Recap: Spitting distance

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

There was a bit of uneasiness with Indiana's offense coming to town.

Four plays in, the Hoosiers had a 7-0 lead, and it was looking like a repeat of last year's slow start. But MSU adjusted much quicker. The offense had little trouble moving the ball, and the defense slowed down an offense averaging more than 500 yards per game, save for a few big plays.

The final score was 42-28, keeping the Old Brass Spittoon in East Lansing, and it probably wasn't even that close. MSU won its first home Big Ten game since 2011. All in all, a generally-stress-free homecoming win to move to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten.

BOX SCORE

Looking back at my three keys to the game.

For MSU

Red zone touchdowns - MSU entered the game scoring TDs on less than half of their red zone trips. They went a perfect 3-for-3 against Indiana. I wasn't a fan of wildcat again being used here, but they were able to run the ball down there, which is important. Jeremy Langford had two TD runs and a TD catch on a screen (!!) for the TDs. He also had a 32-yard TD run.

Defending the slot and the flat - Indiana went deep a whole lot more than I expected. Maybe it was part of the Notre Dame gameplan, but they didn't complete a single fade route, I don't believe. Indiana went 25-for-47 passing for just 5.5 yards per attempt. One TD was on a swing pass at the goal line.

Turnovers - MSU gave the ball away twice, and both led to IU touchdowns. Macgarrett Kings fumbled a punt return when he lost the ball in the sun. In the fourth quarter, Cook threw an interception that bounced off Aaron Burgridge's outstretched hand to an Indiana defender. Indiana's interception came right after they threw one on fourth down.

For Indiana

Use MSU's aggressiveness against itself - A year ago, Indiana burned MSU with some screen passes. MSU generally covered them well this time.

Quick passes - I mentioned the amount of deep passes above, which take time. Sudfield stayed back in the pocket quite a bit, and any time there was some sort of pressure, he would panic and scramble or throw the ball away. Not as many quick passes as I expected.

Bend, don't break - Nope. MSU went 3-for-3 on red zone touchdowns.

Looking back at all sides of the ball.

Offense

Another very encouraging performance. Cook finished 22-for-31, 235 yards (7.5 YPA), two TDs, one interception and four runs for 17 yards, if you take out the sack.

Cook has done a great job spreading things around. Against Iowa, Cook completed passes to nine different players. Against Indiana, they went to 11 different players, with four of them making multiple grabs. Tony Lippett led with six catches for 64 yards, including another really tough third-down grab in the first quarter. Macgarrett Kings had five grabs for 28 yards.

That 40-yard mark was notable because MSU didn't have a play of more than 40 yards before Iowa. Against Indiana, there were pass plays of 39 (Josiah Price) and 34 (Bennie Fowler) yards and runs of 37 yards (Delton Williams), 34 (R.J. Shelton) and 32 (Langford), so they were plenty explosive.

At one point, MSU's offense had scored touchdowns on five straight possessions, not counting the fumbled punt as a possession.

Notable from the receivers is, not only are they making some tough catches, they're breaking tackles. Not to get all intangible on you, but they look much more confident, and that's carrying over to when they have the ball in their hands.

The play-calling was good, but some mistakes were covered up by converting against an overmatched Indiana team. Like continuing to throw the shallow cross short of the sticks on third downs, or running the wildcat in the red zone. They showed something different on one play, having Langford run outside and fake a pitch to Cook. I'm not sure if running this play right after a reverse was smart or dumb.

One spot overlooked recently has been the offensive line. I touch on this more in my Freep column, but MSU is No. 5 nationally in sacks and TFLs allowed per game. Those numbers, along with MSU's 4.5 yards per carry, would all be the best in the Mark Dantonio era at MSU.

Defense

The Hoosiers came into the game averaging 535 yards per game and 6.9 yards per play. MSU held them to 351 yards and 4.7 yards per play.

Save for a couple big plays and short fields, the defense was its usual self. There was the 64-yard TD run early in the game. There was also a 53-yard pass that led to a third-quarter touchdown to cut MSU's lead to seven points.

Outside of those two plays/drives, the longest drive MSU allowed to Indiana was 45 yards. Indiana went 41 yards for a TD after Kings' fumble on the punt and 37 yards after the interception on their final drive of the game.

I mentioned it above, but Indiana attacked MSU on fade routes a ton and didn't complete a single one. It was at least 10 attempts. The coverage wasn't always great, but pressure typically forced a bad throw. That's how MSU's defense works.

Take out the long TD run, and the Hoosiers rushed for 37 yards on 20 carries. Take away the 53-yard pass, and it was 206 yards on 46 attempts (4.4 YPA). Of course, you can't just take those things out. MSU's defense can be prone to the big play. Against a team that was averaging more than 530 yards per game, it's certainly encouraging to see those numbers.

MSU's defense is No. 1 nationally in total D, yards per play D, rushing D, yards per rush D, yards per attempt D. It's also No. 3 in pass efficiency D and No. 8 in scoring defense. The Indiana game makes those numbers more legitimate.

Special teams

Mike Sadler's Heisman campaign got back on track, with four punts averaging 59.2 yards, including a 69-yarder. There were no field goal attempts. Kevin Muma had four touchbacks on seven kickoffs. Kings had 15 yards on four punt returns, but MSU's third lost fumble on a punt return was discouraging

Conclusion

It was a game MSU had to win, and they did. The next two games are the same deal, home against Purdue and at Illinois.

Dare we say this MSU offense is becoming at least noteworthy? The confidence is brewing from all parts of this team. Not all 5-1 teams can feel like that (ahem). They're getting better with each game. You can't ask for much more.

Well, you can ask them to knock it off with the stupid personal foul penalties  (10 penalties for 100 yards), but that's just how MSU plays. It's 60 minutes of unnecessary roughness. MSU's defense is going to play with that extra edge. They'll do something like committing a personal foul after a third-down stop, but they'll usually make up for it. Sure, #thugz, but also the No. 1 defense in the country. You'll take it.

Next up is Purdue and The Only Tailgate. Who thought this team would be fun to watch?

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