Bloomington, Ind. – Michigan State wanted to do one thing on Saturday – finish.
But for the better part of the first half against Indiana, finishing wasn't exactly the biggest concern. Keeping from falling too far behind was.
Midway through the second quarter it was Indiana that held the lead. But true to their plan for the game, the finish turned out to be all that mattered as No. 8 Michigan State scored 42 straight points to roll to a 56-17 victory at Memorial Stadium.
"Yeah, we've talked about it, we talked about it a lot," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "Not necessarily just the fourth quarter, but finish the game. There was a big push at the end of the third quarter in this case today and we wanted to move that process forward. I thought our guys came to play and an outstanding effort by them. An emotional game for a lot of people."
It was emotional because it was the 70th win for Dantonio in his 100th game as Michigan State's coach. He was presented the game ball afterward by captain Kurtis Drummond.
"I look at it as a birthday card from our football team," Dantonio said.
The Spartans dominated the Hoosiers offensively.
Connor Cook threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns while Jeremy Langford ran for 109 yards and three scores. Tony Lippett went over 100 yards for the fifth time this season, making seven catches for 123 yards, and Nick Hill got into the act, running for 178 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown. It was the first 100-yard game of his career.
The Spartans had 662 yards in total offense, and Cook went over 300 yards for the second time this year and fourth time in his career. He benefited from some outstanding plays from Lippett, as well as Macgarrett Kings and Aaron Burbridge.
It was the 12th straight Big Ten victory for the Spartans (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten), who weren't bad defensively, either. Indiana managed only 11 total yards in the second half as first-year quarterback Zander Diamont was 5-for-5 for 11 yards.
"It shows we have a resilient team," Drummond said. "We have a lot of guys here that are gonna keep fighting regardless of what the scoreboard says and guys believing in each other and trusting each other."
All of that came despite a first half in which Indiana (3-4, 0-3) actually took the lead at one point behind some big plays from Tevin Coleman and Shane Wynn.
With Michigan State leading 14-3 on a 32-yard Langford run and a 10-yard pass from Cook to tight end Josiah Price, Wynn took a reverse 75 yards for the score to cut the lead to 14-10 with 12:07 to play in the second quarter. Indiana linebacker Tegray Scales then intercepted a pass from Cook and Diamont scored on a 9-yard run two plays later to put the Hoosiers ahead, 17-14, with 5:25 left in the half.
"The quarterback locked on to his receiver and I read the quarterback," Scales said. "I dropped into the zone and got the pick."
However, Michigan State bounced back and closed the half on a strong note with a quick strike of its own. Indiana's Donovan Clark went for an interception on second down and missed as the ball fell into the hands of Price, who then scampered 67 yards to inside the Indiana 10. On the next play, Langford scored from 8 yards out to put the Spartans back in front, 21-17 late in the second quarter.
The Spartans closed the half with another solid drive and 14-yard touchdown pass from Cook to Kings to extend the lead to 28-17 at the break.
Michigan State took over in the second half, adding a 4-yard touchdown pass from Cook to R.J. Shelton, a 12-yard TD run by Langford and a 22-yard scoring run by Delton Williams. And attempting to run out the clock in the fourth quarter, Hill broke loose for his 76-yard touchdown run, giving the Spartans' 42 unanswered points.
"We're playing a good team and we're playing with them," Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said. "We're playing some young guys and got a little adversity. Guys need to stay positive. I thought there was a stretch there where maybe we didn't execute cleanly.
"There were a couple of chances to handle them, we weren't good enough to do so. They made a couple of plays and that's why they're a good team."
Coleman, the leading rusher in the nation, had 118 yards in the first half, including a 65-yard run, but was held to just 14 in the second half. Diamont was 5-for-15 for 11 yards in his first start as Michigan State recorded four sacks.
"I thought we played extremely well on defense," Dantonio said. "We played extremely well vs. the pass and for the most part I thought we stopped the run, as well."