Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
Welcome back to our Throwback Thursday series! Over the next 13 weeks we will get IU football fans fired up be going back and reliving each game from last season. Hopefully this will wet your appetite for the 2016 season, which kicks off on Sept. 1 at Florida International. So let's get started with the Hoosiers season opening last second victory over Southern Illinois.
Opponent: Southern Illinois Salukis
Location: Saturday September 5th /4:00pm/ Memorial Stadium/ (Bloomington, IN)
Why They Played: Indiana played their final FCS opponent as their season opener. Usually teams schedule an FCS foe to guarantee a W. Today was anything but a guarantee
What The Game Meant:
While the Hoosiers did get the W, it was far from a good performance. This game means more behind the scenes than it does on the scoreboard.
Top Offensive Performers:
Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana- Tevin Coleman who? The transfer from UAB had a successful debut for the Hoosiers as he gashed the Saluki defense for 145 yards on 20 carries and reached the end zone three times. While he may not possess Coleman’s speed, Howard is a punishing runner and was dragging defenders for extra yards all afternoon. He was also not stopped for a loss on any of his 20 carries.
Ricky Jones, WR, Indiana- Grandpa, as he is affectionately called by his teammates, had a breakout game hauling in several long passes including a 57-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Nate Sudfeld. Jones finished the day with a career-high six catches for 186 yards.
Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana- In his first game back since going down with an injury at Iowa in 2014, Sudfeld was terrific. He completed 19-of-32 passes (59.3 percent) for 349 yards and a score. He also added 46 yards on five carries. Sudfeld was not sacked either.
Mark Iannotti, QB, Southern Illinois- The fifth year quarterback made minced meat of an Indiana defense that surrendered 659 total yards to the Salukis. Iannotti was responsible for 517 those yards. He threw for 411 yards and four touchdowns including an 80-yard score to 6-foot-7 tight end Adam Fuehne. Iannotti also ran ramped over IU, roasting the defense for 106 yards and another touchdown on the ground.
Adam Fuehne, TE, Southern Illinois- The 6-foot-7 tight end was as good as advertised as he caught three balls for 130 yards and a touchdown. He out ran the IU defense in the process of his 68-yard score.
Daquan Isom, RB, Southern Illinois- The Saluki offensive onslaught came from players of all heights, including 5-foot-8 running back Daquan Isom, who caught three passes for 99 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown to tie the score at 38.
Top Defensive Performers:
Marcus Oliver, LB, Indiana- Marcus Oliver was one of the lone bright spots on defense for the Hoosiers. Oliver, also making his first appearance since the middle of 2014, forced two fumbles and accounted for 10 total tackles.
Chase Allen, LB, Southern Illinois- Allen was a force on defense and special teams for the Salukis. He gave SIU an 11-7 lead when he blocked an Erich Toth punt that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. He also had seven tackles and one TFL.
Special Team Performance:
Indiana had a roller coaster day on special teams. They did some things really well, while struggling at others. Erich Toth had his first punt blocked and recovered in the end zone for a score, but recovered to have a solid day averaging 40.5, but just a net of 24.8 yards, on the day pinning one inside of the 20-yard line.
Sophomore kicker Griffin Oakes looked very solid on kickoffs knocking seven out of the end zone for touchbacks. Oakes was a perfect 6-for-6 on extra points while hitting both of his field goals, the long being 45 yards. Oakes looks much more consistent in the kicking game which will be a key for the Hoosiers down the road.
The return game for IU was highlighted by a nifty 20-yard punt return from Mitchell Paige who ducked and dodged tackles to set up IU for a field goal. On the day Paige had three returns for 19 yards. On kickoff returns IU got a solid, but not great performance out of freshman Devonte Williams, who averaged 19.5 yards on four chances with a long of 27 yards. Sophomore Ricky Brookins averaged 17.5 yards on only two returns.
Overall, the special teams need to be better, but they were just good enough to win the game today.
Total yards for the Southern Illinois offense put up on the IU defense. The Salukis averaged a ridiculous 8.4 yards per play and converted 11 of 17 third downs.
The Hoosiers scored right out of the locker room on a 57-yard pass from Nate Sudfeld to Ricky Jones to cut the Saluki lead to 32-28, but the defense stood tall on three straight drives allowing the Hoosiers to go on a 17-0 run. If the defense gives up any points there, this game does not end with an IU victory.
I Knew it Was Over When…
Anthony Corsaro recovered SIU’s last ditch on-side kick.
Players of the Game
Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana– Howard flourished in his debut with the Hoosiers running for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Howard provided a different style of running from the departed Tevin Coleman. The UAB transfer bulldozed his way down the field and dragged defenders for extra yards all day.
Mark Iannotti, QB, Southern Illinois- The Indiana defense made this senior quarterback look like an All-World stud as he threw for 411 yards and ran for another 106, while accounting for 5 touchdowns.
What I took away from the game
This was not the start the Indiana football program or its fans wanted to see, but at the end of the day the game belongs in the ‘W’ column. The day started out poorly with the announcement of the suspension of nine players, including key pieces like Tegray Scales, Ralph Green and Darius Latham. Their absence was definitely felt. Another inauspicious sign was that Indiana had a delay of game penalty on the opening kickoff.
The defense was nothing short of embarrassing today. Sure they made some plays, but anytime a unit gives up 659 yards to an FCS opponent it is a brutal performance. Head coach Kevin Wilson attributed the struggles on defense to “sitting flat-footed” and added than when they were aggressive and blitzed “they took advantage and because we had not practiced it properly.”
Usually, the biggest improvement comes between the first and second games and the Hoosiers better hope that the nine suspended players are back for a tough Florida International squad.
On the offensive side of the ball the Hoosiers started fast scoring on their first drive, but lost their mojo as they punted on their next two drives. Indiana’s offense finally got going in the second quarter when both of their scoring drives spanned at least 70 yards. In the second half the Hoosiers scored on five of their seven possessions as they completed the come back and held on for a nerve wracking 48-47 win.
As far as individual players go, there were some outstanding performances on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld looked solid coming off an injury, throwing for 345 yards. He told us after the game that, “there were a little nerves to start the game. It felt good to get that hit right off the bat. But the body felt really good, I didn’t feel rusty and I felt like I was really in the flow of the game.”
Junior receiver Ricky Jones broke out with a career-high 186-yard performance and had great things to say about Sudfeld telling us that he felt, “like Sudfeld was hitting all his targets today.”
As we talked about above running back Jordan Howard effectively replaced Tevin Coleman, running for three scores.
Overall, it was not a good performance for IU. There are lots of issues to iron out if this team is going to be going to a bowl. However, the team could have packed it in down 32-21 at half time and called it a season, but they rallied and squeaked out the victory. They will have to forget about this one and move on to Florida International, who upset Central Florida on Thursday night.