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Indiana 24, Rutger 17: Three Things

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It was a weird game, but Indiana improved to 4-1.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Rutgers Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, Rutger. The perpetual thorn in the side of Indiana football. Nothing ever comes easy with you, does it? Indiana “escaped” with a 24-17 win against Rutger in an extremely Indiana football game.

The defense was...fine.

The Hoosiers came into the game as the No. 19 ranked defense in S&P+. By all accounts, they looked the part. After allowing a touchdown on the opening drive due to costly third down penalties, Indiana settled in on the defensive side of the ball and gave the Rutger offense fits all afternoon. Save for a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that was sprung by a halfback pass, Rutger really had no rhythm whatsoever. The secondary kept the downfield passing game in check, and Jamar Johnson made a great play to intercept a pass in the end zone. The defensive front regularly pressured the pocket and stuffed plays at the line of scrimmage. Things got a little bit weird in the fourth quarter, but Hoosiers’ defense kept Rutger out of the end zone on multiple occasions, which would prove to be huge.

Offensively, Indiana was...meh.

Every game, it feels like we have to have a referendum on Indiana’s offense. Specifically, Mike DeBord and Peyton Ramsey. As has been the case for most of the season, both had their moments. In the first half, the Hoosiers put up 24 points on the board behind a passing game that was a little bit more vertical than we had seen so far this year. Ramsey continued to connect on passes past the sticks in the 10-15 yard range, and even picked up a couple of first downs with his legs on broken plays. We saw Nick Westbrook get involved, and DeBord even opened up the playbook with a couple of trick plays. In the first half, Indiana had almost 300 yards of total offense and picked up over six yards per play. They looked pretty good!

In the second half, the offense was beyond stagnant. The run game couldn’t get anything going, and the offense resorted back to a short passing game that has become the norm. Indiana didn’t sustain a drive in the second half until midway through the fourth quarter. The result of that drive? A red zone interception while going for it on 4th and 9. With a seven point lead and just under four minutes to play, Indiana proceeded to run three straight run plays right up the middle, only to be bailed out by a Rutger defender jumping offsides on fourth down. Mike DeBord continues to be maddening. Whatever.

Simply put, a win is a win

It’s not groundbreaking news to say that Rutger is one of the worst teams in the entire country, so it’s probably wise to take Indiana’s performance with a grain of salt. That being said, Indiana took care of business. Every year, it’s games against the likes of Rutger or Illinois that essentially make or break Indiana’s bowl game hopes. Win those games, and your chances of going bowling are within reach. Losing these games reduces the margin for error significantly.

For a large chunk of the game, Indiana looked like a bowl team today. With games against Minnesota, Maryland, and Purdue still on the docket, the Hoosiers continue to have a legitimate chance of going bowling. This wasn’t a must-win game, but it was damn close, and Indiana did what they had to do to add another to the win column.

Rutger still sucks.