Oct 4, 2003
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Jeff Smoker is making the most of his second chance.
Smoker tied a Michigan State record with 32 completions and accounted for three touchdowns as the No. 25 Spartans beat Indiana 31-3 Saturday.
Smoker finished 32-of-40 for 351 yards with two TDs, a rushing score and no interceptions. He tied the school mark for completions set by John Leister, who threw 46 passes in a loss to Michigan in 1982. It was Smoker's third 300-yard game this season and the seventh of the senior's tumultuous career.
Smoker was suspended from the team last year with five games left because of a substance-abuse problem. After seeking treatment and following numerous undisclosed conditions set by new coach John L. Smith, Smoker was reinstated two weeks before the season.
"Everyone makes mistakes. I'm sure you guys can think back in your lives to a time you did something stupid," Smoker said. "You can learn a lot of things as you go through life, not just in football. I have a greater appreciation for football now.
"I want to take advantage and make the most of every opportunity I get now."
Smoker increased his team records to 510 career completions on 858 attempts for 7,044 yards and 50 TDs.
Michigan State (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) has won three straight games in a season for the first time since starting 3-0 in 2000. The Hoosiers (1-5, 0-2) lost their 11th straight road game, dating to a win at Michigan State on Nov. 10, 2001.
Smith said Smoker's presence has helped his first season in charge of the often-troubled program get off to a good start.
"In what we do, the one building block you really need is that quarterback," Smith said. "But don't give him too much credit so that he gets a big head and thinks he's real neat."
Smoker gave Michigan State a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 31-yard pass to Jaren Hayes, after tossing a 12-yard pass to Jason Randall for a score in the first quarter. Smoker's 2-yard run midway through the fourth quarter completed the scoring.
Indiana, the lowest-scoring team in the Big Ten, did not score on five drives into Spartans territory. Three of the possessions ended because of sacks, one on a fumble and another on an incomplete pass.
"The offense had the ball in the midfield area and didn't do anything with it," Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo said. "Much like we haven't done all year. I thought that hurt us."
Michigan State, which started the game with a Big Ten-best 22 sacks, had six sacks against the Hoosiers. Greg Taplin doubled his season total with three sacks. The Spartans had just 19 sacks last season.
Indiana's Matt LoVecchio completed 14 of 31 passes for 168 yards without a TD or an interception. Glenn Johnson had six receptions for 70 yards and Benjarvus Green-Ellis gained 90 yards on 24 carries.
Coming off wins over then-No. 13 Iowa at home and Notre Dame on the road, the Spartans did not have a letdown as many Michigan State teams have in the past.
"That goes to show you we don't have to follow bad traditions," Smith said.
Michigan State scored on its first possession for the third straight game.
Smoker tossed a short pass to Randall, who ran through three Hoosiers for the score. Smoker rolled right, and threw back to a wide-open Hayes for his other passing TD.
Indiana went 14 plays on the ensuing possession, but stalled at the 2 and had to settle for Bryan Robertson's 21-yard field goal.
Jason Teague's 11-yard, tackle-breaking run then gave the Spartans a 24-3 lead.
Michigan State retained the Old Brass Spittoon, awarded the winner of the game since 1950.
"We didn't play very well," DiNardo said. "We took a step backward."