After two weeks, Indiana has found its sweet spot — falling behind early 7-0. For the second week in a row the Hoosiers responded to an early deficit with a quick touchdown, and then a takeaway leading to a second quick score and the lead.
Freshman running back Stevie Scott and the IU defense took care of the rest.
Scott ran 31 times for 204 yards and one touchdown and nearly topped an Anthony Thompson record on a rain-soaked 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.”
Behind a strong performance by the IU offensive line, Scott dominated the second half with big runs 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 York native 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.
Virginia 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 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.”
Indiana appeared to be in crisis mode at the running back position after losing starters Cole Gest and Morgan Ellison. Now they appear to have their back of the future.
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.
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.
Ramsey was 16 of 22 with 150 yards, two TDs and one interception for the Hoosiers while Hale had four catches for 56 yards. The Hoosiers have won five straight regular season games against non-conference foes.
Indiana continues its three-game home stand when Ball State comes to town next Saturday.