Spartans Prep For Number 1 Ohio State

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Maybe these aren't the same old Spartans.
Michigan State showed passion and poise Saturday, bouncing back from two straight razor-thin losses to dominate a decent Indiana team. The Spartans won 52-27 and showed resolve that often was lacking in recent seasons when a tough loss or two would ruin them for the rest of the year.
Next weekend, however, Michigan State will travel to play the same old Ohio State program that continues to be the class of the Big Ten. The Buckeyes, despite losing several key players from last year's team that lost in the national championship game, are ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press poll released Sunday. Ohio State ascended to the top spot because LSU and California, ranked first and second last week, both lost.
"We are confident, but we still know that Ohio State is a great team," said Michigan State's Javon Ringer, who rolled up 203 rushing yards against Indiana.
"We don't fear anybody," said Spartan receiver Devin Thomas, who had 13 catches for 148 yards and a TD against the Hoosiers. "We're just going into each game focused and we'll try to do our best. That's our mentality."
Michigan State (5-2, 1-2 Big Ten) showed some mental toughness against Indiana (5-2, 2-2).
The Spartans executed their gameplan, playing keepaway from the explosive Hoosiers by dominating time of possession. Michigan State had the ball for more than 41 of the game's 60 minutes, and ran 54 more offensive plays than Indiana.
It went a long way toward restoring the Spartans' confidence, sagging after frustrating back-to-back losses to Wisconsin and Northwestern.
"Every time in your life where things start to fall around you a little bit, you just step back," first-year Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "I think you have to step back and take a look at where you're at, re-evaluate, and move it forward, and our football team did that."
Michigan State's defense gave up two long touchdown plays, but for the most part bottled up elusive Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis. Hoosier receiver James Hardy had 121 receiving yards but caught only six passes.
The Spartan defense started the second half by forcing Indiana's offense into two consecutive punts and then returned a fumble for a touchdown while building a 32-point lead.
The defense was far tougher than it was during a 48-41 overtime loss to Northwestern last week.
"We know we're a lot better than what the score said last week," said defensive end Ervin Baldwin. "We were motivated."
Defensive end Jonal Saint-Dic caused the fumble that Baldwin returned for a TD. Saint-Dic has forced seven fumbles this season, tying a Big Ten record.
Both Michigan State and Indiana are one win away from becoming bowl eligible. That would be big for both programs, since the Hoosiers haven't been to a bowl since 1993 and Michigan State has missed three straight postseasons.
"We know we can get to a bowl game," Hardy said. "As long as we stick together, no matter what the outside world thinks, we know we can reach our goal."
Hardy continues to be a bright spot for the Hoosiers. He has a school record 11 games with at least 100 receiving yards, including three this season.
Kicker Austin Starr made two field goals Saturday, giving him a school record 11 straight. He said the record was bittersweet.
"I would rather have the worst game of my life and still win," Starr said.
Defensive back Austin Thomas had a career-high 22 tackles for Indiana, which hosts Penn State next week.


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