3 Takeaways from Michigan State’s 17-9 slugfest victory over Indiana

0
NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Iowa vs Michigan State
Dec 5, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; A helmet is raised in celebration after the Michigan State Spartans defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Conference football championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans are officially bowl eligible at week 7 of the college football season, after defeating Indiana (3-4, 0-4 BigTen) 17-9 in a game that was a nail-biter from start to finish. Michigan State (6-1, 4-0 BigTen) certainly took their sweet time getting into this game offensively, but once again their defense carried the load until the offense finally found a rhythm in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t pretty, hell it was down-right lucky at times, but the scoreboard said it worked so I’ll take it. Here’s what I took away from this ballgame.

Spartan Defense Stands Tall

I’m going to amend that sub-header with “when it counts”, because there were times in this game where the MSU secondary looked AWFUL. Chris Frey hitting a receiver well before the ball gets there, when all he had to do was TURN AROUND and it’s an interception. That’s a bad look, and there were a few of them against the Hoosiers, some of which the Spartans got away with… I’m looking at you Justin Layne. But overall, the defense allowed just 95 yards on the ground and a 158 in the air. And most importantly, NO TOUCHDOWNS. And when the game was on the line and it’s on the defense to close the door… Indiana moved the ball a grand total of 13 yards on six plays before turning it over on downs. Door. Closed.

Offense Took Too Long to Show Up

While it’s nice having one of the best defenses in the country, a defense that allowed just three points in the first half, it would be nice if the offense could show up just as quickly. The narrative this year is a knockdown-drag-out-fight game-in and game-out, and it wears on the aortic valves of the fanbase. There were times when the playcalling was hair-pullingly-maddening (I made that word up), and times where the execution was just as bad. Quarterback Brian Lewerke (16-for-29 for 185 yards and one touchdown) took his sweet time getting into this game as the Michigan State offense was basically shut out until just over nine minutes to play when he connected with Cody White (6 catches for 99 yards), Hunter Rison (2 catches for 13 yards, both of which converted big first downs), and Felton Davis III (1 catch for 10 yards and a touchdown) to give MSU it’s first lead of the game, 10-9.

Special Teams Can Win Ballgames

In a game that had 17 punts combined, special teams is going to play a big part in your win or your loss, and today Jake Hartbarger, AKA the best punter in America, had 8 kicks for over 46 yards on average, a long of 62 yards, and literally had just one touchback to three downed inside the 20. All year this kid has been pinning teams deep in their own end, making the Spartan’s defensive job a bit easier and putting more pressure on the opponent’s offense. With an offense that can be very… stagnant at times, the ability to flip the field becomes huge, and Hartbarger has played a big part in Michigan State’s 6-1 record. I can almost guarantee they don’t win this game without his leg. Yes, he’s that important.

Up next, a road trip to Chicago as the Spartans take on the Northwestern Wildcats.