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Three Things: Indiana 14, Wisconsin 6

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The Hoosiers just scored the best Big Ten win of the season

NCAA Football: Indiana at Wisconsin
IU quarterback Jack Tuttle delivers a throw under pressure during Saturday’s win at Wisconsin.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Hello and welcome. We’ll get to Three Things in just a bit. First, open a beer and have a seat. Let’s take a moment to look at No. 12 Indiana’s 2020 resume and marvel at its beauty.

The Hoosiers are:

  • 6-1 overall
  • 3-1 against ranked opponents
  • Owners of the best Big Ten win of the season
  • Caretakers of the Old Brass Spittoon and the Old Oaken Bucket
  • Keepers of the soul of Penn State football
  • Lovable as hell

I mean, just look at this incredible, beautiful, wholesome content:

Can you imagine even thinking about rewriting the conference charter midstream to keep this group from playing for a league title? *coughKevinWarrencough* Well, we certainly cannot.

Anyway, we’re not going to wade into those weeds just yet. For all we know, it might be moot in the coming days. What we do know is No. 12 IU just beat No. 16 Wisconsin for the first time since 2002, marking the first time in school history the Hoosiers have recorded wins over Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin in the same season. So it’s a really big night — another big night in a season full of them. So let’s try to live in the moment.

Here are Three Things:

Jack Tuttle looks like a dude

There’s a running joke in the Big Ten regarding Indiana’s football coach. No one — absolutely no one — gives a longer, more detailed monologue at the league’s annual media days than Tom Allen.

As part of his nearly 20-minute soliloquy at the 2019 event, Allen spent a chunk of his time at the podium lecturing about depth and how you gotta have it. After years of not having it, Indiana, he said, was well on its way toward assembling it.

“I see us as a football team that is starting to build the depth you need to compete in this conference,” Allen told the crowd in Chicago last year.

It’s standard fare Football Guy talk to drone on and on about depth. In three-plus years at Indiana, Allen certainly has done his share of droning. But it’s also a worthwhile conversation to have at a place like IU and, more importantly, it’s something Allen has backed up with action.

The latest evidence surfaced on Saturday, when Indiana’s backup quarterback played one hell of a football game in his first career start. Allen and his staff (including the strength and conditioning department) have done an excellent job developing depth on both sides of the ball over the past three-plus years. Most notably, they’ve done it at the game’s most important position.

We saw it last year, and we saw it again on Saturday.

For a guy with limited experience in his first career start, Jack Tuttle was really good. Really, really good. He finished 13-for-22 for 130 yards and two scores — and it should’ve been three. Milessssssssssssssss! Tuttle threw a tight ball and placed it perfectly pretty much all afternoon.

  • The touchdown pass to Hendershot? chefs kiss
  • The 35-yard deep strike to Ty Fryfogle on the first drive of the second half? chefs kiss
  • The seven-yard toss to Whop Philyor in the corner of the end zone? chefs kiss

He also threw a couple beautiful balls that weren’t hauled in, but should’ve been. We’ll do our best to try and forget the Marshall drop ever happened, because ~ w o o f ~. Philyor also should’ve corralled one late in the second quarter, if for no other reason than Tuttle deserved it after absorbing the hit that was delivered as he released the ball.

Tuttle was slinging it for the better part of the day, but that wasn’t even the most encouraging part of the performance. Given his recruiting rankings, we all figured he had the arm talent to do special things. What jumped out was his toughness, his composure — the way he stepped into throws even as Wisconsin’s front increased the heat. Tuttle not only made good, accurate throws, he made smart ones — and difficult ones under pressure. He managed the game well and illustrated that Indiana isn’t really wishing for better depth anymore. The Hoosiers finally have it.

It didn’t feel like IU’s reliance on takeaways was going to be sustainable. And yet.

A few weeks ago, maybe before the Ohio State game, it felt like Indiana was living on borrowed time. The wave of takeaways that IU’s defense seized during the first few weeks of the season were great — and a major reason for the team’s early-season surge. But it can be really hard to sustain such fortune for a full season, even one as odd and abbreviated as this one.

IU, however, continues to demonstrate that its ability to steal the ball is not a product of mere luck. It’s the result of great coaching and excellent play.

The Hoosiers added two more takeaways to their list on Saturday and now have recorded at least two in a program-record nine straight games. They have at least one in 36 of the last 38 games, including each of the past 15 — another school record. IU has also scored 65 points directly off of the 20 takeaways it has seized this season.

At this point, it’s pretty clear that the Hoosiers’ ability to pressure, confuse and force opposing teams into giving them the ball is not some sort of irregularity. It’s a product of who they are.

Another word about the defense

Oh man, I hate to even go down this path but I’ll admit it: late in regulation, it kind of felt like IU was going to pull a Classic Indiana Football Heartbreak, didn’t it? Tuttle’s fumble and Marshall’s drop felt very 2013ish, didn’t they?

Have no fear. The year is 2020, and IU’s football program is winning games with it’s d-d-d-d-d-defense. I know. Even seven games in, I’m struggling to believe it.

Indiana didn’t allow a touchdown for the second time in four games, clamping down when it mattered most. Oh, you were worried as Wisconsin drove into IU territory with a chance to tie in the final moments? You fool!

Saturday marked Wisconsin’s lowest single-game scoring output against IU since a 10-3 Hoosier victory in 1992. It was also the first time since Oct. 3, 2015 that the Badgers failed to score a touchdown. Kane Wommack should never pay for another beer at The Vid again.

Former Indiana athletic director Fred Glass told the IndyStar after the game that he spent Saturday evening thinking about IU’s 63-point loss to Wisconsin in 2010, and how far the Hoosiers have come in the meantime.

“It’s been a long way since 83-20,” Glass texted IndyStar’s Zach Osterman.

Indeed, it has.

Next up: Purdue

Look, this game is pretty much always competitive, regardless of where the teams are in the standings. We bring this up because Purdue lost to … wait for it … (lmao) … Purdue lost to Nebraska on Saturday. At home. But the Boilers will be fired up to go to Bloomington next week, because they usually are. And also, they lost to Nebraska this week, which … I dunno, folks. Can you imagine losing to Nebraska? This blog certainly cannot.