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Halftime reaction: Indiana trails Michigan State 21-14

Michael Penix runs with the ball into the end zone in Saturday’s first half against Michigan State. (Jared Rigdon/HN)

EAST LANSING, Michigan — IU enters halftime at Spartan Stadium trailing the No. 25 Spartans 21-14.

IU’s secondary struggled right out of the gate, and while it got a stop on the opening drive, Spartan quarterback Brian Lewerke spent his first half carving up the IU defense. That’s exactly what happened on Michigan State’s first touchdown-scoring drive. When Michigan State chose to go to an uncharacteristically up-tempo offense, IU’s secondary struggled to keep up.

Or at least all of the secondary but freshman Tiawan Mullen, who had two pass breakups in the endzone against Darrell Stewart in the second quarter. Mullen was hurt after his second pass breakup, and Michigan State scored on the next play, with a pass to Stewart.

Michigan State, an offense predicated on running the ball, passed for 223 yards in the first half.

While the IU secondary was far from perfect, the defense settled in as the half went on.

Mullen was phenomenal in the first half for IU, breaking up three passes. It was the best half of the true freshman’s career thus far. He was IU’s best option at corner, and it wasn’t all that close.

The first half didn’t come without mistakes, for both teams. Matt Coughlin missed a 43-yard field on the Spartans’ opening drive. Michigan State failed to convert a fourth down play in the first quarter, but that was only set up by Anthony Williams dropping a screen pass that very well could have gone for six.

It was those mistakes that kept the Hoosiers in the game early, and their own that kept them trailing: A dropped pick-six for Bryant Fitzgerald, a poor play call on a fourth-and-one, and three three-and-outs.

Not every drive was pretty for the Hoosier offense, highlighted by the quick three-and-outs that gave the Spartans good field position. But juxtaposed against those drives were the successes. IU’s first touchdown drive showcased the offense’s efficiency, taking just over two minutes to go over 60 yards, where as IU spent nearly six minutes to go 80 on a game-tying second quarter drive.

Indiana leaned on the passing game. The offense had to. Unsurprisingly, IU struggled to run the ball against Michigan State, despite a valiant effort by Matthew Bedford in place of Coy Cronk.

IU finished the first half with 142 passing yards and 32 rushing.

IU made enough plays to keep it competitive. Those overcame a fair share of mistakes.  With Penix on offense and Mullen on defense, youth has given IU a spark. It has kept the Hoosiers in the game in their first trip outside Indiana.

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