During his tenure as head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers, Kevin Wilson has been looking for a signature Big Ten win.
Saturday night, Wilson’s Hoosiers (3-1, 1-0) finally got it with a stunning 24-21 overtime upset of No. 17 Michigan State before 47,408 fans at Memorial Stadium. It was the Hoosiers’ first home over a ranked team since 2006.
Speaking of 2006:
Griffin Oakes’ 20-yard field goal in overtime gave the Hoosiers their first win over Michigan State since 2006. Indiana will take home the Brass Spitoon for the first time… since 2006. It’s only the second win for Indiana in this series since 2001.
Since Wilson has been in charge in Bloomington, the Hoosiers have been known as an offensive team that can score in bunches while giving up a ton of points. Saturday night’s win over Michigan State came into fruition mainly from a defense that bent several times but did not break.
Yes, Indiana’s defense gave up 438 yards to the Spartans, but that number deceiving when you consider that the Hoosiers held Michigan State to just 4-of-15 conversions on third down. That allowed the Indiana offense to come back from a 14-0 third-quarter deficit.
After allowing Michigan State (2-2, 0-2) to score the game-tying touchdown in the game’s final 17 seconds, the Hoosiers’ defense regrouped and put the Spartans’ offense on lockdown in overtime.
The Indiana defense sacked Michigan State quarterback Tyler O’Connor on two straight plays, forcing Michigan State kicker Michael Geiger to make a 49-yard field goal, which fell short of the goal posts.
The Hoosiers’ kicking game almost forced a second overtime — and not in a good way — when Oakes’ 33-yard field goal went wide right, but the Spartans were penalized 15-yards when Michigan State’s Drake Martinez tried to climb up the back of a teammate to block the kick. The penalty enabled the Hoosiers to get a closer field goal to win the game.
Even though the Spartans jumped out to a 14-0 lead late in third quarter, they were inconsistent in the running game, which hampered their ability to move the ball. With the exception of those two scores and their game-tying drive late in the game, the Michigan State offense had trouble sustaining drives and converting on third down.
The first touchdown came on an 86-yard touchdown pass from O’Connor to wide receiver R.J. Shelton. Late in the third quarter, O’Connor hit Delton Williams for a 23-yard touchdown pass. Those two strikes put MSU in position to win, but the Spartans couldn’t consolidate their advantage once they gained it.
Meanwhile, the Hoosiers were able to score on their next three offensive possessions and eventually take the lead because the Indiana defense kept the Spartans’ offense at bay in the fourth quarter. Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow was responsible for all three scores during that critical stretch, where the offense scored 21 unanswered points. He threw two touchdown passes and caught a touchdown pass from wide receiver Mitchell Paige.
For the game, Lagow completed 16-of-26 passes for 276 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Coming into Saturday night’s contest, the Indiana defense was coming off a game in which it allowed Wake Forest to score 33 points. This week the Hoosiers kept Michigan State within shouting distance with a much tighter performance, an effort which reflected greater attention to detail and fewer blown assignments.
The win over a highly-regarded Michigan State squad represents a big step for an Indiana program trying to join the better teams in the tough Big Ten East.
Next week, the Hoosiers will take on an even tougher opponent when they travel to Columbus to take on No. 2 Ohio State. If Indiana can upset the Buckeyes, they will definitely be on another level.
The Hoosiers might not be ready for that game, but they’ll certainly enter it with supreme confidence after their resilient showing against the Big Ten champions… who are not likely to repeat this year.
Indiana — which narrowly missed beating Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa at home last year — no longer has to bear the burden of the word “almost.” That’s a powerful thing for a locker room to absorb. The Hoosiers know hope as this 2016 season continues.