They scored by ground, air, block and return in the first half as Indiana jumped out to a 35-0 lead in their home opener against BCS foe Idaho on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
The Vandals put up a fight, scoring late first half and early second half touchdowns that sandwiched a sixth Hoosier foray into the end zone. But this one was never in doubt as Idaho was no match for IU’s sturdy defense and explosive special teams. Indiana moved to 1-1 on the season with a 56-14 blowout win.
Indiana’s offense didn’t inspire much confidence with a top ten opponent headed to Bloomington next weekend. In part due to limited possessions and short fields delivered by the defense and special teams, the Hoosiers only had 136 total yards at halftime.
Running back Stephen Carr found the end zone on a 2-yard scamper to open the scoring in the first quarter after an 18-play, 8:33 drive. And then the IU defense got to work.
Linebacker Micah McFadden delivered a sack and forced fumble on the ensuing Idaho drive that was scooped up by tackle Weston Kramer at the Vandals’ 13. Two plays later quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. found Javon Swinton in the back corner of the end zone for a nine-yard scoring strike.
“Really good intensity (from the defense) at the beginning,” head coach Tom Allen said of the defensive effort. … “Very, very good performance from our defense.”
The score set up by the takeaway was exactly what Allen asked for during the week.
“In our coordinators meeting on Thursday, that’s what I told coach (defensive coordinator Charlton) Warren and I told the team, defensive guys I expect to set the tone for this whole team, and each game, to create the takeaways, and flip the field, and be able to complement the offense and set them up because all offenses take a while to get going every single year, and obviously with Michael’s situation coming back from injury.”
Next it was the special teams’ turn to contribute to the scoring column.
After a quick 3-and-out, Indiana’s Noah Pierre blocked Idaho’s punt and Swinton scooped the ball and jogged in for IU’s first special teams score.
Swinton became the first Indiana player to score both a special teams touchdown and an offensive touchdown since Mitchell Paige in 2015. His blocked punt return touchdown was IU’s first since Buster Larkins did it in 2003.
After another long drive, this time 12-plays and 83 yards, that resulted in a Penix to Ty Fryfogle touchdown pass, the special teams delivered again.
D.J. Matthews caught a 65-yard punt over his shoulder and scampered 81 yards down the sideline for his second career punt return touchdown and first with IU. Matthews appeared as though he would be tackled at several points in the return, but he had the right cuts at the right moments, and ultimately the speed to breakaway from the pack and give IU the 35-point first half advantage.
“I thought special teams was really special,” Allen said. “Kasey Teegardin has done a phenomenal job with that group. … Just an overall excellent job with special teams.”
IU’s special teams delivered two touchdowns in a game for the first time since 1969.
Indiana added three touchdowns after the break, including the first career touchdowns by tight end A.J. Barner, who caught a 76-yard pass from Jack Tuttle, and Davion Ervin-Poindexter, who ran it in from four yards out.
The Hoosiers (1-1) will host No. 7 Cincinnati next Saturday.
- Quarterback Michael Penix was 11-of-16 passing for 68 yards and two touchdowns. He was pulled in the second half after it became clear the game was out of reach. Tuttle was 2-of-4 for 91 yards and the score.
- Running back Stephen Carr had 22 carries for 118 yards, his second career 100-yard game.
- Indiana was 10-of-18 on third and fourth down combined.
(This breaking story will be updated.)
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