After a strong start to their 2019 season, Indiana didn’t want to fumble away their momentum against Northwestern on Saturday night.
Instead, it was the Wildcats that did all of the fumbling in Bloomington as IU picked up their seventh win of the season.
Northwestern fumbled on their first drive of the game, and two more times before the first half was over as Indiana capitalized on the miscues with two touchdowns and ran out to a 24-3 halftime lead.
True freshman cornerback Tiawan Mullen played a role in two of the three fumbles, and he had a message for the rest of the Big Ten after the game.
“I feel like everybody doubts us,” Mullen said. “I feel like everybody thinks we are the least in the Big Ten. But we are showing everybody. We want to win the games that everybody thinks we can’t win.”
Indiana won on this night for the fourth time in a row in the Big Ten on a frigid night at Memorial Stadium.
But it didn’t come without at least some drama.
Michael Penix returned as the starter on Saturday night after missing the Nebraska game, but the redshirt freshman left Saturday night’s contest in the first half. Penix was 10-of-15 for 162 yards through the air along with a one yard rushing touchdown.
“The decision to start Mike was pretty simple,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said after the game. I’ve been kind of frank with that situation. He was the starter, and as soon as he was healthy enough to play he would come back and be the starter when he was able to go. So we went with him and he got dinged up there right before half.”
Allen did not elaborate on Penix’s injury beyond stating that more should be known on Sunday. It is the third time he has left a game early.
Redshirt junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey filled in yet again for Penix as he made his sixth appearance on the season. Ramsey was 7-of-10 for 108 yards and a touchdown.
“Once again, Peyton Ramsey continues to be a great teammate, great player for us,” Allen continued. “We’ve had two quarterbacks that have played almost an equal amount of time for us.”
Now accustomed to change at quarterback, IU didn’t take their foot off the gas in the second half as they finished off Northwestern 34-3.
Despite the revolving door at quarterback, the constant on this night was sophomore running back Stevie Scott, who found the end zone three times for Indiana.
Scott had two touchdown runs, each from two yards out, and he added a 20-yard touchdown reception after he was lost by the Northwestern defense, allowing him to stroll into the end zone untouched. The New York product finished the night with 28 carries for 116 yards on the ground. He reached the 100 yard mark for the third time in the last four games.
Allen talked about Scott’s mid-season evolution in the running game.
“There was a concerted effort by the teams we were playing (early in the season) to make sure that Stevie Scott did not beat them,” Allen said. “He learned a lot, and Coach Hart did a great job of teaching him how to handle this and be more patient with his runs, and he started running harder with more confidence.”
When asked after the game whether the holes have gotten bigger as Indiana’s passing attack has flourished, Scott didn’t hesitate.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Scott said. “We’re keeping the defense not knowing what is going to happen.”
While the offense eclipsed the 30 point mark for the eighth time in nine games, it was the Hoosier defense that set the tone early.
After giving up 59 points over the last two weeks, Indiana’s defense was locked in from the opening kickoff.
IU generated a takeaway on Northwestern’s first play from scrimmage as Mullen stripped the ball away from Northwestern quarterback Aidan Smith. Defensive end Michael Ziemba pounced on the ball for the recovery.
Later Mullen recovered Northwestern’s second fumble of the first half after linebacker Cam Jones stripped the ball away from Wildcat running back Drake Anderson at the Northwestern 18 yard line. Indiana scored touchdowns after both takeaways.
“He’s got a great knack for the ball,” Allen said of Mullen. “He created that first takeaway of the game. Those kind of things are huge. They got a big long run first play of the game and he rakes that ball out of there with great technique.”
For the game, Indiana held Northwestern to 199 yards while generating 414 of their own.
Indiana (7-2, 4-2) has a bye next week. The Hoosiers will travel to Penn State on November 16.
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”
Seven ways to support completely free IU coverage at no additional cost to you.