Graham’s IU at Michigan State football updates and commentary

PREGAME

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Here at a dreary, gray day at Spartan Stadium, I’m confronted by a sight that once terrified offensive linemen.

I’m staring at Bubba Smith.

Not at the late, great, massive defensive tackle himself, but rather his name on the Spartan “ring of fame” posted on the stands opposite the press box that represent some of Michigan State’s retired numbers. They’ve had some dudes up here, for sure. I see two other names (linebacker George Webster and wideout Gene Washington) who joined Bubba on the 1966 team that played the famous 10-10 game with Notre Dame here, when the Irish went for the tie instead of the win — which turned out to be wise as they were still rewarded with the mythical national title. I’m old enough to remember watching that game on TV. And I remember the fans’ chant once Smith joined the Baltimore Colts: “Kill, Bubba, Kill!”

Indiana might not face anybody quite so formidable today, but MSU leads the Big Ten in total defense and its front seven is festooned with All-Big Ten-type guys (defensive end William Gholston,  linebackers Denicos Allen and Max Bullough, tackle Jerel Worthy, etc.) So IU freshman quarterback Tre Roberson’s elusiveness and ability to execute under pressure will be tested. And MSU’s potent passing attack will test IU’s secondary, too. Not the best matchup for the Hoosiers, but if they show the same sort of spirit they did on their last road trip, when they stood toe-to-toe most of the day at Ohio State, perhaps they can make this one competitive. As always, thanks for checking in, and I’ll offer some scoring updates and analysis below the fold.

FIRST QUARTER:

Michigan State 3, Indiana 0: IU opened with the ball but bogged down after one first down, with William Gholston hitting Tre Roberson as he threw on a third-down incompletion, and MSU struck quickly when it got its chance. Kirk Cousins hit B.J. Cunningham for 37 yards on a 3rd-and-7, with Kenny Mullen in good defensive position — but, as is IU’s wont, Mullen never turned for the ball and two predictable things happened: Cunningham made the catch and Mullen drew an interference flag to boot. But IU’s run defensive was stout in the red zone, Mullen made a fine tackle on Keshawn Martin after a swing pass at the 3, and the Spartans settled for a 21-yard Dan Conroy field goal.

IU’s second drive looked promising until a chop-block call on Ted Bolser killed it. He’s got more than one of those this year, so maybe he needs to understand the rule better or something. It’s a 15-yard penalty and therefore hard to overcome.

Michigan State 10, Indiana 0, 6:24: MSU fooled IU’s secondary badly on a fake-reverse bomb that covered 63 yards for the TD from Cousins to a wide-open B.J. Cunningham. The Hoosiers bit on the run fake, which was extremely well-executed and Cunningham was wiiiiiiiiide open. Cousins hit him in stride. Indiana’s offense really needs to respond with a drive now or this one could get really out of hand quickly.

Michigan State 17, Indiana 0, 2:09. Well, this one is now officially out of hand. MSU again came up with a big pass play, again on 3rd down. It was 3rd-and-8 when Cousins threw a deep out to Keyshawn Martin, who made a great snag over the cornerback and zipped up the sidelines as safety Mark Murphy took a bad angle. It was a 47-yard scoring play. The Hoosiers are continuing their basic defensive pattern of playing 1st and 2nd down pretty well, then getting gouged horribly through the air on 3rd down. This has all the makings of a rout.

SECOND QUARTER

Michigan State 17, Indiana 3, 10:50: IU’s defense made a great stop of a MSU fake punt, with Jeff Thomas and Jake Reed stuffing Todd Anderson at the IU 40, and that seemed to jump-start the offense, which went 55 yards on 10 plays before bogging down at the Spartan 5. Mitch Ewald connected on a 22-yard field goal to get Indiana on the board. Nice to see the guys in white show a little life, but the home team retains control of this game. IU really needed to get a TD out of that drive.

Michigan State 24, Indiana 3, 10:06: It took the Spartans just 44 seconds to answer with a TD. Nick Hill almost broke the kickoff return, sailing 67 yards before Kenny Mullen showed some speed from behind on a saving tackle. But speaking of speed, Keyshawn Martin went around right end two snaps later and scored untouched just through sheer quicks. He, more than any other guy, is making the Hoosiers look slow out there.

Michigan State 31, Indiana 3, 5:17: An already bad day just keeps getting worse in various ways for IU. A 14-yard sack of Tre Roberson by blitzing cornerback Johnny Adams pinned IU deep, and Martin — who has been a holy terror today — returned the ensuing punt 21 yards to the IU 38. It took MSU just four plays to add another TD, this time a 10-yard jaunt around right end by Edwin Baker, with Greg Heban again made to look slow on the play. A lot of this is just speed. MSU has got it in spades. It’s killing Indiana. And the Hoosiers are doing a pretty good job of killing themselves (penalties, no execution, etc.), too. A really bad performance, overall, so far. There are occasional flashes for IU, but not many.

Tre Roberson looks flustered for the first time in his IU career. He’s going to the turf before he has to on scrambles. And on IU’s last possession, on a 3rd down, he missed badly when a cornerback blitz left a receiver wide-open for what should have been an easy conversion for a first down.

Michigan State 34, Indiana 3, 0:48. The half is mercifully almost over. Lawrence Barnett, who got the start today and is one of the few Hoosiers showing well, broke up a pass nicely BECAUSE HE TURNED TO LOOK FOR THE BALL and MSU had to settle for a field goal.

A good kickoff return by Shane Wynn and a late hit out of bounds by MSU set up IU with a chance to score right before intermission, but that chance died on a Tre Roberson interception at the 0:09 mark. He was hit as he threw. But he has looked shaky today.

HALFTIME: The stats reflected MSU’s domination: 326 total yards compared to IU’s 102. Kirk Cousins was 13 of 19 for 241 yards and 2 TDs. IU’s Tre Roberson was 8 of 18 for just 58 yards and a pick.

THIRD QUARTER:

Michigan State 41, Indiana 3, 11:35. The Spartans took the second half  kickoff and marched right down the field. IU freshman safety Mark Murphy, who is having just a flat-out horrible day, was beaten for the 7-yard TD pass from Cousins to Cunningham. Just to make matters worse, IU middle linebacker Jeff Thomas was dinged early in the drive, perhaps with a repeat of the shoulder separation that sidelined him a few weeks ago.

Michigan State 48, Indiana 3, 7:37. Tre Roberson is having his first truly rotten day as a Hoosier. After IU moved to a 4th-and-2 at the MSU 21, he threw about five yards wide in the face of a blitz, turning the play into an 87-yard pick six for MSU cornerback Johnny Adams.

Not much further, probably, to report or write or read about this game. It’s only a matter of what score MSU wants to name.

FOURTH QUARTER:

Michigan State 55, Indiana 3, 14:48. Baker on a 3-yard TD. Most of the Spartan seniors have exited to curtain calls now. Senior left guard Joel Foreman even got an orchestrated carry of the ball, gaining three yards, as the third quarter wound down. Ed Wright-Baker is in for Roberson at quarterback for IU for the final quarter against the Spartan reserves.

Adam Follett and Nick Stoner, both wearing No. 14 in white, in on offense for Indiana’s final possession. A final oddity on a crappy day for the Hoosiers. Bloomington’s David Blackwell got the final carry.

FINAL: MICHIGAN STATE 54, INDIANA 3.