Fifth-year senior Ralph Green wasn’t about to waste any time in looking to retrieve the “Old Brass Spittoon” after Indiana’s 24-21 overtime win over Michigan State. After all the spoils of the rivalry hasn't been in Hoosier hands since the late Terry Hoeppner led Indiana to a 46-21 win in 2006, his last victory as a coach.
Green wasn’t the first to have the idea as it was already on its way.
“I ran over to the Michigan State sidelines. They said it was in the locker (room). Then all I could see was everyone rushing the field and then I could see was the pretty spittoon in the middle of the field.
“I broke down in tears. It was a blessing.”
Safety Jonathan Crawford said the spittoon’s return was part of the build-up to the conference opener.
“Before the game, coach (Wilson) showed us the article about how people used to forget about it, and that was the motivation to get it back here,” Crawford said.
To get it back in Bloomington, Indiana had to earn its first conference win over a ranked opponent since October 15, 2006, when that final Hoeppner team pulled out a 31-28 win over No. 15 Iowa.
What made this game unique is how the Hoosiers got the win in comeback fashion. Giving up big leads has been an unwelcome Indiana football trait over the years, not overcoming deficits.
Down 14-0 in the second half and squandering several red zone scoring opportunities, a past Indiana team may not have had the confidence to come back against an upper class Big Ten opponent. But this team showed today it can overcome some adversity.
“Two or three years ago we were beating Michigan State 17-0 at halftime (and lost),” Green said. “I think it is a mindset on defense. We were tired of losing, tired of being the reason why on the bad part. Now were the reason why on the good part.”
In overtime the defense was the hero as sacks by Patrick Dougherty and Nate Hoff fired a long 49-yard field goal attempt by Michael Geiger that was well short.
Indiana responded with understandably conservative play calling that set up a 33-yard field goal by Griffin Oakes. It was missed but a leaping penalty person foul was called on the Spartans and then Oakes knocked in a 20-yarder just a few plays later to earn the win.
“It’s our ability to finish,” wide receiver Luke Timian said about what’s different this season. “Every team has a new identity. We are not the same team we were last year, and we finished.”
Timian made arguably the biggest catch of the game, a 40-yarder with a MSU defensive back all over him. The big gainer helped set up a game tying touchdown midway through the final quarter.
The Hoosiers would score on their next drive to go up seven but the Spartans bounced back to force overtime by driving 75 yards over 13 plays. The final play a dramatic fourth-and-two scoring pass from Tyler O’Connor to Josiah Price.
In overtime, however, it was all Indiana and the Hoosiers ended the decade long drought against the Spartans and ranked conference opponents to move to 3-1 on the season and 1-0 in league play.
That was certainly cause for some celebration by a couple seniors that have suffered through some tough times.
“The first person I went up to after the game was (senior OL) Jacob Bailey,” Green said. “He’s been here, had a lot of surgeries, Indiana guy. We jumped around, got the spittoon. Spit in it. Spit in it big too.”
Player and fan postgame celebration with the Old Brass Spittoon: