For much of Saturday’s game against Rutgers Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld and the offense were able to do whatever they pleased. Sudfeld entered halftime with 301 yards to go along with two touchdowns on 21-of-27 passing. The Hoosiers took that momentum into the second half and surged to a 52-27 lead over the Scarlet Knights with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. It appeared that the team was well on its way to a fifth victory and moving one win away from a bowl bid.
However, after going up 25 points the team as a whole got far too comfortable. Nate Sudfeld threw two interceptions and the offense was unable to score again, the special teams allowed a touchdown when a snap went over punter Eric Toth and the defense was not able to stop the Scarlet Knights from scoring again, ultimately leading to a 55-52 defeat.
"We know what we’re capable of,” said Indiana Offensive Coordinator Kevin Johns, “and we didn’t play up to that standard in the fourth quarter.”
Saturday’s game marked the first time on the season that Indiana turned the ball over more than their opponent. Their three turnovers matched the total number of times they gave the ball up in the first six games and led to 19 of the 28 unanswered points that gave Rutgers the win.
On the other side of the ball the Indiana defense was only able to force one turnover that led to seven points. In the Hoosiers’ three losses on the season they are scoring an average of six points following takeaways, compared to an average of 12 points following takeaways in the team's four wins.
Indiana will have to focus on winning the turnover battle if they are going to be able to beat Michigan State for the first time since 2006 and avoid a four game losing streak. The Spartans come into the game undefeated, featuring a defense that has been a force for years. They have forced 12 turnovers on the season that led to 47 points. They also protect the ball very well on offense, having only turned the ball over three times on the year.
“They’re good at what they do and they’re very well coached with good players,” Sudfeld said.
The Hoosiers have shown the ability to play with quality opponents, nearly defeating the top ranked Ohio Sate Buckeyes. But Michigan State has only lost in East Lansing one time since 2013 and Indiana is only 1-5 against ranked opponents during that time period.
After a very disappointing loss to Rutgers this is the type of game that could build a lot of momentum for the team, but it will not be an easy task.
“It's going to be a tough, tough challenge against Michigan State,” said Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson, “but we're going to do everything we can to continue to improve, get better, put a plan together and go up there and play as well as we can.”