Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
For more than 20 minutes of Saturday afternoon's contest in Charlottesville, the Indiana Hoosiers offense appeared stuck in neutral. The Hoosiers trailed 3-0 and Richard Lagow had underthrown a pass to Luke Timian that was intercepted by Virginia's Juan Thornhill. The Hoosiers turned to redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey and the attack immediately kicked into gear. Ramsey connected with Simmie Cobbs on a quick slant and IU's star receiver bounced off tacklers and got some nice blocks as he ran in for the opening Hoosier score on a 29-yard reception. IU forced a three and out and J-Shun Harris had a very nice punt return to the Virginia 30. Ramsey scampered around the left side of the line, found a seam and jogged into the end zone for a 26-yard score that put IU up 14-3. Griffin Oakes nailed a 51-yard field goal as time expired in the first half and the Hoosiers finished the final 6:13 of the first half by scoring 17 straight points.
The second half began with a three and out from IU and the Cavaliers scored their first touchdown of the day as Jordan Ellis ran up the middle for a 12-yard score that was setup by a pass interference penalty on A'Shon Riggins. The Hoosiers responded with another long field from Oakes, this one from 48 yards out. The teams traded punts before the Hoosiers got another nice punt return from J-Shun Harris that set the offense up on the Virginia 32-yard line. Ramsey found Donovan Hale for a 32-yard score on the first play of the drive and the third quarter ended with the Hoosiers firmly in control at 27-10. The game appeared to be completely put away as Greg Gooch leveled Kurt Benkert and forced a fumble that was scooped up and run in for a 70-yard touchdown by Robert McCray. However, the officials reviewed the play and ruled that Gooch was guilty of targeting. The play was overturned, Gooch was ejected and Virginia scored a couple of plays later. With the score 27-17, IU drove down the field but was unable to punch it in on fourth and goal from inside the five. The Cavaliers still had a tiny bit of hope and Hoosier fans could be forgiven for worrying about a late collapse on the road. However, the IU defense quickly forced a Cavaliers punt and J-Shun Harris had another nice return, this one going 44 yards for a score that iced the game, putting Indiana up 34-17. It was a well-deserved for the redshirt sophomore from Fishers, Indiana, that battled a pair of season-ending injuries and had an outstanding afternoon that was capped by the touchdown.
The biggest storyline to come from the game will certainly be the emergence of Peyton Ramsey. He ran for 42 yards, including the 26-yard score, and went an efficient 16-20 for 173 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers. His play is very encouraging and it certainly makes the next week interesting as there is now a quarterback controversy between Ramsey and incumbent starter Richard Lagow. The struggle of the offensive line, which was again without Brandon Knight, makes a more mobile quarterback an enticing option but we'll see how things stand after this coming week of practice. True freshman Morgan Ellison ended up leading the Hoosiers in rushing yards, gaining 47 yards on 12 carries and Simmie Cobbs led the way in receiving yards with 62 yards and a touchdown. The IU defense bounced back very nicely from their rough second half against Ohio State as they held UVA to just 55 rushing yards and only 2.2 yards per carry. Benkert threw for 259 yards but he was far from efficient, completing only 39 of 66 passes and failing on multiple deep pass attempts. The defense tackled extremely well and kept IU in the game until the offense got things going near the end of the first half.
The Hoosiers closed out the contest despite some officiating induced adversity and earned a number of "firsts" with the win. It was their first victory over the University of Virginia (they were previously 0-2), the first FBS victory for head coach Tom Allen and, perhaps most importantly, their first victory of the 2017 season as they improved to 1-1. They'll now head home to host Florida International and Georgia Southern before returning to Big Ten play.