Most football teams, even mediocre ones, can play like a winner at home even if they have not won on the road in two years. So when a Big 10 contender wins on the road, you have to do a double take and wonder, how far could they advance toward a major bowl game?
This pretty well describes Michigan State Spartans recent (9-27-08) 42-29 victory on the road against the Indiana Hoosiers. The Spartans won the first half 27-22 and won the second half 15-7. They scored in every quarter and shut out Indiana in the 4th quarter.
Michigan State faced some adversity and overcame it. Late in the 3rd quarter Indiana came up with a 97-yard touchdown pass that appeared to put the Hoosiers in the lead, but their right guard was called for holding in the end zone, giving the Spartans a safety and a 36-29 lead.
After adding a couple of 4th quarter field goals by Brett Swenson, MSU left with a well-earned 42-29 road win. Give some props to Swenson, who successfully kicked 4 field goals from 45, 48, 45 and 32 yards. An accurate long kicker is critical to success in major bowl games.
In a game that was not decided at the end of the 3rd quarter, there were 2 safeties, a blocked punt and 3 replay reviews. None of it mattered as much as the Michigan State Spartans 4th consecutive victory with star running back Javon Ringer averaging 204 yards rushing in the 4 wins.
Ringer had so much running success coming in that Indiana sought to limit his yardage, forcing him to carry the ball 44 times for 198 yards. You could hardly call that containment. When it really mattered in the last quarter, it was Ringer running time after time, eating up the clock and preserving the margin of victory.
Ringer also scored another rushing touchdown and now has 12. He continues to lead the nation in rushing TDs.
Brian Hoyer had some dropped passes by receivers (one of which was an easy touchdown), but still ended up going 14-of-26 for 261 yards, including an 82-yard scoring pass to Charlie Gantt. Hoyer also scored a rushing TD on a 1-yard plunge.
Indiana did lead the game 7-6 at one point, but was no match for the Spartans when push came to shove.
Next up for Michigan State is a homecoming game against Iowa on Saturday.
The Spartans, now 4-1, have not broken into the AP Top 25 Poll but have moved up to 27th place with only Maryland and 25th place Wake Forest between them and the 25th spot. Should they beat Iowa and Northwestern the next two weeks, their chances of making the Top 25 are excellent.
Michigan State Spartans fans are just beginning to see what a great hire head coach Mark Dantonio has been. Like Tom Izzo in basketball and Walt Drenth in cross-country and track & field, Dantonio is a winner who can take the Spartans to a national championship. Preps in Michigan are beginning to think of Michigan State first now rather than the Michigan Wolverines.