BLOOMINGTON — For Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey, little things matter. Being first matters.
That, coach Tom Allen said, is among the reasons why the freshman has won the starting job and why he’s had so much early success.
Case in point, Saturday’s 27-0 victory over Charleston Southern at Memorial Stadium. He was 32-for-41 passing for 321 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.
“He’s a heads-up kid,” Allen said. “It’s a small thing, but it’s a huge thing.”
“He’s the first person in everything we do. He’s first in meetings. He’s first at practice. He’s always that guy. It’s the way he is. That’s his identity.”
That identity was showcased in the second quarter, when Ramsey positioned himself to recover tailback Devonte Williams’ fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and a 17-0 Hoosier lead.
Not every quarterback would have been so alert, Allen said.
The son of a high school football coach was.
“When a guy is focused like that all the time,” Allen said, “it doesn’t surprise you when he’s where he’s supposed to be. It’s doing the little things. It’s that kind of attention to detail.”
Added Ramsey: “I was just carrying out my fake and saw the ball on the ground, so I jumped on it.”
Ramsey, who learned he was replacing senior Richard Lagow as the starter last Sunday, started hot and never slowed down. He completed 10 of his first 11 passes and became the first IU freshman to throw for more than 300 yards since Kellen Lewis had 321 against Minnesota in 2006.
IU offensive coordinator Mike DeBord tweaked the offense to maximize Ramsey’s dual-threat ability. That included allowing him to throw from outside the pocket and mixing short passes and slants.
Ramsey had thrown for 316 yards in his first four games.
“I’ve played in the last four games, so it wasn’t new to be out there,” he said, “but it was a huge confidence boost to get a win.”
This came against a struggling defense. The challenge ratchets up next Saturday when IU (3-2) hosts No. 7 Michigan and its dominant defense.
“We felt it was crucial that he spend a week preparing as a starter,” Allen said. “He handled it the way I expected him to.”
IU also got a big game from freshman receiver Taysir Mack. He had seven catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns. He’s the first Hoosier freshman to have a 100-yard receiving game since Tandon Doss in 2008.
IU’s offensive dominance had one big negative — four fumbles (two lost) and an interception. Allen didn’t use the downpour that hit in the third quarter as an excuse.
“It’s frustrating with the fumbles,” Allen said. “It’s not the way we have to play.”
IU got its first shutout since beating Michigan State 10-0 in 1993. It held the Bucs (2-3) to zero yards passing, the seventh time in school history it has done that and the first since 1985.
“Every win is a big win,” Allen said. “You don’t take anything for granted. Anytime you shut somebody out, I don’t care who you play, it’s not easy to do. That’s a big deal.”
Charleston Southern (2-3), a FCS program scheduled after IU’s Sept. 16 game against Florida International was cancelled in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, is 0-20 all-time against FBS opponents.
The Bucs’ run-heavy option attack delivered nothing in the air. Shane Bucenell was 0-for-9 passing. Backup London Johnson was 0 for 1. Ronnie Harris led with 71 yards rushing.
“Some of our youth showed up,” Charleston Southern coach Mark Tucker said. “You have to be right. You have to take advantage of every opportunity in this type of game when you’re playing up a level.”
Indiana will host Michigan next Saturday.