BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It happens even on Broadway. When the lead can't go in a tragic comedy, the understudy steps in and the show goes on.
The problem though, must like Indiana football, is that it's still a tragic comedy.
Indiana started Jack Tuttle at quarterback on Saturday with Michael Penix Jr. unable to go because of a shoulder separation. Penix, who is coming off a second ACL surgery, hasn't been very good so far this season and struggled with turnovers through his first five starts, and many people were clamoring to see Tuttle get a start.
They got their wish, but the same issues that plagued Penix reared its ugly head with Tuttle, too. He threw two interceptions, including one that Michigan State returned for a touchdown, and lost a fumble on a strip sack, helping the Spartans remain unbeaten after a 20-15 victory.
"Protecting the football has become a glaring thing," a soft-spoken and frustrated Tom Allen said after the loss. “Our defense played awesome. They did everything we asked them to do, except maybe score. That’s the only thing they didn’t do.
"But we kicked too many field goals instead of scoring touchdowns, and we just can't continue to do that.''
Indiana's defense absolutely did enough to win this game. Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III came into the game leading the nation in rushing with 913 yards, averaging 152 per game. The Hoosiers held him to 83, and that's even deceiving because 42 of those came in the fourth quarter.
Michigan was averaging 487 yards a game as a team, good for eighth among Power 5 schools, but Indiana held them to 241. Quarterback Payton Thorne, who's been really good all year, passed for only 141 yards.
But once again, Indiana's offfense didn't do enough to help. They marched up and down in the first half while Indiana's was shutting down Michigan State, but they had nothing to really show for it. Indiana led 9-7 at the half on three Charles Campbell field goals, but all three of those drives should have led to so much more.
"It continues to be the same issues. We're just not scoring in the red zone,'' Allen said. "We were moving the ball well, but we just aren't scoring points."
Indiana's first drive went 70 yards on 13 plays, but Tuttle was sacked on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
Two drives later, Indiana took over at the Michigan State 43 but to settle for another field goal when Tuttle's third-and-2 pass to Jacolby Hewitt was behind him slightly and he couldn't hang on.
The third field goal came at the end of a 12-play, 71-yard drive, but on third down from the 7-yard line, Tuttle missed Peyton Hendershot in the end zone.
Indiana's defense pitched a shutout, with Michigan's only points coming on a pick six. On third-and-8 on Indiana's second drive, Tuttle forced a pass in the flat and it was intercepted by Cal Haladay, who returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.
The ultimate gift.
"The pick six was just a bad read,'' Allen said. "It was a mistake."
Michigan State went ahead 10-9 early in the third on a Matt Coughlin field goal. Indiana got a huge break when Josh Sanguinetti intercepted a pass on a tipped ball, but then Tuttle threw an interception on the ensuing possession.
Michigan State went 39 yards in five plays, scoring on a 12-yard pass from Thorne to Tyler Hunt on a misdirection play that confused Indiana's defense.
Indiana, which had lost its first two Big Ten games to Iowa (34-6) and Penn State (24-0) without scoring a touchdown, marched right down the field and finally found the end zone, with Stephen Carr scoring from 1-yard out two minutes into the fourth quarter. It was Indiana's first league touchdown in 193 minutes, dating back to early in the third quarter of last December's win at Wisconsin.
Indiana went for two, but a shuffle pass from Tuttle to Hendershot came up short. Indiana didn't threaten again, going three-and-out and then having Tuttle fumble on a strip sack.
Indiana is 2-4 now, with all four losses to top-10 teams. It's been tough, and it showed in the locker room.
"They're hurting. I don't blame them,'' Allen said. "There's no doubt this one is going to hurt for a while."
Tuttle finished 28-of-52 passing for 188 yards, with most of his completions on short, quick throws to the outside.
Indiana rushed for 134 yards on 36 carries. Stephen Carr had 53 yards on 19 carries, and he got help from Davion Ervin-Poindexter and Chris Childers, who had runs of 29 and 25 yards respectively.
Ty Fryfogle had seven receptions for 65 yards. Carr had eight catches for 43 yards.
Next up for Indiana is No. 6-ranked Ohio State, who is on a bye week. They meet next Saturday night in Bloomington, in a primetime game on ABC starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Related stories on Indiana football
- TUTTLE DRIVE CHART: Here's what Jack Tuttle and the Indiana offense did on every drive Saturday against Michigan State. CLICK HERE
- LIVE BLOG: Here's how the game played out in real time, with play-by-play and analysis of Indiana's 20-15 loss to No. 10 Michigan State. CLICK HERE
- TAILGATE TALES: HoosiersNow.com video director Haley Jordan caught up with fans prior to the game during tailgating around Memorial Stadium for her first ''Tailgate Tales'' video. CLICK HERE