IU survives at Rutgers, 24-17

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — In a victorious postgame locker room at HighPoint.com stadium, Reakwon Jones felt compelled to speak the truth.

The Indiana linebacker stepped forward and asked his teammates to pause in their revelry. Wins are to be cherished, no matter how they come, yet this 24-17 victory over Rutgers felt incomplete.

So Jones addressed his fellow Hoosiers and made his point clear.

“I’m extremely happy we won this game,” Jones said. “But we all feel like we left something out there. That’s how you should feel. We should play to a higher standard. We left a lot of plays out there that should’ve been made, and made this game a lot closer than (it should’ve been). We could’ve really separated and we just didn’t finish.”

No, Indiana (4-1, 1-1) did not. Against the Big Ten’s worst team, that’s a concern.

A spirited first half turned into a slog to the finish in a game where IU outgained Rutgers 292-134 through two quarters, then failed to score in the second half. The Scarlet Knights were the aggressors late, taking what was a 17-point IU halftime lead and turning it into a one-possession game.

“Really challenged our guys at halftime to finish, and we did not,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “I just really think that’s something we have to grow from, learn from. We let them hang around, let them hang around, let them hang around and kind of made it interesting at the end. I just want to see us play all 60 minutes. That’s where the growth has to come next.”

Indiana travels to Ohio State next Saturday for a 4 p.m. kickoff.

The Hoosiers didn’t punt the entire first half, updating the scoreboard on every trip down the field. Each of IU’s four first-half possessions went for at least 10 plays and ended in points, but after building a 24-17 halftime lead, it felt like the Hoosiers shifted their approach. They appeared to play not to lose, as opposed to playing to win handily.

Indiana found it difficult to cross into Rutgers territory on its first two second-half possessions, before its third series ended at midfield on a fumble lost by running back Stevie Scott.

The Scarlet Knights quickly marched downfield with the help of a 39-yard halfback pass from Isaih Pacheco. Two plays later, Jonathan Hilliman pounded the ball in from one yard out to cut IU’s lead to 24-14.

In a must-win game against a lowly opponent, things got hairy for the Hoosiers.

“I don’t want to sit here and critique all the (play) calls right now,” Allen said. “Still, to me, we’ve got to score points. You get a chance to go up 31-7 and it changes the complexion of everything. We knew that. Everybody knows that. Had several chances to do that and didn’t do it. Obviously, you’re trying to utilize the clock as much as you possibly can and be smart with that, but at the same time, you’ve got to go play ball and go win the game. Not pleased with that at all.”

A 52-yard field goal by Rutgers’ Justin Davidovicz cut the Hoosier advantage to 10 points with four minutes left in regulation, but IU picked up a critical first down on the final drive to ice the game.

An offsides flag against Rutgers gave IU a free play, on which quarterback Peyton Ramsey found tight end Peyton Hendershot for a 25-yard gain near midfield.

“I wasn’t even expecting the ball to be snapped,” Ramsey said. “The ball was snapped and they took off, Hendershot went up and made a heck of a catch.”

From there at midfield, Ramsey went to his knee to kill the clock and get IU out of town with the victory.

“A win’s a win, especially in the Big Ten,” Ramsey said. “It’s hard to win. We came away with one. Obviously we’re not satisfied. We’re going to learn from it come Monday, move on, and flush it to get ready to go.”

It was a curious afternoon for Indiana, which started the game with a head-shaking moment.

Rutgers scored the first points of the day, though it never should’ve been in position to do so. But an unsportsmanlike penalty against linebacker Dameon Willis on third down kept the Scarlet Knights’ opening drive alive.

Willis was flagged after pulling down quarterback Art Sitkowski well after his third-down pass had been tossed, and the Scarlet Knights took the gifted momentum and turned it into a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown reception by Shameen Jones.

“That was really bad,” Allen said. “His playing time was affected after that. He’s one of our older guys. We’ve got a bunch of young guys on defense and he’s not one of them. Bad decision on his part.”

Indiana answered quickly, gradually building an advantage it rode to the victory.

After a pass-heavy start to its first possession, which featured an opening connection of 23 yards between Ramsey and Nick Westbrook, IU closed its 10-play, 75-yard drive with its first called run of the day — a 16-yard touchdown sprint to the outside by Scott.

Indiana went back to the run on its second drive, feeding Scott six times. It closed a 16-play, 88-yard drive with a keeper for Ramsey, who was able to just barely stretch the ball across the goal line from a yard out.

