Image courtesy of IU Athletics
The Hoosiers squared up against the Michigan State Spartans for the 59th time this weekend and fell to the Spartans in a heartbreaker 31-27 loss. While the Old Brass Spittoon trophy heads back to East Lansing for the 42nd time, Indiana contemplates what went wrong, and right, in Saturday’s game.
Tempo: The Hoosiers have been struggling to find and keep their momentum all season. When IU is rolling though, they are difficult to stop as was illustrated by this weekend’s game against Michigan State. With a 75-yard scoring drive in the first 1:17 of the game, it is safe to say Indiana found their momentum early on; a stark contrast to the past 2 games where the IU offense came on late in the second half.
After scoring two more times and leading Michigan State 17-0 in the first quarter, it looked as though Indiana had boarded a train that could not be stopped. IU traveled down the field in fewer than 3 minutes on every scoring drive. In the second quarter, IU maintained its momentum, tacking on another 10 points and finishing the half with 280 yards on offense while the Hoosier defense held Michigan State to 166.
And then came halftime.
The Hoosiers appeared to jump off the tempo train they had been riding through the first half and MSU capitalized. IU gave up 244 yards to the Spartans while only gaining 37 in the entire second half, which allowed Michigan State to take the 31-27 victory. “We just couldn’t get it going,” said starting quarterback, sophomore Cam Coffman. “Our offense, we like to go fast. We like to go up-tempo and it’s really about that first set of plays. If we get going, we can get into a rhythm then we can get moving really fast. If we don’t get going those first couple of plays then we’re not as good as we should be and we just couldn’t get it going on a couple of times and that’s my fault.”
Sophomore wide receiver, Shane Wynn, who had 70 receiving yards and a touchdown on the day, felt there was a clear shift in the momentum after halftime. “First half we went out with a lot of tempo. Second half I would say we slowed down the tempo,” explained Wynn. ”I mean, we should’ve kept hitting them with the tempo. We practice tempo every day. We’re a tempo team so we should be able to accomplish that all day.” Head coach Kevin Wilson added that there were no “magic changes” that occurred between the second and first half for either team besides the change in energy. “Their guys and their coaches, they got it done in halftime,” Wilson said of Michigan State. “It’s no one’s fault. As a team we have to create that energy. We have to keep attacking. We have to make things happen. And we just got to keep those guys fighting.”
Defense: One positive for the Hoosiers Saturday was the much-improved defense. Defensive tackle, Adarius Rayner – who posted 1 sack and 2 passing breakups on the day – attributed the improvement to the coaching staff and team. “Our scout team gave us a great look during the week and that just transferred over to the game,” explained Rayner. “I really think it was mental and everybody coming together throughout the whole week and it just transferred over to the game.”
Linebacker, Jacarri Alexander felt that the Michigan State offense was easier to handle than the past offenses they’ve played. “I feel like we’re definitely better equipped to go against a down-hill running team like that,” Alexander stated. “I feel like we played really good against the down-hill runner.” Riding the momentum train with the offense, the defense held the B1G’s leading rusher, Le’Veon Bell, to only 19 yards in the first quarter. Once the momentum changed however, the defense allowed Bell to get through their lines. “It wasn’t an adjustment,” said Alexander. “We didn’t come with it the second half like we should’ve…the defense kind of let it get down a little bit.”
Wilson commended his defense though, saying, “I think our defense is better. I think our coaches addressed some things, just trying to put guys in better position and what we did worked.” Wilson also added that he was pleased with the physicality with which the defense played, an aspect Wilson said earlier in the week would be crucial in the game. “I thought our kids attacked…we were trying to play physical defense and so the physicality of growing and playing hard was there and that I liked.”
But before the team could celebrate for too long Wilson stressed that moral victories were not what the Hoosiers strive for. “We’re gaining,” assured Wilson, “but moral victories are not our deal.” Cornerback Brian Williams agreed with Wilson saying, “There’s no moral victory. We need to win and that’s what they expect us to do.”
Cam Coffman: The sophomore battled true freshman Nate Sudfeld all week for the starting quarterback position, and not only started, but played the entire game for the first time all season. “The only reason we went with Cam…he was slightly better in practice on Wednesday and Thursday,” explained Wilson. “He got an on game and rode it.”
Coffman’s “on game” consisted of throwing 33-for-48 for 282 yards and three touchdowns, with 256 of those yards coming in the first half. Wilson also stated the Hoosiers considered substituting Sudfeld in the second half when the tempo began to wane but decided against doing so. “We went so long with Cam and I thought he played reasonably well,” said Wilson. Coffman however was not as pleased with his performance stating, “We’re not into moral victories. We fully expected to beat that team and we didn’t but that’s my fault on the offensive side. To be honest, we can be better than that. This is a very good offense and our coaches come in with a very good plan and if we can execute that, we’re unstoppable and the only people who can beat us is ourselves.”