1. Jordan Howard is the closer
With 5:56 remaining in the 4th quarter, Western Kentucky had just closed the gap to 38-35. However, the Hilltoppers never saw the ball again, thanks to an excellent final 12-play 75-yard drive anchored by Jordan Howard. Kevin Wilson put his trust in the UAB transfer (thanks Ray Watts!), and Howard got the ball on 7 of the 12 plays to secure the victory. On the day, Howard had 203 yards on 31 carries, and he now leads the ENTIRE FBS with 507 rushing yards over three games.
Also, props to Devine Redding, who had a key first down on that final drive and had 79 yards and a score on the day. Like with Tevin Coleman and D'Angelo Roberts last year, IU has great depth again in the backfield.
2. An excellent balance in offense made a difference
IU and WKU combined for over 1,200 yards in total offense yesterday, which adds up about two-thirds of a mile. But it was the Hoosiers who had the more balanced attack throughout the day. While WKU QB Brendan Doughty had 484 passing yards compared to Nate Sudfeld's 355 yards, the Toppers only had 84 yards on the ground compared to IU's 284. This balance allowed the Hoosiers to lead in time of possession, and demonstrated a multi-dimensional offense that was missing from last year's team for most of the season.
3. Despite giving up points, the defense kept coming up with big plays
At the end of the second quarter, Indiana gave up two quick touchdowns over a span of five total offensive plays for WKU, allowing the Toppers to take a 28-17 lead into halftime. However, the defense also made a goal-line stand in the second quarter that led to a 99-yard touchdown drive for Indiana. In addition, Jonathan Crawford came up with two straight interceptions in the third quarter, and the special teams blocked a WKU field goal.
Indiana's defense has also improved as the game has worn on. In the second halves of the past two games, the Hoosiers have only given up a combined 15 points.
4. This game was won in the trenches
Indiana's offensive line dominated the Hilltoppers' front seven most of the game. I've been fairly critical of the Hoosier's O-line in the past, but yesterday they controlled the line of scrimmage when IU was on offense, protecting Sudfeld and creating holes for Howard and Redding. And after 59 total rushes, the Toppers were worn down by the time of the aforementioned final drive. On the other side of the ball, the defensive line not only came up with the goal-line stance, but also kept WKU's running game, which was without the injured Leon Allen, in check most of the time.
5. It's a fine line between being 3-0 and being 0-3, and Indiana keeps doing the things to put itself in the win column
Indiana has now won their first three games by a total margin of only 18 points. Meanwhile, 100 miles south of B-Town, Louisville has started out 0-3, having lost these games by a total margin of 13 points. Yes, Louisville's competition has been tougher than Indiana's so it's not entirely a fair comparison. However, it just shows how narrow the line is between a victory and a loss in a sport where, with only 12 games on the table, wins and losses mean so much.
But, let's take a moment to appreciate that for the first time under Wilson, the Hoosiers are 3-0. They have a great chance to move to 4-0 next weekend at Wake Forest, where DC Brian Knorr used to coach the defense. The next home game, in two weeks, is against Ohio State, who kinda sorta struggled against a good Northern Illinois team yesterday. These are exciting times to be an IU football fan, and let's hope they can keep the momentum rolling.
BONUS: The Script Indiana helmets were FIRE
I am a huge fan of Script Indiana, and the new helmets that debuted yesterday made great use of the logo. I may have to update my helmet power rankings soon.