In fairness to the fans, Perles was asking for it. When he came to East Lansing in 1983, he said the Spartans would contend for the conference championship by 1987. The fans noticed that '87 had arrived and that Michigan State didn't seem to be in contention. They turned out to be right and wrong.
In keeping with his don't-lose-the-game philosophy, Perles this year decided not to build his entire offense around White. White's chances for the Heisman Trophy have certainly been hurt by that choice, but the team was helped.
"For him to win the Heisman, I'd have to give him the ball every time," says Perles. "I decided before the season that we would not make any decisions based on him." And understandably so, considering White's history. In 1985 he was gangbusters: 386 carries for 1,908 yards rushing, the most ever by any sophomore. But last year he had nagging knee and ankle injuries that caused him to miss two games and most of four others. Then, in the first three games of this season, he carried an average of only 21 times for 82 yards per game. Pretty fair statistics for most backs, but they're not Heisman numbers. Later, when White was having a particularly ineffective stretch—he rushed for a mere 67 yards against Illinois and 80 against Ohio State—Perles tried other backs.
Conversely, when Perles had White carry the ball 56 times on Saturday—just one carry short of the NCAA record set in 1977 by Minnesota's Kent Kitzmann—it wasn't a last gasp effort to get White the trophy. It was simply that White was running well and the Spartans were winning the game.
Against Indiana, White carried the ball on 12 consecutive downs on one series and 13 straight times over two more series. "I did get very tired," he said after the game. "I really don't know how good I am, but if I'm as good as people say, then I have to try to play good."
Which he did. White's longest run was 21 yards, but he kept hammering and advancing the ball. He scored the Spartans' first touchdown and gained all the yards in the drive leading up to it. Starting on the Michigan State 49, White carried nine times, finally going off-tackle for the last five yards on the first play of the second quarter. With the extra point, the Spartans were ahead 7-3, and they proceeded to maintain their season-long record of never relinquishing a lead. Four minutes into the second quarter, Spartan quarterback Bobby McAllister threw a 22-yard strike to split end Andre Rison in the end zone to make the score 14-3.
Before the half ended, two plays let Indiana know that this was not its day. First, Michigan State kicker John Langeloh booted a 47-yard field goal that hit the crossbar and flopped over for three points. Second, after the Hoosiers had battled to the Spartan 35, Dave Kramme's pass into the end zone was picked off by safety Todd Krumm.
During intermission Michigan State defensive tackle Mark Nichols put things in perspective when he shouted to his California-dreamin' teammates: "We've got just 30 minutes to play, and then all night to party." Said Perles, "Now go out there and play the last half for people you love."
Backup tailback Blake Ezor took the second half kickoff 90 yards upheld to the Indiana eight: Although the Spartans had to settle for another field goal after recovering a White fumble on the one, it was enough to take out whatever starch was left in a Hoosier team that had come from behind in the second half four times this year.
By game's end Spartan middle linebacker Percy Snow had a team-high seven tackles and a fumble recovery; outside linebacker Kurt Larson had six tackles, one for a loss, and a fumble recovery; Nichols had four tackles, two for losses, and a quarterback sack; and Krumm had two interceptions (and a school-record nine for the season).