Despite shaking off its ghosts all season, IU football continues to be haunted in bowl games as its hunt for a bowl win continues.
A year after falling to the University of Tennessee in the last minutes of the Gator Bowl, IU couldn’t keep up with the high tempo offense of the University of Mississippi in a 26-20 loss Saturday.
The Hoosiers have now lost six consecutive bowl games, dating back to a Copper Bowl victory in 1991. It was a down ending to a historic season that saw IU finish with its fewest losses since going 9-2 in 1967.
“We’ve been successful,” head coach Tom Allen said. “Whether its a bowl game or a regular season game you got a formula for success, and when you don’t stick with that formula, oftentimes you don’t get what you want.”
Playing against a defense that allowed 536 yards per game during the regular season, more than any other Football Bowl Series school, IU could not produce enough offense to win. The Hoosiers were effective when rushing the ball, but did it little enough throughout the game that it wasn’t able to make a difference.
Junior running back Stevie Scott III did his best to drag IU back into the game, carrying the ball 19 times for 99 yards, including two touchdown runs out of the wildcat formation.
“I always knew we had it,” Scott said. “It’s a mental thing for the running backs and for the O-line, just to lock in and do their assignments. Some days it just wasn’t there but I feel like today it definitely came to play in the second half and we tried to take advantage of it as much as we could.”
But when it came down to one drive, down 6 points late in the fourth quarter, IU turned away from its run game after it started to march down the field.
After picking up 22 yards on the ground, as well as 19 yards on a pass to sophomore David Ellis, IU’s offense stalled after a 2-yard loss on a pass to senior receiver Whop Philyor and a sack.
The Hoosiers ran the ball 40 times for 168 yards.
After taking a hit in the first half, sophomore quarterback Jack Tuttle dealt with a separated shoulder most of the game, but played through it. Tuttle finished the day with 201 passing yards.
“There’s no excuse,” Tuttle said. “It sucked. But it’s for my team and I gotta find a way to get the job done.”
Ole Miss came into the day averaging the third most yards per game in the nation and attacked IU with rapid play calling and up-tempo offense that kept the IU defense on its heels all game.
The Hoosiers ran only five more plays despite possessing the ball for 11 more minutes and were out gained by 124 yards.
IU was unable to force any turnovers, the first time it didn’t have two turnovers all season.
It was the second straight year IU lost a bowl game to a team from the Southeastern Conference, but Allen said this year came off the back of so much more adversity.
“It’s gonna hurt,” Allen said. “And it should hurt if you’ve invested a whole lot like these guys have. They sacrificed a whole bunch to be in this position. It’s a tough one for sure."