This week’s Throwback Thursday chronicles IU’s “closer than the score looks” loss to the Michigan State Spartans. This was the final game before IU headed into their much-needed open week. The Hoosiers just seemed to run out of gas in the fourth quarter after a grueling opening to the Big Ten slate facing Ohio State and Penn State before taking on Michigan State. Staying true to the theme of 2015, IU was close to knocking off a top-10 team, but just couldn’t get over that last ridge.
Opponent: Michigan State Spartans
Location: Saturday November 7th /3:37pm/ Memorial Stadium/ (Bloomington, IN)
Why They Played: The Hoosiers and Spartans meet annually now for the Old Brass Spittoon as part of the Big Ten East.
What The Game Meant
Indiana was looking to rebound from a devastating loss and pull an upset of a top-10 team. Michigan State was looking to keep their Big Ten championship and playoff hopes alive.
Top Offensive Performers
Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana- After throwing an interception on the first play of the game the Hoosier quarterback went 23 of 36 for 308 yards and tossed three touchdowns. Sudfeld kept the Hoosiers in the game completing big passes through the first 45 minutes.
Simmie Cobbs, WR, Indiana- The sophomore receiver went over 100 yards for the second straight game and caught a 37-yard touchdown pass that pulled the Hoosiers within a point with a minute before half time. He finished with five catches for 108 yards.
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State- This was the best quarterback performance the Hoosiers have seen all year. Cook completed 30 of 52 passes for 398 yards and four scores. He killed the Hoosier defensive backs with pinpoint accuracy and even added 18 yards on the ground. He stood in the pocket and handled the pressure IU did put on him well.
Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan State- Last week it was Leonte Caroo. This week it is Burbridge who took over catching eight balls for 128 yards and a touchdown.
Top Defensive Performers
T.J. Simmons, LB, Indiana- Simmons had his best game of the year so far with a 15 tackle performance. He had a career-high 2.5 sacks and 4 tackles for a loss.
Demetrious Cox, DB, Michigan State- Cox led he team in tackles with six and had two pass break ups. While the Spartan defense was a true team effort, Cox led the way.
Special Team Performance:
The reliable Griffin Oakes, who I think has been the best kicker in the conference, missed two extra points and a field goal that should not have been attempted. They left at least five points on the field in a game that could have easily been 31-31 in the fourth quarter.
Damon Graham continues to hurt the Hoosiers on kick returns as he mustered 76 yards on four returns including a long of 27. He also coughed up a fumble that led to the game getting out of hand.
On the bright side Erich Toth had his best game punting of the season probably, especially in tough conditions. He averaged 47.8 yards a kick with a long of 62 with one touchback and one ball downed inside the 20.
There are a lot of numbers that can be looked at in this game. MSU converting 65 percent of their third downs, the 96 plays they ran compared to IU’s 60. However, I chose the time of possession. Michigan State held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game. That is the reason the defense was totally gassed in the last five minutes. They didn’t quit, they were running on fumes.
The turning point of this game came when IU was faced with a fourth-and-four and decided to chance it with an Oakes 42-yard field goal. The sophomore had already missed two extra points and had been complaining about the footing of the grass, not to mention the swirling winds that were sweeping across Spartan Stadium. At this point IU was down 28-26 with a shot at the lead. The kick sailed wide right and the rest of the game was down hill as the Spartans scored 24 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
I Knew it Was Over When…
This game was over when Nate Sudfeld’s fourth-and-five pass was knocked away from freshman Nick Westbrook. IU was down 12 with fewer than four minutes to play. Michigan State would go on and score two more times.
Players of the Game
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana- Sudfeld gave the Hoosiers a chance to win on Saturday with his performance, but close isn’t enough. His 308 yards passing was impressive, but the Hoosiers could not muster enough to get over the hump.
Connor Cook, Michigan State- Cook was phenomenal in Saturday’s win. Throwing darts all over the field to spots where only his receivers could make a play. He lived up to the hype with 398 yards and four touchdowns.
What I Took Away From the Game
Indiana could have come up to East Lansing against a top-ten team and laid an egg and limped home with a 55-7 loss. Instead they showed the fight that all Hoosier fans wanted to see. The 52-26 final was not indicative to how close this game was. IU gave a great team a very difficult time.
4-4 is not where any Hoosier coach, player, or fan wants to be, and there is a ton of room for improvements heading into the open week. Speaking of the open week, it may could not have come at a better time for the Hoosiers as some of their young players seemed to have hit that “freshman wall”.
The Hoosier defense was good against the run for most of the game as they gave up just 3.2 yards per carry, but were torched in the passing game for 398 yards, and allowed the Spartans to convert on many third and long situations.
On the offensive side of the ball the Hoosiers threw it well, but could not get the run game going, eventually just removing it from the offense all together. They ran nine times in the second half. You do have to take into account they were going against one of the best defenses in the nation against the run, but going forward IU is going to need to re-establish the ground game. On a positive note it was good to see Jordan Howard back out there running hard. He had 11 carries for 78 yards and a score. Mike Majette (six carries 21 yards) may have replaced Devine Redding (two carries five yards) as the number two option at running back.
Indiana needs to go into the open week and regroup and recharge. Their goal of a bowl game are still attainable with the two road games at Maryland and Purdue to close the regular season, but the team needs a week to get their heads right after a rough four-game losing streak.