Sorry for the lack of updates, guys. Had to run down to the post-game press conference.
Indiana’s players and coaches are, as you might expect, overjoyed. Austin Starr thanked his snapper, holder and God, in that exact order. Priorities, you see.
Anyway, we’re going to put together our game package for tomorrow. Let us know if today’s win has reinvigorated your excitement for Indiana football or if you’re still just marking time until Midnight Madness (six days and counting).
Thanks for joining us.
The Hoosiers held Juice and his gang, but the ensuing punt wasn’t fielded by Lance Bennett — he’s been so reluctant lately — and it bounced a good 20 yards further.
Lewis failed to find an open receiver on third down — there weren’t any, really — and now the Indiana defense will have to do the job.
Indiana’s got the ball on their own 41. About seven and a half minutes left.
Lewis played well in the clutch against Ball State. This time, there are 60,000 fans clad in orange hoping he fails, though.
Austin Starr just missed a field goal.
Or did he? We only saw one replay here and it was fairly inconclusive. But it looked close. Austin Starr certainly thought he’d hit it.
Anybody out there watching on TV care to weigh in?
ILLINOIS 32, INDIANA 31
0:46, 3rd quarter: Another trick play befuddles the Hoosiers. Williams took a shotgun snap, handed to Thomas, who pitched to DeJuan Warren, who threw to Jody Ellis streaking into the end zone alone.
INDIANA 31, ILLINOIS 25
2:24, 3rd quarter: Austin Starr just nailed a short field goal to add to Indiana’s lead.
The Hoosiers sustained a drive, again on mixed play calling. Thigpen was stellar, fighting on one play to bounce all the way outside and gain seven yards. And Kellen Lewis finally found James Hardy and allowed him to make a play, giving him a strike to the chest as Hardy sat in a zone blind spot. He then charged up the middle for a first down.
With his last kick return, Marcus Thigpen tied the Big Ten season record with three kick returns for TDs.
He’s already eighth on Indiana’s list of most kick return yardage in a year at 543.
INDIANA 28, ILLINOIS 25
14:44, 3rd quarter: Marcus Thigpen just took the opening kickoff of the third quarter 98 yards for a score. That’s the third time he’s done that this year, and the Hoosiers are playing their best football – by far — of the year.
Thigpen is so explosive. Any team that kicks to him the rest of the year is just foolish.
So, anybody out there? What are you guys thinking? What will become of the hard-fightin’ Hoosiers in this second half?
Let me know your thoughts.
END of FIRST HALF
And a chance to take a deep breath.
It’s a showdown here. These two quarterbacks are so young and so promising and so alike. It’s uncanny. Even their situations are the same: They came in and beat out proven starters after the first few games of the season and are now seen as the great hopes for the respective floundering football programs.
Indiana’s defense is on to something now, though. They’ve figured something out and the Illini haven’t scored since 5:13 of the first. The Illini gained 252 yards in the first quarter and just 27 in the second.
ILLINOIS 25, INDIANA 21
More great playcalling by Indiana coaches to set up a 9-yard score by Josiah Sears, his second. Nice mix of running and passing, and Kellen Lewis made a perfect pass to Nick Polk on third down to keep the drive alive.
If you’re the coach of a football team that was outgained 252 to 69 in the first quarter and your team is only down 11 points, how lucky do you feel? Terry Hoeppner could tell you.
And the Hoosiers have forced a punt. That’s the first time this game. This just might be a football game.
ILLINOIS 25, INDIANA 14
10:03, 2nd quarter: Josiah Sears just capped a 40-yard, 5-play drive with a two-yard run for a score.
Indiana’s offense is working because the coaches have eliminated the need to block up front. On one play, Lewis drifted 12 yards back before dumping off on a screen, on another he hit Ray Fisher on a quick slant, which Fisher then took an extra 12 yards after the catch. Then, they gave the ball to Sears, who doesn’t need gaping holes to run through. Great play calling by Bill Lynch.
