1. The defense can take a punch in the mouth
The game started with a major gulp as Indiana running back Tevin Coleman broke off a 64-yard touchdown just one minute into the game. It was the first time MSU had even allowed a first down on the first opponent drive of a game this season.
The Michigan State defense bounced back and forced punts on the next four IU drives. They also allowed just 28 yards rushing on the next 26 attempts by the Hoosiers and didn't lose its identity after a tough start.
For a group that doesn't encounter a whole lot of adversity, to see that is encouraging as those moments will flare up from time to time when they will get caught off guard.
2. Almost explosive plays are good things, too
This week, MSU couldn't quite crack the 40-yard barrier, but had a bevy of plays in the mid-30s. Jeremy Langford had a 32-yard touchdown run, Delton Williams had a 37-yard run, R.J. Shelton had a 34-yard touchdown run, Josiah Price had a 39-yard catch and Bennie Fowler had a 34-yard touchdown catch.
With three of those plays going to the end zone, MSU also found itself putting up points outside the red zone and still as 3 for 3 in converting red zone opportunities for touchdowns – a major point of emphasis.
3. The offensive line is playing its best football
They also paved the running lanes for 238 rushing yards – a season-high against an FBS opponent. Their play has been expected, but still a welcome surprise.
4. This team cannot afford to turn the ball over
Realistically, MSU should have won the game by at least 7-10 more points, but two turnovers led to IU touchdowns.
Kings dropped a punt and IU turned it into a touchdown five plays later and made it a close game.
Cook's second interception of the year was a bit fluky, as it was tipped by Aaron Burbridge back to a defender, but it counts. The Hoosiers also turned that into a touchdown late in the game to make it appear closer than it probably was Saturday.
5. Third downs made all the difference
MSU entered Saturday with the third-lowest rate of converting third downs. It went 10 of 14 against IU.
Cook was particularly huge on third down as he went 10 of 10 for 147 yards and two touchdowns on third downs. Eight of the passes went for first downs. He also ran for another.
Three MSU touchdowns came on third down, in situations that could have resulted in either long field-goal attempts or punts. Those things make the difference between winning and losing and went a long way in MSU winning this one.