On its third drive, Indiana traveled 68 yards and scored on a two-yard reception by J-Shun Harris — his first offensive touchdown since Sept. 20, 2014.

Indiana closed the half with a 44-yard field goal from Logan Justus, who pushed the Hoosiers’ advantage to 24-7.

It was important separation on an afternoon when IU would’ve appreciated a wider margin of victory. The Hoosiers know they left some plays on the field and spoke of this as a potential learning experience.

Jones, too, made sure they were aware that better, more complete efforts will be needed as conference season continues.

“I didn’t want anyone on this team to feel content or complacent with that win,” Jones said. “Every win’s a great win, but I don’t want them to think that’s our standard. Our standard is a lot higher and I just want them to know that we left stuff out there. Be happy, but at the same time, know that you made mistakes and that we need to come back and emphasize finishing and working hard.”

32 comments

  1. It’s a road win! But it still feels “meh”. Defense in 2nd half was extremely porous. Looked silly biting on the the half-back pass big gainer. Several dumb penalties in first half. Would’ve liked to see that unit look sharper given the opponent.

    Ramsey was good today! Credit to him. Can he be as effective against a better team? Well, he’ll have some opportunities. Ditto the “opened up” passing game we saw today. However, overall the offense also laid a 2nd half egg.

    On to Columbus! Prepare to endure pain.

    1. I would not describe Peyton as “good”. He was adequate, average, limited, uninspiring. You get my drift. Perhaps it is DeBord’s horrible offensive scheme and play selection with a first half lead.

  2. After two Big Ten games, it appear’s IU’s O-line is not capable of making holes for IU’s running backs. The coaches need to understand that and stop trying to force the ball into the middle of the line. Those traditional running plays are not working, and when stopped, our failure provides the other team opportunities to gain momentum. IU’s O-line is big, but they appear very slow. So much for that new S&C program making them stronger and faster. I’m not seeing it. Very disappointing performance today.

    Will PR throw a pass this season that travels more than 30 yards in the air from the line of scrimmage? Another game where he did a nice job throwing dink and dunk passes, managed the offense, and failed to see wide-open receivers down field. Yet he threw another INT and should have had another one picked off.

    Forget being 4 – 1, today’s victory will not inspire the Hoosier Nation to increase attendance at home games or inspire better athletes to commit to IU. Ugly win.

    1. Po,
      Ugly win against a team that may be lucky to win another game this year! Unless there is major change in this team, there’s the nasty possibility of going 0 for October. May get luck and pick up a win or two, but can’t play like this against the rest of the schedule. Looked terrible on both sides of the ball.

      1. Wow…Did anyone see the reception and subsequent run for a touchdown by Binjimen Victor on OSU? Probably the best play I’ve seen in a decade….or more.
        Went high to snag a pass thrown well behind him …contorting his body in stride. It was mind-boggling athleticism…And then he proceeded to gallop and a weave like a gazelle through a coalition of lions no match for his old school instincts and huge strides. What a thing of beauty.

        We might want to just forfeit the next game…..Maybe the SEC is where it’s at for football. But, my gosh, that Buckeye team has enough talent on one roster to match all Hoosier standouts from the last 50 years. Their running backs? I quit counting how many ….And they all run like steamrollers putting down their own asphalt before turning like Ferraris. Their defensive line looks bigger and stronger…and faster than half of the teams in the NFL.

        Urban Meyer may be a lying scumbag….but scumbags usually finish first.

    2. Purdue May have been the “best” 0-3 team in college football. But certainly IU is the “worst” 4-1 team! We did not score in the 2nd half and held on to beat U VA 20-16 at home. We did not score in the second half and held on to beat a truly bad Rutgers on the road. I actually remember seeing Finney sustain a block 7 yards downfield. I never see one of our O lineman doing this now! Our O line is not strong at all! 4 down and 2 (or more) to go!

    3. Hoosier football attendance reminds me of the Miami Marlins. Before 1997, nobody cared or showed up. When they win the World Series in 1997, they packed the place out. Due to payroll issues, they traded away the majority of the team and finished 54-108 in 1998. Shockingly, nobody cared again until 2003.

      I’ve all but given up on how to draw in the fans. Reduced ticket prices helps, but is a short-term solution. They’d give away free money and people would just peel out of the parking lot. I’ve resigned to the fact that until we can bet the big boys, it will be ho hum as usual.

  3. I’d say only chance at bowl eligibility is winning Maryland and Minnesota. Not sure we can beat either, but every other opponent on schedule is out of our league. Beating any of them would be a massive upset. In fact it would be a miracle.

