EAST LANSING, Mich. - Coach Terry Hoeppner's Hoosiers didn't exactly get the sort of kick start it was looking for in East Lansing.
A pair of first half special teams blunders landed the Hoosiers in a 17-point first half hole, and a pair of third quarter turnovers wiped out any hopes of getting out of it as Indiana dropped its 16th straight Big Ten road game, 46-15, to Michigan State Saturday. The win ended a three-game losing streak for Michigan State (5-3/2-3), while Indiana (4-4/1-4) dropped its third in a row.
Michigan State took control of the game on the very first play, when Demond Williams returned the game's opening kickoff for a touchdown. Williams caught the ball at MSU 2 and went untouched for a 98-yard kickoff return for a score. Hoeppner said afterwards that Austin Starr's kickoff was supposed to be directed toward a corner instead of down the middle of the field, but that still didn't excuse the result.
"From the very opening kickoff, we didn't execute very well," said Hoeppner. "You have to kick the ball where you're supposed to kick it, but even if you don't, someone has to get off a block and make a play. That opening kickoff really, really set the tone."
Williams would come up with another big play on special teams in the final minute of the first half. After a 21-yard, 4th-down touchdown pass from Blake Powers to James Hardy cut the Michigan State lead to 23-8, Williams blocked Joe Kleinsmith's extra point. Instead of going into halftime down by only two scores, Hoeppner watched as Spartan Ashton Watson recovered the ball and returned it for a Michigan State two-point conversion to open the lead to 25-8 at halftime.
"You can't take a play off," said Hoeppner. "It was a great effort play by their guy that comes off our edge, that doesn't get slowed down enough. We just didn't protect. That just takes some of the wind out. We score and we're going to get it down to a 14-point game, and anything can happen."
Indiana had chances to cut into the lead on its first two possessions of the second half, but both drives ended with turnovers inside Spartan territory. An errant Blake Powers throw was intercepted by Spartan safety Eric Smith while laying on his back at the Spartan 22 to end the half's opening drive. It was one of three interceptions on the afternoon for Powers, who completed 20-of-35 for 198 yards and one touchdown.
After Michigan State went three-and-out on its next drive, Indiana took over at the Michigan State 44. But on the drive's sixth play, Jahkeen Gilmore caught a Powers throw but then fumbled at the MSU 23 to wipe out another opportunity.
"If you take those turnovers and convert them into points, all of a sudden you're in the game," said Hoeppner.
Indiana couldn't close the margin, and then watched as the Spartans blew the game open. In the second half Michigan State ran roughshod over an Indiana defense that had problems tackling – and ultimately stopping – anyone in a green jersey all afternoon. Michigan State piled up 493 yards of total offense and 29 first downs, with a slew of yards coming courtesy of Indiana's inability to bring down Spartan ball carriers and wideouts.
"It's not like we didn't know what we needed to do – we just didn't do it," said Russ Richardson about the team's tackling. "It was embarrassing to us, and the program."
Michigan State scored on its next three possessions, including a pair of big plays – a 45-yard touchdown run by Javon Ringer and a 39-yard touchdown pass from Drew Stanton to Terry Love. By the opening minute of the fourth quarter, Indiana found itself down 46-8 and completely out of a game that it thought it could win.
"We just made too many mistakes at the wrong time," said James Hardy, who finished with eight catches for 77 yards and both of Indiana's touchdowns. "When things go wrong for us, they go wrong."
Spartan quarterback Drew Stanton picked apart the Hoosier secondary all afternoon, completing 17-of-31 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. Stanton also ran for 27 yards and another score, and added two-point conversion run as well.
Indiana didn't have any more luck slowing down the Spartans on the ground, as Javon Ringer ran for 109 yards on 11 carries, pacing a Spartan ground attack that ran for 237 yards and three touchdowns.
"Not taking advantage of opportunities, not being able to finish drives, finish plays, finish tackles – we have to learn how to finish," said Hoeppner.
INDIANA-Taylor 12-56, Washington 11-43, Sears 2-33, Powers 6-5. Totals 31-137. MICHIGAN STATE-Ringer 11-109, Caulcrick 10-59, Kahn 8-29, Stanton 10-27, Teague 4-13, Love 1-12, Pruchnicki 1-(-3), Team 1-(-9). Totals 46-237.
INDIANA-Powers 35-20-3 198, McFarland 8-5-0 34, Sears 1-0-0 0. MICHIGAN STATE-Stanton 31-17-1 244, Hoyer 2-1-0 12.
INDIANA-Hardy 8-77, Gilmore 7-64, Bailey 3-29, Sears 2-22, Skelton 2-7, Thigpen 1-21, O'Neal 1-8, Walker-Roby 1-4. MICHIGAN STATE-Reed 6-80, Trannon 2-34, Scott 2-28, Davis 2-28, Ringer 2-27, Teague 2-8, Love 1-39, Grimes 1-12.
Spartans Hammer Hoosiers, 46-15
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