IU outmatched in 35-21 loss to No. 24 Michigan State

For a few forgiving moments late in regulation, after much of the announced crowd of 45,445 at Memorial Stadium had said goodnight, Indiana’s Big Ten opener felt much closer than it ever truly was.

A pair of field goals sandwiched around a 65-yard touchdown reception from Whop Philyor brought the Hoosiers within a touchdown with three minutes remaining, final hope on a night when such optimism was fleeting. But a bad read by IU’s defense allowed Michigan State receiver Jalen Nailor to run 75 yards untouched for the score and seal a 35-21 victory for the No. 24 Spartans.

In the end zone, safety Jonathan Crawford’s eyes seemed fixed to the turf, a frustrating night over in one final, fitting sequence of helplessness.

Indiana’s start to Big Ten play was wholly underwhelming, its first chance to back up an undefeated non-conference run a dud.

What appeared to be a toss-up game was anything but for the Hoosiers, who were overpowered and outmatched in their first real test of the season.

“Had a great opportunity as a program and didn’t take advantage of it,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “Thought we were inconsistent in a lot of different areas.”

Start with the offense. IU’s rushing game, which appeared to be a strength, was a non-factor in this matchup of best-on-best. Indiana rushed for only 29 yards on 32 carries against the nation’s top run defense. Its offensive line was exposed in a game where it was not even close to Big Ten-ready, struggling to both open holes for running backs and pass block for quarterback Peyton Ramsey.

“We have to address that as a program, as a team and it has to change,” Allen said. “They’re No. 1 in the nation in run defense, but you got to find a way to run the ball. It’s just tough sledding today for our offensive line and they have been great so far, but they didn’t have a good night tonight and they didn’t play to our standards and we got to get better.”

Star freshman running back Stevie Scott was held to just 18 yards on 11 carries, while Ramsey completed 32 of his 46 passes for 272 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was also sacked four times on a night when the Spartans rattled and abused IU’s backfield.

At the same time, Indiana’s defense hardly covered itself in glory. Even on a night when it forced four turnovers and scored 18 points off those errors.

IU helped Michigan State to the night’s first score, a 16-yard pass from Brian Lewerke to Nailor on the Spartans’ second offensive possession. The Hoosiers had a chance to get off the field on third-and-17 at midfield, but linebacker Dameon Willis and safety Devon Matthews both were unable to get to MSU receiver Cody White, whose reception went for 16 yards.

After converting fourth-and-one, the Spartans were in the end zone four plays later when a miscommunication by the secondary allowed Nailor to break open and bowl over safety Khalil Bryant en route to the score.

Things got worse from there.

On the ensuing possession, the Spartans returned a tipped pass 69 yards for a score. Ramsey, trying to dump the ball off as he was hit, saw Scott breaking toward the flat. The ball tipped off Scott’s hands and into the clutches of corner Shakur Brown, who sprinted untouched for the touchdown.

IU scored midway through the second quarter, when a fumble forced by Cam Jones and recovered by Crawford gave IU the ball at midfield. The Hoosiers moved 51 yards in methodical fashion, relying on a series of underneath throws to get to the door step. That’s where Scott corralled a pass and ran it in from eight yards out to cut Michigan State’s lead to 14-7 with 6:54 left in the half.

But the Hoosiers went three-and-out on their next three possessions, including their final series of the half. IU gave the ball back to Michigan State with 1:23 remaining before the intermission — more than enough time for the Spartans to get to work. Michigan State picked on IU’s secondary, culminating with a questionable non-call in the end zone that led to an 11-yard touchdown reception by tight end Matt Dotson.

It appeared that Dotson pushed off IU cornerback A’Shon Riggins, but no flag was thrown. Allen fumed on the sideline, clearly furious with the lack of oversight. It was frustration that went for naught, though, with Michigan State opening a 21-7 lead at the intermission.

“I felt like there was offensive interference on the touchdown and obviously they didn’t agree with me,” Allen said. “But that’s what I felt and I’m not going to sit there and just act like it’s OK.”

Without competent blocking, IU’s ability to whittle away at that deficit was significantly hampered. The Spartans seemed to seal the win with some trickery, scoring from six yards out on a fake field goal option to kicker Matt Coghlin that put Michigan State ahead 28-7 late in the third quarter.

A 14-point, fourth-quarter swing made things interesting for the Hoosiers, who used two Logan Justus field goals of 35 and 36 yards, and Philyor’s long touchdown reception to get within 28-21 with 3:28 remaining.

