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COLUMN: IU drains hope from fans in Michigan State loss

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Sophomore wide receiver Whop Philyor is tackled by three Michigan State players during a game Sept. 22 at Memorial Stadium. Michigan defeated IU, 35-21. Sam House Buy Photos

The comeback was over before it started. 

The game was lost before it could be won. 

The hope was drained as it was built.

It was business as usual for IU on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium — removing belief and hope from those who dared to believe anything was different about the 2018 Hoosiers.

IU’s 35-21 loss to No. 24 Michigan State was a seemingly predetermined result executed in predetermined fashion.

Like a record on repeat, forcing the same menacing song into the eardrums of IU fans, the Hoosiers made preventable mistakes and failed to change the perception of the program.

Against a big-name, big-time opponent, and a crowd of more than 45,000 spectators, the Hoosiers fell flat on their faces.

“Disappointing performance and outcome tonight,” IU Coach Tom Allen said. “Had a great opportunity as a program and didn’t take advantage of it.”

IU's players and coaches deliver that second sentence to media members following every loss to a conference opponent, without fail.

It’s a true statement. With a victory, IU could have beaten a ranked opponent for the first time since 2016’s home win against Michigan State. The Hoosiers could have started 4-0 for just the seventh time in program history, and with next weekend’s trip to lowly Rutgers, IU would have likely been 5-0 entering its game at Ohio State.

Those were the opportunities, the possibilities that will never be realized. But there shouldn’t be surprise from anybody. This is what IU does.

Late in the third quarter of Saturday’s contest, the Hoosiers trailed the Spartans 28-7. Fans began to leave Memorial Stadium in droves as the IU offense turned stagnant thanks to a nonexistent rushing attack.

IU was set to play out a meaningless fourth quarter and suffer a loss by three or four possessions.

But, hope flickered.

Junior defensive back Khalil Bryant intercepted Michigan State junior quarterback Brian Lewerke, and IU kicked a field goal to make it 28-10.

Then-freshman linebacker Cam Jones intercepted Lewerke just three minutes later. The Hoosiers turned that takeaway into eight points via a 65-yard touchdown reception from sophomore wide receiver Whop Philyor and a successful two-point conversion.

Hope grew.

With 3:28 remaining in the game, junior Logan Justus made another short field goal to cut the Spartan lead to seven points. IU still had all three of its timeouts to use as the Hoosier defense returned to the field.

This was an IU defense that had rendered the Michigan State running game nonexistent. Without starting running back LJ Scott, the Spartans averaged just 1.4 yards per carry entering this crucial possession.

Two of the last three Michigan State drives had ended in turnovers and the last three drives averaged only five plays. If IU’s defense could continue its stellar second-half effort, the Hoosiers were set to get the ball back with a chance to tie the game and complete a 21-point turnaround.

Hope reached its peak.

On the first play of the drive, Spartan freshman wide receiver Jalen Nailor ran 75 yards to the end zone, untouched. 

A basic jet sweep running play, in an area of the game IU’s defense had dominated all night, completely undid the Hoosiers. 

Hope vanished. 

But to anyone who thought it wouldn’t, why did you?


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