BLOOMINGTON – Stevie Scott needed one month of preseason camp, two games, one suspension and a season-ending injury to prove he could be Indiana’s workhorse back.
He looks like a natural.
The true freshman ran 31 times for 204 yards and one touchdown and flirted with a 32-year-old school record on a soggy Saturday night, helping the Hoosiers hang on for a 20-16 victory over Virginia.
“He’s our biggest, strongest back. He has huge hands, he’s really naturally strong and that helps with ball security,” coach Tom Allen said. “You saw a guy grow up in front of all of us tonight.”
Scott didn’t just play well. He dominated the second half with one grinding run after another with the game hanging in the balance.
After the Cavaliers cut the deficit to four and were forced to punt after picking off Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey, the New Yorker carried seven times on the ensuing 13-play drive, which consumed more than five minutes. When the Hoosiers got the ball back early in the fourth, Scott carried eight times on a 10-play that took almost another five minutes off the clock.
And when the Hoosiers forced the final Virginia punt of the night, Scott got called four more times on an eight-play drive.
Yes, Virginia (1-1) got one more shot — moving from its own 9-yard line to the Hoosiers 27, even getting an extra play after time expired because of a pass interference call. But Bryce Perkins’ throw on the run fluttered safely through the end zone to give Indiana its third 2-0 start in four years.
Scott fell just short of Anthony Thompson’s single-game rushing record for a true freshman (207 yards), set in 1986.
He couldn’t have cared less about the numbers.
“I’m a downhill runner, just bulldoze people,” he said. “I’ve just got to run hard, run low hard don’t leave any yards on the field really.”
It felt like deja vu for Virginia.
Last year the Cavaliers were carved up by backup quarterback Peyton Ramsey, then a freshman. This time, Scott, a 236-pound wrecking ball, tied the score at 7 with a 40-yard sprint on Indiana’s first possession.
“We didn’t think they’d be able to run the football effectively,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “So we learned a lot about our team today. Coach (Nick) Howell and the defensive coaches made some adjustments in the second half but there’s a lot there we’re going to have to work on.”
Indiana turned the game by recovering Joe Reed’s fumble on the ensuing kickoff and two plays later, Ramsey hooked up with Donovan Hale for a 9-yard TD pass. But the Cavaliers turned a blocked extra point into a 2-point conversion to make it 13-9.
Ramsey closed out the first half scoring with a 23-yard TD pass to Nick Westbrook to make it 20-9 with 1:36 left in the first half, and all Virginia could muster in the second half was Perkins’ 20-yard TD pass to Chris Sharp midway through the third quarter.
After rushing for 301 yards in a season-opening win over Richmond, Virginia managed only 294 total yards at Indiana and fell just short of its first 2-0 start since 2012.
The Hoosiers are off to a perfect start. After pulling away from Florida International on the road, they now have a win over a bowl team at home. Another win next week would get coach Tom Allen back to even, at 8-8, and would mark only the second time since 2011 they’ve started 3-0.