Javon Ringer nearly made it three-straight 200-plus yards on the ground in Michigan State's sloppy but significant victory over Indiana. Ringer finished with 198 yards and a touchdown.
The Spartan's first Big Ten contest, on the road to boot, was sure to be a test even before Indiana was embarrassed last week by Ball State.
So despite not picking up many style points, head coach Mark Dantonio will surely be pleased with the team's first conference victory of 2008.
The teams combined for 139 penalty yards and gave up big play after big play.
MSU's first few drives fizzled and they managed only two field goals. Then the Hoosiers set the tone for the afternoon, drawing three penalties within a few minutes.
After the start of a promising drive, a crackback block pushed the Hoosiers back fifteen yards. IU coach Bill Lynch couldn't leave well enough alone and the Hoosier bench drew laundry for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Soon after, Ross Weaver pulled in a tip-drill interception and nearly took it the distance, ending up inside ten yard line, only to get a further boost from a late hit personal foul flag on Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell. Brian Hoyer snuck it in a few plays later for a lead the Spartans never relinquished.
Indiana hung around, answering back throughout the afternoon with a blocked punt here and a breakaway run or catch from Marcus Thigpen there.
But the balance of the Spartan offense was too much for the Hoosiers to handle. Hoyer helped take the pressure off Ringer with a solid performance, hitting 14 of 26 for 260 yards and two touchdowns. His numbers might have been even better were it not for dropped balls, the most conspicuous pair by Mark Dell and Blair White.
Despite some inconsistent play on both sides of the ball, the Spartans managed enough big plays to win the game. Charlie Gantt took a laser from Hoyer 82-yards for a touchdown and the defense accounted for three turnovers.
Kicker Brett Swenson was perhaps the player of the game for MSU, accounting for 16 points, hitting 4-4 in both field goals and extra points.
In the end, the execution might have been uninspired, but the will to win appears to be intact. In years past, the jolts of disappointment that followed the big plays by Thigpen might have been enough for the Spartans to fold up the tent and roll over for a loss.
But under the stewardship of Dantonio and his staff, those days appear to be endangered, if not extinct.