Indiana Hoosiers wide receiver Mitchell Paige (87) leads the Hoosiers in singing the Indiana fight song to the fans after their victory over Rutgers during a NCAA college football game in Piscataway, NJ Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Chris Howell | HSR

Indiana survives with 33-27 win at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — It could stand as the ugliest game Indiana will play all season.

It will be remembered as the win Indiana needed, but for little else on a day when the Hoosiers committed four turnovers and had to deal with a kicking game that has utterly fallen apart.

Yet, the defense held strong to help IU capture the result it required in a 33-27 victory over lowly Rutgers on Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium.

It was a come-from-behind win for an Indiana team that now needs only one more victory to reach bowl eligibility with three games to play. The Hoosiers (5-4, 3-3) host No. 20 Penn State next Saturday.

The margins for error along the course to that bowl eligibility are noticeably thin for IU at this point, and while coach Kevin Wilson doesn’t regard reaching the six-win threshold as his ultimate goal at Indiana, failing to beat a poorly-equipped Rutgers team would be a sign for serious concern.

But Indiana showed a will to win when it needed to most. Doing so provided the reward.

“Today, we didn’t play smart all the time,” Wilson said. “We didn’t play horrible. There was some good football. There was some not-smart, negative football that can beat you, but I think our will to win was pretty good, especially defensively and with some of those kids making one-on-one plays.”

Defensive coordinator Tom Allen’s unit held the Scarlet Knights to 203 yards on 59 plays across Rutgers’ final 15 drives. Of those 15 drives, 11 resulted in a three-and-out, including seven in a row.

That performance was important given how dangerously close Indiana flirted with disaster, especially during a dreadful second quarter.

That stretch followed an early 13-7 Indiana lead, which was built on a 59-yard run by option quarterback Zander Diamont and a 36-yard reception by Ricky Jones.

Signs of trouble, however, were becoming visible by the end of the first quarter.

A 54-yard field goal attempt by Griffin Oakes was blocked. Starting quarterback Richard Lagow was intercepted on back-to-back passes. The Hoosiers failed to convert a pair of fourth-down opportunities and, in between, Diamont fumbled the ball on the edge of the red zone, leading to a 75-yard scoop and score for Darnell Davis.

That stretch of trouble added up to a 17-13 Rutgers halftime advantage.

“The turnovers were bad,” Wilson said. “We had four. You are lucky to win on the road with that. With the kicking errors we had in the PAT and field goal team, we are very fortunate to win.”

Indiana’s deficit, which swelled to 11 points at the start of the third quarter after a fumbled kick return by Devonte Williams led to a Rutgers score, was made more frustrating by the failures of the kicking unit.

In addition to an earlier block from 54 yards out, Oakes also had a 20-yard attempt blocked in the third quarter. In the same period, he missed altogether on a 42-yard attempt. Two point-after attempts were also botched.

IU began the game with backup Aaron Del Grosso handling the opening kickoff, but Wilson went with Oakes on field goals and extra point attempts. Punter Joseph Gedeon struggled with his holding responsibilities, too.

“We have an issue with the holder and kicker,” Wilson said. “It’s confidence issue. We started the game with our other kicker and he didn’t kick well, although he’s done well in practice. Those guys are good but they are a little psycho right now. Down the stretch we are going to need to kick well in the three weeks coming.”

IU’s defense responded with a strong finish against Rutgers’ hapless offense. The Hoosiers’ offensive fortunes, meanwhile, turned midway through the third quarter when Camion Patrick skied for a highlight-worthy 40-yard catch above the pylon. The score cut Indiana’s deficit to 24-20 before Devine Redding put the Hoosiers ahead for good.

A wide running lane paved the way for a 34-yard touchdown run that gave IU a 26-24 advantage with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. Redding found the end zone again in the fourth quarter, swinging out of the backfield for a 10-yard touchdown reception on a critical third down deep in Rutgers territory. The score was made possible by a critical fumble recovery by Ricky Jones moments earlier.

It was the kind of competitive play Indiana needed much more of on Saturday.

“(We had) some guys making some plays,” Wilson said. “There were some one-on-one plays. Camion Patrick makes a big one-on-one (play). Ricky Jones recovering a fumble was probably the biggest one-on-one play of the day. I don’t know how he got it because it was their ball, I thought. He just outfought a guy because of his will to win.”

That was a mindset that saved Indiana on a day when mistakes and stumbles nearly tripped the Hoosiers out of the gate in November.

28 comments

  1. I U can’t play kick ass football, and the coach who is in charge of the special kicking team needs to get this season long poor situation turned around before it costs them their job.

  2. Rutgers is as bad as advertised. Not a very reassuring performance. That was one of the worst displays put on by a place kicking unit that I have ever seen. It was spectacular in its awfulness. You can’t put all the blame on Oakes. The whole unit is terrible.

