Hoosiers clinch bowl in 38-31 win at Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. — As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium turned into a sight that few Hoosier fans could have imagined in previous decades.

Rows of Cornhusker fans stared toward the field, their arms crossed, their faces drained of all enthusiasm. Silver patches of bleacher were left exposed in the historic venue as Indiana took a knee on a 38-31 win.

Sophomore running back Stevie Scott came off the field dipping his right shoulder, following through with an underhand bowling stroke. IU coach Tom Allen wildly high-fived an entire front row of Hoosier fans, coming to tears as the Big Ten Network’s television cameras rolled.

A sixth win in October, clinching a bowl bid and racking up wins at a pace previously unseen by IU since 1993? Beating a Nebraska program the Hoosiers hadn’t defeated since 1959, on the road, in a back-and-forth affair?

It was hard for the Hoosiers to hide their excitement.

“I got really tired standing in front of you all and talking how close we are and being disappointed and trying to figure out how I was going to spin it the right way when I know I was torn up on the inside,” Allen said at his postgame press conference. “It feels pretty stinkin’ good to stand here and answer your questions after a big-time road win.

“I don’t even care what anybody else thinks. This is awesome. This is big. This means a whole lot to our program.”

The Hoosiers would try to say certain things didn’t factor into Saturday’s result, like outside noise about Nebraska’s storied football tradition, or the opportunity to clinch the program’s first postseason berth in three years. But as they discussed the win, the ruse didn’t fully follow through.

Junior receiver Whop Philyor, who hauled in 14 catches for 178 yards, excitedly whipped his right hand forward like a bowler in a postgame interview.

“I’m so proud of my team right now. I’m so happy,” Philyor said. “All wins are big, but this is probably the biggest one because this is a big stadium. Everyone is against us here. This is big because it got us to be bowl eligible.”

Allen took a deep breath before he came to the podium, trying to calm himself as he discussed a rollercoaster of a game. It was anything but pretty, he admitted.

IU (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) dug itself a 14-3 hole midway through the first quarter. And the defense went on to surrender 514 yards to a Nebraska offense missing its first-string quarterback, Adrian Martinez, and eventually its top backup, Noah Vedral, who went out in the second quarter, only to return later in the fourth.

But behind redshirt junior Peyton Ramsey, the hero last week at Maryland, the Hoosier offense gained 351 yards through the air. In the second half, when they needed to play keep-away, an offensive line missing senior guard Simon Stepaniak created the seams IU needed.

Scott gained 25 of his 68 yards on the final possession, while Ramsey scrambled for 11 yards on a third-and-7 to help the Hoosiers get to the finish line.

“All week long, the whole bowl eligibility thing wasn’t even really a thought process,” Ramsey said. “It was just coming into a hostile environment, just having fun, and playing the brand of football we know how to play. It really was fun.”

The defense had its share of plays, too. It just took a couple of them for the Hoosiers to finally gain a real footing.

The first big swing came via husky Jamar Johnson, who blasted Vedral in the backfield to force a second-quarter fumble, which was scooped up and returned by senior Allen Stallings for 68 yards. That set up an eight-yard touchdown pass to Ty Fryfogle to give IU a 16-14 lead.

Only the defense succumbed to a late first-half touchdown, reminiscent of a close road loss at Michigan State. All three of Nebraska’s first-half touchdown drives came in less than two minutes, and freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey capped a 1-minute, 13-second effort with a 24-yard pass to Noa Kanawai with 39 seconds left in the second quarter.

But the Hoosiers were able to slow McCaffrey just enough in the third quarter to reestablish a 31-24 lead going into the fourth. That’s when a second big takeaway, a fumble forced by Alfred Bryant and recovered by Juwan Burgess, set up an opportunity for IU to claim a two-touchdown lead.

There was more adversity to be had. A holding penalty on the first play of the drive put IU into another hole. But on second-and-20, Ramsey lofted one to Fryfogle for a contested, jump-ball catch. The junior’s 38-yard reception gave IU new life at the Nebraska 29.

