Indiana-Michigan St. Preview
(AP) – Mark Dantonio finally settled on a name for the final play that gave Michigan State its incomprehensible victory over Michigan.
It’s called Rangers: Mission 4:10.
”We were saying all week that mental is to physical as four is to one – that you had to be four times mentally tough than you were physically tough,” Dantonio said. ”The 10 seconds obviously comes in at the back end, with the last 10 seconds of the game.”
Those 10 seconds will be replayed for years in the state of Michigan, with the Spartans snatching victory when Michigan’s punter fumbled a snap and Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson ran the ball back for a touchdown and a 27-23 win.
The seventh-ranked Spartans (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) now have to find some way to come back to Earth and prepare for Saturday’s game against Indiana. The Hoosiers (4-3, 0-3) are in last place in the East Division, but they played Ohio State tough earlier this month, and their fast-paced offense could be dangerous if Michigan State isn’t sharp.
The Spartans have won seven of their last eight against Michigan, and they’ve also done a nice job avoiding letdowns in the immediate aftermath of those emotional wins. Since Dantonio took over as coach, Michigan State is 7-1 in games immediately following the matchup with Michigan. The only loss came last season, when the Spartans routed the Wolverines, then had an open date before losing at home to Ohio State.
”It’s all about handling success I think,” Dantonio said. ”Obviously the worst thing we can do is fall backwards here, so we need to continue to move forward and you know, our dreams are ahead of us, and they start this Saturday. So I think our players will be ready to play.”
Watts-Jackson had surgery on his hip after injuring himself on that desperate return. He returned to the Michigan State campus Monday, but he has to stay off his hip for three months and could miss spring practice.
”He was in good spirits,” Dantonio said. ”The man, the legend, is back.”
Quarterback Connor Cook said he was getting treatment Monday when Watts-Jackson came into the training room using a walker.
”Word got around that he was in the training room,” Cook said. ”Everyone was giving him hugs and telling him how much they loved him and how crazy the whole night was.”
Cook had his second straight 300-yard passing game after averaging 195.4 in the first five. He passed for 332 with three touchdowns and an interception in last season’s 56-17 win at Indiana.
In winning their sixth straight in the series and 14th in 16 meetings, the Spartans amassed 662 yards – the fourth-highest output in program history. They held the Hoosiers to 224 yards, including 11 through the air – the fewest since Dantonio took over in 2007.
Indiana leads the Big Ten in passing this season behind Nate Sudfeld, averaging 284.0 yards, and also leads in total offense at 478.9.
The Hoosiers rolled up 627 yards last week but turned the ball over three times – all in the fourth quarter – and allowed Rutgers to erase a 25-point deficit in a 55-52 defeat. They lost on a 26-yard field goal as time expired.
"It’s my responsibility to create the environment and culture that we win games, we consistently win games and we close out and finish games, and we didn’t do that," coach Kevin Wilson said.
Rebounding from a third consecutive defeat will be a tall order at Michigan State, where the Hoosiers have lost five straight by an average of 30.0 points. They’ve also lost 18 straight road games against ranked Big Ten teams since beating the Spartans in 2001.