Indiana might have saved its season by blitzing visiting Idaho in the 3rd quarter late Saturday night in Bloomington.

At the very least, the Hoosiers avoided an epic early-season embarrassment.

After a listless 1st half that saw IU trail the FCS Vandals 10-0, the Hoosiers scored 23 points in the first 15 minutes after halftime, then held on for a 35-22 victory to improve to 2-0.

Let’s take a look at 3 things to like and 3 to not like about the W.

3 things to like

The 3rd Q

Indiana’s performance in the 1st half gave little indication that the Hoosiers’ offense would wake up any time soon.

But coach Tom Allen must have shocked it to life at halftime, because Connor Bazelak and company looked like a different squad in the 3rd quarter. The transfer quarterback completed 10-of-12 passes for 148 yards and 2 TDs in the quarter, hitting for 2 scores within about a 5-minute span after Indiana’s defense had recorded a safety. And that followed the first score of the 3rd, when former quarterback Donaven McCully ran the ball in from 4 yards out.

What changed?

The Hoosiers looked like they played with better tempo starting in the 3rd quarter, putting Bazelak in shotgun without a huddle to try to pick up the pace. It allowed Bazelak to find a rhythm by getting the ball out to play-makers, then push it down the field when the opportunity presented.

It’s the 2nd straight week that IU has played much better in the 2nd half than the 1st. Maybe that stands to reason, considering IU has a new QB, new receivers, a new tight end, a new running back and a new coordinator, but there’s hope that the group is starting to find out what works.

The running game

Granted, it comes against an FCS opponent that a Power 5 team should have an advantage against at the line of scrimmage.

But IU, and its much-maligned offensive line and running game, still had to prove it could move the football on the ground. And Indiana did that vs. the Vandals, gaining 239 yards rushing on 6.6 per carry. Starter Shaun Shivers had a breakout performance, going for 155 and a score, while back Josh Henderson had a touchdown and 58 yards. They averaged 7.8 and 8.3 yards per tote, respectively.

What does it mean going forward? Well, that’s hard to determine. The Hoosiers jump back into FBS competition next week, with a visit from Western Kentucky, then get Cincinnati and the Big Ten after. It’s likely that they won’t find as many gaps at the line of scrimmage, but Saturday’s performance gives confidence to a ground game that went almost no where in the season-opening victory against Illinois.

Active front

For 2 weeks to start this season, Indiana has been active in its front against opponents Illinois and Idaho.

On Saturday night, Indiana collected 3 sacks to equal the total from Week 1, and it picked up a safety. It’s a sign that this team might be much more able to jostle the opposing quarterback than IU was at any point last season. Although the play got called back due to a penalty, pressure helped Tiawan Mullen pick off a pass.

If the Hoosiers continue to get after QBs, the defense will look much more like the solid 2020 version than the leaky ’21 group.

3 things not to like

The 1st half

Why is Indiana getting off to such bad starts?

After the game was delayed by 35 minutes on Saturday night due to lightning in the area, the Hoosiers looked like they were still napping in the locker room for the first 2 quarters. It was bizarre, especially for a team that can’t afford to take anyone lightly.

The Hoosiers were not only physically beaten, but looked mentally checked out, too. Usually reliable place-kicker Chris Campbell missed chippies twice, although Indiana got a reprieve on the 2nd, only to not be able to score on 4 consecutive plays inside the Vandals’ 5-yard-line. That’s hard to stomach against an FCS team.

Starting next week, the Hoosiers won’t be able to play only 30 minutes, like they did vs. Idaho and to some extent the week before vs. Illinois, and expect to recover in the 2nd to win the game.

Bazelak’s shaky start (again)

So far, it looks like Bazelak is a slow starter.

The signal-caller completed only 6 of his 17 passes for 49 yards with an interception in the first half against the Vandals. A week ago, he hit on less than 50 percent of his attempts vs. Illinois (11-of-24) in the first 30 minutes, although he had almost 200 yards and a touchdown.

If he could click from the opening kick, then perhaps Indiana’s offense could really get rolling.

Red zone offense

Indiana exploded in the 3rd quarter to take control of the game, but its red zone offense overall was poor, to say the least.

IU scored on only 2 of its 4 trips inside the 20, officially missing a field goal and having a 2nd miss negated by a penalty. But even after that free set of downs inside the Idaho 5, the Hoosiers failed to get into the end zone. Instead, the Hoosiers were bullied by the Vandals on a 4th-and-goal from the 1.

IU didn’t score on a 3rd trip inside the red zone, but that came in the waning seconds, with the Hoosiers kneeling at the Idaho 6 to run out the clock.