“You just gotta go up and make a play when it counts the most,” Fryfogle said.

And the offense did that, play after play. Philyor, whose five career games with 10-plus catches are a program record, hauled in a fourth-and-7 catch. Tack on a roughing the passer penalty, and the Hoosiers were set up for a nine-yard run from Scott to make it 38-24.

Scott lowered his shoulders, punishing the Husker defender.

“That’s a credit to how well we threw the ball and how we spread them out and opening those lanes,” Ramsey said. “Credit to the entire team, just continuing to push through a fourth-quarter game like we knew it was going to be.”

Nebraska (4-4, 2-3) scored one more time, making the final quarter a little less comfortable. But it was a whole lot easier for Allen to watch when the offense secured the first downs it needed, getting into the “victory formation.”

Much different than the Michigan State loss, when the Hoosiers came up short. Or the Maryland game last week, when it took two late takeaways to seal it.

“The one last week, it’s one play, you know, and your heart is beating out of your chest,” Allen said. “I actually got to enjoy the last minute of this one.”

And the Hoosiers, on a three-game win streak in conference for the first time since ’93, hope this becomes a familiar feeling.

They hope a win like this continues to change the narrative surrounding IU football.

“This team believes, this team is finding ways to win,” Allen said. “This team has a lot of character. We have a few characters, as well, but we love them all the same. We have to keep teaching, keep growing, keep getting better.

“The best is yet to come.”

48 comments

    1. Peyton Ramsey is the best #2 QB in college football! He is very good, not great, but a true winner! IU’s new OC, DeBoer is fantastic! His schemes and play calling are imaginative and novel. Wish we had him earlier in the Allen era! Wommack has to get the defense playing at the same level. IU is weak at stopping both the run and the pass. We are getting critical take sways to win close games! The Breakthrough has come! On to victory #7 vs NW!

  1. Playing on the road in front of 90,000 rabid Cornhusker fans is certainly not an easy task. Winning in that environment certainly shows the character of our team as Allen said in the postgame interview! Anyone who thought that hiring Tom Allen was a mistake and that he was in way over his head was sadly mistaken. He has shown that he is up to the task of being a head coach in the Big 10! While I realize that this Nebraska team is not comparable to their usual great teams of the past but, winning on the road in their place is a huge accomplishment for our Hoosiers! Being bowl eligible in October is quite an accomplishment for our program. Congats to coach Allen, his staff and our players for this terrific accomplishment. Go Hoosiers!!

  2. This Hoosier team is different from past teams winning games when they are on the line now having 6 wins before October is over. Now they can cut loose and see how many they can this season. Ten wins aren’t out of the question, nine wins aren’t unreasonable, and eight should be attainable.

    The Hoosiers haven’t reached their peak yet have many things yet to improve upon. Let’s see the improve every week which hasn’t happened every week to know how good IU can really be.

  3. Agree.
    I am sure IU coaching staff will address or have a team meeting about controlling emotions = huge penalties on both offense and DEFENSE.
    It was good Scott and OL run the ball at end of game.

    I may not see it in my lifetime but PR could end up being a head football coach at IU.

  4. Can I come over and celebrate with my fellow Hoosier fans? I don’t know what this feeling is. This feeling of finishing. This feeling of winning. This feeling of being bowl eligible. You know who isn’t bowl eligible right now? Michigan and Purdue. 😀

    I really have to give Peyton Ramsey some love. I’ve been one of his harshest critics, but he stepped up big time. He was in total command today. Really happy for him. Normally the “next man up” for Indiana Football is about as skilled as the 2nd person in the sandwich making line at Subway, who’s responsible for the veggies. Not this year. Peyton lost his job, stuck around and now he’s part of one of our biggest victories. Great job, pal.

    Thousands of comments on this blog following games like this that end in a loss over the years. For the first time, we won.