  4. If we play better, and stop the conservative “try not to lose” strategy, we can beat Iowa. And I think we can beat Maryland and Minnesota. But this team’s offense has become predictable. T.A. has got to demand his offense go down field in the right circumstances, and he must learn to take the points when the team is within field goal range. The six points he gave up today would have made for a much more comfortable win. The headline was correct, IU “survived” the day, but T.A.’s performance as the coach was disappointing.

  5. This was a win and winning to become 4-1 was important and a big deal to get bowl eligible this year. It is becoming clear that coach Allen will need to make some changes on offense after this year. I can read his frustration about what is going on in the past to games. None of us know the real issues as we don’t see practices and the coaching that is going on. I trust coach Allen to make tough personel choices when he sees the program needs it.

    In spite of the win, this game was disappointing to watch but no more than other games in past years. There is still time for the offense to get in gear but they don’t give us much hope that they will be any better than they are now.

    1. V- I don’t think you need to go to the practices to figure out the issues- the offensive line is better than last year but still not very good. The running game lacks an explosive back. Ramsey is a competent game manager but he lacks the arm strength to throw long and to throw to the outside. This team is not built to come from behind but continues to spot every team they play 7 points before they start playing. The talent is better but I don’t see them winning more than 5 games. I hope I’m wrong but where is the improvement? This is like last year where the team made mistakes that you thought they would iron out during the season but they never showed any real improvement- slow starts, sloppy play, uninspired play calling and lack-luster performances.

  6. Making changes to the offensive coaching staff is easy, upgrading coaching talent isn’t, especially with IU’s “limited” coaching compensation budget. And if IU wins six games this season, it will be hard for T.A. to justify firing a couple of his coaches, especially if it involves Glass spending money on severance. We can only hope that T.A. has a broader perspective on how his program is doing relative to other Big Ten teams. If he’s excited about today’s victory, or being 4 – 1, he’s missing the forest for the trees.

    But given that MI is losing to NW right now, there may be a few Big Ten offensive coaches looking for a job in about three months.

  7. There’s plenty of $ for assistants Allen would want because Glass manages the finances well so there will be enough money for them. I don’t think 1 assistant has a contract for more than a 12 month term. So much for wasting severance. That’s called good money management.

  8. Okay. I’m a big fan of turnover free football but, if they are really trying to win next Saturday, they need to just go for it. A conservative approach, matching our players against the Buckeyes, is doomed from the start.

    If they stay the course they will get crushed.

    1. We have no right to be panicking over what’s in store for Ramsey next weekend….when we could have been Penixing the five weeks prior.

    2. 1 interception and 1 more near miss is not turnover free! 1 lost fumble and 1 more near miss is not turnover free! What game did you watch?

    3. I don’t care about the result vs OSU. Try not to get anyone hurt, play hard, and learn. An L is ok. IU needs to beat IA!

          1. So, you edit the posts of others now.

            September 30, 2018 at 12:23 am

            “Okay. I’m a big fan of turnover free football but, if they are really trying to win next Saturday, they need to just go for it. A conservative approach, matching our players against the Buckeyes, is doomed from the start.”

            Unless you have some sort of comprehension issue most people would pick up that I meant we need to open up the offense.

  9. But there was plenty of time to experiment with different strategies beyond the conservative football we’ve witnessed from this offense. Now we go ill-prepared to even use those forgone possible strategies against OSU.
    Maybe Allen simply realized we’d get “crushed” by the Big 3 of the Big 10 either way and he’s saving his freshman qb from the horrific ass-kicking and disheartening reality that is IU Football. Be smart, Mr Penix. You’re not being saved for a stronger day…You’re simply being conditioned. Being on the humiliation side of that 57-14 score next weekend will soon feel as normal as one of Pavlov’s dogs salivating for a dinner bell. These regular and well-timed beatdowns are IU Football’s stimulus to know a Alpo Bowl is nearing….Yup, you guessed it…”Breakthrough” is your dinner bell word creating massive drooling. Your fast heart and hungry stomach might even end up feeling satisfied though your slobber only drips into an empty bowl.

  10. The positive marketing spin,
    In the rich aroma of South Central Indiana,
    Where cow pies and the smoke of nature’s crop,
    Fill the air as the leaves of autumn’s color everywhere,
    The lopsided oval ball hopes to score six,
    Mush brains hope to win six,
    Until the harsh winter turns the ball round,
    And everyone awakes to a National Championship.

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