Everything that possibly could have gone wrong did for Indiana football Saturday afternoon when the team lost its sixth-consecutive game 38-3 to Rutgers in Bloomington.
From the very first play of the game, Indiana was out of sorts offensively. Freshman quarterback Donaven McCulley fumbled on the team's first offensive snap after scrambling for a four-yard gain. A minute later, Rutgers was in the end zone.
“It was just a bad exchange,” McCulley said in the post-game press conference. “Can’t start a game like that. That can set a tone for the rest of the game.”
The Hoosiers turned the ball over five more times after McCulley’s fumble in the loss and failed to force any on the defensive end. Head coach Tom Allen was disappointed in the team’s overall execution on both sides of the football.
“Six turnovers, not handling the football on that first play, just execution in that regard,” Allen said. “I understand this is hard, but you also have to take a strong, hard look at yourself.”Down 17-0 late in the second quarter, Indiana briefly found momentum as McCulley completed a pass to senior wide receiver Ty Fryfogle for a 46-yard gain. The play set up a field goal from junior kicker Charles Campbell, Indiana first and only points of the game.
During Indiana’s one successful drive of the game, the attention of the remaining fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium turned to section 19. Dozens of fans in the student section moved to the upper corner of the stadium, took their shirts off and started to swing them above their heads.
But much like the Hoosiers on the field, this group only showed up briefly near halftime before disappearing entirely in the second half.
In the second half, Indiana punted or turned the ball over on all of its possessions. Regardless of what the team tried, from different play calls to personnel changes, the offense failed to consistently move the football down the field.
Allen expressed his frustration with the offensive performance as a season full of them nears its end, boiling down the team’s struggles to inconsistent play at the quarterback position.
“We'd like to be able to play winning football,” Allen said. “You drive down the field and use up the clock. You have to be able to utilize and do that, the lack of high-level quarterback play is not what I want or expect.”
The loss for Indiana is the team’s first to Rutgers since 2015, snapping a five-game series winning streak. Allen had not lost to Rutgers during his tenure as Indiana head coach prior to Saturday.
Indiana is 2-8 on the season and in last place in the Big Ten. The team clinched its worst single-season record since 2014 and finished winless in Big Ten East division play for the first time since 2014.
The team entered the season with sky-high expectations and dreams of a Big Ten championship or trip to the Rose Bowl. Now, it now faces a reality of the least successful campaign of the Tom Allen era, and a year reminiscent of the doldrums of team history.
“Really, nothing positive to say,” Allen said. “Very disappointed and frustrated by that performance by our team. Very upset about it.”
Indiana will host Minnesota next week in the team’s final home game of the season. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and be broadcast on Big Ten Network.