    Let’s beat Northwestern next week!

  5. A win is a win, and being bowl eligible at this time of the year (or anytime) is great! It just didn’t have to be this close. Those stupid penalties have to stop!

    Peyton showed his warrior spirit once again. He was targeted with a helmet in the solar plexus and you could tell it really hurt him. He kept putting his left hand up to his chest repeatedly for several plays. I couldn’t believe the replay booth didn’t review the obviously missed call. I was hoping he wouldn’t end up collapsing on the field.

    Let’s hope the team doesn’t have a let down next week and really puts it to Northwestern. It would be fantastic to go into the second bye week with a 7 and 2 record. Northwestern’s offense totally sucks, but they have a somewhat decent defense.

  6. Northwestern is a trap game. IU should win. They played Wisky well. And if IU makes stupid penalties it will cost them a win at home against NW.

  7. My biggest criticism of Ramsey was him bailing out of the pocket when it wasn’t necessary but he didn’t do that as much today and had more success in the passing game. He has always has played tough and has been a competitor.

    IU could have folded down 14-3 after the first two drives but came back to take a lead before giving it up at the end of the half. IU came out the second half and took control of the game without losing their lead. Responding time and time again to any score by Nebraska. This team is changing the story about IU football and I hope they really destroy the old story of coming up short of a winning season.

  8. Ramsey was excellent (again). Kalen DeBoer called an excellent game (again). The defense was opportunistic and good enough. 2 more wins likely and maybe Michigan? Winning ugly so much better than any type of loss.

  9. That was the most beautiful “ugly” win I’ve ever seen. We started out terrible on defense, but kept at it and made some big plays to keep us in the game. PR earned The Hoosier Nation’s respect forever. What a warier he is. And to beat a tradition-rich program like Nebraska on their home field, in front of over 90,000 was HUGE.

    Now TA must make sure his young team is NOT satisfied. IU can win eight regular season games this year, and that will change the trajectory of IU Football in a profound way.

    Hey Fred, if IU beats NW next week, get your checkbook out. Don’t let the Board of Trustees screw this up.

  10. Of course but…yeah…they would still go to a bowl either way.

    But, something is different about this team. I really feel good about them. I think the team feels like there is something different about this team, too.

  11. So does every 6 win 6 loss major college team go to a bowl game?
    I know there are many bowl games but are there enough for every 6 and 6 team?

  12. Win a couple more games and finish higher in the Big Ten Standings and you will get in a better bowl game than what a six win team would receive,

  13. Way to go Hoosiers!! With 4 games to go, this season is already a success!! NW, PU are winnable games! So is MU! 7, 8, 9 wins? Who knows? Today, who cares?! These guys are for real, with bigger and better things on the horizon. Not to belittle the team to the north, but where are all of you Brohm puts Allen to shame “fans” now?! Go Hoosiers!

  14. “Lincoln, Nebraska? Big freakin’ deal. We’re a B1G team and we know it, now let’s go out and prove it.” Sorry, couldn’t help repeating myself tonight! But just imagine if the OL could run block and stupid penalties cleaned up. And, t, you are so right about NU being a snare for this young team. On Monday TA should work the team hard, very hard, to set the proper tone.

  15. Allen should work the team hard this week in preparation for the next game. These young guys must not be satisfied with six wins. Eight is now a reality and these guys have a chance to create a special season for IU.

    If TA wants to improve his team’s performance, he should work to reducing the penalties.

    PR deserves enormous credit for his attitude and performance in the clutch. He is a breath of fresh air in today’s “transfer portal” world of college football.

  16. “I want our fans to come support this football team. I get it. I understand the frustration of the past, but I don’t care. I haven’t been here very long. All I know is what we’re doing right now. Come support this football team and help these guys do something special.”

