turnover waiting to happen. Peyton is our QB. He is not perfect, but he is good. He needs an O Line and some playmakers.

      1. That’s the problem he can’t get the ball to the playmakers and running him up the middle is a losing offense. I’d bet lots of $ RL would have pitched a TD.

        1. Peyton was 22/34 with no interceptions and no fumbles (and with a very ineffective O Line)! I will take your “imaginary” bet! My bet is that for every 10 plays by Lagow, there would have been 1 interception and 2 fumble, with a minimum of 10 points for MSU!

          1. The Kid can’t score running or passing in the B1G. That’s why MD is so scared of the red zone and it ain’t gonna change.

      2. you are correct Richard Lagow is a turnover waiting to happen, but at least you have all of your offense playmakers involved in the game….Originally the wide receivers and tight end where the strength of this team, with the offensive line being the slight weakness, well against Ohio State Lagow throw for over 400 yards with short quick passes to the wide receivers and tight ends. An beside Lagow would keep the defense honest, because of the deep ball threat. NO, Lagow is not the answer at QB, but he offers IU a slight chance to win, but not a chance to win under Mike Debord offense.

  9. Our offense is very banged up and wasn’t loaded except at reciever to start with. There are play calling to wonder about but we did the same thing with Wilson along with questioning game management. Three of our top five receivers were out for this game replaced by freshman and a former walk-on. Our OL wasn’t strong to start with and is banged up now with a starter out and another starter went out in this game. Our RBs are freshman and a sophomore. All this going up against one of the top defenses in the country once again.

    I would like to see Lagow inserted into parts of the game like they did with Ramsey early. If it is a game he is hot stick with him and if not then only have one series of a half wasted. Lagow isn’t the answer because of the high risk of INTs but he can be part of the answer. A big part of the play calling is trying to protect Ramsey and not destroy his confidence but the offense needs a big arm now and then.

  10. Podunker,
    I agree with your PI observation. I said the same thing in the live ticker during the game. If Fant’s was PI, then the MSU DB interfered with Cobbs shortly thereafter but they swallowed the whistle. That said, this was not about officiating. This was – as much as I support Allen – essentially a choke job. Everything was set up for IU, including two major Spartan gaffes in the first half and a PI that set us up at the MSU 10 in the second half with a chance to go up 13 – 3. On that play, thankfully Harris had the MSU LB beaten so badly he had no choice but to tackle him. Because Ramsey severely under threw the pass, so it had no chance to be an actual completion. I don’t know what they see and don’t see in Ramsey and Lagow, but by completely excluding the latter, they’ve severely limited any chance of getting the breakthrough win that Allen’s been preaching all year. I’m not even sure Ramsey full-time offers enough to cobble together enough wins against the also rans to make a peripheral bowl.

  11. Simms was mauled and no call. It Changed the game. Unless DeBoard is able to incorporate a play-option attack
    nothing will change. For all of his years in the business I’m surprised at his lack of creativity, especially since he has a heady QB that is actually a threat to run. He needs to watch the ND vs USC tape.

  12. I did not mean to suggest that IU lost yesterday because of officiating. But I am saying that the two PI errors hurt IU and contributed to IU losing the game. One was a terrible call (Fant’s PI penalty), and one was a terrible non-call (the obvious PI against Cobbs). I do agree that in yesterday’s game, play calling was a huge factor, far more of a factor than the refs. I just don’t know if the play calling is limited because of Ramsey’s limitations, or some other factor, like IU’s O-line, etc. But it appears to me that DeBord is calling plays designed to protect against turnovers, as if he’s trying to prevent the offense from losing the game instead of winning it. Is that his philosophy, or is that Allen’s directive? The plays called, especially those called while IU is in the red zone, seem to be extremely risk averse. Ramsey is far more mobile than Lagow, but who isn’t? But that does not mean Ramsey is a good runner. He was effective against OSU and Virginia because it was a surprise and a radically different look. But defenses have adjusted, and they do not fear Ramsey’s arm. Let’s face the facts; Wilson left IU with some slim pickings at quarterback. For a man who arrived in Bloomington with the reputation as a “quarterback guru,” he failed to recruit and/or keep quarterbacks that could lead IU to winning seasons. It remains to be seen if Ramsey can develop into such a quarterback. But Ramsey being named IU’s quarterback as a redshirt freshman is not going to make it any easier for IU to recruit better quarterbacks over the next two recruiting classes.

