Rushing offense - B+
The Hoosiers were actually leading the Spartans in rushing for much of the game, eventually yielding that edge to Javon Ringer and MSU after they were forced to throw it on just about every down while trying to play catch-up in the fourth quarter. Indiana finished with 189 yards on 28 carries, and had four different players post runs of at least 10 yards (Marcus Thigpen, Bryan Payton, Kellen Lewis and Ray Fisher). The biggest effort was turned in by Thigpen, who posted his second 100-yard game of the season with his nine-carry, 113-yard effort. He once again made it clear why the IU staff wants him on the field, taking a straight-forward hand-off late in the first half, finding a crease, and out-running the entire Spartan defense for a 78-yard touchdown. The fact Indiana ran for nearly 200 yards and averaged 6.8 yards/carry against a run defense that had given up a combined 98 yards on the ground in its last two games suggests it was a good afternoon for the IU rushing attack.
Notable: Two-thirds of Marcus Thigpen's season rushing total has come on three runs. Thigpen has carried 32 times for 265 yards in IU's first four games, and 176 of those yards have come on touchdown runs of 67 and 31 yards against Murray State and 78 yards against Michigan State. His other 29 carries have gone for a combined, 89 yards.
Passing offense – B
Both Ben Chappell and Kellen Lewis had a costly interception, but the two combined to complete 23-of-44 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns. Chappell was sharp with his throws not only when he was on the field with Lewis on the field as well, but also when Lewis was forced to the sidelines for a stint with an apparent ankle injury. The two were good enough together that IU fans should expect to see doses of the dual quarterback formation throughout the remainder of the season. While Chappell's performance was a highlight, so was the contributions of some relatively new faces in Demarlo Belcher and Max Dedmond. Belcher replaced an injured Andrew Means and not only caught four passes for 73 yards, but he also coaxed three pass interference calls out of the Spartan secondary as well. Dedmond, meanwhile, was a factor for the first time since the season opener with two catches for 20 yards, and IU actually completed three throws to the tight ends, as Brad Martin also had his first career reception.
Notable: Marcus Thigpen's 79-yard touchdown reception was IU's first passing play of 50 yards or more since Nov. 3, 2007, when Lewis connected with Ray Fisher for a 60-yard touchdown against Ball State. It also equaled the longest touchdown pass since the 2007 season opener when Lewis and James Hardy also scored on a 79-yard touchdown strike against Indiana State.
Rushing defense – B-
It's not too often that a player rushes for nearly 200 yards and one can say the opposing run defense did its job, but the Hoosiers played well enough against Spartan tailback Javon Ringer to given themselves a chance to win Saturday afternoon. Sure, Ringer piled up 198 yards on the ground, but his total was actually below his season average of 233.0 entering the game. Ringer also had to carry 44 times to pile up that yardage, and only four of those carries went for 10 yards or more. Indiana headed into the game knowing that it couldn't allow Michigan State to control the line of scrimmage and simply run the ball at will with Ringer, and it succeeded in that endeavor.
Notable: As maligned as IU's run defense has been in recent years, Ringer's 198-yard effort marked just the fourth time dating back to last year's Big Ten opener that a tailback has rushed for at least 100 yards against the IU defense. A year ago, Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall, MSU's Ringer and Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton were the three tailbacks that went over 100 yards against IU.
Passing defense – C-
Indiana wanted to try to figure out a way to make Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer be the one who had to make plays to beat them, and the Spartan quarterback was able to do just that. It wasn't as good as his 20-of-23 effort against IU last season, but Hoyer's 14-of-26, 261-yard, two-touchdown performance was clearly his best game of the season. The biggest play of the bunch was an 82-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Gantt on a play where IU safety Jerimy Finch gambled on breaking up the pass and was beaten for a touchdown as a result. While the IU secondary gave up some pass plays, they weren't aided a great deal by an IU pass rush that failed to generate much pressure and didn't sack Hoyer all afternoon.
Notable: Indiana failed to record a sack Saturday, bringing an end to an 18-game streak of totaling at least one sack. The last time IU's defense didn't sack the opposing quarterback at least once was Nov. 4, 2006, when the Hoosiers were pounded by Minnesota 63-26 in Minneapolis.
Special teams – A-
Other than the fact IU wasn't able to break off a big return in the kicking game, Coach Bill Lynch and staff couldn't ask for much more out of the special teams. Punter Chris Hagerup has gone from a liability to a weapon, averaging 51.5 yards/punt, including a season-long 67-yarder. The Hoosier coverage teams were also sound, giving up a total of 12 yards on three punt returns while yielding an average of only 10.6 yards on five kickoff returns. Michigan State's average starting field position was its own 29-yard line, suggesting IU's special teams did its job Saturday afternoon.
Notable Stat: Chris Hagerup is now averaging 45.4 yards/punt, which leads the Big Ten. His 67-yard punt on Saturday, meanwhile, is the longest punt by a Big Ten player this season. He's currently on pace to challenge IU's single season record for punting average, held by Drew Hagan who averaged 44.8 yards/punt in 1999.
Overall – B-
It's hard to classify a home field loss with a "good" rating, but Indiana deserves a lot of credit for bouncing back from a bad effort against Ball State to give itself a chance against a very good Michigan State team on Saturday. The Hoosiers had to do it despite the absence of three starters from the secondary; the absence of Kellen Lewis from the line-up for more than a quarter due to an ankle injury; and the loss of Andrew Means, Tandon Doss and Jerimy Finch to injuries Saturday as well. While the bottom line is that IU is now 2-2 and facing an uphill battle if it hopes to approach the seven wins it totaled a year ago, Saturday's effort was clearly something to build on. A similar sort of performance during the next two weeks could easily result in a win at Minnesota and a victory over Iowa the following weekend to get IU back on a path that could get them back to a bowl game.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Michigan State
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