EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State came prepared with an appropriate symbol for its sixth victory of the season.
“We had a bowling ball in the locker room,” quarterback Brian Lewerke said. “We’re all going to sign it after — on Monday or whatever.”
Lewerke threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Felton Davis with 5:59 remaining, and the 18th-ranked Spartans edged Indiana 17-9 on Saturday night to become bowl eligible. Securing a postseason opportunity has been a formality for much of coach Mark Dantonio’s tenure at Michigan State, but after a 3-9 season in 2016, this win meant something.
“I think win No. 6 is big, this year especially,” Dantonio said. “We get bowl eligibility, and we can now work on our next goal, which is really just finishing this, what I call phase, and getting into November.”
Lewerke struggled for much of the game, but he was able to connect with an open Davis to the left side of the end zone. The extra point by Matt Coghlin put Michigan State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) ahead 10-9.
On the next possession, the Spartans forced an Indiana punt — one of 17 the teams combined for. Then LJ Scott ran 18 yards for a touchdown for Michigan State with 1:49 remaining. Coach Tom Allen said the Hoosiers were letting the Spartans score so they could get the ball back with a chance to tie.
“That’s the only chance we had. That allowed us to be down by eight,” Allen said. “We were just afraid they were going to take a knee and milk it that way. I’ve personally never done that before in a game, but that’s exactly what you should do to get a chance.”
Indiana (3-4, 0-4) had enough time but wasn’t able to cross midfield before turning the ball over on downs.
Shut down for most of the game, the Spartans drove 55 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Lewerke completed a short pass to freshman Hunter Rison to convert fourth-and-3, and a reverse to Davis on the next play gained 16 yards, setting up first down at the Indiana 13.
Lewerke’s pass to Davis for the game’s first touchdown gave Michigan State a breakthrough in a tough, defensive matchup.
Griffin Oakes kicked three field goals for Indiana, the last of which put the Hoosiers up 9-3 with 12:29 remaining.
Indiana came up just short for a second straight week against a team from Michigan. The Hoosiers lost in overtime to the Wolverines last weekend.