This was a performance decades in the making.
IU’s 41-0 thrashing of Rutgers on a rain-soaked Senior Day was one of the Hoosiers' most decisive wins ever against a Power Five team.
The defense only gave up an average of 3.3 yards per play and had seven tackles for loss. In total, IU only had one penalty the entire afternoon and outgained the Scarlet Knights by 317 yards. It’s hard to imagine a more dominant performance against a Big Ten foe.
It took 11 games into the 2017 season, but IU finally put together a perfect game.
However, this is a team that can win a game in this fashion, but still needs a victory over Purdue to reach its third straight bowl. The game revealed the conundrum of the entire season — this IU team had the talent to win seven or eight games, but the Hoosiers have fallen short of that high bar this season.
Having such a backloaded schedule hurt IU this season. Instead of gaining confidence as the season went along, the Hoosiers had to play the toughest teams in the conference to start the season. The losses piled up as IU dropped its first six conference games.
Things have changed eight games into the season and the potential of this team was realized with a poised offense and a suffocating defense. The team that everyone thought this team could be finally saw the light of the day.
Going against two of the worst offenses in the Big Ten the past two weeks, IU’s defense looked like one of the best units in the country. Against Rutgers and Illinois, IU only gave up two touchdowns combined, one of which came on a 77-yard pass to begin second half against Illinois.
This was the IU defense that everyone expected to see with 10 out of 11 starters returning. The past two weeks have seen IU morph into a suffocating unit. The Scarlet Knights went two of 13 on third down on Saturday.
The offense was efficient, scoring on all six trips inside the red zone. The Hoosiers rushed for over 271 yards and converted 10 out of 17 third downs. It was IU’s best offensive performance of the season.
Yet, it all feels all a little too late.
Because IU is in the vaunted Big Ten East division, the Hoosiers' schedule will always be filled with games against top-25 teams. It’s the difficult reality that IU faces as a program, but with a team as talented as this, it’s hard to fathom how a team with this level of defense couldn’t win at least one of the games against these teams.
Saturday showed why this defense is a once-in-decade type defense.
With this defense and offensive talent such as junior wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. and senior tight end Ian Thomas, your best conference victory of the season should be something better than Rutgers.
Beating Rutgers by this margin is exactly what IU must do. It’s what good teams do regularly and it should be celebrated for what it is.
Nothing more, nothing less. To get to a bowl game, this is what IU had to do.
The only question that remains is how many wins IU would have if the Hoosiers played like this all season.
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