Column: A momentum changing victory for IU football
By Robby Howard
It was a moment the IU football program had never experienced.
After defeating Penn State 44-24 — the first win against the Nittany Lions in program history — IU players rushed to a spot just next to their bench to see the pack of students who had stood by them for the whole game.
Both parties were ready to celebrate.
“It ain’t ever felt like that before, ever,” senior wide receiver Kofi Hughes said. “The fans actually stuck around. I could feel the fans for once. It was just a very exciting moment.”
Coaches rushed across the field to make it to the celebration. Players jumped on top of each other.
As the band started to play, “Indiana, Our Indiana,” the players hoisted their helmets to the sky.
“It feels great,” junior linebacker David Cooper said. “It’s speechless. It just feels great.”
Together as one, the team and fans belted out the song together.
A team had never exited the field with so much positive energy.
Hughes couldn’t contain his smile. Sophomore guard Ralston Evans raised his helmet back toward the sky.
“Just the whole game we were saying, ‘Gotta keep fighting,’” junior defensive lineman Bobby Richardson said. “We just won, and it was a pretty big win.”
It’s a celebration that was so well deserved.
It was IU’s first win ever against Penn State. It was IU’s first win in a Big Ten opener since 2000.
It was IU’s first momentum changing victory of the season.
And it was arguably the biggest win of the IU Coach Kevin Wilson era.
The offense showed the explosion that it had displayed against Indiana State.
The frequently criticized defense made stop after stop on third and fourth downs.
Hughes said after the game that the defense is “ballin’ right now.”
“Our defense is way better than it used to be,” Cooper said. “We’re just a better team.”
And the special teams made plays, blocking a field goal, recovering a fumble, stopping a punt inside the 5-yard line.
The team had not yet put together a collective win where all three parts had really played a great game this season.
And it came against a team that IU wasn’t favored to beat.
IU’s record against Penn State is a symbol of the futility that has been IU football. The Hoosiers had never had any success against the Nittany Lions.
With Saturday’s 20-point victory, IU emphatically ended that futility.
For at least one week, the Hoosiers silenced all of their doubters.
“I think it’s a big statement in a big game just for our team,” Hughes said. “Just so that we know that all the work we’ve been putting in really has all come together, and now this program is really ready to turn around.
“That’s what Coach Wilson was saying before the game. They’re a good team, but we’re a good team. We need to go out there and play like a good team and not make it close, and I think we executed that.”
This was a game the Hoosiers had to win to keep bowl hopes alive.
But with the win, the Hoosiers are even more confident. They’re already talking about the potential of going to East Lansing, Mich., Saturday and coming away with a win.
But this Saturday was about a celebration.
Because, for the first time in his four-year career, Hughes, who was featured on Saturday’s game program, had something to celebrate.
“I’ve been asked a bunch of times in interviews, ‘What’s your highlight so far and this and that your senior year,’” Hughes said. “I had nothing to say. The last three or four years there hasn’t been any really good at all. But it’s all worked up until now. I can say today is a huge highlight for my career.”
Follow columnist Robby Howard on Twitter @robbyhoward1.
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