In No. 10 IU’s 24-0 victory over Michigan State, securing the Old Brass Spittoon for the first time since 2016, IU looked far from perfect.
Despite being a far cry from the Hoosiers’ complete game against Michigan on Nov. 7, they controlled both sides of the ball and secured their first shutout since Oct. 12, 2019, to stay undefeated on the year.
The defense only allowed just 191 yards and created four turnovers. Only one Michigan State drive moved inside IU’s 40-yard line.
On offense, sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw for 320 yards and the offense had possession for just less than 40 minutes.
“It’s just the standard that we have,” IU head coach Tom Allen said. “We expect our guys to play at a high level, execute at a high level.”
At halftime, IU held a 24-0 lead, but it could have been more.
“I thought we were sloppy,” Allen said. “Didn’t execute well enough, especially on offense, and had some special teams mistakes.”
Penix threw two interceptions in the first half, one more than he threw in the first three games of the season. The first came on the opening drive when he threw the ball off his back foot, leading to an easy turnover.
Although he finished the half with 284 passing yards, Penix struggled to get comfortable early.
Early in the second quarter, Penix threw another interception, this one in the end zone. The Hoosiers took seven trips inside the red zone but scored on only three of those attempts, breaking a 16-16 stretch of scoring inside the red zone to start the season.
“We didn’t execute how we should have,” Penix said.
Naturally, as it has all season, the defense stepped up.
Sophomore cornerback Tiawan Mullen intercepted Michigan State’s starting quarterback, junior Rocky Lombardi, on the next play after Penix’s second pick. The ensuing drive ended in a field goal.
“He was due,” Allen said. “He’s always around the ball, got his hands on the ball all the time.”
Mullen broke out against Michigan State last season, breaking up four pass plays and putting himself on the map as one of the best true freshman cornerbacks in the country.
Michigan State only had 48 rushing yards in the first half, 38 of which came on a single long run by redshirt freshman quarterback Payton Thorne. Only four times in the game did the Spartans reach Hoosier territory; two ended in punts and two ended in a turnover on downs.
Thorne replaced Lombardi with just under 10 minutes left in the first half after Lombardi threw his second interception of the day, his seventh of the season. Thorne, who made his first career appearance on the final drive of the game Nov. 7 against Iowa, finished the day with 110 yards on 10-20 passing.
After his 38-yard scramble on his first play, the defense settled down and kept him from getting loose again.
“It’s practice,” Mullen said. “Monday through Friday the scout team gives us good looks. It was no surprise we had to transition to a running quarterback."
The game slowed down more in the second half.
IU took two drives down inside Michigan State’s five before turning the ball over on downs. Neither team scored.
Fryfogle finished the day with 200 yards, the first Hoosier to reach that mark since Ricky Jones had 208 against Wake Forest on Sept. 24, 2016.
“On the offensive side I feel like we left a lot of points on the board,” Penix said. “But it was still a team win, and we’re happy we got it.”