    On a brighter note, I thought the Hoosier receivers had a good day.

  3. Trying to be as positive as possible after this “victory,” I guess it’s a sign of progress when you can make so many mistakes and still win a conference game. Maybe our young players were looking past Rutgers, all excited to take on Penn State next week? Or is it just that, after more than five and a half years under Wilson, we’re only slightly better than the worst team in the Big Ten?

    I won’t say today’s performance was unacceptable, but I doubt it will inspire legions of Hoosier fans to fill Memorial Stadium any time soon.

  4. Chet, you are right, as always. Looking for the pony in the pile of horse manure that was today’s game, IU’s receivers did make numerous great receptions. They saved the game and the season for Wilson and their teammates. Lagow performed better when it counted down the stretch, but he was still sketchy, throwing two INTs and several passes that should have been INTs. He easily could have thrown five INTs today if Rutgers’ defenders could catch the ball.

    How many times this season have we seen, on the very first play after a time-out, an IU O-linemen or tight end get called for a penalty because they jumped the snap. After a time-out?! How stupid is that?

  5. Wow, Mike Miller’s article is a very appropriate indictment of just how bad IU played today. I appreciate that you did not super-coat this debacle, Mike. Wilson needs to face some tough questions from the media this week.

  6. Does anyone besides me think that the announcers covering for the Rutgers coaches kicking a field goal when, after the penalty, they were on the two yard line was total BS. It was a boned headed move. Your chances are virtually nil, you need two scores, you’re on the frickin’ two yard line…and you kick it?

    What has a great chance of happening? Scoring from the two, recovering an onside kick, completing one 25 yard pass, and kicking a field goal or kicking a field goal from the two, recovering an onside kick, and throwing a 60 yard touchdown pass?

    I hope that coach is around for a while.

  7. ‘greater’ chance.

    The chances of either working was pretty small. But skipping an attempt from the two so might get a shot from mid field?

  8. Richard Lagow is an okay QB but he doesnt read defenses well at all they showed a couple of replays where he threw deep into double coverage and had a wide open guy underneath he predetermines where he wants to go with the football when sometimes reading a coverage would serve him better

  9. Several things are being ignored about this game. One is how well the defense played today other than the first long TD pass. This team scored 32 against a MN defense that is considered a pretty good defense. Statistically Rutgers may rate at one of the worse teams in CFB but they have played 3 teams ranked in the top 5 this year.

    IU isn’t a very good team this year but they are good enough to finish in the middle of the B1G. How soon we forget, IU struggling to not finishing in the bottom 2 positions of the league. The team isn’t where we want it to be yet but losing the starters from last year hasn’t led to regressing back to the bottom of the B1G.

    IU has yet to put a solid game together of offensive and defensive play [I have given up on special teams this year] but have played well for a half or more. I hope IU can come home and find a way to beat PSU, lets turn 5-4 into 6-4 this week.

  10. brown bomber, let’s just say Lagow is a work-in-progress. He’s got great size and a very strong arm, but he’s behind the curve with the mental aspects of playing QB at this level. And that makes him below average right now. Since he continues to make the same type of mistakes after nine games, I’m not not sure he has the intangibles necessary to be an above-average Big Ten QB. He could have easily cost IU the game today, simply because he threw the ball where it should never have been thrown on several plays. Luckily, Rutgers’ defenders dropped three INTs. And Lagow seems to go from great to terrible in an instant. He throws two TD passes, then throws two terrible INTs on back-to-back plays. I think if Wilson had a lot of confidence in him, we would not be seeing the wildcat formation as often as we have over the last two games. But to his credit, or maybe to the credit of IU’s receivers, Lagow made some good plays down the stretch today to help win the game. Watching him makes me a nervous wreck.

    What concerns me is that no other QBs besides ZD and Lagow have gotten any playing time this season. Not even against WF after Lagow threw five INTs. Is that because they’re not any good, or is it because Wilson is red-shirting a couple of them. Zander gets in to run the wildcat, but has been limited in throwing only a few passes in the last two games (which makes the wildcat ineffective), so he’s not really being asked to throw the ball in a normal formation. Do any of the other QBs have that ability, or are they just being used to convey the plays through hand signals on the sideline?

  11. I agree with you guys about Lagow. As far as throwing to spots or to guys who are wide open he rocks. The receivers made some great receptions on 50/50 balls. As you both pointed out, he is not reading defenses. Michigan could be a really long day with their opportunistic secondary.

    V13, good point. The defense played a great game overall. The offensive mistakes and special teams issues took some of the shine off a strong defensive performance.

  12. I’m not sure how viable Natee is running the ball with that ponderous first step. They caught Maryland off guard. All Rugers had to do was keep him from getting a head of steam and they took him out of the game. He’s just too slow off the ball right now.

