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Tuesday, April 23
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

OPINION: Don’t just call IU football tough without calling it great first

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I dearly hope sophomore quarterback Jack Tuttle has a hot bath in his immediate future. 

The first-time starter overcame the most concussive non-concussion I’ve ever witnessed and a barrage of body blows to lead No. 12 IU football to a 14-6 victory over No. 16 Wisconsin on Saturday. 

Honestly, even with sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. out for the season with a torn ACL, I was pretty surprised to see Wisconsin favored by 13.5 points considering it was recently toppled by Northwestern. You’re telling me the Badgers already lost to a staunch defense and a quarterback who wasn’t quite able to beat out Penix for the top roster spot? 

I’ll take those odds, thanks.

In several regards, the Hoosiers played awfully similar to their purple counterparts from the Big Ten West. IU’s conservative offense relied on a sturdy defense that refused to buckle under Wisconsin’s attack, allowing zero touchdowns while forcing two turnovers.

I am perfectly aware turnovers can be a misleading statistic. A decent chunk of the Hoosiers’ takeaways have been the result of fortunate bounces on fumbles and interceptions that involve Harlem Globetrotter levels of mayhem. Still, I don’t think you can luck your way into leading the conference in turnovers. 

Identifying glaring flaws in IU’s defense is a job for a particularly cynical critic, though I did find myself groaning at a number of missed tackles. I know I would fall flat on my butt if a Division I running back so much as sneezed on me, but the Hoosiers will have to wrap up more consistently as a unit to survive a potential high-profile bowl matchup. 

Meanwhile, both offenses initially felt like two drunk bar patrons circling one another and daring the other to take a swing while urging their friends to hold them back. 

After a deep back-shoulder throw by Tuttle was nearly picked off, offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan seemed to decide that was enough excitement for the day and began dialing up screens and slants. 

However, this conservatism didn’t necessarily hurt the Hoosiers. Junior running back Stevie Scott III didn’t exactly rack up yardage ad libitum, but he repeatedly bruised Wisconsin’s front seven with his powerful frame and took pressure off Tuttle.

Tuttle became well acquainted with the turf at Camp Randall Stadium, frequently getting walloped by blitzing Badgers. The signal caller hung in the pocket and delivered passes under duress commendably, but even a hearty steak can only endure so much tenderizing before it crumbles apart.

In the second half, improved protection from IU’s offensive line and a roughing the passer call against Wisconsin freed Tuttle to take more shots downfield. 

One of these, a 7-yard touchdown lob to senior receiver Whop Philyor, was a masterclass in precision and touch. He would have followed it with another score if sophomore wideout Miles Marshall did not commit one of the most wince-inducing drops shown on television. 

I’ve had some rough days in my life, but watching your receiver bungle a sure touchdown and having a linebacker put your brains through a spin cycle shortly thereafter truly has to suck. Somehow, Tuttle either mustered enough courage or huffed enough ammonia salts to reenter the fray and clinch triumph for his team after a crucial defensive stop. 

Tuttle entered his first start with plenty of doubters, yet issued a strong rebuttal. 

He didn’t launch every throw like a space shuttle, but the traits that win games are far more subtle. He looked confident every time he broke the huddle and he didn’t let the Badgers’ defensive scheme leave him muddled. 

I really want Tuttle to remember his performance, though that isn’t a certainty given how many hits he took. Perhaps tonight will be no more than a fleeting memory, slipping away into a precious moment in Tuttle time.

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