First, it was an 18-yard gain on 4th and 3. Next, it was a 15-yard scamper from Michigan State redshirt freshman quarterback Katin Houser. And finally, it was a 36-yard touchdown reception from Spartans’ redshirt junior tight end Maliq Carr that was marred by missed tackles.
Saturday’s defensive performance marked the second consecutive game in which Indiana allowed its opponents to score in crunch time. Despite allowing 317 yards to Michigan State compared to 662 yards against Illinois on Nov. 11, the Hoosiers couldn’t find a way to come through in the end.
Redshirt sophomore kicker Chris Freeman missed a 45-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter that was tipped at the line of scrimmage, leading the Hoosiers to go into the locker room at halftime down 14-7. Despite the miss at the end of the first half, Freeman had an opportunity with seven seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to redeem himself, attempting a 48-yard field goal to force overtime.
Not only did Michigan State take a late 24-21 lead but Indiana redshirt sophomore kicker Chris Freeman missed his second field goal of the day, costing the Hoosiers a chance at forcing overtime.
While the loss may be pinned on the defense’s inability to get off the field on their final drive and Freeman’s missed field goal, and the officials making a critical intentional grounding call that resulted in a longer attempt from Freeman.
“On the intentional grounding, he said that the receiver wasn’t close enough,” Allen said. “I said we have a read progression. He is reading the route, and obviously they weren’t on the same page. So obviously didn’t agree with the explanation, but that’s another discussion.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Brendan Sorsby echoed his frustration with the penalty.
“Wasn’t a fan of it, but I mean you know it’s just football,” Sorsby said postgame. “It is what it is, obviously, it’s out of our control.”
While Indiana’s final drive was marred with a crucial penalty and a possible missed defensive pass interference, its offense struggled in the first half — which is why the Hoosiers were seemingly playing catchup all afternoon.
Sorsby entered Saturday coming off leading the offense to a 45-point outburst against Illinois on Nov. 11 but was unable to replicate that success against Michigan State.
The Denton, Texas, native went 19-of-34 for 192 yards with a pair of touchdowns Saturday but totaled 86 passing yards in the opening half.
“[I was] just getting a little lazy with my footwork,” Sorsby said. “Talked to Coach Carey on the phone, he let me know what I was doing wrong. Just getting lazy with my elbow, lazy with my feet, causing a couple balls to sail. I made the adjustment and felt like I did decent in the second half.”
Despite the loss, Sorsby went nine-of-15 for 106 yards with two touchdowns in the second half. While the Hoosiers have won just one game with Sorsby as the starting quarterback, they will now look to win their second with him at the helm in the Old Oaken Bucket game against Purdue on Nov. 25 as the final opportunity for victory this season.
“We’re playing for the Old Oaken Bucket, the biggest trophy opportunity this team has in a given year outside of the postseason,” Allen said. “So huge game, massive game. Once again, we’ve got guys that are going to be playing their final Old Oaken Bucket game, so that’s going to be themotivation, without question.”
Although bowl eligibility is out the window and Indiana would be staring down a 3-9 record if it lost to Purdue, Allen knows his team will fight against the Boilermakers, who are also 3-8.