But IU couldn’t stop Nailor on the ensuing possession. Nor could it get out of its own way.

“We can match their talent any day,” Philyor said. “We were just shooting ourselves in the foot with all the mistakes and penalties and all those things like that. I don’t think they were a better team than us. We just shot ourselves in the foot.”

36 comments

  1. IU Football just can not play itself into being considered a “big boy”! Another lost opportunity. 2 TD’s and 2 Int by Peyton just won’ cut it. Play Penix. Throw to Hale and Westbrook in addition to Whop, Fryfogel, Timian and the freshmen TE’s. Go down with no bullets left. Very disappointing!

  2. The difference is MSU qb threw downfield and completed passes. Threw TD. No pick six. Ran plays better. Silly to compare lack of ability of P.R. to pass downfield to MSU qb ability to complete passes downfield (not great but better than P.R.). Many of IU offensive woes are because of lack of talent at qb level. Silly to think otherwise though it is what is called a team loss.

    1. Pretty clear.

      Hmmm, IU is 3-1 overall and 0-1 in the conference. Purdue is 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the conference. Indiana lost to Michigan State and Purdue lost to a hapless Northwestern team.

      Easy call.

      1. Purdue looked good in one game and terrible in the other three. It just happened that they looked good the same day the Hoosiers lost.

        Purdue may turn out to be the better team but, on the SEASON, IU is having a significantly better year.

  3. Program going in right direction. Allen needs to hire a likeminded DC. Hiller and DeBord need to go. They were okay when TA needed to put a staff together but they are going sideways. As for RB Scott, waiting for holes in the defense to develop doesnt work vs decent teams.

  4. O-line was awful. I would place the largest responsibility on them. Scott should have been more decisive, but that wouldn’t have been significant given the complete dearth of daylight due to no blocking.

    That said, Ramsey missed a sure-fire TD on our first possession when he overthrew a wide open Taylor on a vertical route down the sideline. Who knows how that changes the trajectory of the game if it’s complete? Of note, he overthrew virtually the exact same pass last year with a wide open WR against MSU.

    There is no vertical threat in this offense. It makes the margin for error zero against a team with any semblance of a defense. You can also question whether Ramsey should have thrown the pick 6 given he was being swallowed up by the pass rush. That plus the overthrow on the big play both occurred early and definitely contributed heavily to use being behind the 8-ball early.

    We knew the D was young and would not be up to standards of last couple seasons. The offense has weapons, the line is purportedly more experienced and improved. This year, the O has to carry more of the load, but it does not look B1G ready after the opener. Being realistic, if Allen somehow coaxes 3 conference wins out of this group, which will be no small feat, it’s still a successful season. I don’t know if that will happen, but if MSU is a good barometer, he won’t be getting the much ballyhooed, breakthrough/signature win against a legit, top-tier conference opponent this season. Time will tell.

    1. Yup Ramsey overthrows Taylor because his arm isn’t strong enough. Ya right. DeBord is a joke. Having him as our OC is the equivalent of having Doug Mallory as DC. Short on 3rd and 4th downs and he has the QB set up in the gun against the best 7 in the B1G. STUPID x infinity. He’s drawing a big paycheck but living retirement. He needs to quit, buy an RV and higher Hiller to drive him around the country sightseeing. Great opportunity for both. OL is full of sissies and Hiller is the reason why. No breakthrough as long as these 2 boys wear C & C.

    2. “O-line was awful. I would place the largest responsibility on them.” One thing I’ve never understood is why, during the build-up to each season, sportswriters and coaches count up the returning starters and, if this adds up to a big number, it’s automatically deemed a positive for the coming season. This year, IUFB’s OLine consists of five returning starters. These are the same guys who, last year, “led” Indiana to 107th place in team rushing. In the pros, you can makes trades or hire off of waivers to clean house and rebuild, but in college ball you are stuck with what you got until the new and (it is hoped) improved recruits work up the depth chart. But you can fire a position coach or coordinator and have an immediate result. If you can’t change the talent, either change the attitude, or the scheme, or both.

  5. Also, Ramsey also does not provide a big-play running threat. He is not taking it to the house. As evidenced v. MSU, he’s not usually even taking it for a first down even with a chunk of green in front of him. More like 5 or 6 yards even with a good hole.

