For the second week in a row, and third time in four games this season, the Michigan States Spartans were soundly defeated. The Indiana Hoosiers easily took down Michigan State by a score of 24-0. This marks Indiana’s first win over MSU since 2016, and just its fourth win in the last 18 meetings between the two programs. This was also the first time since 1985 that the Spartans were shut out at home.
The Hoosiers dominated from the opening whistle, out-gaining the Spartans in total yardage by a mark of 433 yards to 191 yards. Indiana out-gained Michigan State through the air by 189 yards (320-131), and out-rushed the Spartans by 53 yards (113-60).
Turnovers played a big factor, as Michigan State gave the ball away a total of four times — three interceptions by the quarterbacks and a fumble by Anthony Williams Jr.
Unsurprisingly, head coach Mel Tucker pointed to the turnovers, critical penalties and losing the field position battle as reasons for the loss, in his postgame press conference.
Coach Tucker meeting with the media:— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) November 14, 2020
"It's obvious, you turn the ball over and you have critical penalties against a good football team, you're going to get beat," Tucker said.
“Obviously, again, turnovers and penalties in the first half — against any type of team — you do not give yourself a chance,” Tucker said. “That was basically the story of this game.
Defensively, the Spartans were able to force two turnovers, as Shakur Brown had a pair of interceptions. But the offense was unable to capitalize, while Indiana was able to cash in on its opportunities more frequently, and the giveaways and mental mistakes were too much to overcome.
“That’s facts, and I mean it’s just straight down the middle,” Tucker reiterated. “You could see it, it’s obvious. You turn the ball over and you have critical penalties against a good football team, you are going to get beat.”
It was another rough day for junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi who completed just three passes on seven attempts, with two interceptions and a fumble (which Michigan State recovered) and a quarterback rating of 10.9. Lombardi has now thrown seven interceptions through four games this season.
Lombardi was pulled in the second quarter for redshirt freshman quarterback Payton Thorne, who completed 10 of 20 passes for 110 yards and an interception. Thorne added 25 yards rushing on eight carries (when subtracting sack yardage), but his first carry of the game went for 38 yards.
Tucker says it was Rocky Lombardi's "decision-making" early in the game that got him pulled.— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) November 14, 2020
He adds the offense was inconsistent with both Lombardi and Payton Thorne in the game.
“We thought it was some decision-making early in the game in first half,” Tucker said. “Payton (Thorne) was the next man up, so we gave him an opportunity. It was as simple as that. We’ll look at the film and we’ll evaluate it more, then we’ll see what we need to do moving forward. There’s no position set in stone on this team — the quarterback position or any other.”
Tucker also added that the offense was “inconsistent” with both quarterbacks in. The quarterback situation will be something to watch this week heading into the Maryland game next weekend (assuming that game is played as Maryland deals with COVID outbreaks).
Thorne also met with the media following the game and was asked about how it felt to be out there leading the offense.
“It was nice to get in there, and get some real action and be able to move the ball around a little bit,” Thorne said. “Wish I would have played better today, obviously, but it was nice to get out there and get some snaps.”
Thorne, who was able to surpass redshirt sophomore Theo Day on the depth chart this season after redshirting as a true freshman, was also asked about his progression and how he put himself in this position to get on the field today.
“I just took it day-by-day and tried to get better,” Thorne said. “We were home for a quite a while, obviously with COVID, over the summer. Luckily I have two receivers here that I went to high school with (Jayden Reed and Cade McDonald). So they’re right down the road from me and I was able to work out with them just about every day. So, having them and having guys at home back from high school that were helping me a ton, I feel like I was able to get better. And then Coach (Jay) Johnson has definitely helped me as he come in on all of our Zoom meetings and everything. I feel like he’s helped me mentally and progressing my knowledge with the game. I feel like I got better this offseason.”
On another note, the secondary was banged up today, with Kalon Gervin, Chris Jackson and Tre Person all out. That meant guys like Dominique Long, Michael Dowell and true freshman Angelo Grose all got extended playing time, but as mentioned it was Shak Brown who was making the plays for the secondary with two picks.
Tucker says he's "encouraged" from what he sees from Shakur Brown's play in the secondary. Adds he needs to continue to develop with his technique and overall play.— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) November 14, 2020
“We continue to work with him because he’s a talented young man,” Tucker said. ‘There’s things that he needs to do to get better to improve. So, we’ve been working on those things, he’s been working on those things. Just his approach to the game — when you do that and you improve and you work on the things you need to work on — at that position you’re going to get an opportunity to make plays, and he’s making some of those plays.
“Has he made strides? Yes,” Tucker later added regarding Brown. “Does he need to continue to make some strides in (his) technique and fundamentals? Yes. From what I’ve seen from him, he’s willing to do that. I’m encouraged by some of the things I’ve seen from him so far this season.”
At the end of the day, Tucker points to lack of execution for the reason why the Spartans took a second consecutive blowout loss.
“Much of it is about execution,” Tucker said. “We’re inconsistent. Which means you see us able to make plays on both sides of the ball — we’re able to make plays in the run game, we’re able to make plays in the passing game, then at times we’re not able to. That’s being inconsistent. But everything’s an evaluation — every game rep, every practice rep, how guys pay attention in meetings, how they perform in the weight room, what they do from a nutrition standpoint, punctuality — everything is an evaluation for us. It’s ongoing, that’s never going to stop. Based upon who we have in our evaluation, we’ll put the guys out there that we feel like give us the best chance. Then we’ll work for better execution.”