Indiana 31, Illinois 17: Hoosiers finally finish one.

Reid Compton-US PRESSWIRE

The Hoosier defense finally pulled its weight and the result was a 31-17 road win in Champaign.

As I said in my postgame post, I nearly feel obligated to become extremely pessimistic about all of IU's remaining games. After having the last bit of optimism wrung out of me by the final five minutes of the Navy game, the Hoosiers responded with a very solid performance on both sides of the ball. What stands out in the box score is that this was a fairly unimpressive stastical performance for the Hoosier offense. IU punted on seven of its 15 possessions and was outgained by Illinois 372-292. IU was only 1 of 13 on third down. Nevertheless, IU took advantage of Illinois turnovers, scoring 10 points directly off of Illinois's two fumbles (IU's only turnover, a Cameron Coffman interception, was effectively a punt on third and long, and the Illini generated no points from it). The other story, of course, is that after riding Coffman throughout the Navy and Michigan State games, and having previously used Sudfeld when the Hoosiers had a big lead or a big deficit, Kevin Wilson put Sudfeld in for the final drive of the first quarter and he played the rest of the way. For the same, Sudfeld was 10-15 with 2 TDs, 2 sacks, and 0 INTs. Coffman was 4-7 for 64 yards and an interception and a sack. We'll see if this changes things for the Iowa game.

Had any of us known before the game that the Hoosiers would be significantly outgained and would punt seven times, then raise your hand if you would have thought those numbers would be consistent with a win. While the Illini gained a bunch of yards, in the second half they managed only 165 yards and three points (a field goal that bounced in off the upright). Indiana sacked Illinois QB Nate Scheelhaase 7 times, and IU stops combined with Illinois mistakes were good enough for the win.

Individual performances of note:

  • Stephen Houston averaged only 3.4 yards per carry, but ran for two touchdowns and also caught a touchdown pass.
  • Shane Wynn caught only three passes, but one was for the game-sealing touchdown.
  • The Hoosiers spread things around even more than usual: eight Hoosiers caught passes, but none caught more than three. Cody Latimer led they way with 67 receiving yards on two catches of 48 and 19 yards.
  • Eight different Hoosiers registered at least a share of IU's seven sacks, and none more than 1.0.
  • Brian Williams did a really nice job scooping up an Illinois fumble.

In addition, let's put this one in some historical perspective:
  • This was only IU's eighth win in Champaign all time. It's the first since 2006, only the second since 1979, and the third since 1970. IU's overall record there is now 8-29 there.
  • Kevin Wilson's first Big Ten win came against Jack Trudeau's alma mater. He, he.
  • The eleven-game Big Ten losing streak was dispiriting, but let's not forget that the 2010 win at Purdue ended a 12-game Big Ten losing streak.
  • This is IU's seventh Big Ten road win since beating Purdue in Bill Mallory's last game as IU's coach in 1996.
Oh, and the most interesting fact? IU controls its own destiny for a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game. Wisconsin is now 3-2 in the conference, while IU is 1-3. If the Hoosiers were to win out (extremely unlikely, I know), then they would be 5-3 and would hold the tiebreaker over Wisconsin, which would have at least three losses. Obviously, it seems crazy to think that IU would run the table. But try on this scenario: IU beats a struggling Iowa team, pulls everything together to upset Wisconsin on Senior Day, plays respectably at Penn State but loses, and finishes off the Danny Hope era by beating Purdue in West Lafayette. Wisconsin bounces back from the upset in Bloomington to beat Ohio State at home, but loses the finale at Penn State. Such a result would put IU, at 6-6/4-4, in the Big Ten championship game. It's almost certainly is not going to happen. But I don't think it's crazy. Iowa and Purdue are really, really struggling. The Wisconsin win would be an upset, but not to the degree it would have been a year or two ago. The least crazy part of the scenario is Wisconsin losing at least one of the OSU/PSU pair.

Again, I don't expect it, but I do think the Hoosiers have some opportunities in the next few weeks, and Iowa is among them. Thankfully, the Hoosiers' progress has finally culminated in a win. More on that game as the week transpires.
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