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Nicholls State beat Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and then almost beat Indiana

To kickoff Indiana’s season, we’re looking back at some of the dumbest, weirdest games over the last quarter century of Hoosier football. First up: the time Indiana nearly lost to a team without uniforms or running water.

NCAA Football - Indiana vs Michigan - November 12, 2005 Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

If you’re a believer in statistical modeling and Tom Allen, Indiana’s 2017 football season could perhaps be the program’s best in 25-some years of Hoosier football. With what could be a mildly historic season filled with good times in the offing, it’s time to look back at the stupid, weird, and sometimes horrible that’s filled the last quarter-century of Indiana football. The dumbest of the dumb. Peak #CHAOSTEAM, etc, etc. It’s time for LET’S REMEMBER SOME GAMES.

Indiana once played a football game against FCS Nicholls State. Nothing about this, independently, would be significant. Such would still be the case if Indiana had lost that game. For the overwhelming majority of time, Indiana football has existed as Dante within the college football’s final frozen center of Hell. No one here’s above losing to The Southern Illinois Salukis, and, no, neither are you.

Stupid football is performance art, and one must look far beyond the final tally on the scoreboard to find it. Win or loss is no matter. On September 10, 2005, I watched Indiana football piece de resistance: a last-second win over a lower-division triple option team that didn’t even have uniforms.

It’s amazing this game was ever played to begin with, thanks to Hurricane Katrina.

If you’re unable to place Nicholls State University on a map, few would blame you. But if you’re able to cross-reference the date with the school’s location, you’re probably able to figure out where we’re headed here. The Nicholls campus sits in Thibodaux, Louisiana — about an hour west-southwest from New Orleans, and right in the path of Hurricane Katrina’s August 29, 2005 landfall.

Football was correctly last on the list of priorities in Thibodaux and surrounding areas at that time, with the Nicholls campus serving as a refugee center for displaced New Orleans residents. A large percentage of the Colonels’ roster hailed from the New Orleans area, and you’d likely be hard-pressed to find any member of that 2005 roster that had football on the top of their mind at that time. Still, players unanimously voted to move forward with the Indiana game. Here, this piece from the Houma Courier captures the hell Nicholls players faced at that time far better than I could with third-hand recollection.

“You can’t forget it. You know with these guys it is unbelievable with what they had to go through and what they endured. They hung together like family, the adversity the guys faced,” (Nicholls defensive coordinator Jay) Thomas said. “As it turned out, we had guys spread out all over, and I had a lot of people helping me stay in touch with the guys. It seemed like we were away from campus for 14 or 15 days. We had parents in Texas take in players and the same thing in Mississippi.“While Thomas was keeping track with his players and the area slowly began to recover, Nicholls became a triage for displaced citizens from New Orleans. “It was complete chaos and understandably so, (Katrina) was an event that you couldn’t prepare for,” Nicholls athletics director Rob Bernardi said. “We had people on our campus and we served as an evacuation center. I think they stayed at least a month or so, and it was pretty close to 1,000 and not all of them stayed, but we had some that stayed for the four-week period.“

Nicholls players finally returned to campus two-to-three days prior to the Indiana game to prep, but with more major problems: the team had lost their game uniforms in the storm, no flights were available to Indiana out of New Orleans, and most of the area was still without power and running water. Enter Terry Hoeppner.

“It was a struggle to get flights because no one could fly in or out of New Orleans. Indiana did a wonderful job of helping us get a flight out of Baton Rouge. They wanted to do something for our kids, and their coach (Terry Hoeppner) was accommodating and he donated some money and they gave us extra food,” Thomas said. “Another problem we had was our uniforms. We had new uniforms on the way when Katrina hit, and they were lost in the flooding in Biloxi. I remember calling LSU and they were going to lend us their practice jerseys with purple numbers to go with our silver practice pants. Indiana said we could wear their practice jerseys, but NIKE shut down the basketball production to make a uniform for us and the delivered them on game day.“

This lead up to this game remains one of the better untold, or perhaps, unknown stories of college football. In the grand scheme of things, what happened on the football field doesn’t actually matter — it’s a hell of a testament to the human spirit that Nicholls even managed to get to Bloomington. We don’t need to go any further.

Actually, yeah, perhaps that’s best.

Okay, okay, fine. The game.

Yes, this game really happened — though you won’t find much on it anywhere.

If you’re looking for game tape, or, hell, even a box score on this — well, good luck! It’s effectively been scrubbed from the internet by time. Indiana’s official 2017 media guide doesn’t even acknowledge the game’s existence. Wikipedia doesn’t even have the official score correct! There are probably ten people on earth not named Blake Powers that know what happened during this game. I am one of them, sure, but this box score I’ve found as the last remaining internet vestige of this game tells the story far better.

Here is one sentence.

Blake Powers threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to James Hardy with 47 seconds left to give Indiana a 35-31 victory Saturday night over Division I-AA Nicholls State, a Louisiana school which had its early season schedule disrupted by Hurricane Katrina.

Here is another sentence.

Nicholls State rushed for 408 yards, including 219 yards in the first half, when the Colonels did not complete a single pass.

This game was stupid. Bye.