IU Coach Tom Allen issued a challenge to his offensive line this week, and the unit passed the test with flying colors.
Allen wanted the big guys up front to dominate the line of scrimmage against a Virginia team that has been strong against the run. IU did just that, and was able to overcome some special teams miscues by riding its strong running game in less-than-perfect conditions to a 20-16 victory over the Cavaliers on Saturday night.
“Weather was awful, but our guys just don’t care about that stuff,” Allen said. “I was really proud of the way they competed.”
Freshman running back Stevie Scott was the beneficiary of the offensive line’s improved play, as he toted the rock 31 times for 204 yards and a touchdown. Scott’s performance left him just three yards short of Anthony Thompson’s freshman record of 207 yards, set in 1986.
After beginning his college career with a 20-carry, 70-yard performance against FIU, Scott showed another side to his game that he didn’t exhibit in the season opener. Scott broke two runs of 40 or more yards and showcased his ability to pull away from defenders in the open field, which was something Hoosier fans didn’t see last week.
“He grew up tonight,” sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey said. “He kept coming back after big runs saying ‘feed me, I want the ball.’”
IU needed every point the offense could get, as two blocked kicks helped Virginia hang in a game where its offense really struggled to gain any momentum.
After IU scored its second touchdown in 29 seconds during the first quarter to take a 13-7 lead , the Cavaliers blocked the extra point and Virginia safety Juan Thornhill took it the other way for a two-point conversion, cutting what should have been a seven-point lead to four points.
IU had another chance to extend its lead early in the third quarter, when Logan Justus came on to attempt a 41-yard field goal to put IU up by seven. Thanks to a high snap and bad timing, the kick was blocked and IU squandered another opportunity to add to its lead.
Allen wasn’t pleased with the mistakes in the kicking game, but took a much lighter approach after the game.
“It’s a lot more enjoyable to correct those mistakes after a win,” Allen said.
Along with running the ball, IU utilized a strong defensive performance to shut down a Virginia offense that had plenty of weapons.
Dual-threat quarterback Bryce Perkins ran for 123 yards, but was held to just 106 yards through the air. Tailback Jordan Ellis, who began this season by rushing for 146 yards and two touchdowns against Richmond, was limited to 12 carries for 63 yards.
Allen said he was tremendously proud of the way IU’s defense responded after a so-so performance against FIU last week.
“I got after them pretty good,” Allen said. “I just feel like you’ve got to play great defense if you want to win games, and today was a prime example of that.”
While IU only forced one turnover, the defense limited all phases of Virginia’s offense. The Cavaliers were held under 300 yards of offense and punted seven times.
Virginia only had three drives longer than 30 yards, and after a tough first possession, the Hoosier defense seemingly had all the answers for Virginia’s two-pronged rushing attack.
Junior linebacker Reakwon Jones was one of the leaders for IU on defense with five tackles, including 0.5 tackles for loss. Postgame, Jones said he was also pleased with the Hoosiers’ ability to bounce back this week.
“It felt like we really picked it up and I’m really happy with everyone on this defense,” Jones said. “We take it to heart when Coach Allen is hard on us, and we love how we played tonight.”
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