Hoosiers fall short again in bowl, this time 26-20 to Ole Miss in the Outback

TAMPA, Fla. — On the sideline after a game-clinching incompletion, Indiana quarterback Jack Tuttle had teammates propping him up on both sides.

A tight end, Matt Bjorson, was on his left. A freshman running back, Tim Baldwin, was on his right, with a hand on Tuttle’s helmet as he tried to share some encouraging words.

But once the final seconds ticked off the clock, it was an inevitably slow walk out to midfield for Tuttle and his teammates following Saturday’s 26-20 loss to Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl. After handshakes were through at Raymond James Stadium, the celebration was on the Rebels’ side, as the Hoosiers remained sullen and hurting.

Tuttle, who separated his throwing shoulder early in the game, wasn’t allowing for any excuses — even if the constant pain in his shoulder went a long way toward explaining why some of his passes were falling short.

“There’s no excuse, right? But yeah, it sucked,” Tuttle said. “It’s for my team. I have to find a way to get the job done. I love them and we’re going to come back stronger.”

It was hard to accept any heroism under these circumstances. For the second year in a row, a fantastic regular season ended with a loss to an SEC team in Florida, taking an us-against-the-world Hoosier team and crashing it hard onto the beaches of bitter reality.

IU’s bowl drought, which extends back to 1991 — before these players were even born — lives on for another year. A dream season, which had so many highs, ended on an excruciatingly familiar low.

“I’m the head coach and this loss falls on me,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “That’s the way it works, and I accept it. And that’s what makes it hurt so much. I wanted it for these kids so bad.”

There was so much sacrificed this season, before Tuttle ever separated his shoulder and played through. The season started in August — for four days — before it was called off by the Big Ten. It was restarted in late October, as the Hoosiers (6-2) embarked on seven straight games without a bye. They had their last two games, both scheduled dates with rival Purdue, canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

And then they didn’t get a New Year’s Six bowl. And then they were matched up with a 4-5 Ole Miss team, which turned out to be incredibly dangerous. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, commanding an up-tempo offense, was able to work his way down the field in 1:46 with just over four minutes left in the game, untying a contest that IU had worked so hard to even after falling behind 20-6.

Corral, who finished with 342 yards and two touchdowns throwing, as well as another 44 yards rushing, was too much for the Hoosier defense to handle. They weren’t able to turn him over, which was especially painful because IU had a pass intercepted and a ball fumbled away.

That second-quarter interception came with the Hoosiers down to the Ole Miss 26, already down 13-3 to the Rebels.

“It was no question, with their tempo, with the heat, it was a tough combination,” Allen said. “We just needed one more takeaway. We needed a takeaway. Not having any, that’s not how we’ve been successful.”

A slow start on offense didn’t help, either. IU was overly reliant on quick passes to Whop Philyor, who finished with an Outback Bowl- and program-record 18 catches, though they produced 81 yards. IU’s Charles Campbell connected on field goals of 49 and 53 yards — the latter an Outback Bowl record — but it wasn’t what IU needed.

Pitted against an Ole Miss offense that led the SEC at 40.7 points per game, the Hoosiers couldn’t afford to settle for three. And they did, twice.

“Charles did a great job kicking field goals, but we wanted touchdowns,” Allen said. “We just needed one more.”

The Hoosiers were able to gain some steam in the late third and early fourth quarters, producing two 80-yard drives that both ended with direct-snap runs by Stevie Scott.

But the Hoosiers just didn’t have another stop, or another drive, in them.

On a third-and-4 at the Ole Miss 43, Corral picked up eight yards on a pass to J.R. Plumlee. On first down, Corral hit Plumlee, again, for a 44-yarder down to the IU 5.

A touchdown and a missed extra point put the Hoosiers up against a wall but not totally pushed through it. Tuttle had enough left in his arm to fire shorter passes to Philyor and David Ellis, the latter flashing across the middle for a 19-yard gain that brought IU into Ole Miss territory.

But on a first-and-10 at the 33, Tuttle threw a quick out to Philyor that lost two yards. Tuttle was sacked on second down for a loss of six. Two incomplete passed to Philyor, the latter as Rebel defenders were clawing on Tuttle’s jersey, spelled the end of IU’s hopes.

Tuttle, hurting, was supported by his teammates on the sideline. Scott remembers asking Tuttle what was wrong once his passes started falling short, but they played on. IU linebacker Micah McFadden learned what was wrong after the game, in interviews with the media.

“I already knew he was tough before that, but that just adds to it,” McFadden said. “That guy is a baller.”

But those compliments were falling flat Saturday. Tuttle seemed more pained by the loss than his shoulder.

They all were hurting.

“Obviously, didn’t play our best at all, I feel like,” Tuttle said. “We could have come out stronger. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, right? We just have to learn, improve, grow from it.”

