In search of its first Big Ten road win since Dec. 5, 2020, Indiana football, on a four-game losing streak, took on Rutgers Saturday afternoon. An eventual 24-17 loss in Piscataway, New Jersey, brought a new low and frightful memories from last season for the Hoosiers even before Halloween.
Coming into the game, Indiana was still without senior linebacker Cam Jones, but welcomed back senior defensive back Jaylin Williams and junior tight end AJ Barner.
“We’re as healthy as we’ve been in a while,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said prior to the game.
Desperate for a win, Indiana wasted no time in finding the end zone and got out to an early lead. Receiving the opening kickoff to start the game, freshman running back Jaylin Lucas broke loose and ran the length of the field for a touchdown just 11 seconds into the game.
On the next drive, the Hoosiers — led by redshirt junior quarterback Connor Bazelak — marched down the field. Following a drive where he went 7/7 and threw for 67 yards, Bazelak rushed 7 yards into the end zone to extend the lead to 14-0.
The 14-point lead was Indiana's second biggest lead all season, the first being a 19-point lead over the University of Idaho during week two.
Indiana’s offense dominance quickly vanished after its strong start. Neither team found the end zone again in the first quarter.
A connection from Scarlett Knight senior quarterback Nick Vedral into the back of the end zone to senior receiver Sean Ryan would be the lone score in the second quarter. Going into halftime Indiana led 14-7.
The majority of the third quarter consisted of the Scarlet Knights holding the ball on offense. Their first drive to start the half went about six and a half minutes, ending with a field goal to cut the deficit to four. After forcing an Indiana three and out, Rutgers’ next drive went just under seven minutes again and ended with a short 2-yard run from freshman running back Samuel Brown V to take its first lead of the game, 17-14.
By the time the third quarter finished, there was no sign of any life for Indiana’s offense. After the Hoosier’s first offensive drive of the day found the end zone, seven out of the next eight offensive drives ended in a punt and the only one that didn’t ended because of halftime.
“Very disappointing,” Allen said after the game. “Could not sustain anything on offense. That put a lot of pressure on our defense.”
For much of the fourth quarter, both teams’ defenses stood tall, forcing the offenses to trade punts. A threatening near the beginning of the quarter Rutgers drive ends with a missed field to extend their lead.
After a series of punts by both teams, Indiana drove down the field into Rutgers territory but failed to tie the game after a 52-yard field goal attempt from redshirt senior Charles Campbell sailed wide right. Just like Rutgers previous possession, Indiana came up scoreless.
A long punt following the Scarlet Knights next offensive series stuffed the Hoosiers deep in their own territory. On 2nd and 13 from their 9-yard line, high pressure forced Bazelak to throw a pass into the hands of Rutgers senior defensive back Christian Braswell. Braswell took his present from Bazelak into the end zone to deliver the dagger and stretch the Rutgers lead to 10 with 5:12 left.
A late fourth-quarter Campbell field goal made it a one-score game and gave Indiana a chance if it could recover the onside kick, but the miracle attempt came up short and Indiana lost 24-17.
Although the Hoosiers weren’t shut out in the second half, they might as well have been. After scoring a touchdown with 7:05 left in the first quarter, Indiana didn’t score again until 1:18 left in the fourth quarter.
During its five-game losing streak, Indiana has been outscored in the second half, 90-26.
Indiana’s offense struggled throughout the game, totaling just 62 rushing yards with only 19 attempts throughout the entire game. In the passing game, after the 7/7 start on the first drive from Bazelak, he went 16/34 with just 143 yards.
Having started the season 3-0, Indiana is now 3-5 after five consecutive losses. Saturday’s game proved to be a summary of the Hoosiers’ entire season: a hot start quickly dispersed and forgotten.
Leading receiver junior Cam Camper exited the game in the first half due to an unknown injury. After the game, Allen said he doesn’t know the extent of the injury but acknowledged it was a big loss for the offense. Camper has already missed one game earlier this season due to an illness.
As opposed to Indiana, Rutgers ended a record of their own — 1,813 days since a conference home win came to an end after their win.
After a putrid loss, desperate for a reset, Indiana has a bye before hosting No. 16 Penn State on Nov. 5.