BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — As Michigan State wins go, it’s actually one of the cleaner all-time results for Mark Dantonio’s club on Saturday night. The Spartans won their first road game of 2018 and moved to 2-1 on the young season after winning their Big Ten opener in Indiana by a final score of 35-21. Quarterback Brian Lewerke finished 14-of-25 passing for 213 yards and two touchdowns – but sputtering offensive play kept MSU from putting up 40-plus points for the second time in three games.
The Indiana offense was held in check, picking up just 301 total yards. Another solid rushing defensive performance held IU to just 29 yards on 32 carries, and the Hoosier offense was stuck under four yards per play on the night.
Here’s the vaunted Take-O-Meter again after MSU moved to 2-1:
The refs cost Indiana this game.
4 TAKES of 5
Tom Allen had a right to be upset for most of the first half on Saturday – but Indiana’s failure to come out swinging in the second half was the thing the Hoosiers will lament most in the aftermath of this game. Michigan State’s defensive pressure at the start of the second half was what kept the game firmly in check, with defensive end Kenny Willekes and defensive tackle Raequan Williams the major sources of pressure.
The biggest missed call of the game was on MSU tight end Matt Dotson on the Spartans’ third touchdown of the night, as his push in the end zone enabled him to catch his first pass of the year. The back judge had a pretty clear view of the play, but kept the flag in his pocket. If there’s a play that ‘cost’ Indiana the game, it was there.
There was a debatable pass interference call in the second quarter that had Allen steaming on the sidelines, but Felton Davis (5 catches, 79 yards) sold the call well and IU got the ball right back in any case by way of a La’Darius Jefferson fumble.
A targeting call on Marcelino Ball was also iffy, but by the letter of the rulebook the call was pretty justifiable. There’s no disagreement that a healthy number of calls went the Spartans’ way, but Indiana had the ball back to begin the second half and was only down 21-7. The defense in the middle of the game was among MSU’s best work in the young season.
The offense is still sputtering.
1 TAKE of 5
I don’t know, either. 5.3 yards per play, more bad play-calling on second down. All but 3 of Indiana’s points came off of MSU turnovers (there were three). There are times where everything looks normal and MSU uses its weapons on the outside effectively. The touchdown to Dotson was part of a 7-play, 74-yard drive that took just 1:04 off the clock and featured exactly zero running plays.
The three turnovers were more self-inflicted wounds, as the Jefferson fumble wasn’t much more than a helmet directly to the ball. A true freshman mistake, not one that LJ Scott makes. Lewerke’s first interception was a bad idea, making a no-look spinning throw wide of Connor Heyward and into the hands of the Hoosiers’ Khalil Bryant.
Jalen Nailor is MSU’s Next Big Thing.
3 TAKES of 5
He is still down a ways on the receiving depth chart, but for a true freshman Nailor is ready for competition at this level. Two touchdowns – the first a solid run after catch from 11 yards out and the second a blistering 75-yard end-around where he went untouched – and a whole lot of confidence in MSU’s outside options comes out of Bloomington on Saturday night.
There’s little doubt that the ceiling is high for the speedy Nailor, who could now see the types of looks usually reserved for Darrell Stewart Jr. Stewart was injured early in the fourth quarter but was fine on his pair of receptions. 95 all-purpose yards is still a pretty solid way to announce your arrival.