Michigan St. 30, Indiana 20
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP)—All Drew Stanton needed was an opportunity to show he could be a Big Ten starting quarterback.
After Saturday’s game, Stanton may have earned Michigan State’s job.
Stanton ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns and threw for another 172 yards to rally the Spartans from a 13-point halftime deficit for a 30-20 victory over Indiana.
“The way you measure a quarterback is getting a win and today we got one,” said Stanton, who completed 15 of 23 passes. “So that’s all I’m worried about.”
His starting debut came with a dream finish. He led the Spartans to 23 unanswered points in the second half and became the first Spartans quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards in a game since Charlie Baggett had 120 yards on Nov. 15, 1975. Stanton’s 134 yards were the most by a Spartan quarterback since Baggett had 151 against Indiana in 1974.
After throwing two interceptions in a dismal first half, the sophomore showed the poise of a veteran in the final 30 minutes as Michigan State (2-2, 1-0) won the Old Brass Spittoon for the third straight year and seventh time in eight games.
Down 20-17, Stanton calmly guided the Spartans on a 10-play, 78-yard scoring march. Jason Teague’s 1-yard TD run gave the Spartans a 24-20 lead early in fourth quarter and Dave Rayner made field goals from 22 and 39 yards to seal the victory.
Now it appears that Spartans coach John L. Smith finally has found his starter after starting three different quarterbacks in the first four weeks.
“I think somebody’s going to have to step up and beat him out or he’s going to have to mess up so bad, we’re going to have to make a change,” Smith said. “I thought he played pretty darn good.”
Stanton wasn’t the only one.
The Spartans outgained Indiana 310-41 in the second half, with most coming on the ground. Michigan State rushed for 175 of its 241 yards in the second half.
Stanton’s problematic right knee showed no sign of trouble as he averaged 11.2 yards on 12 carries.
The Hoosiers (2-2, 0-1) blamed themselves for their 13th loss in their last 14 Big Ten openers.
“We really didn’t have the same level of intensity that we had in the first half,” running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis said. “We have to come out and play four quarters.”
Green-Ellis finished with 65 yards on 23 carries. Matt LoVecchio completed 12 of 22 passes for 153 yards, threw two interceptions.
The Hoosiers started fast, leading 20-7 at halftime. But as the game wore on, Indiana’s defense wore down.
“There were a few times I broke into the open field, and I thought there was going to be a guy there,” Stanton said. “There wasn’t.”
The Hoosiers may have used all their energy in the first half.
Indiana took a 10-7 lead when LoVecchio hooked up with a wide open Chris Rudanovic for a 12-yard TD pass early in the second quarter.
Indiana got several more chances in quick succession.
Punt returner Lance Bennett fielded a ball at the Indiana 6 and sprinted through a gaping hole in the middle and down the right sideline for a 94-yard touchdown and a 17-7 lead. It broke Indiana’s previous school record of 93, set by Steve Porter against Wisconsin in 1970.
“It was wide open for me,” Bennett said.
On the Spartans next play, Stanton was picked off by Tracy Porter, which led to a 31-yard field goal and a 20-7 halftime lead.
The early struggles irked Smith.
“I told the guys ‘You’re going to pull together, grow together as a family, start playing for one another and playing as a team and stop worrying about yourself. If you do that, you’ll win this game,”’ Smith said.
Stanton took the cue, breaking off big runs on option plays—hardly a staple in the Spartans’ offense.
He capped a 54-yard drive midway through the third quarter with a 1-yard TD run on fourth-and-goal, cutting the lead to 20-14.
Then Stanton showed his poise on the game-winning drive, and the Spartans held on for the win.
He couldn’t have asked for anything more.
“I want to win ballgames,” Stanton said. “I don’t care what it takes.”