In their 2019 meeting Indiana’s defense produced a takeaway on the first play from scrimmage against Rutgers.
It took a little longer in 2020, but a flurry of Hoosier interceptions overwhelmed the Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium.
IU produced three interceptions over the course of four Rutgers drives spanning the 2nd and 3rd quarters and the Hoosiers scored on each of their resulting drives. The sequence gave IU a 23-7 lead with 12:33 left in the 3rd quarter.
“The takeaways were huge,” head coach Tom Allen said after the game. “We got three again.”
Rutgers responded with its first long drive for a touchdown and two-point conversion to pull to within eight, but that’s when Indiana’s offense came to life.
Quarterback Michael Penix led a 4 play, 75 yard drive for a quick score. After a Rutgers turnover on downs, Penix engineered an 8 play, 82 yard drive to put the Hoosiers up 37-15 with 12:37 left in the game and put the Scarlet Knights away.
“They did a great job,” Allen said of the offensive effort. “It’s just going to get better and better. If you looked at last year, we didn’t really start clicking until game five. It just takes time. It’s a new group, Nick’s (Sheridan) calling it for the first time. I thought Michael threw the ball extremely well.”
Rutgers forced 7 turnovers last week against Michigan State but Indiana never gave it away on Saturday.
“Plus three on the turnover ratio is how you win football games,” Allen said.
Pressure on the quarterback contributed to Indiana’s run of interceptions.
Linebacker Cam Jones got pressure up the middle that caused Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral to throw the ball almost straight up and then into the arms of defensive end Jonathan King for the first interception. King advanced to the Rutgers six yard-line and Penix plunged in from the 1-yard line three plays later for IU’s first touchdown and a 13-7 lead.
On the next Rutgers drive, defensive tackle Sio Nofoagatoto’a got pressure on Vedral, causing a throw to cornerback Jaylin Williams for his second interception of the season. IU went three plays and 28 yards for another touchdown as Penix found Ty Fryfogle for a 15 yard scoring strike.
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Indiana took a 20-7 lead into halftime, and Rutgers continued to cough it up coming out of the locker rooms.
On their first drive of the second half, Rutgers went for it on fourth down, but Vedral threw it to IU linebacker Micah McFadden at the IU 34 yard line for the third interception.
A late Rutgers score put the final score at 37-21. The Scarlet Knights nearly pulled off a dramatic 4th and 32 conversion that could have pulled them to within one score with under two minutes remaining. A series of laterals resulted in an apparent Scarlet Knight score, but Rutgers was flagged for an illegal forward pass.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
Penix found a rhythm as the game wore on and finished 17-of-26 for 238 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He added 6 carries for 20 yards and another score.
Whop Philyor caught 5 passes for 137 yards. Tight end Peyton Hendershot caught six passes and scored twice.
Stevie Scott led IU on the ground with 21 carries for 81 yards.
Indiana led in total yards 352 to 258.
The Hoosiers were 6-for-6 scoring in the red zone and are now 11-for-11 on the season.
The win was Indiana’s fifth in a row against Rutgers.
Kicker Charles Campbell made three field goals and is now 7-of-7 for his career.
Cornerback Tiawan Mullen had 3 sacks.
For the first time since 1988 IU won a game as a top 20 team. It is their first 2-0 Big Ten start since 1991.
Indiana will host Michigan next Saturday at noon ET in Bloomington. The Wolverines fell to 1-1 after a loss to Michigan State.
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