BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Instead of letting up or letting down, No. 8 Michigan State finally figured out how to put a game away.
Connor Cook threw three touchdown passes against his father’s alma mater, Jeremey Langford ran for three more scores and the defense pitched a second-half shutout as the Spartans routed Indiana 56-17 on Saturday.
“We just preached finishing,” receiver Tony Lippett said. “Starting fast and finishing strong (was) one thing around the locker room and the training room and the locker room all week — just finish the game.”
They did that by scoring the final 35 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter, when the game already was out of reach.
That alone suggests things are getting back to normal for Michigan State (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) just in time for rival Michigan.
But the rest of the numbers were impressive, too.
Cook went 24 of 32 for 332 yards with one interception. Langford ran for 109 yards and three scores, while Nick Hill finished with 178 yards including a 76-yard TD run with 1:24 left in the game. Tony Lippett caught seven passes for 123 yards and the offense wound up with 19 plays of 10 or more yards.
And even though the Spartans’ usually stout defense allowed a season-high 213 yards rushing and its first 100-yard rusher of the season, Dantonio couldn’t quibble with the other results. Michigan State held Indiana (3-4, 0-3) to 11 yards passing, had six three-and-outs, forced one turnover and held the Hoosiers to their second-lowest point total of the season.
Not bad for a team that held off late rallies from Nebraska and Purdue the last two weeks.
“We talked about the fourth quarter issue,” Dantonio said. “To me, it was more about keeping an edge when things started to turn. When there would be adversity how would we react? I thought we reacted extremely well. Two touchdown drives at the end of the second quarter, an 11-point lead and the third quarter sort of went our way.””
It was a milestone day for Dantonio, who tied Charlie Bachman for second in school history with his 70th career win at Michigan State. He became the fourth coach in school history to reach 100 games and hoisted the Old Brass Spittoon for the sixth time.
The defending Rose Bowl champs have now won five straight overall, six straight over the Hoosiers, 13 in a row over Big Ten foes including last year’s title game and have tied a school record with eight consecutive road wins in conference play.
For the Hoosiers, it was a dismal day.
Quarterback Zander Diamont was just 5 of 15 for 11 yards in his first college start, though the true freshman did score on a 9-yard TD run to give the Hoosiers a 17-14 lead with 5:25 left in the first half.
The nation’s top rusher, Tevin Coleman, ran 15 times for 132 yards to extend the nation’s longest streak of consecutive 100-yard games to nine. But his school record streak of 15 straight games with a rushing touchdown ended.
And the Hoosiers capped off a week in which they lost their top two quarterbacks with season-ending injuries with another scary moment as starting left tackle Jason Spriggs injured his upper neck, was placed on a backboard, carted off the field and taken to a local hospital with 4:54 left in the game.
“Took a hit, had movement, we’re going to keep praying for him for sure,” coach Kevin Wilson said when asked about Spriggs. “He was conscious, breathing, had some upper neck pain, but he did have movement in his extremities.”
They still had a chance after Diamont’s score.
It didn’t last long.
Michigan State answered the challenge with Langford’s 8-yard TD run and made it 28-17 on Cook’s 14-yard TD pass to Macgarrett Kings Jr. The Spartans closed it out with Cook’s 4-yard shovel pass to R.J. Shelton for a third-quarter score and the three fourth-quarter scores — a 12-yard run from Langford, a 22-yard run from Delton Williams and Hill’s 76-yard TD run.
“There were a couple chances to hang with them, and we weren’t good enough to do so,” Wilson said. “Just got worked a little bit in the second half by an outstanding.”
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