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Andy Graham | The Herald-Times | October 5, 2016

Indiana's win over Spartans gives reason to believe

  Indiana hoisted the Brass Spittoon after topping Michigan State on the road.

Indiana's crowd stuck around this time.

Boy, was it rewarded.

And reward generates belief.

That is perhaps the biggest potential upshot of Saturday night's 24-21 overtime win over No. 17 Michigan State at IU's Memorial Stadium. For folks both outside and inside the program.

Hoosier coach Kevin Wilson has talked all year about the need for a fairly capable and reasonably confident IU club to develop deep-down belief in itself as a team destined to win. Even in challenging circumstances.

Saturday has to help.

Indiana, after coming so close to knocking off a quartet of top 20-ranked foes last season, got the cigar this time.

Naysayers might argue that IU got some breaks this time, which it did, and contend Michigan State's current contingent isn't quite as potent as recent Spartan squads, which is perhaps true to an extent, but still sells short the proud and persistently excellent program Mark Dantonio has built over the past decade.

RELATED: Indiana gets three votes in AP poll

Michigan State personifies toughness and is annually one of the big boys — nationally, not just in the Big Ten.

Consider that MSU:

  • Is the only FBS program to finish in the nation's top six in the past three final AP polls (No. 3 in 2013, No. 5 in 2014, No. 6 last year).
  • Has ranked in the AP poll for a school-record 46 consecutive weeks, with 33 of those weeks spent in the Top 10.
  • Had won 25 of its previous 28 Big Ten games (including a victory in last year's Conference championship game) heading.
  • Is one of just four schools to play in a Bowl Championship Series Game (2014 Rose Bowl), a New Year's Eve Six Game (2015 Cotton Bowl) and the College Football Playoff (2015 semifinal) in the past three seasons, joining Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

And speaking of the Buckeyes ...

Ohio State, which hosts IU for a 3:30 kickoff Saturday, is an absolute juggernaut with speed all over the field and presently ranks No. 2 in the nation, behind only defending national champion Alabama.

"J.T. Barrett," IU coach Kevin Wilson said Monday, "is one of the absolute best players in college football."

But it's looking like Indiana has a pretty fair quarterback, too.

Richard Lagow indeed caught a touchdown pass before he threw one against MSU, but he threw a belief-building two in the fourth quarter as the Hoosiers roared back from a 14-0 third-quarter deficit.

Lagow has a .622 completion percentage through four games and has shown he can make all the throws. He's had bad moments, which is only to be expected for a guy acclimating to FBS level from JUCO, but he has mostly impressed. He might have an even better arm than the departed Nate Sudfeld, IU's career passing leader, and is a better athlete. Not sure Suddy would have made that catch for Indiana's first TD Saturday.

That came with 52 seconds left in the third quarter. IU's offense was conservative and pretty desultory to that point, but its fourth-quarter performance was electric. The offense made all the necessary plays when it counted most. It finished with eight straight scoring chances and, after some misfires, the last four produced 24 points.

After having issues running the ball against a stout Spartan front much of the night, the Hoosiers got it going a bit in the second half to finish with a solid 4.0 average per carry. That despite not having All-American right guard Dan Feeney and NFL prospect right tackle Dimitric Camiel available.

Indiana's defense, after another very solid performance for the balance of the game, didn't stop the final Michigan State drive in regulation, but keyed the win in overtime.

Sure, it all still could have gone awry down the stretch and at the very end for the Hoosiers.

But it didn't.

And so it wasn't just that Indiana won, but how it won. Indiana had zero penalties and zero turnovers after halftime. Not all the plays were made but, as it turned out, the requisite ones were. Just when phantasms from the past seemed ready to materialize, the Hoosiers ghost-busted their way through to a meaningful 'W.'

October remains scary. And we're not just talking Halloween.

After the trip to Ohio State, IU will entertain a No. 12 Nebraska team currently 5-0 and then travel to play Northwestern, which after some offensive issues earlier this season, scored 38 points Saturday in a win at Iowa.

Indiana started the week as a 32-point underdog heading into OSU's Horseshoe.

But Indiana also got three votes in this week's AP poll.

It's not a crowd as of yet. But there are some believers out there.

This article was written by Andy Graham from Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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