Cam’s Corner: Death by execution


Mel Tucker walks off the field after Michigan State’s double overtime loss to Indiana on November 19, 2022. Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Cameron McClarren, Sports Broadcast Assistant

EAST LANSING — The Michigan State Spartans fell in overtime to the Indiana Hoosiers as a second-half comeback proved to quell the Spartans’ postseason hope for at least another week. On a cold and windy senior day at Spartan Stadium, the Spartans could not hold off the Hoosiers as they came away with the 39-31 victory. 

Here are three takeaways from the Spartans’ overtime loss to Indiana. 


Berger is a force

Michigan State’s run offense has had its fair share of bad games. Something needed to change from a season-low seven yards against Ohio State and two abysmal under 50-yard performances against Minnesota and Michigan if the Spartans wanted to go bowling. That change was Jalen Berger. 

Since MSU’s 29-7 loss to Michigan, the run offense has improved drastically, culminating in three-straight games with over 100 yards rushing. In the previous two games, Berger had accounted for 54% of MSU’s total rush yards. Having Berger in the backfield has allowed the Spartans to suffocate opposing defenses and take valuable time off the clock. 

Today was a similar story. Berger was dominant in his time on the field, amassing 119 yards on 21 carries as the Spartans put up 223 rushing yards against the Hoosiers. It was Berger’s third time breaking 100 yards on the ground this season, after failing to do so since his 107-yard performance against Akron.

It was also his second-highest rushing total this season after rushing 120 yards in the season opener. 

Michigan State had been able to pull out victories in the past few weeks with the resurgence of the ground game. Allowing a mix of play calls and proper execution had given the Spartans the ability to not have to rely on Payton Thorne as much, while also keeping guys in the running back rotation fresh. 

Today, a mix of other factors led to the Spartans’ crumble. However, if anything positive can be taken from this game, it’s that Berger is going to be instrumental if the Spartans want to go bowling. 


Second half collapse

Michigan State was dominant for a majority of the first half holding Indiana to 81-yards of total offense, with 50 of those coming on Indiana’s opening drive that resulted in a touchdown. The Spartans were limiting Indiana’s play calling to be one-dimensional, and even though Indiana looked deadly on kick and punt returns, the Spartans held their own. 

Until the floodgates broke. 

After the Spartan offense floundered on their opening possession of the second half, Indiana’s Shaun Shivers found the endzone on a 79-yard rushing touchdown that brought Indiana within two scores. Though the Spartans scored on the ensuing possession, Indiana would get a huge momentum boost with a Jaylin Lucas 88-yard kickoff return touchdown that kept Indiana in the game. 

Indiana went back to the ground game, and for good measure, it was the only thing that worked against the Spartan defense. Indiana amassed only 37 yards through the air with most of that coming one-yard 24-yard completion in the second overtime period. The rest of their 288 yards of total offense came on the ground. 

It was the perfect game plan to rely on as the Spartans did not seem to have an answer for the combined rushing attack of Shivers and quarterback Dexter Williams II. Michigan State, which had dealt with one of the nations best running backs in Illinois’ Chase Brown, could not find a way to keep Shivers and Williams II in check as the two ran for a combined 201 yards. 

For a Michigan State side that had taken some monumental steps forward in run defense, today was a massive leap in the wrong direction. 


Special Teams 

It has been a freaky year, to say the least, when it comes to special teams. Long gone are the days when the Spartans had a “closer” and field goals have been a problem all year for the Spartans. 

Today it cost them dearly. 

With an opportunity to secure a bowl game, the Spartans relied on kicker Ben Patton to send them into the postseason with an extra game. A “routine” 22-yard field goal proved to be anything but as Patton was unable to curl it inside the right upright. 

To make matters worse, Patton once again failed to convert in overtime as a high-snap resulted in a botched play with Indiana blocking the 28-yard attempt. Two field goals are not much in the grand scheme of things, but it has been a constant reminder of what the Spartans have failed to do this year. 

Time and time again, the Spartans have put themselves in positions to get points but have ultimately failed to get them in critical situations. The Spartans missed two field goals against Maryland and also missed an attempt at Illinois as Patton’s 31-yard try to secure a victory went wide. 

Though the Spartans won at Illinois, those misses this season had started cutting into the massive gash that was exposed today. It is a problem that continues to show that there indeed is “a lack of execution.”

The Spartans’ postseason fate will be decided next weekend when they travel to State College to take on Penn State. Michigan State needs a victory to secure a place in a bowl game, and with a loss, the Spartans would most likely fail to receive a bowl invitation.