Michigan State yielded an eye glazing 32 points to Indiana after halftime and in so doing served up a 39-31 loss to Indiana on Senior Day at Spartan Stadium.
There is no other way to describe it, it was a devastating and humiliating loss.
The official crowd was listed as 56,000, but the upper decks at Spartan Stadium were closed due to weather conditions, and according to the “eye test” every other seat (or more) in the lower bowl was vacant.
On TV it looked bad…empty seats everywhere!
The crowd was probably more in the range of 40,000 to 45,000, but that’s the collateral damage expected when two teams from the lower tier of the Big Ten play a November game in inclement weather.
The magnitude of this loss should be put into perspective.
Prior to the game, Indiana was at the bottom of the Big Ten East with a record of 1-6 and 3-7 overall. Moreover, Indiana was considered one of the worst teams in the land, ranked #77 by CFN/Yahoo and came to Spartan Stadium on the wings of a 7-game losing streak.
Adding to Indiana’s woes, they were forced to play their 4th string Quarterback who was starting his very first game.
So, the odds were overwhelmingly stacked in favor of the Spartans according to the odds makers, yet Indiana outscored the Spartans 24-7 in the 2nd Half, and then outscored the Spartans 8-0 in OT…so when all was said and done, Indiana outscored the Spartans 32-7 after halftime and posted a stunning 39-31 road victory.
I’m certain the odds makers didn’t expect the Spartans to simply meltdown…but they did.
A meltdown in all phases:
The Spartans melted down in all phases: Offense, Defense and Special Teams and in so doing gift wrapped a road victory for Indiana.
Mel Tucker frequently uses the buzz phrase, “…play complementary football” which is cryptic coach speak meaning he is seeking contributions from all 3 phases: Offense, Defense and Special Teams.
And while Coach Tucker got contributions from all 3 phases, problematically the contributions could best be described as dysfunctional.
Let’s take a look:
- Special Teams was unprepared on the opening Kickoff and yielded a 43 Yard return to Jaylin Lucas, so the football rested 1st & 10 at the 50-yard line to start the game…then…
- Spartans Defense was unprepared as it yielded the remaining 50 yards to Indiana in just 4 plays, capped off by a 34 Yard Rushing Touchdown to Dexter Williams who was starting his first game. For the record, Williams was Indiana’s 4th string QB and the fact he guided Indiana to a Touchdown in 4 plays on the opening series of the game was an ominous sign because the Spartans were behind 7-0 after less than 2 minutes underscored by the fact Indiana torched both Special Teams as well as Spartans Defense.
- The Spartan’s Defense was also asleep at the switch at the start of the 2nd Half as it yielded a 79 Yard Rushing Touchdown to Shaun Shivers on the first Offensive snap of the 2nd Half.
- Special Teams was unprepared again as it yielded an 88 Yard Kickoff return for a Touchdown to Jaylin Lucas at the 6:04 mark of 3rd Qtr (apparently Special Teams forgot that Lucas returned the opening Kickoff 43 yards).
- Special Teams then managed to miss a 22-yard FG (essentially an XP) that would have sealed a victory with just 2 seconds remaining in regulation, but it went wide left.
- Special Teams then had an FG blocked in OT.
- And while the Spartans Offense piled up 540 Yards of Total Offense, yet when it mattered most, the Offense failed to score in two Overtime possessions.
It was a meltdown in every phase…and the coaching staff is culpable for lack of preparedness in all phases.
After all, this was Indiana…
In 7 previous Big Ten games, Indiana Defense was yielding an average of 456 Yards per game and ranked “dead last” in Scoring Defense yielding an astounding 36 Points per game.
So, while the Spartans posted 31 points for the day, it was less than Indiana had yielded thru 7 previous Big Ten games, so there was nothing heroic about the Spartans scoring 31 points vs Indiana.
Meanwhile, prior to this game, Indiana’s Scoring Offense was averaging just 18.9 Points per game in Big Ten competition, while its Rushing Offense was “dead last” in Big Ten competition, averaging a meager 61.6 Yards per game.
So, it is nearly unthinkable the Spartan Defense enabled Indiana to roll up 39 points and rack up an incredible 257 Yards on the ground…but it did.
In the end, it took 2 Overtimes to make the loss complete, but when all was said and done, this loss goes down as one of the 5 worst losses in Spartan Football History, in fact, in might very well be “The Worst”, and certainly it was the most humiliating.
To underscore the indignity of the loss, the Spartans’ final nine possessions featured just one touchdown, three punts, an interception, two turnovers on downs and two missed field goals…a meltdown from all phases.
Let’s remember, the Spartans were beaten by Indiana, the #77 ranked team in the land!
At the bottom line:
It won’t get easier, and assuredly it will get uglier because the Spartans must travel to Penn State for the final game of the season.
For what it’s worth, Penn State is favored by nearly 20 points, which given the circumstances, may be less than anticipated. Penn State has a bounty to play for, including the fact it will be Senior Day at Beaver Stadium, and they will also be playing for a top tier, New Year 6 Bowl Game.
Meanwhile the rewards for Spartan Football are certainly less romantic given the fact the Spartans 5-6 and playing for “any bowl” so the incentive clearly lies with Penn State.
Penn State is ranked #11 in the land with a record of 9-2 overall which means they will be seeking their 10th win and a New Year 6 Bowl Game.
Of course, Penn State’s only losses have come at the hands of #3 Michigan and #2 Ohio State both of which are ranked in the Top 4 of the College Football Playoff, so Penn State is formidable in all 3 phases.
In conclusion, as we reflect on this season, I’m certain this is not what Spartan fans contemplated in Mel Tucker’s 3rd Year…especially after MT clipped a coupon for a $95 Million payday…but it’s what Spartan fans got!
Where does this go from here? Mel Tucker has a lot to figure out!
Thank you for reading and I always welcome your comments and opinions.