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First-half observations: Brutal day for QB Rocky Lombardi, trail Indiana 24-0

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker on the field before the game against Indiana.

Own worst enemy

Michigan State continues to beat itself. Sure, Indiana might simply be that much better than the Spartans, but MSU simply can’t hang on to the ball, giving it up twice in the first quarter and a third time in the second quarter. Indiana capitalized on all three – two Rocky Lombardi interceptions and an Anthony Williams fumble – to take a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

It’s been a problem all season – remember seven turnovers in the opener? After all, in Michigan State’s only victory at Michigan this season, it didn’t lose the ball once. The other three games? Well, you know how that’s gone and it looks like this one is headed in the same direction. The only thing that has kept it from getting truly out of hand is the fact Michigan State cornerback Shakur Brown has two interceptions himself, though the Spartans could turn neither into points.

Going to the bullpen

It was another brutal day for Lombardi, who got pulled in the second quarter in favor of redshirt freshman Payton Thorne after throwing his second interception, giving him seven for the season. Lombardi played well in the first two games, despite three interceptions in the opener. The last two weeks, however, have been bad for the fourth-year junior.

His first interception on Saturday was a poor decision, throwing into double coverage. It was a similar decision on the second interception, a play that wiped out any chance at some momentum as it came one play after Brown’s second interception thwarted an Indiana drive. Where this leaves the MSU quarterback position is anyone’s guess as Thorne now has an opportunity to prove he should play.

Air raid

It’s hard to knock the secondary too much considering three opening-day starters were out, but the Spartans have been doing little to slow Michael Penix Jr. and the Indiana passing attack. Sure, Brown has a couple of interceptions, but that’s simply delayed the inevitable as Penix is 20-for-28 for 284 yards and two touchdowns. Ty Fryfogle has nine catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns.

The Spartans have still been fairly effective limiting the run, but at this point, it would be hard to imagine the Hoosiers doing anything but throwing the ball. MSU is without cornerbacks Chris Jackson and Kalon Gervin as well as safety Tre Person, but it’s fair to wonder how much of a difference they would make at this point.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mcharboneau