  17. Exactly! No more excuses. Get to the game, enter Memorial Stadium and stay through the fourth quarter. This team is fun to watch,

  18. Congrats to the young men and staff!
    As for critique: Defense needs to contain corners when playing teams with superior offensive speed. I like current RB corps but there’s a real need to platoon quicker RB at that position to keep opposing offenses uncertain. Would have liked to have seen James get a few touches. PR has more than made his mark at IU.

  19. Congratulations are in order for IUFB. That being said, we cannot read too much into this year’s very good fortune. Everybody needs to remember at the beginning of the year we wondering where more than 4 wins would come from. Like Minnesota in the west IUFB has been the beneficiary of a very good roll of fortune. Wouldn’t have thought that being in the B1G East, but fortune for once has smiled on IUFB.

    We have to be realistic about the Neb/Maryland teams beaten and whether or not they would be W’s had they been at full strength. We also need to remember no one saw the train wrecks with what should be hopefully 2 more wins with NW and PU. IUFB has a good shot at 8-4 or maybe even better. We can argue about how IUFB got there, but getting there will have a major impact on the program direction. The question is will Hoosier Nation get on board this time and help get this program out of the rut?

    I’ve been a very harsh critic of PR, but he did a great job yesterday, which he should have against that defense. PR is adequate to certain levels of competition, but don’t expect similar results against upper echelon defenses in the B1G. We need to temper our enthusiasm just a bit by remembering Nebraska has one of the worst defenses in the B1G. NCAA stats update through yesterday show only Maryland, PU, and Rutgers with worse defenses, and they are way down there in the rankings.

    All that said, couldn’t be happier for IUFB, TA and the staff, and all the players. Just keep winning the ones you should and maybe we just might catch PSU and UM looking past IUFB at OSU.

  20. I’ve said many a time since the beginning of this blog that IU football puts a decent product on the field and fans will show up…well, we will see this weekend. Go Hoosiers!

    1. JPat,
      You are absolutely correct! It is put up or shut up time for Hoosier Nation. TA is building something, but he can’t keep it going without maximum support from Hoosier Nation. It starts with the fan base but works all the way up the Administration and the BOT. When you get the momentum showing signs of finally turning in the right direction, maximum effort is required if you want to be sure it continues to go the right way moving forward.

      PS Great to see you posting again, JP!

  21. think. Good post keeping things in perspective. However, IU thus far has won some football games including big ten this year and should be able to win some more games. There have been other years where big ten was a little down and IU still didn’t win enough.
    Regardless, about stupid penalties which can and should be very fixable I have noticed that the team physicality and confidence is on an up swing and is improving. Offense is calling good games and executing. To me it looks like IU best football is still ahead this season. Upside looks good and IU is continuing to improve. The qb position basically has two capable starters. (not the best but good) and qb position has grown. Players around QB are playing better. It is noticeable. I expect 8 win season. As Northwestern is trap game for IU if IU doesn’t clean up itself/penalties while maintaining physicality and confidence the Michigan vs IU game is a trap game for Michigan.

    I noted in post game TA saying it takes 2 qbs to win in big ten and IU has 2. How about Tuttle? I guess TA was referring to the 2 that are getting all the playing time.

  22. In both, Maryland and Nebraska game IU point spread should have been larger. Maryland game IU should have won by 2 or 3 tds. Nebraska game IU should have won by 2 tds. IU needs to just clean up its act/penalties and tackle.

    1. I do give Frost credit, early on he realized that our linebackers aren’t very good at covering guys and began to exploit that. If you look at some of their chunk passing plays, those receptions were by guys covered by our linebackers. That should be a point of emphasis this week in practice with that group.

  23. Now that the Hoosiers are bowl eligible I say it’s time to let it all hang out. Let’s see what this young team can accomplish without inhibitions. Let it rip!

  24. The hit out of bounds call was a joke. The announcers said so as well. No one besides the side judge knew he stepped out of bounds before running back onto the field and he didn’t feel the need to blow his whistle and share his secret.

