4 things we learned from IU’s win at Illinois

1. A third consecutive bowl appearance remains within reach.
Winning road games in the Big Ten is a difficult task, no matter the opponent. Although Illinois is the worst team in the league, Indiana has squandered similar opportunities in the past. No doubt, this was a meaningful win for the Hoosiers. Now, this team still has something to play for across these next two weeks, continuing with next weekend’s home date with Rutgers. Saturday brought a rejuvenating win to a program that badly needed one. For at least one more week, the Hoosiers have reason to believe.

2. The Hoosiers closed the game in impressive fashion.
Beyond staying on track for bowl eligibility, this was the most important takeaway Saturday. After Simmie Cobbs’ five-yard touchdown reception with 5:45 to play in regulation, IU’s closed the door in convincing fashion with three straight takeaways — a fumble recovery and back-to-back interceptions. The way they ended the contest should give the Hoosiers added confidence, and perhaps a bit of momentum entering another must-win game next week.

3. IU’s backfield showed promise.
Yes, Indiana’s success on the ground Saturday came against the Big Ten’s most porous rush defense. But it can still be viewed as an encouraging development for a group that hasn’t had many positive outcomes from which to build this fall. IU’s 139 yards were the most for the Hoosiers in a conference game since they posted 177 at Penn State on Sept. 30. Cole Gest and Morgan Ellison complemented each other nicely, with Gest scurrying for chunk gains in the open field and Ellison getting the tough yards and some key conversions.

4. Indiana’s defense did exactly what it needed to do.
Mistakes were made, including a couple that led directly to Illinois’ two touchdowns. But this was another fine performance from IU’s best unit. The Hoosiers posted eight sacks, 10 tackles for loss and seven three-and-outs. Defensive tackles Jacob Robinson and Nate Hoff were terrific, hassling a young Illinois offensive line all afternoon. Linebacker Chris Covington was equally outstanding with eight tackles and 1.5 sacks.

WHAT’S NEXT: Rutgers, Saturday, noon, Memorial Stadium, BTN.
The Hoosiers return to Bloomington for their home finale, while saluting their senior class in the process. Rutgers has the Big Ten’s least productive offense, including a passing game averaging merely 118.6 yards per contest.

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