  6. MSU has the best D against the rush in college football. We knew this going in. So the plan should have been to throw deep, where Hale, Westbrook, Whop, Fryfogel, and Timian have an advantage. But this was not DeBord’s plan. Our kids do play hard for 60 minutes. Give them a chance!

  7. MSU is not very good. They had a load of critical players injured before the game, and were dropping like flies during the game. We came in healthy, let them run speed sweeps and fake FG’s for TD’s. Force 4 TO’s and lose at home to a team that can only stop the run. Here we are again after the first conf game looking at the rest of the season to find 6 wins. This is why it is difficult to get butts in seats and like last night, so difficult to keep them in their seats for the end of the game.

  8. CaliHoosier you are correct….Indiana was looking at a MSU team that was hampered by injuries and we where unable to beat, simply because of coaching. That is my take on this game….The talent level between these two teams was pretty much the same. This Indiana offensive was pathetic….to show you how pathetic the offensive was…..the Indiana fans where more excited (or expecting more) about J-Shun Harris receiving or taking a punt for a touchdown. If you expect to keep fans in the stadium and the only excitement or offense you can expect in a game is a punt return for a touchdown, then it will be a long season. When Indiana intercepted the pass on the MSU 12 yard line, this was a typical Indiana football team explosion (poor play calling (same thing we criticism Kevin Wilson) and poor play execution).

  9. After watching Purdue play then IU, Purdue right now is still the better program despite their record. They looked good today and haven’t looked that bad all year. Moore has to be one of the top 3-5 WR in the country. IU keeps missing their chances followed by the old “the program is going the right direction.” Someone needs to explain to me what that direction is because I am not seeing any direction this team is currently moving.

  10. The game showed that IU’s offense needs a shot in the arm. Why is it so pedestrian – overall philosophy of coach Allen to not beat yourself, OC that sure had explosive plays at TN, QB that is solid but not dynamic, an OL that is better but not good enough in this scheme. Without being at practice and seeing game film breakdowns to see how plays develop it is impossible to know exactly the issue. When things aren’t working it is difficult to call plays that work together to create drives – I used to call it popcorn offense when coaching. It is hard to call plays when base plays don’t work.

    While watching the game I came to the conclusion that Ramsey is solid but IU needs a dynamic QB to compete this year. I was disappointed Penix was given a start in the first three games to see how he handled that role. I worry that he hasn’t had enough experience now to step in and lead the team. I would work to get him ready to start as he has shown he protects the ball and has shown more ability to this point. We can’t keep having defenses load the box while throwing two INTs in games.

    No matter what the issue is on offense I hope to see IU making some changes to correct them starting this week. Defensively we are playing good enough especially with the youth on the defense. Defense needs to get better especially against the better offense in the B1G East.

    1. V13,
      I know you are being diplomatic in your comments, but what you see is the difference between a Saban and an Allen. Saban has a QB who is 25-2 as a starter, but pulls him at the half of the national championship game after it was obvious the other team had his number. He had no issues with throwing in a true Freshman at crucial juncture in the game. Didn’t mean he didn’t appreciate what his starter had done for him or would not play him in the future. It just meant he could recognize the situation and made the tough call.

      We are seeing a lot more teams experiment with 2 QB systems this year and why wouldn’t they? FB has become so dependent upon 1 guy at 1 position that if you starter goes down your season is done. Not a smart way to run a railroad and it may be dawning on some of the top coaches out there too. There was a reason why you wanted 3 or 4 QBs on the team meeting the same basic prototype, but now your down to basically 2 and 1 holding the clipboard while the other has basically been neutralized on this given Saturday, next week maybe not.

      Yes, PR had 272 yards and 2 TDs, but his QBR was awful. You don’t win FB games with a 28.5 QBR, 5.9 yd and 2 interceptions, especially if it is MSU you’re playing. Something has been made of Lewerke throwing 2 INTs himself. He also had a 42.1 QBR and a 8.5 average, not great but much better than PR. You can’t dink and dunk your way with a legitimate B1G defense it lets the compress the area to cover vertically too much. You have to stretch a good defense every possible way you can, and that means both horizontally and vertically as well.

      I don’t have to make the case for this, MSU’s defense already has.

      1. I think everyone wanted to see Penix get a shot when the game was still not decided. I can understand not putting him in late when the D-line was just teeing off knowing the Hoosiers had to pass. That would have been risking his well being.

        I agree the luster is off Debord. It almost appears that TA is hoping to red shirt Penix. Everybody always loves the backup and we don’t see the practices but it would be nice to at least see for ourselves.

