Indiana football: Report card after Hoosiers score big win at Wisconsin
Indiana doesn’t want Saturday’s win at Wisconsin to be called an upset.
But the Hoosiers were a double-digit underdog against an opponent they’d not even competed with recently, losing the last five meetings dating back to 2010 by an average of 60-12.
None of that mattered in this game, however, as No. 12 Indiana was in control from start to finish, beating the 16th-ranked Badgers 14-6 in Madison.
Following are grades:
Passing offense: C
In his first career start, backup quarterback Jack Tuttle managed the game very well, staying within the game plan, not trying to do too much and hitting critical passes when Indiana needed it.
He threw for 130 yards on 13-of-22 passing with two touchdowns, no interceptions and one fumble (on a sneak).
Clinging to a 7-3 lead at halftime, the Hoosiers took control on the opening drive of the second half. Then, Tuttle made one of his best throws of the day — it was certainly one of the best receptions — when he tossed it up the right sideline and Ty Fryfogle pulled the ball down between double coverage. A few plays later, Tuttle found Whop Philyor for the 7-yard TD. The first-half touchdown came on a great play-call. Wisconsin’s defense bit on play-action, allowing the QB to find tight end Peyton Hendershot in the back-right corner of the end zone for the 1-yard score.
For an inexperienced quarterback, Tuttle did well in staying in the pocket while avoiding the rush. He was sacked once. Indiana could have had better passing numbers, and perhaps put the Badgers away sooner, had Miles Marshall not dropped a wide-open sure-thing 57-yard touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter.
Rushing offense: C
Indiana needed to match Wisconsin’s typical physicality.
And running back Stevie Scott made sure that the Hoosiers did. Indiana had only 87 rushing yards on 31 carries, 2.8 per attempt, but they were hard-fought yards between the tackles. Scott finished with 57 yards.
The Hoosiers were only 4-of-10 on third downs, but three of the four were on short yardage. Tuttle rushed for the first two himself, but then fumbled on the third attempt, giving Wisconsin brief life.
But when Indiana needed to chew up clock late, it did. On its last meaningful possession, the Hoosiers ate more than four minutes off the clock while traveling only 27 yards. Scott helped Indiana twice pick up first downs before the Hoosiers had to punt.
Overall Offense: C
Indiana took advantage of its opportunistic defense once again, scoring its first touchdown off a fumble recovery. But the Hoosiers generated only 218 yards of offense.
Two plays prevented the offense from having a better game, the drop by Marshall and the fumble by Tuttle.
Passing defense: A-
The Hoosiers held Graham Mertz in check, holding the Badgers’ passing game to 202 yards on 20-of-34 passing. Indiana picked him off once as well.
When Indiana needed a big play, it generally delivered, like when Tiawan Mullen blitzed on a Wisconsin first down in Indiana territory in the first half. He got a sack and caused a fumble that was recovered by James Miller. It set up IU’s first score and was one of three Indiana sacks.
In the third quarter, Mullen broke up a pass in the end zone, as Wisconsin was forced to settle for a field goal late in the third quarter.
Nearly the same thing happened in the second quarter, when Mullen helped to break up a pass, keeping the Badgers to a field goal.
On another trip into Indiana territory, Jamar Johnson picked off a sailing Mertz pass on Wisconsin’s first possession of the third quarter.
Rushing defense: B+
Wisconsin running back Jalen Berger found big holes off the left side of his offensive line, busting a couple of big runs (and a third was called back by a holding).
He had 87 of the Badgers’ 140 yards. But the Hoosiers made Wisconsin work for the yardage; the Badgers ran the ball 35 times, averaging an even 4 per tote.
Indiana held Wisconsin to only two field goals, twice thwarting scoring opportunities by nice plays in the end zone.
It also sacked Mertz three times, turning one of those into a fumble, and had another interception.
Maybe most important, Indiana set a tone early that it was going to match Wisconsin’s toughness from the start.
Special Teams: A
Haydon Whitehead had a fantastic day, with five of his punts dropping inside the 20, one of them down to the 1. His last punt was great too, a 51-yarder to the Wisconsin 8 when IU was holding an eight-point lead in the final minutes.
On an afternoon where possessions and field position were going to be of critical importance, it was good to have a reliable punter.
Otherwise, Indiana’s coverage was also solid.
Tom Allen has done a masterful job with the Hoosiers, making them believe they can win every Saturday.
And in Madison, he had to do so with his backup quarterback with Michael Penix out injured. But the game plan was solid, keeping it simple for Tuttle by leaning heavily on his running game and defense. Yet Allen had the confidence in Tuttle to make plays too.
Allen is pushing all the right buttons right now.
Indiana continues to win.
It might not always be pretty, certainly not with only 217 total yards of offense. But Indiana plays fundamentally sound, doesn’t beat itself and makes the plays needed to win at critical moments. And the Hoosiers do it in all three phases.