Consider it quite a UConntrast.
After suffering a beat down at the hands of Ohio State last week, Indiana made sure visiting Connecticut was on the receiving end Saturday as the host Hoosiers romped 38-3 at Memorial Stadium.
It took a minute for IU to get going.
The Hoosiers got off to a shaky start when Indiana freshman David Ellis dropped the opening kickoff.
Ninety seconds later Indiana sophomore tight-end Peyton Hendershot coughed up the ball, with UConn junior linebacker Omar Fortt recovering at the Huskies’ 38-yard line.
After a UConn field goal to take the initial 3-0 lead, it was all Indiana from there.
On the next drive the Hoosiers took the ball seventy-five yards and capped off the drive when Indiana junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey found wide receiver Whop Philyor in the endzone for a twelve-yard touchdown pass.
Ramsey filled in once again for injured starter Michael Penix and had a strong performance, finishing 23 of 27 for 247 yards and three touchdowns to one interception through the air.
The next scoring drive came in the second quarter as the Hoosiers would drive the ball 70 yards, finishing with a 29-yard field goal from senior kicker Logan Justus. None of the IU scoring drives on the day were shorter than 68 yards and all featured at least eight snaps. Ramsey’s efficiency helped the Hoosiers convert 8 of 10 third downs.
After a UConn missed field goal, the Hoosiers would find the end zone for the second time in the first half, with Ramsey hitting an uncovered Hendershot for a four-yard touchdown pass that sent the hosts into halftime with a 17-3 lead.
“His improvement has been off the charts,” Ramsey about Hendershot. “He’s a matchup nightmare for inside linebackers and safeties so that’s a credit to him.”
IU’s defense started the second-half scoring.
Sophomore linebacker Cam Jones would come up with Indiana’s first pick-six of the season, intercepting UConn’s freshman quarterback Jack Zergiotis and running it back forty-four yards for the touchdown.
The Hoosiers were strong on both sides of the ball all day in Bloomington as UConn totaled just 145 yards. Along with the interception, the defense also accounted for three sacks among six tackles for loss.
“We had more of a sense of urgency,” junior defensive end Michael Ziemba said regarding the defense’s performance compared to last week. “We just wanted to get better this week. We knew we could come out here and play our brand of football and we did.”
That sense of urgency was highlighted when Ziemba and Cam Jones combined on one third-quarter snap to obliterate both Huskies who could’ve ended up with the ball on a read-option, taking no chances in leveling both Zergiotis and his running back for a four-yard loss.
IU added another touchdown in the third quarter, going 90 yards on ten plays, finishing with a 16-yard pass from Ramsey to senior wide receiver Nick Westbrook.
The Hoosiers’ fifth and final touchdown came early in the fourth quarter, this time on the ground. Sophomore running back Stevie Scott took it in from six yards out to set the final margin with 8:47 left.
The Hoosiers’ running game was improved on the afternoon after a slow start to the season. Indiana would rush for a season-high 178 yards, led by Scott’s 97, giving him his best showing of the season. IU averaged 4.5 yards per carry compared to the Huskies’ 2.3.
The convincing IU victory was not without loss.
Midway through the first quarter, Indiana senior left tackle Coy Cronk went down with an unspecified leg injury. Cronk had to be carted off the field, but before he was, the entirety of the Hoosier football team came off the sideline to see him off.
After Cronk’s exit, the Hoosiers made sure they would finish the game well for him.
“Coy’s a leader,” Scott said. “We just went out there to play for him after that injury. It was sad to see him go down, but we got the job done and finished it for him.”
“He’s a tough SOB,” Ziemba added. “He’s still going to be our leader; he’s still going to be leading with us. He’s going to be there all the time.”
“I love that kid,” Coach Tom Allen said of Cronk. “He’s just so tough and he’s given so much to this place, so I hope it’s not the end of the season… He means a lot to our program, and he always will no matter what the situation is. Bottom line is he’s one of our captains, he’s one of our leaders.”
Saturday’s result marked the third straight season the Hoosiers finished the non-conference portion of their schedule 3-0. IU resumes Big Ten play at Michigan State next Saturday and, after a bye week, hosts Rutgers for Homecoming Oct. 12.
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