Indiana defeated Nebraska 38-31 on Saturday to improve to 6-2 on the season overall and 3-2 in league play.
Here are our five key takeaways from the game.
What Backup Quarterback?
Indiana left their quarterback decision up in the air until minutes before kickoff when Michael Penix was ruled out and Peyton Ramsey was given the start.
With Ramsey starting the past two seasons and a couple games earlier this year, this was hardly unfamiliar territory for him, and it showed. Ramsey helped lead the Hoosiers to their third win in a row with a stellar performance of 27 of 40 passing for 351 yards while adding on 42 rushing yards. Ramsey was also responsible for three touchdowns, getting two through the air and one on the ground.
Ramsey’s biggest impact on the game came in the second half. With the Hoosiers down five coming out of halftime and the defense struggling to stop Nebraska’s offense, Indiana needed their offense to come through, and it did. Ramsey led three consecutive touchdown drives leading to a 14-point Indiana lead early in the fourth quarter.
On the final drive of the game, Indiana looked to run out the clock. On a 3rd & 7 with 3:00 remaining in the game, Ramsey kept the ball and ran for 11 yards, giving Indiana a crucial first down. Along with some clutch running from running back Stevie Scott behind good work from the offensive line, the Hoosiers were able to milk the clock to the end, securing the victory
A Whopper of a Game
Indiana receiver Whop Philyor earned himself a few Whoppers (his favorite sandwich as a kid, hence the nickname) after today’s performance. Held to just two catches for six yards the previous week against Maryland, Philyor led Indiana’s receivers Saturday with 14 catches for 178 yards, including 7 catches for 80 yards in the first quarter alone.
This was Philyor’s second game this season with at least 14 catches and his third game with at least 150 yards receiving.
Things got downright offensive
With both squads missing their starting quarterbacks, one might think both offenses would struggle to score points.
One could not be more wrong.
Indiana and Nebraska’s offenses combined for 969 total yards (Nebraska with 514 to Indiana’s 455) and nine touchdowns. Indiana got their bulk of yards through the air with 351 passing yards while Nebraska’s offense proved to be more balanced with 294 yards through the air and 220 yards on the ground.
Midway through the second quarter, Nebraska’s quarterback Noah Vedral left the game due to injury, bringing on third-string true freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey to lead the Huskers.
McCaffrey put in a respectable performance showcasing his duel threat ability, going 5 of 6 for 71 yards through the air and getting 76 yards on the ground.
On Nebraska’s final drive of the game, Vedral returned attempting to tie or win the game but came up short turning the ball over on downs.
Vedral still finished with a strong performance of his own making 14 completions on 16 attempts for 201 yards.
This was the seventh time this season Indiana scored more than 30 points in a game, the outlier being the Ohio State game.
“Tom Allen Takeaways” Help Decide Game
Takeaways by Indiana’s defense, a crucial element emphasized by head coach Tom Allen since he arrived as IU’s defensive coordinator for the 2016 campaign, played a pivotal part in determining the outcome.
The first takeaway was a huge momentum swing in the second quarter. The host Huskers were in the red zone at Indiana’s 19-yard line. On a 3rd & 3 Nebraska quarterback Noah Vedral backed up to pass when he was immediately set upon by blitzing Indiana defensive back Jamar Johnson, who forced Vedral to fumble. The ball was picked up by defensive end Allen Stallings, who rumbled 68 yards to the Nebraska 8-yard line. The very next play Ramsey found Ty Fryfogle on a pretty fade throw-and-catch for Indiana’s second touchdown.
The next turnover came from Indiana. With 2:35 left in the 1st half the Hoosiers were driving with the Huskers’ defense on their heels. On a 1st and 10 at Nebraska’s 23-yard line, Ramsey threw a pass behind Philyor that bounced off his left shoulder, putting the ball in the air allowing for Nebraska linebacker Alex Davis to come away with the interception.
That led to Nebraska driving 74 yards in little over a minute, resulting in a touchdown giving the Huskers a 21-16 halftime lead.
The game’s third turnover came early in the 4th quarter and helped IU create a two-score cushion.
IU had tallied a touchdown at the very end of the third quarter to retake the lead by seven, and the Huskers looked to answer. On the second play of the ensuing drive, McCaffrey found his receiver Kanawai Noa down the middle of the field. But as Noa began to run downfield, hustling Hoosier defensive lineman Alfred Bryant came from behind to knock the ball out, with his teammate Juwan Burgess coming up with the recovery. On Indiana’s next drive the Hoosiers went 57 yards to get their fifth and final touchdown in the game, giving them a 14-point lead, which proved to be enough to hold onto the win.
Indiana is Officially Going Bowling
The biggest takeaway from this game is the fact that with the Hoosiers securing their sixth win on the season, Indiana is guaranteed a bowl game appearance after missing out the past two years – and only the fourth such bowl appearance of the past quarter-century.
The 6-2 start is the best start for the Hoosiers in an eight-game stretch since Indiana started 7-1 in the 1993 season.