(Courtesy of sccop.hoosiershq.com)
By: Brian Denburg
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Everyone knew what to expect going into yesterday’s contest between the Indiana Hoosiers and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. That expectation was that it was going to be an offensive showcase featuring two of the nations’ most exciting and high scoring offenses. Both teams are extremely similar in that they can both score with anyone in the country and they usually struggle defensively.
Indiana started off the game on defense and got a quick stop on five plays, setting up a punt which was boomed to the Indiana nine-yard line and returned by redshirt junior, Mitchell Paige for 91-yards and a quick six. Western Kentucky fired back on the next drive and knotted the game up at seven when running back D’Andre Ferby scored his first touchdown of the day.
Going into the second quarter tied at seven, Ferby would add his second touchdown of the day on the first play in the second quarter from two-yards out to give the Hilltoppers their first lead of the day. IU got a major stop when Western Kentucky had fourth and goal on the Hoosier goal line as IU linebacker Marcus Oliver and defensive end Darius Latham prevented Ferby from notching his third touchdown of the game and keeping the score at 14-7 in favor of the Hilltoppers.
Led by a balance of rushing and passing IU would march 99 yards to tie the game up on an 18-yard toss from Nate Sudfeld to Ricky Jones. Western Kentucky took no time to strike back scoring another touchdown on a quick drive that was supplemented by a 60-yard strike on the first play making it 21-14 Hilltoppers. IU would answer with a field goal cutting the Western Kentucky lead to 21-17.
With around a minute remaining in the half IU was looking to go into half down four only needing a defensive stop. Instead on 3rd and 12 Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty would air it out and complete an absolute bomb to wide out Taywan Taylor giving the Hilltopers a 28-17 lead going into the half.
“Here we go again” was the collective thought going through Hoosier fans’ minds as Western Kentucky put up 21 points in the second quarter to take a 10 point lead going into halftime. At halftime, Memorial Stadium was shocked at what took place in the final minutes of the second half where it went from a tie game to a two-possession lead in favor of the Hilltoppers in just two minutes of game time. At halftime, Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, along with his coaching staff, went to work.
After cutting the lead back down to four in the first 2:30 of the 3rd quarter on a 36-yard pass to Mitchell Paige, it was clear that the IU defense needed to make some stops. The Hilltoppers proceeded to drive down the field again, and on a 2nd- and-8 from the Hoosier 28-yard line, Doughty would air it out looking to put up another touchdown. Instead, true freshman Jonathan Crawford would jump the route and intercept the experienced Hilltopper quarterback at the Hoosier three-yard line. Indiana then went on their second drive of 90 plus yards to re-take the lead after Nate Sudfeld found Simmie Cobbs for a 23-yard touch down.
Looking to respond to two consecutive IU touchdowns, Brandon Doughty threw his second interception of the day on the first play of the next drive. Once again true freshman Jonathan Crawford came up big jumping an out-route that seemed to work all day for the Hilltoppers. With a short field to go the Hoosiers punched in another touchdown on a hand off to Devine Redding from 2 yards out extending the lead to 38-28. On the next drive the Hilltoppers would have a fourth down and a field goal attempt to try and cut the lead to one possession. On the attempt, senior defensive lineman Nick Mangieri would get a hand on the ball blocking the kick and preventing Western Kentucky from cutting into Indiana’s lead.
Indiana had a nice ten-point cushion going into the fourth and with a 4th and 3 from the Hilltopper 13 yard line would line up to go for it. On the play Sudfeld looked for running back Jordan Howard in the end zone and couldn’t connect turning the ball over. Western Kentucky answered with a touchdown on a 14-play 86-yard drive in 4:19. With just under six minutes remaining the Indiana offensive line and running backs would milk the entirety of the clock remaining. Indiana had an impressive drive consisting of an early 3rd and 9 conversion where Sudfeld would once again find Simmie Cobbs. The conversion to Cobbs was followed by an impressive rushing display between Howard and Redding, which would lead to the conclusion of a 38-35 Indiana victory.
Together the Hoosiers and Hilltoppers gained over 1,200 yards and scored 73 points combined.
Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld would finish the game completing 20 of 27 passes for 355 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Aside from a couple of misfires, Sudfeld essentially played a perfect game averaging an outstanding 17.8 yards per completion. While Sudfeld played extremely well it was the running game that earned the victory.
Workhorse Jordan Howard ran for 203 yards on 31 carries averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Devine Redding had his fair share of rushing attempts running for 79 yards on 23 carries along with a touchdown. One of the most shocking things to see in the stat line is how the Indiana offense, which is known for its aerial attack, ran the ball at a little over a 2:1 run to pass ratio.
Ricky Jones had the most productive day for the Indiana wide receivers recording 5 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. As a group the Indiana tight ends had a solid day combining for 6 catches and 91 yards. The Hoosiers excelled in third down conversions going 8 for 12.
The Indiana defense came up when it needed to picking off Doughty twice in a row putting the offense in position to take the lead instead of coming from behind. The defense limited Western Kentucky to 84 yards on 26 attempts showing how much the defensive front 7 has improved over the past year or two. While still giving up 568 yards in total offense the IU defense made stops when it needed to and created timely turnovers, which has occurred rarely if at all in the Wilson era.
The win over Western Kentucky gives IU its first (3-0) start in Coach Wilson’s time at IU. While many will overlook this game it was a major win for the IU program because many picked against Western Kentucky over IU along with the fact that IU has lost to a mid major team every year in Wilson’s tenure.
Next week Indiana looks to finish the non-conference season undefeated as they make a trip to face a very beatable Wake Forest team who may be an easier matchup than this week.