  13. v13, I respect your comment, but how long should it take for us to forget? IU should be getting better, not staying the same or getting worse. We’re getting better on defense, but we had no where to go but up. Regardless of the yards gained, the offense is not getting better; it struggles to score in the red zone. Teams on the rise win convincingly against opponents like Rutgers, not just barely survive! Teams on the rise don’t lose home games against Wake Forest. IU Football should be inclined upward, not treading water. Every team loses players to graduation every year, but teams on the rise replace those players with the same or even better talent. OSU lost 13 players to the NFL last season, but they are, once again loaded with talent. Of course it is never a linear progression, but teams on the rise are prepared to replace the talent lost to graduation. Yes, it was a victory today, and I guess it shows, in relative terms, some type of progress, but IU did not play like a team on the rise. In truth, I think they were lucky to win today’s game. At this stage in Wilson’s tenure, we should not have to rely on luck to beat a team like Rutgers.

    You watch; two years from now, Rutgers football will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten. The essential question is, will IU be better or worse?

  14. I had pretty much decided in the 3rd quarter that I wasn’t going to waste another Saturday afternoon this year watching IU football when all of a sudden we rallied and beat a horrible Rutgers team. I agree with just about everything said above and especially Podunkers comments. The defense won this game and with the exception of Ball’s blown coverage early in the 1st quarter, they really played a very good game. We are getting good play from a bunch of defensive lineman who haven’t played before this year. I can’t praise Tom Allen enough. He makes great adjustments and has our defense playing at a much higher level, even though the points allowed sometimes seem to contradict that assertion. I just get so frustrated over our offense and special teams. We must be the worst field goal/extra point team in the country. How has Oakes gone from Big 10 kicker of the year in 2015 to the mess he is today? Is Paige a better holder? Lagow really frustrates me. He doesn’t see the field and has been fortunate not to have more than the 13 interceptions he already has. Is this a record for an IU quarterback? If not, I think he will have the record by the end of the season. We have really regressed on special teams and offense from a year ago.
    As usual, I will forget how frustrated I was watching this game, and I’ll starting daydreaming about an upset of Penn State next Saturday!

  15. I don’t claim any level of expertise on placekicking but, when I see rushers up the middle, off the corner, you name it, blocking or rushing kicks I just don’t know that I believe Oakes is suddenly not a decent kicker. Is he kicking the ball in the same amount of time he was getting last year? Is the kick getting off that slow? How are guys getting around the end and getting there in time? Are the offensive line splits too close? Aren’t those things cleared up by middle school? What is going on out there?

    I don’t know if it’s still policy at VT but when Beamer was there he coached special teams. He played the best guys on the team on his kicking units. I remember Jeff King, the starting tight end who would later play a few years in the NFL, bloocking a field goal attempt and a few plays later catching a touchdown pass. Beamer always had great special teams and part of that is likely because his best players also played special teams. How many starters are used on special teams for the Hoosiers? I don’t think IU is so loaded with talent that they shouldn’t do the same.

    1. Chet, I agree per the continuously poor blocking on ex point attempts and field goal formations. While Oakes is having a tough time, it doesn’t help when defensive ends/corners are allowed to rush totally unblocked. Replays clearly showed that IU’s OT’s just stood there and watched. Once can be player error….every kick in every game, that’s coaching.

  16. Ranger 67, great post. I too will find some excuse to become optimistic about next week’s PSU game. I mean, sooner or later, IU’s offense has to stop making the same stupid mistakes, right?

    IU’s defense played well again today and was not responsible for 14 of the points Rutgers scored. ZD’s fumble was picked up and run in for a TD, and then the muffed kick-off return that was recovered on IU’s 20-yard line lead to an easy Rutgers TD. Can’t blame Allen’s crew for either of those two scores. And of course Lagow’s back-to-back INTs did not help the defense, either. Look at all the other QBs in the Big Ten. He’s either first or second in the number of INTs thrown this season. But the QB who is third worst has thrown half that many INTs.

    As for the Special Teams debacle, there’s just no excuse for missing extra points, mis-handling the snap, or missing a lot of short field goals nine games into the season? Does IU have a back-up kicker? If so, he should be playing the remainder of the season. Oaks needs some time on the bench to figure out why he’s floundering. He’s like a golfer with the yips! It can’t get any worse than it is now.

    1. Agree that now is the time to give Del Grosso or whomever a shot at extra points and field goals. I have noticed on a few occasions that Gedeon has not attempted to turn the laces away from Oakes. I know this has not helped Oakes, either physically or even possibly mentally.
      As you said, it can’t get any worse than it is right now. It is apparent, however, that Oakes has a stronger leg on kick-offs. Both of the Del Grosso kickoffs were extremely short and resulted in good field position for Rutgers. Maybe Oakes should continue with kick offs while Wilson gives Del Grosso a shot at field goals and extra points. Remember, before Oakes beat him out last year, Del Grosso was our place kicker.
      Something else I have noticed. When we have those snaps that are dropped by the holder, we seem to panic and make no attempt to actually try to roll out and throw a pass to someone who has released into the end zone. We seem content to get tackled for a loss.

