Nov 7, 2020; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) narrowly escapes being sacked by Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Luiji Vilain (18) during the second half of the game at Memorial Stadium. The Indiana Hoosiers defeated the Michigan Wolverines 38 to 21. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

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Hoosiers try to live up to No. 10 ranking, face MSU

For 10th-ranked Indiana, the season has been about breaking down barriers and preconceived notions of its football program.

The Hoosiers (3-0 overall) will get another chance to show how far they have progressed when they visit Michigan State in a Big Ten rivalry game Saturday.

Indiana this week cracked the Top 10 of The Associated Press football poll for the first time since 1969. At 3-0 in league play, Indiana is off to its best start in the Big Ten since 1988.

Next on the Hoosiers’ long list of goals is gaining the Old Brass Spittoon, a trophy they haven’t won since 2016. Indiana came close last season, falling 40-31 at Michigan State in a game that came down to the final minutes.

Fourth-year Indiana coach Tom Allen called it “a trophy game for us here that we have placed a high value on … and have not been able to obtain that trophy since I have been the head coach here. And so, (we’re) just really excited about our opportunity to play a very tough, hard-nosed, hard-playing football team that we know is going to be playing their best football.”

Indiana has raced to a perfect start behind a defense that has forced eight takeaways, plus a balanced offense led by sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and running back Stevie Scott III. Penix passed for a career-high 342 yards and three touchdowns in Indiana’s 38-21 win over Michigan last week, while Scott rushed for a season-high 97 yards and two TDs.

“We have been having a great season so far, but the season is not over,” Penix said. “We still have games that we are looking forward to, like Michigan State this weekend. This is a great program, so we have to come with a positive mind set.”

Penix is 8-1 as a starting quarterback, with his loss coming at Michigan State last season.

“As the starting quarterback, when there is a big win, you are the one that is getting a lot of the recognition,” Penix said. “For me, the main role I have is showing the team that we cannot be complacent.”

Michigan State (1-2, 1-2 Big Ten) has won three straight against Indiana and 10 of their past 11 meetings. The Spartans are looking to bounce back from last week’s 49-7 loss at Iowa. Spartans starting quarterback Rocky Lombardi was intercepted three times in that game.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do at quarterback, at every position,” Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said.

In his first season at Michigan State, Tucker is still trying to build a cohesive team after losing 15 starters from last season. Junior receiver Jalen Nailor has provided a spark with 12 catches for 271 yards and a TD. But the Spartans have been unable to get their ground game going, averaging a league-worst 78.3 yards a game.

Tucker added a segment during Michigan State’s practice on Monday to address fundamentals.

“You cannot scheme your way out of a game if you don’t play with fundamentals and physical and mental toughness,” he said.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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