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Finally, a glimmer: Indiana 21, Northwestern 19.

IU still faces a tough path to the postseason, but preserved some hope with a homecoming upset of #22 Northwestern. Here are the stats. The box score reveals a fairly even game statistically, although Northwestern's five turnovers certainly stand out. Still, IU modestly outgained the Wildcats (319-316). NU ran the ball more effectively than IU, but neither was great: NU ran for 152 yards and 3.2 per carry; IU managed only 72 yards and 2 yards per carry. Both teams were 22-35 passing, but IU threw for 247 yards and no interceptions, while NU passed for 164 yards and threw two interceptions. Kellen Lewis was dressed but did not play. Chappell went the distance. Also, IU was without senior WR Andrew Means.
Often, games with such a high turnover differential of four have the feel of a giveaway (IU's 2004 win over Oregon, for instance). This one doesn't have that feel. IU averaged more yards per offensive play (4.5 to 3.9). Quite simply, IU's big plays were two tricky touchdown passes (a fake end around the led to a 43 yard touchdown pass from Ben Chappell to Demarlo Belcher, and a 28 yard toss from WR Mitchell Evans to true freshman Tandon Doss in the third quarter. NU's big pass plays were inteceptions and a spectacular fumble, discussed below. Other thoughts:
  • Perhaps it was because of the Means injury, but this game felt like a changing of the guard in the receiving corps: Ray Fisher caught four passes, but the 18 other completions all were caught by players who didn't contribute last season: true freshman Doss caught 8 balls for 107 yards, redshirt freshman Belcher caught 6 for 82; Terrence Turner, injured most of last season, caught 2, and converted DB Evans and freshman tight end Max Dedmond caught one each.
  • Marcus Thigpen couldn't quite break one for a touchdown, but he averaged over 33 yards on four kickoff returns, so perhaps he can recapture that 2006 magic as his IU career winds down.
  • After Northwestern QB CJ Bacher left the game with a hamstring injury, quarterback Mike Kafka made one of the most horrific plays I have ever seen: while in the grasp of IU lineman, Kafka threw the ball away--backwards, meaning it was a live ball. Instead of losing a handful of yards on a sack, NU was stuck with a fumble and 24 yard loss. He was lucky it didn't turn into an IU touchdown.

It maybe too little, too late, but IU's defense played well again and the offense finally showed some life. At the very least, things will remain interesting into November, which is better than the alternative. IU finished with Central Michigan (6-2, 5-0 MAC) on Saturday, and then finishes the home schedule against Wisconsin (4-4, 1-4). IU then travels to #3 Penn State (9-0, 5-0) and Purdue (2-6, 0-4). All four of the games are loseable; all but Penn State seem winnable.