Halfway through the first quarter, it felt as if the "same old Hoosiers" had made their appearance. After the first win in Big Ten play in nearly two years, playing in the role of favorite in a Big Ten game for the first time in five years, Indiana quickly found itself down 14-0. After the teams exchanged punts on their first possession, Iowa scored a TD with 7:20 remaining, and Nate Sudfeld then threw a pick six on IU's next play from scrimmage, and suddenly the Hoosiers were at risk of being buried by an unremarkable Iowa team. The defense then picked it up, forcing the Hawkeyes to punt on their next four possessions (including three three-and-outs) and IU pulled to within four, at 14-10, by halftime. After IU punted on its first possession of the second half, the Hawkeyes appeared to be regaining control on a long drive, but an Antonio Marshall interception in the end zone ended that threat. IU finally took the lead at 17-14 on the next drive, Iowa regained it with a TD drive at the end of the third quarter, and IU responded immediately with a gorgeous 30 yard TD from Cameron Coffman to Cody Latimer. That was it for the scoring. IU wasted an opportunity to finish the Hawkeyes because of a Stephen Houston fumble at the Iowa 19 with 6 minutes to go. The IU defense held Iowa to 55 yards in the four quarter, and 24 of those yards came on a desperation drive that began with 18 seconds remaining in the game.
For the first time this season, IU was seriously hurt by multiple turnovers. Certainly, the pick 6 against Navy was up there, but IU could easily have been taken out of the game by the pick 6 in this game, and the Houston fumble blew an opportunity to end the game. Mitch Ewald missed a 38 yard field goal. In a way, that is encouraging. IU beat Iowa, and didn't need a bunch of breaks to do it. IU wasn't without breaks (the interception in the end zone), but gave more than they got. They won despite not everything going right.
Overall, IU outgained the Hawkeyes 473-345 and threw for 406 yards. The game was nearly a mirror image of the Illinois game in terms of the quarterback rotation. Coffman started the game, but Sudfeld came in for IU's second possession, and the pick six was his first throw of the day. Sudfeld played reasonably well after that, leading a scoring drive for a field goal and finishing 10-16 with 91 yards, but Coffman came in for the final possession of the second quarter and led IU to its first touchdown of the day. It was Coffman from there on out, and obviously it paid off. I think we are simply going to have to accept that if there were an obvious answer at quarterback, then the coaching staff would make the call. IU is fortunate to have two backup quarterbacks who can play, and who also respond well to being in a rotation (this is probably easier with two guys who didn't win the starting job in the preseason).
Oh, and what about Cody Latimer. It's fair to say that Latimer, who caught all three of IU's TDs and who gained 113 yards on 7 receptions, will join James Hardy in the nightmares of Iowa fans. Other individual performances of note:
- Ted Bolser didn't reach the end zone, but made some key catches when IU really needed them (6-82).
- IU struggled to establish the run, but Stephen Houston was respectable on the ground (18-52) and caught 4 passes for 22 yards.
- Kofi Hughes caught 6 passes for 110 yards.
- Isaiah Roundtree didn't touch the ball from scrimmage, but his 39 yard kickoff return set up IU's final TD
- Adam Replogle led IU with 7 tackles and 2 TFL, and his recovery of Iowa's attempted lateral on the final play obviously ended the game.
- Antonio Marshall had 7 tackles in addition to his interception.
- Bobby Richardson and Larry Black, Jr. recorded sacks.
As I said above, it's encouraging that IU was able to win a Big Ten game without playing a perfect game. Still, as with the Illinois game, there are obvious areas for improvement, and a better showing will be necessary to beat Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin game is, quite simply, the biggest regular season game IU has played since 1993, when IU made its first ever trip to Penn State with a 7-1/4-1 record. IU lost by 7 that day, and hasn't been in Rose Bowl contention since. It's quite a long shot for IU and requires unprecedented circumstances, and IU still is more likely than not to miss the postseason altogether, but the fact remains: it is November 4, and if IU wins its remaining games, the Hoosiers will play in the Rose Bowl.
I'm sure we will discuss this more as the week progresses, but here's a quick breakdown. Ohio State and Penn State lead the Leaders Division at 6-0 and 4-1, but both are banned from the postseason. Wisconsin is next, at 3-2. IU is in fourth place, at 2-3. Illinois and Purdue, both 0-5, are eliminated. If Wisconsin wins next week, then they will clinch the trip to Indianapolis, because they will be 4-4 and hold the tiebreaker over IU, and IU would then have four losses. If, however, IU wins next week, then IU and Wisconsin will be tied at 3-3 and will have the tiebreaker. That would mean that Wisconsin, which finishes with a home game against Ohio State and a road trip to Penn State, would have to finish ahead of IU in the standings. In other words, if IU beats Wisconsin and then splits with Purdue and Penn State, then Wisconsin would have to beat both OSU and PSU to pass IU. If IU beats Wisconsin and then loses out, then it's even conceivable that IU could go to Indianapolis at 3-5 if Penn State loses to both OSU and PSU. Of course, the most respectable course of action would be for IU to simply win out.
This team is still a long way from being good, but it's fun to talk about this stuff. More as the week continues.