The toughness of IU’s program will now be tested.

“We have to use this bowl game and the last bowl game as double motivation,” Scott said. “I’m definitely feeling that, for sure.”

20 comments

  1. The IU offense is just not good enough without Penix at QB! Without the points from the offense, the defense doesn’t have the same pressure on the opponent to open up the TO’s. Without the TO’s to energize the offense IU did not have the juice and flair to win. A sad end for a great year!

  2. It is another disappointing bowl game to end the season. I have real doubts about coach Sheridan being an effective OC as the offense is moving back to the DeBord style of pulling plays out to see if they work. He didn’t seem to learn from coach Deboer how to run an offense that sets up the defense with one play leading to the next play.

    BeatPurdue, Penix is a QB with special ability that makes defenses pay even when in a good position. Tuttle is a very good QB that played through an injury with a play caller that didn’t seem to understand what he was dealing with. Not attacking their defense with the run early on was not reasonable especially with the problems their run defense has had. Our pass routes were too focused on outside routes and other than deep pass on the outside Fryfogle has been removed from the offense since OSU. I want to see what coach Sheridan does with a full offseason to put in the offense but I have my doubts about him right now, yes BD I know he is limited by what the OL can block. If coach Sheridan has any imagination it better come out in 2021.

    Defensively IU didn’t get to the QB often enough and I was disappointed a number of times that they didn’t challenge receivers prior to the snap of the ball. Still the defense held their offense 14 points under their average.

    Campbell showed again what a great kicker he is as did our punter Whitehead. Wracher did another great job long snapping this year and even got downfield to cover the punts. IU hasn’t had to worry about a long snap all year.

    IU has work still to do in the coming seasons but the lay-off and playing in the heat seems to have hurt the Hoosiers in this game.

  3. Penix surveys faster and gets the ball out of his hand much faster…plus added velocity, ability to throw across his body and an overall substantially bigger arm.
    The biggest drop-off for IU is in the pace Penix adds to every play. Tenths of seconds mean everything ….Penix is difficult to anticipate.
    Tuttle doesn’t give us the same potency and options because he can be telegraphed.

    It was a great season only slowed down by the loss of Penix. To defeat Penn State, Michigan, MSU and Wisconsin in the same season should be fully appreciated. It’s unprecedented for IU Football…To say it was only a “good season” is a total disservice to the sidelined Penix and the shocking wins the team earned. Quarterbacks make a difference. Schedules make a difference as well. Northwestern does not play in the BigTen East. I don’t see anything they accomplished as matching IU.
    Ramsey transferred to the softer side of the tracks ….Smart move.

  4. Let me understand something here, nobody is upset about a coaching staff or coach that sent a student-athletic out to play in the second half of a football game with a separated shoulder. Whatever happen to protecting the student-athletic. Indiana put this kid (student) in harms way. Can someone/anyone please explain this to me.

    1. He couldn’t do any more damage to it. He was evaluated by medical staff and only they could approve of his return to the game. Coaches don’t make the call there. He’s far from the first IU football or basketball player to see game action after separating a shoulder.

    2. Juwan Morgan played half of a season with a dislocated shoulder. You pop it back into place and continue on. Yes it hurts like hell. But it does not create further damage! Then when the season ends the orthopedic surgeon repairs it!

  5. Big credit to Tuttle for his toughness. Makes it even more perplexing it took us so long to commit to the run game. It should have been more involved from the opening kickoff. Head scratcher. Also, how do you explain

    It was a total team loss. We got outplayed, out executed, out coached in all phases except kicking game. The slow start doomed us, but the last defensive possession was an utter disaster and disappointment.

    Our coaching staff needs to file away some lessons from what Kiffin & his staff had up their sleeve today. Apply them to preparation/adjustments for our next bowl (victory).

  6. Solid comments and insight from everyone above. IU could control two things in this game and didn’t. They knew Miss was uptempo and used to the warmer temps. IU needed to run the ball more to eat clock. Secondly, IU’s DL and linebacker strategy looked nothing like any games they’ve played this season. Absolutely no pressure into their backfield that might create bad passes by Corrall to create takeaway possibilities. Lane Kiffin showed why he’s been a coveted mind at the NFL and collegiate level. Remember, our strength and conditioning/dietician guys are now on staff for the soon to be national champs, again. I, too, have my doubts about Sheridan. For those that criticized Tuttle’s lack of ‘zip’ on the ball…c’mon man! You think a separated shoulder might have had something to do with it? It’s Sheridan’s fault for continuing to call for ‘quick’ outs in the flat to Philyor. They should have put the backup in and ran it more.

