Everything would have to go right for Indiana to go on the road and knock off No. 24 Oregon.
For the first 22 minutes in Eugene, that is precisely what happened.
Oregon opened its 2004 season having won 21 straight home nonconference games at Autzen Stadium dating back to 1994. Indiana had not won a road nonconference game against a Power Five opponent since that same season.
Traveling to the west coast as a 20-point underdog, IU seemed like a minor obstacle as Oregon looked to extend its 11 game home opener winning streak.
But on the third anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, Indiana defied the odds.
The game could not have started more ominously for the Hoosiers.
Oregon’s Kenny Washington returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. But as a sign of things to come, a mistake wiped out the score. A Duck penalty gave Oregon the ball in their own territory, and four plays later, a stunning turnover parade commenced.
Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemons fumbled at his own 25 yard line, and Victor Adeyanju was there to scoop it up.
Indiana would capitalize with a field goal and a quick 3-0 lead. It was only the beginning.
Oregon fumbled again just seven minutes into the game on a punt return, and Hoosier punter Tyson Beattie recovered. Two plays later IU running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis strolled in from 19 yards out for a 10-0 Hoosier lead.
A third first quarter Oregon fumble, this time at their own 20, again on a botched punt return, and again recovered by Adeyanju, was answered by another IU trip to the end zone.
Quarterback Matt LoVecchio found Courtney Roby for an 8 yard touchdown to give IU a 17-0 lead. The Oregon fans at Autzen Stadium sat in stunned silence.
The bizarre first quarter couldn’t get more strange, could it? It did.
Oregon fumbled a fourth time, again in its own territory, and again IU was there to fall on the football at the Duck 25 yard line.
A six play Hoosier drive that extended into the second quarter resulted in a field goal and a 20-0 advantage.
Oregon finally manufactured a drive, going 35 yards to the IU 32 yard line, but it ended on a turnover on downs. IU responded with a drive of their own, going 10 plays for 55 yards. A third Bryan Robertson field goal gave IU a 23-0 lead with 7:43 still remaining in the first half.
The teams exchanged punts to end the first half. Upon reviewing the stats, IU’s lead seemed impossible at the break. The Hoosiers were up 23-0 despite only amassing 62 yards.
The second half began just as ominously as the first as LoVecchio threw an interception on the second play from scrimmage.
But Oregon’s improbable run of turnovers continued — on the very next play — as Buster Larkins stepped in front of a Clemons pass.
Indiana was forced to punt, and the momentum of the game started to shift. Oregon scored twice to pull to within 23-10 midway through the third quarter. There was still plenty of time for a Ducks rally, and the energy inside the stadium was starting to change.
And that’s when Indiana kickoff returner Lance Bennett stunned the Oregon crowd one more time.
Bennett’s 97 yard kickoff return gave IU breathing room once again. It proved to be the difference in the game.
Two Oregon passing scores pulled the Ducks to within 30-24 with still 9:04 left in the game. A bizarre afternoon in Eugene now seemed destined for the expected outcome — an IU loss.
But three more Oregon mistakes allowed the Hoosiers to hang on. First, the Ducks missed a 35 yard field goal with 5:20 remaining.
After a Hoosier fumble, IU linebackers Kyle Killion and safety Herana-Daze Jones picked off Clemens passes to seal the improbable victory.
The Hoosiers were outgained 495-198. IU had just 12 first downs to Oregon’s 21 for the game. LoVecchio was just 6-of-18 for 71 yards passing.
But in the end, seven Oregon turnovers gave IU one of its more unlikely wins in program history. Indiana has defeated only three ranked opponents since, all at home.
Sandwiched between 8-5 and 10-2 seasons, the 2004 loss to IU was enough to prevent Oregon (5-6) from reaching bowl eligibility.
Indiana would not win another game until Oct. 30, when they knocked off another No. 24 ranked team, Minnesota.
2004 turned out to be an unremarkable season for the Hoosiers as they finished 3-8.
After his team’s big win over Oregon, then IU head coach Gerry DiNardo thought he had just witnessed a turning point.
“It’s not just today, it’s a culmination of the last few years,” DiNardo said. “We’ve been building for something like this and you can never tell when it will come.”
IU fired DiNardo at the end of the season.
But for one afternoon in Eugene, his Hoosiers stunned the college football world.
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