Who the heck saw that coming?
Through an incredibly resilient effort and a highly-effective rushing attack, Indiana (4-7, 2-6 B1G) came back from 17 points down to triumph over Michigan State (5-6, 3-5 B1G), 39-31.
Allen announced before the game that redshirt sophomore Dexter Williams would make his first career start. WR D.J. Matthews dressed and warmed up, as did OL Joshua Sales. Star LB Cam Jones was held out once again as he recovers from injury.
Jaylin Lucas began the game with a kick return to midfield, then Williams and the offense ran it right down MSU’s throat on the opening drive. RB Shaun Shivers had multiple effective runs, then Williams unleashed a 34-yard score to the house.
MSU would respond with a long drive, but Dasan McCullough and Aaron Casey made big plays at the goal line to force a Spartan field goal. IU’s next drive ran out of gas at midfield, even though Williams had a 15-yard run to move the chains.
Indiana forced a turnover on downs on the next drive, but the defense disintegrated from that point until halftime. RB Jalen Berger found running lanes all over the field, and QB Payton Thorne tore apart IU’s secondary. WR Keon Coleman was Thorne’s primary target, and when Coleman was covered, Thorne found his backs, tight ends, and other WRs.
MSU scored three straight touchdowns to end the first half, building a 24-7 advantage at the break. TE Maliq Carr scored on a deflected pass, RB Elijah Collins found the end zone on his Senior Day, and Coleman snagged a fade on Jaylin Williams seconds before halftime. It looked like MSU was on their way to a blowout win.
Instead, the Hoosiers responded. The defense forced a three-and-out, then Shivers broke off a 79-yard score on a perfectly-blocked play. Kahlil Benson, Josh Sales, and Luke Haggard all carried out their assignments to spring Shivers. The touchdown was IU’s longest of the season.
Collins broke through IU’s defense for his second touchdown of the game, but Jaylin Lucas returned the ensuing kick for a touchdown. Indiana was within 10 points once again.
Lucas became the first FBS player to reach two kick returns for a touchdown this season. Indiana’s defense recorded a takeaway on the first MSU play from scrimmage. Jonathan Haynes made the play off of the tip drill, and IU was back in business.
IU couldn’t take the turnover and put it into the end zone. Charles Campbell connected from 40 to bring the Hoosiers within one score. Indiana’s defense got off the field, and the offense tied the game shortly thereafter.
Lucas reeled off an 18-yard carry, then Williams found space for 30 yards down into the red zone. Josh Henderson converted a 4th-and-1 from the 3, and on the next play, plowed into the end zone for his seventh touchdown of the season.
After the teams exchanged punts, it felt like MSU was going to win it at the regulation buzzer. At the end of a 14-play drive that drained the full 5:36 remaining, kicker Ben Patton sent the game-winning attempt well wide left. In a cold, snowy, windy day in East Lansing, IU was going to overtime.
On the opening series of overtime, MSU’s offense sputtered, and Mel Tucker sent Patton onto the field once again. This time, James Head Jr. got a piece of the football. Just like that, Indiana needed a field goal to win.
It’s never that easy with Indiana.
After Henderson carried the ball five straight times down to the MSU 9, the Spartans returned the favor with a block of their own. Michael Fletcher stuffed Campbell’s 27-yard attempt.
IU’s offense had the first crack at the piñata in double overtime, and Williams’ 2nd completed pass went for 24 yards to AJ Barner down to the MSU 1. Shivers finished the job for his second TD of the game.
Under the new rules, Indiana had to go for an all-important two-point conversion, and Williams connected with Barner to push IU’s lead to eight.
Indiana needed a stop to win, and they got it. Thorne, who started the game 13-of-15 and 25-of-35, threw consecutive incomplete passes to start the drive. After a 3-yard checkdown to Collins on 3rd down, Thorne failed to connect with Reed, with Noah Pierre in coverage to seal the win.
Indiana returns home for the final game of the season, as the Hoosiers host 7-4 (5-3 B1G) Purdue for the Old Oaken Bucket. Kickoff time and TV are still TBD. Purdue took the bucket last year, beating IU 44-7.
Photo by Indiana Football