Countdown To Kickoff: 79 Days (1979 Holiday Bowl Champions)

Written by T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)


The countdown continues…there are only 79 days remaining before the start of IU’s 2015 season! #79 is currently worn by IU freshman Brandon Knight (see Nick’s excellent piece for more on him). ‘79 is also the year of one of IU’s more memorable teams from the past and we thought it would be appropriate to “honor” a very bright spot in IU’s football history… the 1979 Holiday Bowl champions.

1979 Indiana Hoosiers
IU entered the season under head coach Lee Corso (now a legendary analyst and entertainer on ESPN’s College GameDay) with moderate expectations. The Hoosiers were led by QB Tim Clifford and RB Lonnie Johnson but the program was yet to win a bowl game and the B1G had several other high-profile teams that were ahead of IU in the pecking order.

The Hoosiers started the season with a 30-26 victory at Iowa and followed that up with two wins over Vanderbilt (44-13) and Kentucky (18-10). A narrow loss to Colorado (16-17) knocked the Hoosiers down to 3-1 but they quickly bounced back with a 3-0 (yes, 3-0) win over the Wisconsin Badgers. The Hoosiers then ventured into Columbus and got hammered by the #8 Ohio State Buckeyes (6-47, some things never change) before returning home to defeat the Northwestern Wildcats (30-0). IU narrowly lost in the Big House (21-27), beat Minnesota and Illinois and then lost the Bucket game to #12 Purdue to finish the regular season at 7-4 (5-3).

The Hoosiers were rewarded for their successful regular season with a trip to San Diego to play in the Holiday Bowl against the #9 BYU Cougars. The Cougars came into the game with a high-powered offense and they were considered the heavy favorites. However, IU used 76 yards from Lonnie Johnson and 71 yards from Mike Harkrader to set the pace on the ground and Tim Wilbur’s 62-punt return with 6:53 remaining in the game put IU ahead for good at 38-37. The Hoosiers handed the Cougars their lone defeat of the season and captured the programs first bowl victory. 

Come back tomorrow for #78 on our countdown plus other great content from Hoosier Huddle!