  17. I am going to mention this again as I did 2 weeks ago, who the hell is calling our plays on offense? The play calling is atrocious!! It was quite apparent that after the first quarter and the early touchdown with the wildcat, that Rutgers who is a terrible rush defense had adjusted to that concept yet, in the 4th quarter when we got in the red zone, we decide to go to the wildcat again and get absolutely nothing! We waste 1st & 2nd down trying to trick them with that formation and get stuffed again! And again as 2 weeks ago, when is IU going to get their offensive approach together and quit having to call time out time after time because the play call is either late or so confusing to those on the field? Buck Suhr who is the analyst on the IU radio broadcast with Don Fisher ( I was watching the game and listening to it on the radio), Suhr said after the 2nd offensive time out in the 1st half that IU has had a problem all year long with calling time outs when there seems to constantly be confusion between the coaches or the players on the field. You get 6 time outs in a game (3 each half) and we seem to use up at least 3 or 4 a game because of offensive confusion? In the first half, we used our last time out with 3:35 to go because of confusion of some kind. Suhr said that this can not continue to happen! As I stated 2 weeks ago, this is either a lack of preparation or poor communication from side line to the field. Suhr mentioned during the time out that it seems as though the play calling from the side line seems to be a lack of conviction on what play to call? All I know is it is getting pretty frustrating to see this continue to happen. One of these days we are going to need those precious time outs when the game is coming down to the last couple of minutes. I agree with all of the above guys on the defense which was out standing from the middle of the second quarter on!! Great job guys!!

  18. Chet, I don’t know the answers for special teams since I am not at practice to see what is going on. I do know IU plays most of its starters on special teams and Coach Wilson in past years has commented on the importance of playing starters on special teams.

    Po as far as how IU is playing, look at an established program that won the B1G title last year and went to the college play-offs, MSU. No one claims their coach isn’t good and can’t coach a team in the B1G but he shows how hard it is to win games in the B1G. IU now wins B1G games and we shouldn’t forget how hard that is. The knock in the past was Wilson couldn’t win B1G games yet this year we have 3 wins in conference with three to go. I am not pleased with the way IU is playing but I try to remember the bigger picture and where IU has been. I too worry about MD and R when their coaches get the recruits they want. IU struggles to get 4 star players despite having a great OL coach along with WR that lead the league and now we will see if defense can start to bring in 4 and 5 star players.

  19. The defense did play their butts off though shout out to them it would be nice to put together a complete game but playing in 2 straight bowl games will be a great accomplishment for this program

  20. I don’t think there is any doubt that we are hanging around the middle of the pack. As you said, it wasn’t long ago that we would look at a schedule and see if there as a single conference game where we could expect a win let alone be looking at a bowl game (Maybe the Cialis/Weedeater/GravyTrain Bowl).

    As the team has improved so have our expectations. I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing.

    OK, I’m feeling better than I did right after the game. For a win that was really unsettling. I think we have a shot at PSU and Purdue looks as bad as Rutgers except with a long ball threat.

  21. brownbomber, yes the defense did play their butts off and it would be great to get to a second bowl game and win it this year.

  22. Maybe the ‘Kevins’ wouldn’t be comfortable with a standard 2 back set, but, Camion Patrick in the backfield with Redding, Majette or whomever would expand their offensive arsenal. This would set up shorter, play option pass opportunities to say nothing of less predictable run plays. It would likely work and that’s why I’ll never see it.

  23. If not for a blown pass coverage and 2 fumbles the ending would be 33-6 and a lot less MMQBing. A road win is good.

  24. IN RE: Special teams. Kicking teams have been ghastly this year, and were pretty crappy prior. Earlier this year I looked up the coach in charge of the special teams and listed “William Inge Linebackers/Special Teams Coordinator” but saw that no one was designated as a special teams (only) coach, which I thought surprising. So I looked at some other B1G programs’ coaching rosters and pretty much the same- a position coach also in charge of special teams. Now the IUFB coaching roster shows “William Inge Linebackers/Special Teams Coordinator – Cover Units” and “Deland McCullough Running Backs/Special Teams Coordinator – Return Units.” Have twice as many coaches made things twice as bad? Playing your best players on special teams makes sense- but even the best players can’t be two places at one time; if your best players are practicing kickoff coverage they can’t be practicing with the starting O of D. It might make more sense to put less talented players on the special teams but spend A LOT of time with those guys on special teams rather than lesser amounts of time with the top talent. I suggest a coach and squad that does nothing but practice the kicking game all practice long. Maybe that’s nutty, but IUFB needs to do something.

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