Clutch drive was Michigan State's knockout punch in win over Indiana

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — It only took two plays to get to the Indiana 1-yard line, but Michigan State’s 2-minute drive on Saturday wasn’t any less impressive than one that might have taken a dozen plays.

It was that drive that began with the score tied at 31 and exactly 2 minutes to play in the game that allowed No. 25 Michigan State to come away with a 40-31 victory over Indiana, avoiding what would have been a crushing loss to a Big Ten East foe with the toughest part of the schedule beginning next week.

Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke (14) runs the ball past Indiana defender James Head (6) in the fourth quarter.

“Let's go. We were made for times like this, this is adversity,” wide receiver Darrell Stewart said of what the Spartans said in the huddle. “I mean one thing you gotta understand about football is there's gonna be adversity, and if you think that it's not gonna be adversity, you're sadly mistaken. We’ve been put in situations like this all the time. Coach (Mark Dantonio) puts us in situations like this day-in and day-out, and we just responded to it in the correct way. That's how you gotta go about life.”

And that’s how you have to go about winning games.

Michigan State (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) did just that. On first down from its 25, Brian Lewerke got things rolling as he scrambled to his left and fired a deep ball for Stewart. The fifth-year senior receiver hauled it in, battling Indiana’s Jaylin Williams for the ball and going down at the Hoosiers’ 31.

It wasn’t a perfect play, but it was two guys making great individual efforts.

“I was thinking about running kinda but a guy was spying me a bit,” Lewerke said. “I didn't see a guy deep, so I thought I had to take a chance on a 50-50 ball with Darrell.”

To Stewart, it was more than his quarterback taking a chance.

“He was just breaking the play down, which was a great thing, him just being an athlete and him being the dawg that he is,” Stewart said. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Just get open, run with speed, get past them,’ and then before I knew the ball was in the air, so do what my job is, go get the ball.

“It's a blessing that it happened. Some of these things aren't written up how they're supposed to be, but I mean that's football. Things going to happen but you gotta respond.”

It put the Spartans in position for the second big play — a 30-yard scamper to the Indiana 1 with 1:03 to play. Lewerke appeared to slow near the end zone, staying in bounds to keep the clock moving and forcing Indiana to use its last two timeouts.

“I was thinking we still had about 1:30 left and was like, ‘Should I score here?’” Lewerke said. “So that's my excuse for getting (knocked) down. I was slowing down because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to score, but that was a big play and there weren't a lot of guys in the box, and that play was working for us all day.”

It worked out perfectly as Lewerke took a knee on first and second down, milking the final two Hoosiers timeouts. On third down, Matt Coghlin kicked a 21-yard field goal with 5 seconds to play, putting the Spartans up by three.

On Indiana’s final play, defensive back Michael Dowell recovered a fumble in the end zone to provide the final margin, but it was the two big plays on offense that made the difference.

“The offense played phenomenally,” Stewart said. “The O-line blocked fantastic, quarterback throwing great balls, running backs ran. It's a blessing to be able to do it and also a blessing to be able to do it under a fantastic coach. So it's been a great experience all together.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau