BLOOMINGTON – The Hoosiers suffered a close top-10 loss to No. 10 Nebraska, 27-22 on Saturday evening. Indiana (3-3, 1-2) fell just shy of earning back-to-back home upsets over ranked foes in Saturday’s homecoming game against the Huskers (6-0, 3-0).
“I appreciate the battle our guys had,” said Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson. “We had a few mistakes offensively; for sure that hurts us…it was a pretty even game, but some mistakes beat us, and three weeks in a row we’re playing three good teams. In one week we eliminate mistakes and we get a victory, and the other two weeks we have something to haunt us, and when you’re playing Big Ten—next week we’ll go to Northwestern. It’s going to be an early kick and they’re good. I think they played well today it sounds like, and that’ll be tough.”
Indiana did well to erase a 17-point first quarter deficit, taking points where they could get them before the offense fell into a groove in the second half. Prior to the Huskers’ late insurance kick, Indiana came within a field goal of taking the lead in the fourth quarter.
“The defense played hard,” said Wilson. “Down 17-0, the team didn’t rattle, kept playing, plugged along. We had a chance, but couldn’t get over the hump.”
The seniors in the Hoosiers’ aerial attack spearheaded the comeback effort, with Mitchell Page hauling in nine catches for 101 yards to lead all receivers. In total, Paige tallied 147 all-purpose yards, adding a seven-yard rush and a game changing punt return that set up Indiana’s touchdown at the end of the third quarter. Ricky Jones followed with six catches for 76 yards, including a 36-yard snag in tight coverage to put the Hoosiers in scoring position.
“We are just a little off,” Paige said after the game. “We are going to look at the film because there’s got to be something there that we are just not doing. Just a little extra push somewhere, wherever it is we’ve got to score a lot more points.”
Devine Redding toted the rock 11 times for 57 yards, his longest a 33-yard blast up the middle for his first score of the game. Redding also caught two passes, one being a four-yard touchdown that shaved Nebraska’s lead to 24-22.
Nebraska’s big play capability defined the first quarter of play, in which the Huskers gained a three score lead. After converting a field goal on the game’s opening drive, the Huskers scored on a four-yard touchdown run and a 33-yard interception return.
It was Indiana who opened scoring in the second quarter from Chase Dutra’s tenacious effort on special teams. The Hoosiers pushed Nebraska to a fourth down with their punter lining up in the end zone, and Dutra punctured the protection to block the kick for a safety.
Indiana pulled within two scores after Griffin Oakes capped their ensuing drive with a 36-yard field goal. Zander Diamont sparked the drive on two nine-yard scrambles, followed by an 18-yard toss to Donovan Hale to put the Hoosiers in scoring range. Diamont had an efficient shift behind the center, completing five-of-seven passes for 49 yards.
The Hoosiers regained possession just before halftime, when Jonathan Crawford snagged an interception inside Nebraska’s territory. Oakes nailed a 45-yard field goal, his second conversion in as many attempts, to give Indiana a nine-point deficit coming out of halftime.
“As our defense has played better, they have more self-esteem and self-confidence,” Wilson said. “Their ability to adapt is stronger and quicker, so it’s a credit to Tom [Allen] and the adjustments, but the understanding of the defense, and I think if there’s anything else, I think it’s just self-confidence and self-worth. Those kids are feeling decent about themselves.”
The Hoosiers held Nebraska scoreless through the third quarter before ending the period in dramatic fashion. The Indiana defense forced a three-and-out, and Paige wheeled Nebraska’s punt around the left side of the coverage for a 35-yard return. With nine seconds remaining on the clock, Redding launched towards the right tackle and turned downfield towards open pastures, gliding across the line for a 33-yard touchdown.
Tony Fields kept the Hoosiers on a roll at the start of the fourth quarter with an interception, just as the Huskers were threatening in Indiana territory. But before Indiana could get something going the other way, Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong Jr. dialed up a 72-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline, putting the Huskers ahead at 24-15.
“It’s small mistakes, every game they get smaller and smaller and it’s very frustrating,” said Fields. “We have to keep our head up and realize that we are playing great defense but it’s only 98 percent of the time. We talk about new expectations every day and that’s not good enough, we know the kind of defense we can be so we need to start making those great plays to be that great defense.”
Indiana made a valiant effort down the stretch with a rapid five-play touchdown drive in two minutes of game clock. Lagow broke the huddle with a 24-yard strike to Paige, before reaching another first down on an 11-yard crossing pattern by Luke Timian. Like clockwork, Lagow lined up another delivery to Jones for 36 yards down the left sideline. Two plays later, Lagow lofted a screen pass to Redding, underneath Nebraska’s defense, and he trotted in for a four-yard score.
The 10th-ranked Huskers closed the door on the Hoosiers’ upset bid with a clock-chewing 15-play, 7:41 drive that ended on a 39-yard field goal to give Nebraska the definitive 27-22 lead.