BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Michigan State couldn’t hold a 14-0 lead in the third quarter and lost to Indiana for the first time since 2006, 24-21 in overtime.
Griffin Oakes, who missed a pair of field goals in regulation, made a 20-yard field goal on Indiana’s first possession of overtime to claim the win. Michigan State’s Michael Geiger missed a 50-yard field goal attempt on the Spartans’ first possession after quarterback Tyler O’Connor was sacked twice. Oakes had missed a 33-yard attempt but that was negated by a Michigan State penalty for leaping.
Here are five things we learned about Michigan State:
Five things we learned
1. Big plays are the bane of this defense
After holding Indiana to just 38 yards in the first quarter, Michigan State started getting hit for big chunks of yardage. Devine Redding’s 44-yard run on first down from the Indiana 30-yard line with 6:22 left to play set up a critical score. Indiana also had pass completions of 57 and 40 yards. It’s a trend that began late in the third quarter against Notre Dame and hasn’t stopped.
2. Malik McDowell needs help on the defensive line
McDowell is a disruptive force but he can’t do everything on his own. Michigan State’s Raequan Williams shows flashes and freshmen Josh King and Mike Panasiuk are seeing more playing time but the Spartans aren’t getting enough from their front four. McDowell was called for targeting with 4:38 remaining when he hit Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow on Lagow’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell Paige.
3. Tyler O’Connor has moxie
Despite the loss, O’Connor put the Wisconsin game behind him and made plays when he needed to make them. His accuracy is still too inconsistent (21-of-35 passing for 263 yards, 3 touchdowns) but his receivers also didn’t help him on a couple of occasions. Donnie Corley, for one, dropped a deep ball down the right sideline on a third-down play that would have at least gotten the Spartans out from close to their own goal line. O’Connor completed all four of his pass attempts on a touchdown drive in the third quarter that put up Michigan State 14-0, including handling a funky shotgun snap, avoiding an oncoming pass rusher and throwing to a wide open Delton Williams. O’Connor took a couple of hard hits but held his ground and delivered some clutch throws when needed.
4. R.J. Shelton is very important to the Michigan State offense
The senior was non-existent against Wisconsin, touching the ball just three times for 23 yards, but O’Connor targeted him three times on the opening drive of this game and then the two hooked up for an 86-yard touchdown pass on the second drive to put up the Spartans 7-0. It was the longest pass play for Michigan State since Nov. 23, 2013 when Bennie Fowler turned an intermediate pass from Connor Cook into an 87-yard touchdown against Northwestern. Shelton has the potential to break any play for a big gain and that’s exactly what he did as the Indiana defense got caught looking at the running backs and let Shelton slide behind it. He nearly got caught but fought his way into the end zone for the touchdown.
5. There is no lead running back
L.J. Scott may be first on the depth chart but coach Mark Dantonio isn’t afraid to use any of his big three of Scott, Gerald Holmes and Madre London. It was Holmes who got the call for much of the game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter. Scott had 11 carries for 38 yards, Holmes 9 for 51 yards and London 7 for 39 yards.
Michigan State had just taken a 14-0 lead on O’Connor’s touchdown pass to Williams and the Spartans defense had been able to keep the Hoosiers out of the end zone with some tough play in the red zone but IU finally broke through for a 7-play, 75-yard drive to pull to within seven points. It was the first of three consecutive touchdown drives of at least 70 yards for the Hoosiers.
Can Indiana beat Dantonio? Yes. This is the first time in eight games that Dantonio has been on the losing end against the Hoosiers and won’t get to bring back the Old Brass Spittoon to East Lansing.
What are the Spartans going to do when Michigan and Ohio State come to town? They’ve got a couple of more weeks to figure things out before the Wolverines travel to Spartan Stadium on Oct. 29, but the way the last couple of weeks have gone, there will be nothing easy about this season.
0-2. That’s what the Spartans are in Big Ten play for the first time since 2007, Dantonio’s first season at Michigan State.
What it means
The Spartans are going to fall out of the national polls. That is the least of their worries at this point.