        That being said, NOBODY was going to be dropping back and launching the ball deep as the MSU pass rush would not allow that kind of time in the pocket.

        1. “I think everyone wanted to see Penix get a shot when the game was still not decided.” I sure did after the first series of the second half. I hope that red-shirting Penix is the explanation, ’cause thinker is right-on about yanking a QB that is not producing despite talent standing on the sideline. If Allen and Debord don’t understand that, or don’t have the guts to make the yank, then IUFB’s problem is bigger than Ramsey’s lack of a deep ball.

          If Ramsey gets hurt, then Penix’s red shirt is in the trash can, and blowing the chance for him to make a difference in the MSU game in an effort to “save” one of his remaining freebie games seems highly ill-advised. There’s no guarantee, of course, that Penix could have saved the day v. MSU, but there’s no guarantee, either, that he won’t have to replace an injured Ramesy.

          1. Funny thing, I remember one of the best defenses we’ve seen in college football over the last 10 – 15 years not so happy to see a Freshman QB in front of them. Believe it was an Alabama – Texas A&M game a few years ago. You never know how things may break out until you try it.

  11. On a positive note the Men’s Soccer team is 5-0 and ranked second in the country. That is one solid program.

  12. That’s right he overthrew a wide open TD on a deep route, precisely like he did on an exact play last year vs MSU. It’s not just arm strength, it’s also accuracy. He just is not particularly good on deep throws period.

    1. DB,
      That’s the point! It’s not always how far you can throw or how much velocity, but can you hit the target?

  13. I was at the game, and the game was over when Ramsey threw the pick-six. The refs jobbed IU on a few critical calls, but the game was over when IU went down 14 – 0. From my vantage point, a talented inexperienced team got beat by a talented experienced team, plain and simple. Ramsey demonstrated why “game managers” can’t carry a team to victory. They just don’t have that extra something that is necessary to beat a more experienced team. Ramsey is competent, but he is not a game-changer. If IU was going to beat MSU on Saturday, they needed a game changer who could carry them to victory. He’s not that guy.

    DeBord, or maybe it was T.A. made a terrible decision to go for it on fourth down inside the red zone. Three running plays and IU could not get two yards, and they turned the ball over on downs. Always, always, always take the points in the early art of the game.

    1. Po- how much do you think better coaching played in the game? On the BTN broadcast, you could see Dantonio saying “have to, they will have to” on the sidelines just before IU kicked off after cutting the lead to 7 in the 4th. My guess is they were saying IU would have to pull a safety to try and get the ball back. MSU’s first play was the jet sweep that ended the game. Talent wise, MSU had a great defensive line. Their offensive line was pretty bad and their quarterback looked like a more athletic Richard Legow- continually throwing late and high. The game didn’t seem to hinge on talent as much as coaching and exclusion. Dantonio is probably one of the best 5 head coaches in the game and his assistants have been with him forever. IU is a long way from that level of coaching although Hagen and Hart seem top notch.

    2. At the very least, always take the points if your other option is to try to bowl over one of the best front sevens in the college game.

      That was stupid.

  14. 123, I think T.A. is learning how to be a college head coach, and “experience is the best teacher.” Unfortunately, all the other head coaches in the conference have already gone through that learning curve. T.A. is a very good Defensive coach, and this year’s defense is good in spite of all the talent lost to graduation after last season. Recruiting has improved, especially with skill-position players, so that’s a good sign. But I believe the key to having a good Big Ten team is the O and D lines, and it will take years before we’ll know if T.A. can effectively recruit Big Ten linemen. The offense is pedestrian at best, in spite of solid running backs and a few excellent receivers. T.A. is going to learn that you don’t beat good Big Ten teams with a conservative, risk-averse offense, or a quarterback who is a competent game-manager. If IU plays a team like MSU, it has to be dynamic if we’re to have any chance of winning. You do not play to your opponent’s strength, which is what we tried to do far too often Saturday night, and on that terrible turnover-on-downs in the red zone. Anybody remember the one game that the 1985 Bears lost in their Super Bowl season? It was a game in Miami against the Dolphins, and Marino just lit it up. The Dolphins didn’t even try to run the ball during that game. Instead, the Dolphins used their best weapon and Marino threw a ton of passes, mostly short ones that did not give the Bear’s pass rush any time to get to him. It worked, and they beat one of the best defenses in football history that night.

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