Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News breaks down Michigan State's win over Minnesota on Saturday night.
East Lansing — When Michigan State hosts Indiana on Saturday, it will be facing a Hoosiers team that’s got a bit of a different identity than it has the past few seasons.
Known as a team that could put up points in a hurry under former coach Kevin Wilson, Indiana has more of a defensive feel now under first-year coach Tom Allen, who was defensive coordinator last season and took over for the Foster Farms Bowl after Wilson was dismissed by Indiana.
The Hoosiers, who since 2011 have never finished in the top half of the Big Ten in total defense or scoring defense, are now a team that at least is slowing teams down. They’re fourth in passing defense in the conference this season, allowing 180.8 yards a game, and they’re seventh in total defense.
It’s not a swarming unit, but it didn’t allow Charleston Southern to complete a pass two weeks ago, a game after limiting Penn State running back Saquon Barkley to 56 yards rushing while holding the Nittany Lions to 39 as a team. The Hoosiers also limited Virginia to 55 rushing yards back in Week 2.
“We did a lot of great things (against Michigan),” Allen said. “We had eight three-and-outs. They only had 15 possessions, so that’s over half their possessions were three-and-outs, and 2-of-13 on third downs, so continue to do some great things, but we can’t give up those long runs.”
Indiana (3-3, 0-3 Big Ten) allowed 271 rushing yards against the Wolverines, something that again will be tested by No. 18 Michigan State.
The Spartans (5-1, 3-0) believe they have finally got their running game on track as LJ Scott ran for 194 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota while Madre London added 74 yards and a touchdown.
Allen knows his team will see plenty Scott and London, and hopes his defense can correct some of the mistakes it made last week against Michigan.
“I just think that’s the lesson learned, and I tell them it’s always about the little things, fundamentals,” Allen said. “It was fundamental fitting of a base concept offensively that we didn’t get right that you do kind of from day one. But can you do it late in the game when it matters, and that’s the key.”
The Spartans and Hoosiers will be playing for the Old Brass Spittoon, the trophy Indiana won last season for the first time since 2006.
That Hoosiers victory last season will be on the minds of the Spartans, Allen believes, but he understands the chance his team has to win at Spartan Stadium, a place Indiana hasn’t won at since 2006.
“It’s a big opportunity for us to go up to East Lansing at a place where we have not had a lot of success in the past,” Allen said. “Tremendous opportunity and challenge, and so whenever you beat a team that you haven’t beaten in a while or haven’t beaten very often in the history, they’re going to remember that for sure. Even though they’re a young team, I’m sure that will be impressed upon them, and there’s many guys that were on that field that will remember that. We will definitely get their very best shot.”