BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Michigan State is 0-2 in the Big Ten for the first time since 2007 after losing 24-21 in overtime at Indiana Saturday night.
Michigan State (2-2) was ranked No. 17 in the AP Top 25 poll and No. 16 the USA Today Coaches poll but it’s likely to fall out of the rankings after losing to the Hoosiers (3-1, 1-0) for the first time in the Mark Dantonio era.
The Spartans return home next week to face a Brigham Young (2-3) that beat Toledo 55-53 Friday night.
Here are the Spartans’ grades versus Indiana:
Offense (3 stars)
One week after throwing three interceptions against Wisconsin, Tyler O’Connor tossed three touchdowns and led the offense on a 13-play touchdown drive to send the game into overtime. O’Connor is still inconsistent when it comes to his accuracy but he also put a couple of passes on the money that his receivers dropped.
If a couple of those plays connect, there’s no overtime and there’s no talk of being 0-2 in the conference. He shows grit and poise on the field. The ground game produced 175 yards but Dantonio described it as “inefficient.” The offensive line was called for four penalties and then gave up the only two sacks of the game in overtime, forcing a 50-yard field goal attempt that wasn’t close.
Defense (3 stars)
If you graded the first 41 minutes of the game, it would be near perfection. Up until that point the defense had a shutout going and Indiana had just 193 yards of total offense. The Hoosiers were coming off a game against Wake Forest in which it gained 611 yards. The Spartans were handling the run game and even when Indiana got in scoring position, Michigan State had an answer.
There were no answers over Indiana’s final three possessions of regulation (not counting a final kneel-down play to run out the clock). The Hoosiers ran 20 plays, gained 235 yards and scored three straight touchdowns to take the lead. The pass rush is still an issue — Michigan State came close but got no sacks — and junior defensive lineman Malik McDowell will have to sit out the first half against BYU after being ejected on a targeting call in the fourth quarter. No pass rush leaves the secondary in coverage too long, and Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow took advantage.
Special teams (1 star)
When the best thing you can say is that kickoff specialist Kevin Cronin kept all of his kickoffs inbounds, well, that about says everything. Cronin had put one kick out of bounds in each of the first three games. Michael Geiger missed the 50-yard field goal in overtime, plus he had a 40-yard attempt on the opening drive of the game blocked.
Jake Hartbarger had a 59-yard punt but it didn’t have great hang time and was right down the middle of the field allowing for a 31-yard return by Mitchell Paige. The Spartans had 1 yard on one punt return and 23 yards on one kickoff return. The return game has to give this team more.
Coaching (2 stars)
The Spartans were penalized 11 times for 98 yards and routinely halted their own momentum. That’s something you don’t usually see from a Dantonio team but this is the second time in four games Michigan State has had double-digit penalties.
The game plans were solid both offensively and defensively but the execution continues to be lacking.
Overall (2.5 stars)
For all of the faults, the Spartans easily could have won this game. Maybe they should’ve won it. They’ve won plenty of similar games in the past but this time it was Indiana that found a way to win.
Losing a 14-point lead late in the third quarter is uncharacteristic. To say this team has some work to do is an understatement.
Kevin Goheen covers Michigan State for Landof10.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CincyGoGo