Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
Opponent: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Location: Saturday September 19th /4:02pm/ Memorial Stadium/ (Bloomington, IN)
Why They Played:
The Hilltoppers and Hoosiers met in a non-conference game to close out a three game series that started in 2008. IU will play WKU three more times in the future.
What The Game Meant:
This was the first real test for the Hoosiers in 2015 against a very quality team. It was a chance to go to 3-0 and extend a winning streak to four games dating back to last year.
Top Offensive Performers:
Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana- The man went to work on Saturday and brought his lunch pail and hard hat. He powered his way to 203 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per carry, while allowing the Hoosiers to control the clock and ultimately win the game. He also added 38 yards receiving on three catches.
Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana- Nate Sudfeld shook off an early fumble, a play he called weird, to throw for 355 yards and three touchdowns. He hit nine different receivers. While he missed some throws, he slung the ball well when it was crunch time. He finished the day 20-of-27 for 355 yards and three scores.
Ricky Jones, WR, Indiana- Jones was the Hoosiers’ leading receiver catching five passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. He has become a go-to guy for Sudfeld and is finally living up to the hype he came in with four years ago.
Brandon Doughty, QB, Western Kentucky- If you didn’t know about Brandon Doughty before today, you certainly know the name now. The sixth year senior put on a passing clinic throwing for 484 yards and three scores. However, he did throw two curial second half interceptions.
Tyler Higbee, TE, Western Kentucky- Higbee was Doughty’s main target on Saturday. The 6-foot-6 tight end caught 11 balls for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky- The other Hilltopper who put up monster numbers on the day. Taylor burned the IU secondary for 196 yards including a 78-yard score on a third down right before half time to put WKU up 11.
Top Defensive Performers:
Jonathan Crawford, S, Indiana- The message for the day was ‘Play the next play’. That is exactly what Crawford did today. After being victimized for a couple big plays in the first half, the true freshman picked off two straight Doughty passes and turned the tide in IU’s favor.
Branden Leston, S, Western Kentucky- In a game featuring two great offenses, Leston stepped up to lead the WKU defense. He was second on the team in tackles with 11 and recovered the Sudfeld fumble.
Special Team Performance:
Mitchell Paige got the special teams party started with a bang when he took WKU’s first punt to the house for a 91-yard touchdown to give IU an early 7-0 lead. It was great to see an explosive play in the return game, especially since the offense fizzled a bit in the first half. Griffin Oakes brought the boom on kickoffs as well. He was outstanding, aside from one kick going out of bounds, never giving Kylen Towner a chance to be a game changer. Defensive end Nick Mangieri put the exclamation point on the day with a resounding field goal block.
It might be magic, it could be the Swedish Fish, or just good adjustments, but whatever IU is doing in the third quarter this season it is working. This week IU went on a 21-0 run to take back control on the game.
Western Kentucky was poised to get their lead back to 11 points when an errant Doughty pass was snatched out of the air by true freshman safety Jonathan Crawford. On the ensuing drive IU drove 97 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
I Knew it Was Over When…
Jordan Howard converted a third and six with an eight yard run and IU could run out the clock from there.
Players of the Game
Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana- Howard’s running style allowed the Hoosiers to run the ball consistently and wear down the WKU defense. He grinded out 203 yards on 31 carries and was a key component as Indiana ran out the final 5:56 seconds.
Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky- Doughty nearly led the Hilltoppers to their second win over a power-five team this season as he threw for 484 yards in route to becoming WKU’s all-time leading passer. He was ultimately done in by two second half interceptions, but the man proved he is an elite college quarterback.
What I took away from the game
Well, Indiana is halfway to six wins, a feat that took the Hoosiers five games to accomplish a year ago. They make plays when it counts and have now shut out their opponents in the third quarter every game this season. It was an all-around team effort today as the defense, which looked as if the wheels fell off in the last five minutes of the first half, rebounded to give the offense a shot to out score the Hilltoppers.
After the game Wilson seemed to say that the team was playing with more of a chip on their shoulder after last year’s ending. He said, “I think the way last year ended, they knew it could have gone the other direction, even though we only won one game down the stretch. The way those kids battled, they came in here feeling we’re kind of close and we had some bad breaks. In time there’s going to be good breaks. Let’s keep playing hard and make good breaks. It’s good to be 3-0, but we’ve got a tremendous challenge. So we’ll get over this quickly and get on to Wake.” As Wilson has said all season, the Hoosiers restart at 0-0 on Monday.