SANTA CLARA, Calif. — All three phases of IU Coach Tom Allen’s squad had a chance to propel the Hoosiers to victory in the last 9:06 of the Foster Farms Bowl.
All three, in Allen’s first game as a head coach, fell short.
Junior kicker Griffin Oakes missed a 40-yard field goal wide right in the lead up to Utah’s go-ahead drive. The Utes only managed a field goal, and thus a two-point lead, but junior quarterback Richard Lagow’s failed Hail Mary attempt on the game’s final play ensured that lead held firm.
IU lost 26-24.
IU fell to 6-7 for the second year in a row.
IU walked off the field wanting more from a postseason appearance on another late December night.
“It sucks, honestly,” senior offensive lineman Dan Feeney said. “Practicing for a whole extra month or so, I don’t know, I mean it’s just tough. You don’t want to go out on a loss but unfortunately that’s how it goes.”
Feeney said little things kept nipping at the offense and kept it from finding a rhythm all game long, and even though Allen said the Hoosiers had worked on situations like the one presented to them with 1:16 left and the ball at their own 30, those things compounded were too much to overcome.
The Hoosiers turned the ball over three times, sputtered on third downs and struggled to find an identity. On defense, IU eventually broke under the barrage of Utah running back Joe Williams and allowed him to collect 222 yards on 26 carries and a score.
“He’s got good vision and he’s real patient,” Allen said of Williams. “And, he’s really fast. So, when you give him a crease, it’s hard.”
IU’s defense, as it had to others earlier this season, held Utah’s high-octane offense back from delivering punishing blows in a manner that would seal the Hoosiers’ fate too soon.
IU forced Utah to settle for four field goals, which meant that regardless of the fact the Utes scored on six of their drives, the Hoosiers still had a chance to win even though they had only scored on four.
The Hoosiers even did it without two starters in junior linebacker Marcus Oliver and freshman cornerback A’Shon Riggins. Both Riggins and Oliver were out with injuries, and necessitated that others like freshman linebacker Dameon Willis Jr. step up in their places.
Willis did great by junior linebacker Tegray Scales’ estimation. Scales, named the bowl’s most outstanding defensive player, said Oliver was still active on the sideline too and offered advice when the defense came off the field after drives.
But the void left by Oliver’s absence contributed to another close defeat for IU, and the Hoosiers notched their third one-possession loss of the season.
“I want to see us break through,” Allen said. “But, but I can’t say enough about how hard our kids played, how hard they worked and how they’ve taken a tough situation and came out against a really good football team and had our chances. Just got to finish.”