After a quiet first half on the offensive side, Indiana football defeated the University of Idaho 35-22 on Saturday night at home to improve to 2-0 on the season.
In last week’s win against Illinois, Indiana was just able to muster 32 rushing yards. This week, with a nonstop downpour of rain, it was evident prior to the game's start that Indiana would need to run the ball to win. The Hoosiers would go on to finish with 239 total rushing yards against the Vandals.
The start of the game looked encouraging for the Hoosiers. Their defense forced back-to-back Idaho three and outs and found themselves with great starting field position after back-to-back Idaho punts fell short of the 50-yard line.
However, a missed field goal followed by a turnover on downs from Idaho’s 1-yard line meant the Hoosiers would come up blank on consecutive red zone trips.
Idaho struck first blood early in the second quarter with a short 1-yard pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Gevani McCoy to freshman wide receiver Jordan Dwyer, giving the Vandals a 7-0 lead.
When the rain stopped in the second quarter, the Hoosiers' offense didn’t bother to start in its place. The Hoosiers responded to the Vandals' touchdown with a fumble from senior running back Josh Henderson on the following drive.
The lone bright spot in the first half for the Hoosiers was freshman Dasan McCullough notching a pair of sacks. McCullough would finish with five total tackles. Postgame, head coach Tom Allen credited McCullough’s attention to detail and seriousness throughout preparation.
With Idaho leading by a touchdown late in the second quarter, Indiana’s defense stood strong and held Idaho to a field goal after allowing the Vandals within ten yards of the endzone.
On the subsequent Indiana drive, redshirt junior quarterback Connor Bazelak overthrew junior wide receiver Cam Camper and instead found Idaho sophomore Tommy McCormick for an interception in the red zone.
The Hoosiers went into the locker room trailing 10-0, totaling just 110 yards of total offense and going 1-7 on 3rd down conversions.
"I don’t want to blame the weather but the ball was pretty slick,” Bazelak said about the offense’s first-half struggles.
It was a first half to forget for the Hoosiers, and it quickly was forgotten.
After Indiana’s defense forced a three and out on Idaho’s first second half drive, Indiana’s offense’s first play from scrimmage was a bolt of energy as Indiana senior running back Shaun Shivers found 31 yards of space downfield into enemy territory.
Unlike the first half, the drive wouldn’t stall out from there as back-to-back connections from Bazelak to graduate senior wide receiver DJ Matthews Jr. propelled the Hoosiers inside the Vandal’s five-yard line.
In wildcat formation, wide receiver sophomore Donaven McCulley lined up in the backfield and ran right down the middle, stretching across the goal line into the endzone to put the Hoosiers on the scoreboard.
On the next drive, in Idaho’s attempt to respond, a bad snap sailed into the endzone and was quickly jumped on by McCoy, but the Idaho quarterback was unable to avoid the safety. The defensive score brought Indiana within one point, trailing 10-9.
Starting with the touchdown and safety to start the second half, the Hoosiers scored 29 unanswered points in the first 16 minutes of the second half. Despite giving up a couple more touchdowns in the fourth quarter including a 71-yard Idaho pass from McCoy to redshirt sophomore Michael Graves, Indiana stayed in control by tacking on another touchdown from senior running back Shaun Shivers and eventually winning 35-22.
After ending the first half with 110 total yards, Indiana finished with 436 yards of offense. Bazelak finished for 197 passing yards, going 16-29 along with a pair of touchdowns and one interception.
Getting into a rhythm in the second half played a big factor for the offense’s turnaround in the second half, Bazelak said.
Shivers was also a main contributor for the Hoosiers offense. After just 28 yards on 15 carries a week ago, he exploded for 155 yards on 20 attempts and a touchdown on Saturday.
Despite the Hoosier’s double-digit win, Allen was frustrated with his team’s performance.
“That’s not acceptable in my mind,” Allen said. “As far as the standard with which we have to play, there are too many mistakes.”
Allen acknowledged the difference between halves after the game.
“We just can't wait until halftime to start playing football,” Allen said.
With the win, Indiana improves to 2-0 on the season. Its next contest is against Western Kentucky University at noon next Saturday, Sept. 17, in Bloomington.