Bloomington, Ind. – James Hardy and Kellen Lewis have found something to come home to and the Old Brass Spittoon has found a new home in Bloomington.
The duo of Hardy and Lewis once again had career days as they connected for four touchdowns – giving them seven in the last two home games - as the Indiana Hoosiers (5-4/3-2) destroyed Michigan State (4-5/1-4), 46-21 for IU's homecoming.
The win marks first time Indiana has held the Old Brass Spittoon since 2001 and just the second time in a decade.
"The crowd was fantastic and I can't thank them enough," said head coach Terry Hoeppner. "They were a home field advantage today. We may not have reached our attendance goal, but we reached our spirit goal, and to me, that's probably more important because that is contagious. That will spread and grow and be hard for anyone to contain. People are genuinely excited about this football team. The students were great and our band was great. It was a fun day."
Indiana crept one game closer to bowl eligibility and has now won the most conference games by a Hoosier team since Antwaan Randle El's senior season of 2001. Lewis, who equaled his season total of five touchdown passes in the game, continued his maturation process in a big way completing 15-of-26 passes for 261 yards and helped the Hoosiers on the ground with 96 yards on 14 and one touchdown.
Lewis is the first Hoosier to account for six touchdowns since Levron Williams did it in 2001 in IU's 63-32 win at Wisconsin.
"I never expected this type of success so early," said Lewis. "I thought I wouldn't be able to take over this offense until maybe my junior year and now look – nine touchdown passes in two home games. I don't doubt my skills, but I never would have expected that."
Hardy once again enjoyed playing in front of the Hoosier faithful. After catching eight passes for 104 yards and three touchdowns in Indiana's last home game against Iowa, Hardy caught six balls for 83 yards and four touchdowns in front of 36,444 fans on Homecoming weekend, establishing a new IU single-game record for touchdown receptions.
Hardy now finds himself tied for third place with Thomas Lewis (1991-93) on the Indiana career receiving touchdown list with 18 touchdown receptions. He is 13 behind all-time leader Jade Butcher (1967-69) who finished his career with 30.
"I knew some good things were going to happen and now it's starting to happen," said Hardy. "I look at this game as my job, and I'm just doing what I'm supposed to do. We (the team) have been working day in and day out, working together."
The win was Indiana's third-straight homecoming win after beating Illinois 36-13 last season and No.23 Minnesota 30-21 in 2004.
"We will continue to build the program," said Hoeppner. "It was our goal - you set goals, and just because you don't reach them doesn't mean you don't keep setting goals and keep trying. The word will spread and this will really mushroom. As important as the Iowa game was in context, you want to play meaningful games in October, and guess what - this was a meaningful game and the Hoosiers won big."
Michigan State jumped out to an early lead on the first drive of the game as senior quarterback Drew Stanton led the Spartans on a 10-play, 80-yard drive to open the game. Stanton found Devin Thomas for a 38-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring. The opening drive was kept alive for the Spartans after completing a fourth-and-one on the Indiana 46-yard line.
The score would be Michigan State's only points of the first three quarters.
Indiana responded with 46 unanswered points to bury the Spartans. It started with a 34-yard Austin Starr field goal after an 8-play, 39-yard drive that stalled in the red zone. The Hoosiers had no such problems on their second drive as Lewis led a six-play, 64-yard drive that ended in his first touchdown pass of the day to Hardy. The score came on a 30-yard pass over the secondary and into Hardy's hands.
Lewis led the Hoosiers on three scoring drives in the second quarter, showcasing his feet and his arm. Midway through the second frame, Lewis broke free for a 26-yard scramble and was brought down by his facemask for an extra 15 yards. On the very next play Lewis found Marcus Thigpen for a wide-open 26 yard touchdown. It was Thigpen's seventh touchdown of the season, but his first in three games.
Thigpen finished the game with two receptions for 45 yards and gained 111 rushing yards on 20 carries.
Indiana scored again on what looked to be the Hoosiers' last possession of the first half after Lewis led a 10-play, 53-yard drive that ended once again in the hands of Hardy on a two-yard touchdown pass. MSU got the ball back ready to run out the clock before halftime, however Adam McClurg forced a Jehuu Caulcrick fumble, giving Indiana the ball on the MSU 17-yard line with 20 seconds left in the half.
Lewis took little time to find Hardy for their third touchdown of the half, this time on a 17-yard completion on second down. Indiana went into the half with a 30-7 lead.
Michigan State found itself down by a huge halftime deficit for the second week in a row one week after completing the greatest comeback in NCAA Division I-A history. After trailing Northwestern 38-3, the Spartans came back to win 41-38. The Spartans would have no such luck against the Hoosiers as Indiana scored the first 16 points of the second half to open an insurmountable 46-7 lead.
Indiana started the scoring on a 27-yard touchdown scramble by Lewis early in the third quarter. He would follow that up with his fifth touchdown pass of the game on the next drive, finding Hardy for his fourth touchdown. The 13-yard touchdown pass gave Indiana a 44-7 lead.
Indiana's defense got in on the scoring as well to cap off a dominating effort against the Michigan State offense. Safety Will Meyers made his third interception of the season and after an Indiana punt, corner Tracey Porter stripped MSU's Terry Love on the return, knocking the ball into the end zone for a safety. It was Indiana's second safety in as many games against the Spartans.
"We know as a defense that we might not be making the big plays all the time," said Porter. "But we know if we consistently give our offense the ball in good field position we can win games. That's all that matters to us – winning games."
After Stanton was pulled for the game to start the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Brian Hoyer led the Spartans on two touchdown drives. Stanton finished the game 10-of-22 for 100 yards and one touchdown passing, while picking up 34 yards on eight carries.
Hoyer, who was 4-of-6 for 49 yards, capitalized on three late Lewis turnovers to lead two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to finish off the scoring at 46-21.
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