EAST LANSING — It took Indiana less than two minutes Saturday to create a major scare in Michigan State Football’s quest for bowl hopes. It turned out to be a small bump.
It turned out to be more than a fleeting fear in the frigid air. It was a harbinger of an epic disaster to come.
The Spartans blew a 17-point lead in the second half in catastrophic fashion, with breakdowns at every stage of the game. A 79-yard touchdown run by the Hoosiers’ Shawn Shivers, then an 88-yard kickoff by teammate Jaylin Lucas. A Payton Thorne interception on the next MSU play led to a field goal. Then a ground march tied Indiana with Josh Henderson’s 1-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
MSU kicker Ben Patton missed a 22-yard wide left field goal attempt as regulation time expired, then received a second block in overtime. The Hoosiers scored a touchdown and two-point play in the second overtime, stopping MSU from scoring for a 39–31 win in front of a nearly empty Spartan Stadium crowd.
The crushing loss means the Spartans (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) now need to win next Saturday’s regular season finale at No. 12 Penn State to qualify for a bowl game. Game time and TV network are yet to be announced.
Shivers became the eighth straight running back to eclipse 100 yards, finishing with 115 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns, including a 1-year in the second overtime. Quarterback Dexter Williams II, going 1-for-6 for 7 yards in regulation and the first overtime, hit AJ Barner for 24 yards on the first play of the second OT, then connected with his tight end for the game-winning 2- point conversion. Williams ran 16 times for 86 yards and a TD.
MSU got one last chance and reached the 10-yard line, but Payton Thorne’s pass to Jayden Reed was outside the end zone and incomplete.
Thorne finished 27 of 42 for 298 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Jalen Berger ran 21 times for 119 yards, while Elijah Collins had 107 yards with two touchdowns on 19 carries. Keon Coleman caught eight passes for 107 yards and a TD.
The Spartans defeated Indiana 540-288, had 30 first downs to the Hoosiers’ 11 and dominated possession time.
Indiana (4-7, 2-6), having lost seven straight, opened the game with a 43-yard kickoff return from Jaylin Lucas to begin his first drive in midfield. It took Dexter Williams II just four times to race around the left side, slip through Xavier Henderson’s diving gear and dance down the sidelines for a 34-yard touchdown. The repetition of whether the quarterback stepped out of bounds proved inconclusive to the officials, and the call stood to give the Hoosiers a 7–0 lead, just 1:48 into the game.
MSU’s defense held the Hoosiers to just 31 yards in the first half after that drive.
The Spartans answered with a 19-yard Ben Patton field goal on their next possession, stopping at the 2-yard line with two straight plays and an incompletion.
Thorne directed a touchdown drive early in the second quarter, set up by a 29-yard run by Berger. The junior quarterback tried to hit Collins in the flat, but the pitch was too fast and went through the hands of the running back. However, the ball was deflected to Maliq Carr, who slid and caught it for a 5-yard score, his first career touchdown catch that gave MSU a 10–7 lead.
Berger fired a 36-yard run on the Spartans’ next possession, Thorne hit Tre Mosley for 13 yards on third-7 and Collins finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown run that gave MSU a 17–7 lead that he took to rest.
Thorne went 13 of 15 for 153 yards and two touchdowns at the half, and Berger ran for 97 yards on 14 carries. The Spartans outscored the Hoosiers, 274-81.
The Spartans opened the second half by nearly fumbling away the kickoff, then went three-and-out on a botched flea flick and lost pass from Thorne to Daniel Barker.
Indiana needed one play to get back into the game. Shaun Shivers took a handoff from Williams from the right and found nothing but open field for him. He outscored MSU safety Henderson for a 79-yard touchdown just 1:20 into the third quarter, cutting the Spartans’ lead to 24–14.
MSU answered with a six-play, 69-yard drive capped by a 31-yard run by Collins after catching a 22-yard swing pass. Thorne also hit Reed for 22 yards on third and fourth to extend the ride. The Spartans looked set for an easy win, leading 31-14 with 6:17 left to play.
From that moment on everything collapsed.
Lucas made his way through MSU’s kickoff coverage unit and beat Chester Kimbrough to the end zone to make it a 10-point game 13 seconds later. After the Spartans took the ensuing kickoff, Thorne’s pass to receiver Germie Bernard was hit in the air after the freshman was hit just before the ball arrived. Indiana’s Jonathan Haynes snatched it up at the MSU 29.
The Spartans’ defense held IU to a 40-yard field goal, but the Hoosiers tied the game with a nine-play, 70-yard drive that continued into the early fourth quarter.
Williams and Lucas primed Indiana for the tying touchdown with big runs, then Henderson converted a fourth-and-1 with a 2-yard run to get to the MSU 1. He scored on the next play and the match was drawn.
MSU marched 70 yards down the field in 14 plays, giving Patton a chance to win it with a 22-yard field goal attempt. But the left-footed Auburn transfer missed wide, and then his 28-yard attempt was blocked in overtime on a high snap.
However, the Spartans’ Michael Fletcher blocked Indiana kicker Charles Campbell’s 27-yard field goal attempt to save Patton and send the game into a second overtime.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State football blows game to Indiana, 39-31, in 2OT