EAST LANSING – What is old is new again.
A fourth-quarter lead. A ranked opponent. Indiana with a chance for a victory that would change the perception of the program.
The typical ingredients to a close conference defeat came together again for the Hoosiers on Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium.
No. 25 Michigan State’s 40-31 victory against Indiana came via a late-game comeback, the type which has haunted the Hoosier program in recent years.
Junior kicker Matt Coghlin’s game-winning 21-yard field goal as time expired preserved Michigan State’s perfect conference record and again left Indiana wondering what it has to do to defeat a ranked opponent under Tom Allen.
His Hoosier teams are now 0-12 against AP Top 25 ranked teams, although it looked at least like the Hoosiers would push Saturday’s opportunity for an upset win into overtime.
The Hoosiers tied the game with two minutes remaining, as redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. engineered a late-game drive. Pass interference calls helped Indiana move down the field, 78 yards specifically, in less than 90 seconds, with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Penix to junior wide receiver Whop Philyor bringing Indiana level.
But a 44-yard pass from Spartan senior quarterback Brian Lewerke to senior Darrell Stewart brought Michigan State into scoring position. Redshirt junior husky Marcelino Ball failed to let Lewerke score on a later running play, gifting the Spartans the chance to take and make a short kick for the win.
Penix Jr. returned to game action for the first time since week two, compiling a school-record stretch of 20 straight completions as part of his final stat line of 33-42 for 286 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Philyor was his go-to target. Offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer opted to run short passes and screens with speedy aerial target such as Philyor rather than pound the ball on the ground with sophomore running back Stevie Scott.
The end result was a 14-catch, 142-yard receiving day for Philyor, his third-career game with at least 10 catches and his third-career game with 100 receiving yards.
Scott still managed a decent ground performance given the concern entering the game about Indiana’s rushing attack. He averaged 3.7 yards per rush behind a new-look offensive line featuring true freshman Matthew Bedford, who slotted in at left tackle to replace injured senior Coy Cronk.
Michigan State redshirt freshman Elijah Collins managed just 56 rushing yards, but the Spartan offense fared just fine as Lewerke torched an overmatched Indiana secondary.
While true freshman Tiawan Mullen fared well, others such as junior Raheem Layne struggled in coverage as Lewerke put up 300 passing yards and three passing touchdowns, although he completed just 18 of 36 passes.
Indiana (3-2, 0-2) enters its bye week still searching for answers to the elusive question of how to defeat, not just compete with, the “Big Four” teams in the Big Ten East.
Michigan State (4-1, 2-0) plays at Ohio State next week in a matchup critical to both teams’ hopes of reaching the conference championship game.