Take the second half of last week’s game at Northwestern and the first half of Saturday’s game against Michigan State, and Indiana looks like a powerhouse.
Now, if the Hoosiers could just find a way to put four great quarters together on the same day.
IU squandered an impressive first half against the Spartans, who rallied for a 31-27 victory to spoil Indiana’s Homecoming and retain the Old Brass Spittoon.
“Played a half real hard, second half just got outplayed,” Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said.
Indeed, an IU offense that gouged the Spartans (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) for 280 yards and five scores in the first half had just 37 yards after the break.
“I thought at halftime the players refocused and did a great job setting the tone in the locker room for themselves,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.
Michigan State came into the game as the Big Ten’s best defense, allowing just 263.4 yards per game — just 154.5 passing yards per game.
Cameron Coffman bettered that with an impressive first half. He was 23-of-30 for 256 yards and three TDs in the first two quarters, completing nine straight passes at one point.
The offense went cold for IU (2-3, 0-2) in the second half, however. Coffman was just 10-of-18 for 26 yards in the final two quarters.
“We just couldn’t get it going,” Coffman said. “Our offense, we like to go fast, go up-tempo, and it’s really about that first set of plays. If we get going, get in a rhythm, we’re really rolling. If we don’t get going that first couple plays, then we’re not as good as we should be.
“We just couldn’t get it going a few times and that’s my fault.”
Wilson replaced Coffman with Nate Sudfeld a week ago against Northwestern, when the Hoosiers trailed 20-0 at halftime and 27-0 in the third quarter before losing 44-29. He admitted that he considered changing quarterbacks again, but decided to stick with his starter.
“I thought he played reasonably well, we weren’t forcing picks,” Wilson said of Coffman. “The only reason we went with Cam (as Saturday’s starter) was that he was slightly better on Wednesday and Thursday (in practice).”
While Indiana’s offense was performing above expectations in the first half, the defense was as well.
IU led 17-0 after the first quarter as Michigan State was outgained 183-22 in the game’s first 15 minutes. The Spartans battled back to within 17-14 on a Le’Veon Bell TD run and a scoring pass from Andrew Maxwell to Larry Caper.
But the Hoosiers answered with Coffman’s 17-yard TD pass to Shane Wynn. And when the kickoff was moved to the 50 because of a personal foul on the Spartans, the Hoosiers tried and recovered an onside kick.
The Hoosiers made it to the Michigan State 2 before settling for a Mitch Ewald field goal — his second of the day and the 34th of his career, moving him into sixth-place alltime in that category for the Hoosiers.
Both offenses bogged down in the third quarter, with Dan Conroy kicking a 46-yard field goal to bring the Spartans to within 27-17. But while Michigan State’s offense would eventually get going, the Hoosiers couldn’t regain their rhythm.
“You saw how good we can be when we’re playing well, but we’re not into moral victories,” Coffman said. “We fully expected to beat that team and we didn’t. That’s my fault on the offensive side.”
The defense took their share of the blame.
“I think it was just us not locking in,” Greg Heban said. “We had a great third quarter, but we have to finish.
“That’s been the stigma of our team, we just have to finish the fourth quarter. And I think if we had finished that fourth quarter, and gave the offense more shots, and the offense could have converted, I feel like we come out victorious here.”
Bell ran for 121 yards and two TDs for the Spartans, while Maxwell completed 24-of-40 passes for 290 yards.
Shane Wynn caught 12 passes for the Hoosiers, breaking his previous career game-high of six in the first quarter. He had seven receptions in the first quarter.