It was an implausible display of the run game for Indiana on Saturday.
In its first loss of the season against the University of Cincinnati on Sept. 24, Indiana football starting quarterback redshirt junior Connor Bazelak threw the ball 66 times — a program single-game record. On Saturday, after a seven loss streak which started against Cincinnati, the Indiana running backs, led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Dexter Williams II, secured the Hoosiers’ first win in two months.
The game started with the decision to start Williams at quarterback over Bazelak — who had started nine of the Hoosiers’ ten games this year. In the first offensive drive, Indiana started with three consecutive carries to senior running back Shaun Shivers for a total of 16 yards.
Williams, in his first rushing attempt of the day, found space off to the left side and ran into the endzone to give Indiana an early 7-0 lead.
But that was it for the first half as the next five times Indiana's offense took the field, they came up scoreless, with four consecutive punts and a three-play drive to end the half.
Concerns about whether or not Indiana’s offense could play themselves back into the game were quickly put to rest. On the first Indiana play of the half, Shivers broke loose for a 79-yard touchdown, giving a pulse to the Hoosier offense.
A couple of drives later, Indiana’s defense absorbed yet another Spartans touchdown. However, it was soon answered as Michigan State got ready to kick off after their score, sitting ready to return the football was freshman running back Jaylin Lucas.
On the return, Lucas found space and accelerated down the field, 88 yards separated him from the endzone when he caught the kick and he ran every one of them. It was his FBS-leading second kickoff return for a touchdown this season.
In the fourth quarter to cap off a nine-play drive and tie the game at 31, senior running back Josh Henderson just needed a yard to reach the endzone. When he punched it in a play later, every Indiana player responsible for a rushing yard scored a touchdown against the Spartans.
At the end of the fourth quarter, Williams had just one pass completion for seven yards, yet Indiana was tied 31-31 going into overtime.
After both teams failed field goals in the first overtime, the Hoosiers found their eventual game-winning touchdown through the ground with a 1-yard touchdown via Shivers in double overtime.
“(Shivers) saved his best for a really important game for us,” Allen said.
Shivers finished with 115 yards on 13 carries. Williams totaled 86 yards on 16 attempts and got the win in his first start under center — despite all five of Indiana’s touchdown plays not involving a single throw.
On Saturday, Indiana scored four touchdowns on the ground plus Lucas’ kick return in its 39-31 win over Michigan State. Entering the game, the Hoosiers had just 10 rushing touchdowns and 85.8 rush yards per game this season, both of which ranked last in the Big Ten.
The last time Indiana came out on the winning side of a football game was two months ago on Sept. 17. In Western Kentucky University game, they had just 32 rushing yards.
Indiana football shied away from the passing attack and resorted to the run game to conform to their new starting quarterback. It resulted in a win, and now, Indiana is taking the Old Brass Spittoon back to Bloomington for the first time since 2020.
“Really proud of our players and the fight they showed today,” Allen said. “Unbelievable, I expected this to be a dog fight.”
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