    That was a plain, old fashioned blown call.

  25. *☆SWEET taste of a bowl!☆*
    IU playing with house money now. Interested to see how that affects the resolve over the next 4 games. Bye couldn’t come at a better time. DeBoer uses more guts to calculate play calling strategy every game. He sure succeeds coaching and scheming the optimum from QB’s. Looking at the schedule back in June/July to pick a game to attend the Northwestern matchup stood out like a yellow rose. Even bigger now, night game, bowl bound and spend the whole weekend in Bloomington. Not a bad treat.
    Hey PUke how’s that $5.9m workin for ya?
    JPat you got to be loving it. Eh?

  26. Great job Hoosiers! Michael who?

    Ramsey looked like Tom Brady out there…Total command. Confident. Vision and picking his spots with no hesitation.

    Kudos to Clarion…He always believed in Peyton Ramsey. Indiana now has much pressure off their shoulders. They can play with a bit of swagger and take a bit more risk. Confidence is a very infectious thing.

    I was wrong about this bunch. There is some belief beginning to gel. Averaging very respectable point totals in every game(other than OSU).

    It’s not out of the realm of possibilities to win out. Penn State is the biggest challenge….but momentum may really start to fuel this bunch.

    Congrats to Coach Allen as well…He does wear his heart on his sleeve. I can’t deny how his tearful postgame interview made me a bit less cynical toward his sort of geeky over-the-top enthusiasm.

    1. Uh H4H,
      You might want to check Nebraska’s latest defensive ratings by ncaa stats before saying Michael who? We are not exactly playing the most stellar of defenses in recent games. Great for the win and moving the program forward, but let’s not get too carried away with PR’s prowess.

        1. Chet,
          I don’t disagree that PR played well against the defense of Nebraska. We just need to keep in mind that NU is only above RU, MD & PU defensively. PR could always play well against low tier defenses, but usually IUFB only had 5 of those in a season. This year so far, IUFB has found 1 more sub-par defense than in the last two years. Run him up against the better defenses in the B1G and the results are predictable. We saw them 7 times each year in ’17 & ’18. Against a quality defense you have to be able to stretch the field and PR cannot do that.

  27. Really feels good to celebrate the IU football program, versus another week of picking apart their failures, short-comings and what-ifs. I get that today’s Nebraska team isn’t the powerhouse they once were, but that community still shows up, fills the stands and gets loud. Indiana went down 14-3 and it could have been another long day for what typically would have been another flat performance in front of a beatable, but tough opponent.

    Nope. They rallied. The defense adjusted and got some stops. The team is just getting better each week. More importantly, all the belief talk is translating to actual belief.

    DeBoer is legit. He’s fearless. Calling that out pattern on 4-5 to Whop yesterday turned me into a believer. They’re not just preaching belief, the schemes and playcalls are reflecting exactly what a winning football team needs to do to win. I love his use of the tight-ends. Also, sorry Kevin Wilson, we finally have a coach that knows what to do in the red-zone. Finishing drives with 6, not 3.

    Special shoutout to Stevie Scott on that last TD run. I’m going to start a gofundme for the safety who tried to tackle him on the goal line. We need to help him retrieve his soul, because Stevie stole it knocking him 3 yards back in the end zone.

    Lots to keep working on. But these guys are getting better. They’re resilient in working through their issues.

    With Penix, I think this team has a real shot to challenge Michigan and maybe even make PSU sweat a little. Ramsey has really been great in relief and yesterday he showed he’s not just a typical #2. What a tough dude. I thought after that helmet straight to his ribs, that he’d be holding ice on the sidelines while and untested Tuttle came in.

    Go Hoosiers! Time to focus and keep getting better! Don’t let up and let this win get to your head! Lots of work left to do.

  28. Also, Jon Blau posted some great nuggets on Twitter today. One of those was this:

    “This is worth repeating: IU’s line has allowed the fewest sacks in the Big Ten with 11 through eight games.

