BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The bye week was supposed to help this offense. Another unwatchable performance on Saturday made Hoosiers yearn for the days of Mike DeBord and Richard Lagow.
On a crisp, but sunny, fall Saturday in Bloomington, the Hoosiers (2-4, 0-3 B1G) turned it over twice, couldn’t scheme up open receivers, lacked explosive plays, and failed to convert in plus territory to drop their fourth game of the season, 20-15 vs. No. 10 Michigan State (7-0, 4-0 B1G). QB Michael Penix Jr. and DB Tiawan Mullen did not dress for this contest, held out of warmups with lingering injuries. Their status for next week is undetermined.
That means QB Jack Tuttle got the call for Indiana today, and he came out firing in his third career start. On his first drive, Tuttle completed seven of his nine passes for 75 yards, spreading the ball to Ty Fryfogle, Peyton Hendershot, Javon Swinton, and Stephen Carr.
Indiana’s drive stalled inside the MSU 10, though. Two runs and a sack forced a Charles Campbell field goal to give Indiana an early lead.
Tuttle could never recapture that efficiency the rest of the way. MSU LB Cal Haladay read Tuttle’s eyes and took a slant intended for Hendershot for a 30-yard pick six. That play’s importance grew over the course of the game, as both teams’ feeble offenses could not gain any traction.
QB Donaven McCulley (Lawrence North HS) made his career debut for IU, peppering in a swing pass to Carr and a five-yard scramble in his time on the field. Regardless of the QB in the game, OC Nick Sheridan had a tough time putting his players in the best position to succeed.
IU’s defense shut down Heisman hopeful RB Kenneth Walker from the first snap of the game. Walker, who came into the game with 913 rush yards in six games, recorded just 22 rushing yards in the first half. He totaled 84 yards on the ground on 23 carries, his second-lowest YPC on the season.
LB Micah McFadden played a major role in Indiana’s tenacious defensive effort. McFadden, a preseason All-American, continued improving his NFL Draft stock with a nine tackle, 1.5-sack game.
MSU punted on each of their six first half drives. Yet, with IU’s inability to find the end zone, it was just a 9-7 Hoosier lead at halftime. Campbell made three field goals, but hooked a 55-yard kick just wide before the break. It was his first non-blocked miss of the season, and it came on what would have been his longest career connection.
IU started the second half with possession, and few, if any, adjustments were made on that side of the ball. The Hoosiers totaled 105 yards of offense in the second half, compared to 217 in the first. IU also averaged just 2.4 yards per play after halftime, compared to 4.7 before the break.
Beyond Walker, the afternoon wasn’t all sunshine and roses for MSU’s QB either. After an electrifying performance last week at Rutgers, Payton Thorne threw two interceptions, nabbed by DB Josh Sanguinetti in the third quarter and DB Noah Pierre in the fourth.
Sanguinetti and Pierre stood out in place of Mullen and Reese Taylor, who tried playing but came out of the game after a series. Thorne finished the day 14 for 26 with 126 yards through the air. His best play was a 15-yard reception on MSU’s only touchdown drive.
Indiana’s only touchdown of the game came on a one-yard Carr run early in the fourth quarter. He was the main cog in IU’s offense, accumulating 53 rush yards on 19 carries and 43 receiving yards on eight catches. Carr had six catches all season coming into the game, and 10 last year with USC.
Indiana had three chances to find a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter after the defense repeatedly limited the Spartans. Kicker Matt Coghlin kicked a 46-yard field goal to give MSU a five-point lead with 8:31 left.
On the first drive, the Hoosiers went three and out. After a Spartan three and out, Fryfogle opted for a fair catch at his own six-yard line, when it looked like the ball might have rolled into the end zone. The Hoosiers pushed their way to the IU 28, then Tuttle throw his second pick of the day after getting hit on the throw.
After Thorne threw his pick to Pierre, coming off a boneheaded play call on a lofted pass to the end zone, the Hoosiers set up at their own 20. Fittingly, the incompetent Hoosier offense got a first down a penalty, took a sack, threw three more incompletions, and turned it over on downs to wrap up their fourth loss of the year.
Next Up: Ohio State comes to town
The No. 6 Buckeyes come to Bloomington on the shoulders of a four-game winning streak after their home loss to Oregon. Indiana has not beaten OSU since 1988 and is 9-77-4 all-time against them.
Featured Photo: IndianaHQ (Jevan McCoskey)