Another big kick return by Thigpen set the whole thing up. For all their other struggles, Indiana sure can do the job on special teams. And one quick score puts them back into this thing.
ILLINOIS 25, INDIANA 7
12:36, 2nd quarter: Well, the Hoosiers have tightened up near the end zone. They once again held the Illini to a field goal, this one a 21-yarder by Jason Reda.
Kenny Kendal and Will Meyers, the two seniors playing regularly on the defense, have had strong games. Kendal came across and delivered a hard hit on Hudson after he took a screen pass, and Meyers blew up a bubble screen earlier in the drive. They’re still competing hard.
It’s tough keeping up with the action here. Everything is so fast and furious and so…orange. Pretty decent crowd here, by the way, certainly larger than any Indiana has played in front of yet. Almost four full sections of students, all bouncing and doing other coordinated activities.
Hoosiers just went three-and-out.
ILLINOIS 22, INDIANA 7
3:27, 1st quarter: So, remember that score I predicted? I meant that for the first quarter. You guys knew that right?
Anyway, things are not going well here. As soon as the Hoosiers got the ball back Lewis tried a quick pass to Hardy. And Indiana’s best receiver let it slip right through his hands, making at beast a weak effort. Then Josiah Sears fumbled the ball and Illinois recovered.
Good news, though. The Hoosiers held Illinois — thanks in part to a broken play on first down — and Jason Reda hit a 41-yard field goal.
ILLINOIS 19, INDIANA 7
5:13, 1st quarter: Oh, that tricky Ron Zook. On the first play of the Illini’s drive, Juice Williams handed the ball of to E.B. Halsey. Halsey, in turn, tossed it back to Williams, and Williams found Kyle Hudson streaking down the field for an easy score.
After the play, Terry Hoeppner followed safety Troy Grosfield down the sideline and then got in the seniors face for a good 15 seconds.
Phil just posted a comment and asked if basketball recruit Eric Gordon is in attendance today. We’re not sure.
My guess is he’s waiting beneath the stadium and will be presented to the victor following today’s contest.
ILLINOIS 13, INDIANA 7
7:38, 1st quarter: Pierre Thomas just shredded Indiana’s defense on the way to a three-yard score. The Hoosiers tried to adjust to Illinois’ passing game by dropping their safeties but Thomas pounded the ball up the gut. He took a nicely-timed option pitch from Juice Williams in for the score.
For some reason, the Illini went for two and couldn’t pound the ball past the line.
ILLINOIS 7, INDIANA 7
11:14, 1st quarter: Whoa, nelly. The Hoosiers just marched 76 yards in four plays, taking up just a minute of clock time.
And get this: they ran the ball all four plays. On one of them, they even lined up with two tight ends and just went right at the Illini. Marcus Thigpen took a handoff, busted up the gut, slipped a tackle and curled out right for 44 yards. Then Indiana gave the ball to Josiah Sears, its rugged full back who usually only got the ball late, and busted down to the three yard line to set up a keeper by Lewis.
ILLINOIS 7, INDIANA 0
12:38, 1st quarter: And so it begins. Juice Williams just threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Kyle Hudson. Williams faked the handoff, rolled wide left and fired over the middle for the score.
After holding the Illini to two yards on the first two plays of the drive, Indiana’s defense caved. Williams took his team 80 yards in six plays and two minutes.
Justin Frye looks like he’ll give it a try and will be snapping the ball to Kellen Lewis, who will start his second straight game at quarterback. Will he be able to develop chemistry with top receiver James Hardy?
We are minutes away from kickoff and anticipation fills the air. Or maybe that’s the smell from that farm over there. Not too sure.
Anyway, Indiana offensive lineman Justin Frye came out early during warmups and looked to be doing a little extra stretching. He missed practice time this week, a fact we did not report because the Indiana athletic department grants us access to practice on the condition we don’t reveal injuries.