  7. Almost forgot. Since this is the end of the season, one last observation. Hendershot’s play has digressed to the point that he’s become a liability. I think he dropped his last 4 passes. He needs to go back to the tattoo parlor and the end of the bench. Compared to his 2 counterparts at Ole Miss, he looked like someone that’s never played.

    1. Agree. Hendershot has not played well all season. He’s made a a few plays, but not much – and dropped a lot! Just wish our D played today – like they have all season.

  8. Very good points about this team as there are still some questions that need to be answer before the 2021 season. Not only did Hendershot not have a good season but I wonder why some talented TEs [Cooper, Ivy, etc] on the team didn’t show up. Is the problem with a new coach, the offense Sheridan is running or is it something different.

    Next season should answer some of the questions if the team gets a full off season in heading into the fall. Can we get a better OL this off-season and make it a solid group on this team. Will our offense plays that make the defense not sure what is going on. Will our receivers become ones that get open with space from the DBs. Will we find a pass rush from out four front or will we still need to use the LBs and DBs to get a rush – there is a big difference between sending an LB or DB on a pass rush because you need to instead of want to create a different look.

    IU is still an over achiever that plays as a team being even better. We now have some of the better players in the B1G but more positions need to be upgraded now IE OL, DE.

  9. run the football.
    offense catered far to much to getting fla.-native whop involved. Stevie Scott was wearing down Ole Miss def. Sheridan outsmarted himself with that passing attack that focused on Whop.
    Also, the 80 degree heat took a toll on IU. Planning for playing in warmer temps seemed not up to par. Climate-controlled dome bowls preferred!

    All in all, a great season overall for the Hoosiers!! Looking forward to getting season tix for 2021. Future looks bright. #LEO

    1. Not sold on Sheridan . . . he outthought himself yesterday. Throwing so much early kept us from running any clock and, when Ole Miss got the ball, we couldn’t get off the field (they ran 49 plays in the first half). Establishing a running game early would’ve protected our defense better against their potent offense.

      The rest of it really comes down to coaching and talent. Kiffin is a really good offensive coach. Corral is an outstanding quarterback. They have better athletes than we do, and more of them. Even without their best skill people, they worked our D at will, with over 80 plays and nearly 500 total yards in 25 minutes of possession time.

      By contrast, we had the ball ten minutes longer, ran six more plays, and gain over 100 yards less. Like much of the season, we don’t generate explosion plays, and it kills us. This isn’t coaching or play calling as much as it is a lack of talent, which is easy to see in a game like this. Mississippi, on the other hand, could get big chunks whenever they wanted, and they did.

      Will be interesting to see if this year was a fluke when we line up next season. The stars aligned almost perfectly this year, and next year and normal conditions will be a test. Can’t wait to see how we do.

  10. Give our RB’s 16 more carries, no interruption in prep, play the Bucket game as scheduled and the Outback is played in an outdoor stadium up North and this is a “W”. But it didn’t happen that way. I like Tuttle lots but what is as clear as a window is that a long layoff called for an offensive gameplan knowing the temperature would be pretty warm, QB with 1 games experience shouldn’t be relied on to carry the team. This L is all, every bit on Sheridan. The D wasn’t sharp but they did hold Miss under their average.

        1. They scored less because most of their best players didn’t play. Even with back ups, they ran all over us. The D did not play well at all yesterday. Allen said so.

  11. And those damn announcers who kept “talking” about Ole Miss lacking 75% of their firepower….(https://www.si.com/college/indiana/football/injuries-opt-outs-affecting-ole-miss-in-outback-bowl)

    Shut the hell up! We were without 100% of our firepower. Translated: Michael Laser Pen-IX….you bunch of dumb wart toads. How did Clemson look against ND without Fabio?
    Who would OSU fare against Clemson or Alabama without Fields of Dreams?

    Quarterbacks matter. Firepower? Ole Miss was missing their firepower….? Cry me a river. We were missing the Hoosier firepower who delivered balls as if they had wings of angels attached in wins against teams we hadn’t defeated for dozens upon dozens of meetings season after season. Firepower? We were missing a quarterback hand-picked by the gods to resurrect Indiana football.
    The devil and a flamethrower built of the energy from seven suns couldn’t match the transformational firepower Michael Penix gave to what was once the dead ice planet of college football frozen solid inside a limestone vault in Southern Indiana….Firepower? Show me a qb who throws for 500 yards against Buckeyes in Columbus …and then we’ll talk about firepower, dimwits.

  12. Coaching stunk this one up. The clock was horribly mismanaged on the final drive. Something like 4:30 and two time outs to work with and it looked like a Chinese fire drill on the last series. Players were winded in the first half. News flash, Tom Allen- bowl games are played in Fla. because it’s hot there. Also, part of coaching is explaining to Philyor the differnce between sidelines and goal lines.

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