    That’s with all three of its seniors (Cronk/Littlejohn/Stepaniak) having missed at least one game to injury.

    A freshman has manned left tackle since late in Game 4.”

    “What makes this statistic even crazier: Indiana has passed the ball 304 times. That’s more than every Big Ten team other than Purdue (334).

    The third-most is Michigan State and its 288 passes.”

    https://twitter.com/Jon_Blau/status/1188460654333706240

    Great stuff, Jon.

    1. Great stuff, Jon.

      Great stuff..? Maybe. And since “the bandwagon is full,” if I may indulge. Stats can be very misleading. I wouldn’t award the Tweeting ShamWow to Jon Blau quite so fast… I smell agenda at hand. Bet he was a fan of geeky Crean too before Blau crawled out from under the floorboards upon Mike Miller’s departure. Miller was a bit more balanced and objective.

      A couple things to make note:

      a. As thinkaboutit pointed out, we haven’t played the better defenses of the BigTen (other than OSU). Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska is not the cream of the crop. And the two of the three non-conference teams we beat were an utter joke.
      b. How much protection/protection time to do you need for short yardage/dunk & dink passing game? Doesn’t the deep downfield pass require longer protection time (if only a second or two) as the receiver gets into much longer routes?

      Let’s see what the protection and passing yardage looks like against PSU, Michigan and Northwestern. Iowa has given us fits in the past…and having Nebraska in lieu of was advantageous. Nebraska looks like Chet’s favorite description for a sliding bunch: “Dumpster fire. “

      1. Harv,
        You just have the ability to be the biggest jerk. I don’t think you could find a journalist with less of an agenda than Jon, but put on your tinfoil hat and commence with the conspiracy theories.

  29. The encouraging thing about this team is they are winning games without playing their best game yet. Despite too many penalties, not stopping opponents best plays, and not having a strong running game all game long, this group finds ways to win. I wondered at the beginning of the season if IU had game winners on the team because to have a winning season you need players that can make game winning plays. This team is showing they have game winners on the team.

    Once the team matures and plays a solid game in all aspects, maybe not this year, they will be a tough team to beat; right now they are a fun team to watch.

  30. Harv, I’ve been as critical of anyone here about Allen’s sideline antics after minor accomplishments, but I share your thoughts after seeing him tearful in the post-game interview on the field. It’s genuine. Easy for me to say that he should have been nonchalant about the win, but I’m not putting eighty hours a week into it, week in and week out.

    Congrats to the Hoosiers for Saturday, but NO LET UP NOW TOM ALLEN AN IUFB!!!

  31. It’s all good, davis. I enjoy your take. I felt sorry for geeky Crean at times as well (even with all the insane money the guy made for being such an average coach).
    Difficult enough to impress the peers of your profession….But when you add carnival-esque sideline antics and hypersensitive/spastic behavior(excessive clapping, hugging, fist-pumping, jumping, hopping, squatting, sprinting back and forth, flailing arms, contorted facial expressions high on animation, cue cards, bullhorns, etc) into the mix, it’s almost as if one develops a sort of Napoleon Dynamite attachment to these obscure behaviors seemingly naive and immature in their untempered manifestations. You want to cheer for the freaks of nature…and believe in the wholesomeness of their deeply invested innocence. They have no cynical bones in their bodies…They appear to live as ‘man child’ with the heart not given the usual armor built of instantaneous tempering of perspective and the standard acceptable mores for conventional behavior as it relates to varied events of varied importance.

  32. Think, thank you. Clarion, yes…I am loving this. Indiana University is my one and only and I’ve stuck with them. It’s been so hard through the years. My grandfather and my father would take me to football games as a kid…that Mallory era was exciting and the team played with fire. This has been a long time coming. I truly believe Hep had this train a rolling and Allen is the closest thing to Hep, personality wise…so, nobody should be surprised. Go Hoosiers!!!

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