EAST LANSING, Mich. — Indiana is showing the college football world that its early season success is not a fluke.
The 10th-ranked Hoosiers walked into Spartan Stadium and delivered a 24-0 shutout to the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday. The win marks Indiana’s first in the series since 2016 and its first in East Lansing since 2001. Now, the Hoosiers return home with the Old Brass Spittoon and their first 4-0 conference start since 1987.
“We came up with goals and one of the major things the guys wanted was win our trophy games and so that is what we did, we won our first trophy game,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said. “We have not beaten them since I have been the head coach here and you know the history, we have not beaten them very often, recently.”
Indiana’s victory over the Spartans looked very similar to the Hoosiers’ win over Michigan a week ago. IU’s offense sprung out to a big lead early on and the defense did its job the rest of the way. Indiana led Michigan State 433-191 in total yards with the Hoosier defense forcing four turnovers, while limiting the Spartans to just 60 rushing yards.
Ty Fryfogle’s continuous production
Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and receiver Ty Fryfogle continued their connection from the previous week. Fryfogle set new career highs with 11 catches and 200 receiving yards, tying him seventh and 16th in those categories respectively for single-game production in program history. The Lucedale, Miss. native, also, hauled in two touchdown catches from Penix for a combined 81 yards. Fryfogle has tallied 18 catches for 342 yards and three scores in the last two games combined.
“Ty works extremely hard in practice and that is something that he does every day,” Penix said about Fryfogle. “It is nothing really new to us. But he comes out and competes all the time, he can see the ball every time it is in the air, and on the deep ball he just made an athletic catch and stayed in bounds, and he took it all the way. He is a great player and great players and make plays.”
The senior wideout’s production has been one of the main keys of Indiana’s offensive success this season. With a lot of attention going to teammate Whop Philyor, someone else needed to step up as a weapon for Penix to use. Fryfogle’s strength and athleticism play a big role in his offensive explosion this season.
Late in the first quarter, Penix threw a pass to Fryfogle in the left flat leading to three Spartan defenders swarming in to make a tackle. Fryfogle did not let that keep him from the end zone. He broke through the three players and dived into the end zone, giving IU the two touchdown lead late in the period.
Fryfogle did not stop there as Penix connected with him late in the first half for another score. Fryfogle had to catch the low pass, tip-toe the sideline, and then race forward for a 65-yard score.
“He is a big, strong guy,” Allen said. “I just want guys to who want to be here and I want guys that believe in us and want to work, want to commit, be disciplined, and buy into the L.E.O. culture, and he is one of them.”
Penix completed 25-of-38 passes for 320 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on the day. Penix and Fryfogle’s continued success is turning into a dangerous weapon for the Hoosier offense as the second half of the season resumes.
Indiana’s elite defensive play
For years Indiana has struggled defensively and normally need their offense to compete in shootouts for a chance at a win. That is not the case this season as this year’s unit has been playing like a top defense in the country.
Against Michigan, Indiana’s defense held the Wolverines to just 13 rushing yards. On Saturday, the defense kept Michigan under 200 yards and zero points. IU forced three interceptions and recovered a fumble against the Spartans. Cornerback Tiawan Mullen recorded his first two career interceptions Saturday, forcing Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker to bench starting quarterback Rocky Lombardi for freshman Payton Thorne. The change did not help as Thorne threw for just 110 yards one the night and threw an interception taken by cornerback Reese Taylor in the fourth quarter.
“Last year we left a lot on the field,” Mullen said. “We gave up plays that we should not have but this year as a unit we came together and the numbers were 11 strong out there. Once everybody was together, headed in the right direction, nothing could break us. We improvised, played as a unit and the numbers were strong to come out with the win.”
The Hoosiers played fast and aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Micah McFadden continues to lead this defense’s attack at the line of scrimmage. McFadden recorded a team high nine tackles with three tackles for loss and three sacks. The junior from Tampa, Fla. met Spartan rushers hard at the point of attack and limited Thorne’s escapes from the pocket.
Opponents rushing numbers remaining down and keeping quarterbacks in the pocket is essential for the Hoosiers’ defense to continue the high level of play. Defensive tackle Jerome Johnson made two sacks and linebacker James Miller added six tackles against the Spartans. It all starts with Indiana’s front seven creating pressure in the backfield this season and the group must maintain it.
“It is a huge deal,” McFadden said about the defensive line dominating up front. “Coach Kevin People does a great job getting the defensive line right, making sure the guys are in their gap and holding the line. Also, making sure we do not get any knock back upfronts. It is huge that we are getting that each week. It shows on the film. Our linebackers can run through the holes and make plays in the backfield.”
Potential top-10 matchup in Columbus?
Indiana completed its goal of the week and that was to dominate. The Hoosiers did not score a point in the second half and left points on the field. Charles Campbell missed a 41-yard field goal in the second quarter. Then, Indiana attempted three fourth down conversions succeeding in just one of them.
“I still thought it was ugly,” Allen said. “I thought we were sloppy and did not execute well enough, especially on offense and had some special teams’ mistakes, missed a field goal for the first time this year.”
IU’s 24 points was enough to beat Michigan State as the Hoosier defense kept the Spartans’ offense under control. However, Indiana travels to No. 3 Ohio State next Saturday. The Buckeyes did not play against Maryland on Saturday because of COVID-19 within the Terrapin program. Indiana’s last victory against Ohio State was in 1988 and the Hoosiers must play at their highest level for four complete quarters.
“It does not matter what everyone says about us,” Fryfogle said. “We are going to keep doing us and executing each and every week. That is what is exciting about this team. We are getting better each and every week.”
Photo Credit: Photo By Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics