Indiana takes 17-0 lead early but falls to Michigan State, 31-27

For 30 minutes, Indiana dominated the best defense in the Big Ten in ways no other team has to date.

In the first half of Saturday’s game against Michigan State, the Hoosiers scored more points against the Spartans than any MSU opponent has in an entire game and piled up more yards in that half than the average the Spartans allow in a game.

But after those first 30 minutes, Indiana didn’t score again.

The Hoosiers took a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and led 27-14 at halftime, but the Spartans shut Indiana down in the second half and scored 17 unanswered points to win 31-27, claiming the Old Brass Spittoon in front of 45,979 on Homecoming Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Indiana (2-3 overall, 0-2 in the Big Ten) wasn’t supposed to keep it anywhere near this close, but that provided little solace because the Hoosiers let one get away.

“It’s not about moral victories, it’s about getting W’s,” IU coach Kevin Wilson said. “We let one get away today that we’ll remember for a long time. When you’ve got a chance to get that one, you’ve gotta get it. That’s a Spittoon. It’s a trophy game.”

Said junior cornerback Greg Heban: “It’s definitely demoralizing coming out like we did in the first half and giving that away in the second half.”

The stat lines from the two halves couldn’t have been any more different. The Hoosiers totaled 280 yards of offense in the first half, which surpassed Michigan State’s Big Ten-best average allowance of 263.4 per game. Sophomore quarterback Cameron Coffman completed 23 of 30 passes in the first half for 256 yards and three touchdowns. The Spartans (4-2, 1-1) were only allowing 167.2 yards per game through the air and had given up a total of three touchdowns through the air in their first five games.

Once the Hoosiers returned to the field, however, none of that offensive explosion was anywhere to be found. They finished with a grand total of 37 yards in the second half, 11 of them coming on the ground and 26 through the air. Coffman completed 10 of his 18 second half passes, but averaged just 2.6 yards per completion.

“This is a very good offense,” Coffman said. “Our coaches know what the heck they’re doing. They come in with a good plan and if we execute it, no one can stop us. The only person who can stop us is ourselves. We did that in the second half. It wasn’t them. They are a great defense, but we’re the ones slowing ourselves down and we can put points on everybody.”

There were at least a few small things the Spartans did. Sophomore wide receiver Shane Wynn, who led the Hoosiers with 12 receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown, said Michigan State moved it’s weakside linebacker further out on the edge and used him to both bring pressure and help snuff out the screens and swing passes that the Hoosiers used so effectively in the first half. The Spartans were able to both defend the flats and keep Indiana from beating them over the middle of the field with the deep posts that worked in the first half.

“Sometimes, their ability to take away the flats, if they’re coming up hard on some of those perimeter plays, you bait that and get over the top to keep ’em honest,” Wilson said. “We had that in the first half, and I don’t know if we got that worked up in the second half.”

Meanwhile, the Spartans finally got their offense going after managing just 22 yards of total offense in the first quarter. Junior Le’Veon Bell was rarely able to bust loose, but slowly wore the Hoosiers down and finished with 121 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries. Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell struggled early but ended up with his best day, completing 24 of 40 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, who had two collegiate receptions to his name before Saturday, finished with eight receptions for 134 yards.

The Hoosiers took control quickly out of the gate with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that took just 1:17 on the clock and ended on a 19-yard screen pass by Coffman to junior tailback Stephen Houston for a touchdown. The Hoosiers forced Michigan State into two three-and-outs before a field goal by junior Mitch Ewald made it 10-0, and the Hoosiers then took advantage of a critical roughing the kicker penalty with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Coffman to tight end Ted Bolser. Michigan State answered with a 2-yard touchdown run by Bell that capped a 75-yard drive and then a 15-yard swing pass for a score from Maxwell to tailback Larry Caper, but the Hoosiers took a 13-point halftime lead thanks to a 17-yard touchdown pass from Coffman to Wynn and a 19-yard field goal by Ewald.

The Hoosiers’ offense ground to a halt in the third quarter, however and Michigan State took control. The Spartans got a 46-yard field goal from kicker Dan Conroy in a messy third quarter and then controlled the ball for almost the entirety of the fourth quarter. Indiana went three-and-out on each of its last three possessions, the Spartans had possession for all but 1:46 in the fourth quarter and got a 1-yard score from Bell and a 36-yard touchdown pass from Maxwell to receiver Bennie Fowler to steal from the Hoosiers a promising opportunity.

