Written By Sammy Jacobs
Opponent: Florida International Golden Panthers
Location: Saturday September 12th /8:12pm/ Memorial Stadium/ (Bloomington, IN)
Why They Played: Indiana paid $1 million dollars to get this game switched to FIU from USF in order to bolster the number of home games IU was playing. Wilson did not want to play just six home games again.
What The Game Meant
Indiana had to play improved football on defense to win the game and start a season 2-0 for the first time since 2012. A loss here would probably doom the season after last week’s performance against Southern Illinois.
Top Offensive Performers
Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana- Howards again paced the Indiana offense running for 159 yards on 27 carries. He was the workhorse that the Hoosiers needed to grind out yards against a stingy Panther defense. While he did not reach the end zone, Howard did average 5.9 yards per carry. Wilson and the staff will take that every time out.
Michael Cooper, TE, Indiana- It’s been a while since we have put a tight end in the top offensive category, but Michael Cooper came up with some huge plays Saturday night.
Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana- Saturday night was not the sharpest of performances from the senior. He completed just 57.6 percent of his passes for 234 yards and threw an interception. However, there were several passes that should have been or could have been picked off against a more talented defense. He did have control of the offense and accounted for three scores on the night (2 rushing 1 passing).
Thomas Owens, WR, Florida International- This T.O. sure played a lot like that other T.O. hauling in a game high nine passes for 166 yards (111 in the first half) and two touchdowns. He eluded IU defensive backs most of the night.
Alex McGough, QB, Florida International- McGough had a strong game before leaving the game with an injury late in the fourth quarter. He completed 21 of 37 passes for 249 yards and three scores. He added 61 yards on the ground on 18 carries, usually running away from pressure. McGough’s biggest blunder was throwing up a desperation pass on 4th and goal that resulted in Jameel Cook’s pick-six.
Top Defensive Performers
Marcus Oliver, LB, Indiana- Oliver once again was all over the field for the Hoosiers defense as he paced the team in tackles with seven. He also recovered a fumble that was a result of a strip sack by Nick Mangieri.
Nick Mangieri, DE, Indiana- The senior defensive end was in the FIU backfield most of the night chasing around Alex McGough. Mangieri only had three tackles, but he made the most of them by forcing a fumble and recovering another one.
Vontarious West, LB, Florida International- The linebacker led the team in tackles with 14, including a tackle for a loss of six yards.
Special Team Performance
Outside of a missed 44-yard field goal and an extra point from Griffin Oakes, the Hoosiers’ performance on special teams was much better than in week 1. Despite his struggles with placekicking, Oakes was stellar on his kickoffs knocking five of the eight changes he had for touchbacks. The other three kicks were covered well and FIU never really had great starting field position averaging just 14.7 yards per return.
The IU return game was much better with freshmen Devonte Williams and Mike Majette, along with Ricky Brookins taking the majority of the returns. As a team IU averaged a solid 23.25 yards per return. In addition Mitchell Paige was sure handed again as the punt returner. He only had one change for a return and he netted nine yards. Erich Toth improved his punting netting an average of 34 yards on four punts.
Indiana scored 20 points off of Florida International turnovers, highlighted by the thrilling 96-yard pick six from Jameel Cook Jr.
Florida International had a fourth-and-goal from the IU 2-yard line looking to knot the score up at 29 when Alex McGough checked out of a play and snapped the ball. As soon as the ball hit McGough’s hands the play had no chance as Marcus Oliver busted through the line and forced McGough to throw up a prayer that was snatched out of the air by true freshman safety Jameel Cook Jr. and returned 96 yards for a touchdown. The pick six was the 4th longest in school history.
I Knew it Was Over When…
Jameel Cook Jr. raced down the side line and into the end zone to put the Hoosiers up 14 points with 3:58 left in the game.
Players of the Game
Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana– It’s hard to deny the player of the game honors to someone who accounted for three scores. While Sudfeld needs to clean up some of his passes, he still led a Hoosier offense to 439 yards against a pretty decent defense. He made the big throws when they needed them.
Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana- Howard is exactly the kind of back this team needs. As great as Tevin Coleman was for them a year ago, he was a boom or bust type of runner. Howard allows the offense to be more consistent and gives the defense a chance to catch their breath and get coached up on the sideline. Oh yeah, rushing for 159 yards doesn’t hurt his case either.
Thomas Owens, WR, Florida International- Owens was one of the players we highlighted in our Know Your Opponent preview and he did not disappoint. He torched Hoosier defensive backs for 111 yards and two scores in the first half. IU clamped down on him in the third and fourth quarters as he finished the night with 166 yards.
What I took away from the game
Indiana is 2-0 for the first time since 2012, in Wilson’s second season as head coach. After a week of questions surrounding the defense, Kevin Wilson took over practice and his team responded. They put relentless pressure of FIU’s quarterbacks and turned three turnovers into 20 points. In addition they got off the field more successfully holding FIU to just seven of 18 on third downs and one of three on fourth down.
Offensively, the Hoosiers have some kinks to work out. It seemed as if the Hoosiers were playing conservatively by running the ball several times on third and long. Another issue the Hoosiers need to work on is getting touchdowns out of their red zone drives. They moved the ball well between the 20’s and then it seemed the Hoosiers were bogged down once inside the red zone.
The Hoosiers will need to play their best game on both sides of the ball if they are going to end next week at 3-0 as a strong Western Kentucky team invade Bloomington. The offense will have to return the favor to the defense after be bailed out by them this week.