  13. We lost this game because we actively played not to lose instead of playing to win and we’ve got a QB who doesn’t have the arm to consistently hit throws down the field or an O-line that can protect anybody. My buddy who’s a Meatchicken fan said they couldn’t stand Debord there because of his penchant for overly conservative play calling. We’ve got a lot of obstacles on O. We don’t need the OC to be one of them.

    1. I’ve never understood the bizarre connection of losing the game with bad officiating. Bad officiating or what continues to be not just bad but biased and corrupt officiating is wrong. If IU wins, its wrong, if IU loses by 100, IT’S STILL WRONG! So if the officials allowed Simmie Cobbs to be indiscriminately hit while running routes so that he is knocked out with a concussion , you would only think that was a problem if IU still won the game?! What a bizarre and defeatist point of view. “Oh we lost so we deserved to have corrupt calls made against our team.” Truly bizarre. So many members of this board have so internalized losing that they seem to think IU deserves the slanted calls the officials continue to make. Bloomberg had a study showing that the Big Ten consistently protects its top teams and penalizes the lowest teams with more discretionary penalty calls. It’s not new, it’s not just IU and IT’S NOT OK.

  14. IU fans got what we deserve in Mike Debord, a very conservative game plan to go along with a good defensive team (until 8 starters leave next year). You can blame the offensive line, running backs or injuries, but the bottom line is this talented (original returning starters) team is still 0-4 in the BIG 10. Of which all 4 of those losses have been on national television and to national ranked teams, which I am almost 100% sure that all four (4) of those losses on national television will help IU recruiting in the today and in the future. With Mike Debord and Darren Hiller the offensive scheme and blocking all changed thereby changing all the previous technics learned by current players. I cannot believe that Kevin Wilson (Ohio State offensive cord – nbr 1 offensevin BIG 10), Greg Frye (Michigan offensive line coach) and Deland McCullough (USC running back coach) missed out on every offensive lineman and running back recruited. Maybe it all comes down to coaching young players. As Dan Dakich said on his talk show maybe IU Fred Glass (being cheap) hired a “HIGH SCHOOL” coaching staff!!!!

  15. Conservative football….? Sure sounds like a great way to rebuild/build a bottom-feeder with a history that severely tests the levels of attractiveness/excitement to recruits. Throw in the fact that the last time Memorial filled up to capacity without the presence of traveling OSU fans was a 1975 Ted Nugent concert…? I can hardly contain my urge to go to watch a Hoosier football game.

  16. PO wrote “But Ramsey being named IU’s quarterback as a redshirt freshman is not going to make it any easier for IU to recruit better quarterbacks over the next two recruiting classes.” Not so sure about that. A QB recruit might think 1) I’ve got a much better arm and 2) heck, Allen is not afraid to bench a senior to play a freshman, so why shouldn’t he bench sophomore Ramsey if I’ve got what it takes?

    As to what kind of team IUFB is, note that its strength of schedule is 26th. Next week opponent Mary’s is 11th (Turtles finish the year v. Meatchicken, MSU and PSU). (Of course, any team in the Big Ten East is going to have a brutal schedule). But except for UCheeseheads, the sledding gets smoother for IUFB.

    I agree with a lot of the criticism of the Debord decision making (anyone know why Majette did not play; I didn’t see much of the game ’cause some things are just more important than football), but the “anything is better than a turnover” mentality might serve IUFB well in the games coming up. Turnovers can give teams like Rutgers and Illinois a chance to beat IU, but if they don’t get any gifts from us, our D means that it’s going to be a lot harder for them to beat us.

    Also, I’m not saying that Allen and Deboard wrote off the games v. Meatchicken and MSU, but unlike fans, coaches must think long-term. I tend to agree that putting Lagow back into the mix might have its advantages (his surprise return for Wisconsin might be that “breakthrough” moment) , but as things stand the staff has to be thinking about Ramsey as IUFB’s QB for the next few years and that what they are doing with him now is going to have an affect on IUFB well past the rest of this season.

  17. Except for a very very few seasons….Hoosiers banged up. They are always banged up and have been since I can remember and that would be well past 1/2 century.

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