AUDIO: Kevin WIlson

AUDIO: Shane Wynn

AUDIO: Cameron Coffman

AUDIO: Greg Heban

AUDIO: WIll Matte

AUDIO: Brian Williams

AUDIO: Jaccari Alexander


  1. Was at the Rock again today. Beautiful day for football. Applause to the coaching staff in the first half for the deception in the offense with motion and ball fakes etc. We took advantage of some penalties, and put points on the board. Also the onside kick was a brilliant move after the personal foul on the touchdown.

    But the second half offense was way way too predictable. We were getting lit up on the short passes to the flat and did not have any more pages in the playbook? Also all the hurry up did was hurry up and give the ball back to MSU. Disappointed for the kids. I bet a win would be great for their morale. Especially with you know who coming to town.

    If there was only one team that we could put a spanking on all year, I would pick this coming weekend….

  2. Absolutely feel sick to my stomach. As creative and aggressive as the IU Offense during the first half, it was as conservative and predictable during the 2nd half. When you have a team like MSU on the ropes you have to maintain the pressure and take some chances to put them away. IU and the coaching staff played not to lose in the 2nd half…and predictable IU once again let the big one get away. Think I’m going to go vomit now…

  3. I’m with Podunker. They all just wear us down. Size deficiencies up front. We start out with a bang, but it’s only a matter of time that chubby stout ponies lose out against lean behemoth Clydesdale’s on steroids. The blocks up front start to get weaker..the offensive holes collapse faster. On defense, the secondary becomes the only hope while the line moves backwards and gives into the sheer force behind the physics. We got our Bell rung(pun intended).

    Some dynamic and speedy wild stallions could help offset the disparity…We lost a big part of that speed component when Tre went down.

    Sure was a pretty day. Trick or treat is in the air… and ghosts of Memorial return in their old costumes to scare.

  4. The elephant in the room is why Wilson, or his O-coordnator, continued to run the hurry-up offense in the fourth quarter, while up by ten! In two series, IU ran off a total of about 35 seconds off the clock before making two short punts. That ridiculous strategy created additional momentum for MS and made IU’s defense return to the filed without much of a rest.

    Someone needs to speak truth to power and tell Wilson that he needs to learn to burn clock when he’s got a lead in the fourth quarter.

  5. Have no problem with the hurry up offense that Podunker referred to. The problem I have is the offensive play calling in the second half. While the passes on the sidelines worked all through the first half, after two series in the 3rd quarter, it was obvious that Michigan St. had adjusted their defense to stop those sideline passes for any appreciable gain. Where were the IU offesive adjustments in the second half? Why do we not throw the ball over the middle or downfield? State made the defensive adjustment to move more people wide to stop the quick passes to the outside, we simply needed to attempt passes over the middle or downfield. I sat in my living room screaming at the TV all during the second half to stop the sideline routes! Why couldn’t the IU playcallers see the same thing! We simply got outcoached in a game we should have won!!

  6. This was a vintage Bill Lynch game- build a lead then predictably watch the nerves fray. In the fourth quarter, as one announcer put it, “culture kicked in”; MSU expected to win, and IU players expected to lose. It was so painfully evident, it was almost funny. Up by 3 with 7 minutes to go, and you call 3 straight passing plays? Get the ball back,after giving up a 3-play TD drive, and then 3 more passing plays? IU became a high school team playing the Patriots in 4th quarter.

    We gotta win one of these eventually. We just gotta.

  7. Feel sorry for our defense. They actually showed up pretty well by their standards, but offense subjected them to way too much time on field in second half.

    Honestly felt we should have gone for 7 on the drive after onside kick. You just know MSU would eventually make their way back, particularly since they’d ripped of 17 straight already at that point. Should’ve known you’d need more points on the board in the long haul.

  8. Mike, I didn’t like the play calling in the second half either. But on top of calling bad (predictable) plays, IU did not burn any clock in two consecutive series in the fourth quarter. The defense is young, small and generally over-matched against all other Big Ten offenses. With the lead, the offense should have, at the very least, given them as much time as possible to rest, while trying to apply some time pressure to MS’s offense. The hurry-up offense was just stupid at that point in the game.

  9. In previous posts I said that it is unlikely that IU will get a conference win this season. Despite being somewhat less talented than usual, the conference teams are still significantly ahead of IU in athleticism, size and speed. The question is whether or not IU is narrowing that gap. I think we are! Are we strong enough to win? Probably not, but I’m hopeful that this season we can avert the blow outs of years past. Next year, I think we can win 2-3 conference games. If, in addition, we win 3 non conference games; we could have six wins…not bad for a program that has had to rebuild from scratch.

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