BLOOMINGTON, Ind. –Concerns about a struggling offense is no longer Michigan State’s biggest problem.
It’s the Spartans’ mounting losses.
Fans rushed the Memorial Stadium field as Indiana stunned the 16th-ranked Spartans in overtime tonight, 24-21, on Griffin Oakes’ 20-yard field goal. It was MSU’s first loss to the Hoosiers since 2006, John L. Smith’s last year as head coach.
Oakes missed a 33-yarder, but MSU’s Drake Martinez was called for a leaping penalty that allowed Indiana (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten) to keep the OT drive alive and recapture the Old Brass Spittoon after rallying from a 14-point hole with three unanswered touchdowns.
MSU (2-2, 0-2) hosts BYU at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Spartan Stadium in a nonconference game.
But the Spartans’ back-to-back Big Ten championship dreams appear to be all but over. And their issues are mounting, along with injuries.
Tyler O’Connor marched MSU 75 yards in 13 plays, using 4:27 of the final 4:38 of regulation. A touchdown run by Gerald Holmes was overturned on replay, but O’Connor hit tight end Josiah Price for a 2-yard score on fourth-and-goal with 11 seconds left, and Michael Geiger’s extra point tied the score at 21-all.
But on the first possession of overtime, O’Connor was sacked on back-to-back plays, then Geiger’s 49-yard field-goal attempt fell well short. All Indiana had to do was get into range for their own kick.
O’Connor finished 21 of 35 for 263 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
With 4 minutes left in the third quarter, MSU had a shotgun snap nearly bounce off R.J. Shelton as he ran in motion. Indiana’s defenders shot through the confused Spartan offensive line, forcing a still-stunned O’Connor to roll to his right. He heaved it to a wide-open Delton Williams for a 24-yard touchdown to give MSU a 14-0 lead.
That’s when the Hoosiers stormed back.
A quick slant from quarterback Richard Lagow to receiver Ricky Jones for 57 yards on the next offensive play. Facing third-and-goal at the 5, Lagow handed off to Mitchell Paige on a jet sweep. The receiver stopped and threw back to the left side as Lagow released and caught the pass as he crossed the goal line for a touchdown.
The Hoosiers tied it on their next drive. A 40-yard pass from Lagow to Luke Timian and got Indiana into MSU territory. Lagow then threw a 22-yard TD pass to Paige in the front left corner of the end zone, just over the outstretched, leaping arm of linebacker Andrew Dowell, to give the Hoosiers the lead.
Lagow absorbed a big hit from Malik McDowell on the pass, and the MSU defensive tackle was ejected for targeting and received a personal foul. He will miss the first half of the Spartans’ game against BYU next Saturday, per NCAA rules.
The first half was befitting of the half-full stands at Memorial Stadium – and nearly as vacant of action.
The Spartans opened the game with a time-consuming drive, just like they had hoped to do, eating up 6:54 with 14 plays that covered 52 yards before it sputtered. After an MSU time-out, Indiana’s Patrick Dougherty blocked Michael Geiger’s 40-yard field-goal attempt, and the Spartans came away empty-handed.
The Spartan’s second drive proved much different and quicker. O’Connor fumbled on a designed run, but the ball went out of bounds. On the second play, the quarterback executed a perfect play-action fake, and R.J. Shelton broke free down the left sideline behind three Indiana defenders. O’Connor launched the ball from his own 5-yard line and hit Shelton in-stride at the Indiana 45. The senior receiver outrace Hoosiers cornerback Rashard Fant across the field to the front right pylon for the 86-yard touchdown.
And that was about it for the offensive fireworks. Outside of that pass, the Spartans managed just 145 more yards. Their defense held Indiana to 120 yards. Each team had one turnover – O’Connor lost a high shotgun snap, then Vayante Copeland picked off Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow on the next drive. Both teams had seven penalties for 60 yards.
It was 7-0 MSU at halftime.
O’Connor struggled again in the passing game beyond the scoring pass, completing 9 of 20 for 147 yards. He also had five carries for 30 yards.
Lagow was worse, going 7 of 13 for 76 yards and the interception.
Indiana found its rhythm at the outset of the second half, marching 65 yards in 11 plays to MSU’s 2. Coach Kevin Wilson went for it on fourth-and-goal, with running back Tyler Natee’s left-handed pass out of the wildcat formation going over the head of tight end Ian Thomas and landing out of bounds. MSU took over on downs.