MSU vs. Indiana: Week 8, 2005

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With Halloween on the horizon and the horrific homecoming performance in the rearview mirror, the MSU Spartan football team came into this Big Ten match up against the Indiana Hoosiers. Stung from criticism by the Spartan Nation faithful, the Spartans needed a victory not only to benefit a program that with a loss would begin spiraling out of control, but for their own pride. In the shadow of last week’s debacle loss to the Wildcats of Northwestern stood the proud heritage of the ‘55 and ‘65 National Championship teams.

John L. Smith came into this game with a staff and team that had been struck with criticism from a fan base more loyal that Hillary Clinton to Bill. With the $64 million dollar expansion of Spartan stadium and the addition of PSL seats, as well as, the increase in giving expectations for donors, along with the hefty rise in ticket prices, the Spartan Nation is tired of Rose Bowl commitments on their part with low return. The stadium was obviously well under capacity as one whole section had only one person and in many places plenty of seats sat empty.

The debate in Mid-Michigan all week centered on whether or not the program was going in the right direction. I certainly said on my TV show, as well as various other interviews, that calling for John L. Smith’s job is a mistake at this point, and I stand by that. I did, however, say that it would be the last four games of the season that will show us the direction in which we are headed.

The Spartans started off fast with a 98-yard kickoff return by Demond Williams for the MSU TD. Haughey (Hoy) was good on the PAT and with 14:47 left in the 1st quarter it was MSU 7 and IU 0.

IU had a great kickoff return also and started their first drive of the 1st quarter at their own 47. They moved the ball on the ground, but got shut down in the air so they had to punt. Terry Love made another special team’s blunder by fair catching the punt at the 7. The rule of thumb in football is that inside the 10 let it go. Love’s mistake showed us that with Brown’s mistakes in the past weeks maybe the issue is coaching not personnel.

Stantonled out his Spartans with a 7-point lead for the first time. The first two plays each lost 2 yards; a run and a pass. On third down, MSU took a safety, making the score 7-2 State with 11:37 to go in the first quarter. MSU punted, and the Hoosiers took the ball at their own 40. Powers and IU were unable to do anything against the MSU defense, and they had to punt. MSU got the ball at their own 21.

Needing to shake off the safety and the clouds of last week’s creaming, Stanton and the gang came back on the field for their next drive. Stanton drove the Spartans down the field deep to the IU 4. Stanton hit Kerry Reed for the TD pass and with Drew Stanton running for the 2-point conversion, the score was MSU 15 and IU 2 with 5:08 left in the 1st quarter.

The Hoosiers began their next drive at their own 31. Led by Powers, the Hoosiers got all the way down to the MSU 20, but an interception by SirDarean Adams gave MSU back the ball at the 23. Stanton and the gang came out with the intention of turning our beautiful cathedral into a woodshed. At the conclusion of the 1st quarter, it was 15-2 State with MSU in possession at the Hoosier 31. MSU continued to march down the field and scored a TD on a 2-yard Drew Stanton run. The 2-point conversion was good on a Stanton to Davis pass and with 13:05 left in the 2nd quarter it was MSU 23 and IU 2.

After a quick exit by the Hoosier offense, MSU came right back down the field. They got as far as the Hoosier 46, but had to punt when they were unable to go any farther. Fields had a great punt pinning the Hoosiers at their own 12. IU was unable to put it in the end zone, but they were able to pin MSU at its own 11 on a great punt. With 5:11 left in the 2nd quarter, MSU was led back on the field by Stanton .

MSU moved as far as the Hoosier 45, but when Drew made a poor decision, Kendall intercepted him. That gave IU the ball at their own 40 with 2:51 left in the 2nd quarter.

IU marched right down the field, and missed a TD on 2 occasions as their receivers dropped the ball in the end zone. On the 23 with 1 minute left and a 4th and 12, Hoeppner went for it (a great call that I said in the press box was a great call), and Powers found his big, 6’7” receiver, Hardy, for the TD. The PAT was blocked and returned for the 2-point conversion by Ashton Watson. With :54 left in the 2nd quarter, it was MSU 25 and IU 8. MSU got the ball at their own 36.

IU got the ball to start the 2nd half, drove down the field, and had the ball intercepted by Eric Smith. Stanton and the gang started at their own 22. MSU was unable to go anywhere and was faced with a 4th and 14. Fields had his punt blocked,and IU started at the MSU 44. IU marched down to the MSU 29, but they fumbled the ball and MSU got it back at their own 25.

Something needed to happen. Both teams had shown nothing in the 2nd half other than futility. Stanton and his offensive teammates came in. MSU drove all the way down to the Hoosier 10. Stanton had a 1st down and five after an off sides penalty by the Hoosiers. Drew was in the gun and threw the ball away under heavy pressure. On 2nd down, Stanton came out in single back offense under center. He handed off to Jehuu Caulcrick, and he ran to the 4. With that 1st down and goal, Stanton lined up under center again with a single back and Caulcrick got nothing. On 2nd down, Stanton ran to the 1, bringing up a critical 3rd and goal at the 1. Caulcrick had no issues running the ball in for the TD, and with the PAT being successful it was 32-8 MSU with 3:36 left in the 3rd quarter.

IU was unable to do anything, and after the punt MSU had the ball at the IU 45. MSU wasted no time putting it in the end zone as Javon Ringer took the ball 45 yards for the TD. The PAT was good and with 1:42 left in the 3rd quarter, it was MSU 39 and IU 8.

MSU got the ball back at their own 39. In what I believe was the worst coaching decision of the game, Drew was still in. He hit Trannon for a big gain down to the Hoosier 40 and that was the end of the 3rd quarter. MSU began the 4th quarter with a 1st and 10 at their own 40. Still, sadly and unwisely, Stanton was still in at QB. Stanton hit Terry Love immediately for the 40-yard TD strike, and with the successful PAT it was MSU 46 and IU 8 with 14:53 left in the 4th quarter.

I will stop now and talk about more than the score and look deeper into the rest of the season and our expectations for MSU. It is critical now that John L. Smith salvage this season. This team has the talent to win 2 of the last 3 and that is what I am looking for. No exceptions, we must continue to demand this program improve exponentially!

Grades:

Offense: A

Defense: A

Special Teams: B-

Coaching: A