Indiana football won its home opener and first Big Ten matchup of the season against Illinois on Friday. The Hoosiers, who came into the game without having a starting quarterback publicly announced, gave the reins to redshirt junior and Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak.
Indiana won 23-20 with the thrilling endingas the offense navigated down the field with no timeouts and just 2 minutes and 16 seconds left on the clock. Starting quarterback redshirt junior Connor Bazelak led the team effectively throughout the game and managed a win in his first start as a Hoosier.
Head coach Tom Allen said he was proud of his team in the post-game press conference, especially when it came to the play of his defense. The Hoosiers’ defense made big plays in crucial moments when the team needed them most, including four takeaways and a pivotal turnover on downs near the goal line early in the fourth quarter.
“So proud of our grit on defense,” Allen said. “That goal line stand was special and Cam Jones, I can’t say enough things about that young man, he’s the heart and soul of this team.”
Jones, a senior linebacker, was a key contributor making play after play for the Hoosiers before leaving the game for a stint early in the second half. Allen briefly mentioned the team is not yet aware of the severity of the linebacker’s injury.
Allen also gave his thoughts on Bazelak’s first game under center.
“He’s extremely poised,” Allen said. “That’s one of the variables that stuck out to me since he’s been here, and it showed in that moment when you have to be under complete composure and find the open receivers and be accurate.”
Bazelak finished the night with 330 yards and one touchdown while completing 54% of his passes. He also threw one interception, but the pass hit the hands of the intended receiver before bouncing off into the defender’s hands. The line struggled to protect the quarterback, but in the end, it didn’t affect the team's result.
When the game was on the line, Bazelak marched the offense down the field. The running game was held in check most of the night by the Illinois defense, but when it mattered most, graduate transfer running back Shaun Shivers found a way to get into the endzone to win the game.
Allen spoke about the importance of this win for the program, and what it meant to him personally.
“This teams been through so much, and they have continued to fight and battle and battle and battle and battle and they did it tonight,” Allen said. “I couldn’t be more proud, it’s a huge win for us.”
Indiana will play at home again at 8 p.m. against the University of Idaho on Saturday, Sept. 10.