I’m not sure there are many places more beautiful than Bloomington in the fall. I’ve only been here for a few months, and I’m still trying to make this place feel like home, but there is something about the way the season splashes its colors around this rustic college town that can sometimes make you feel like anything is possible.
On this most recent October Saturday night, with the country’s No. 8 team visiting, the play on the field at Memorial Stadium was anything but beautiful. But for at least a few moments in a game against Ohio State, the Indiana football team again gave enough reasons to believe that maybe the Hoosiers aren’t too far away from competing consistently in the Big Ten, that anything is possible.
It will be Nate Sudfeld who’s credited for giving Indiana a spark after leading back-to-back scoring drives in the final few minutes of the Hoosiers’ 52-49 loss to the Buckeyes. Rightfully so. Sudfeld completed 6 of 10 passes for 77 yards and again showed a propensity for giving Indiana big plays when it needs them most.
But there were others, too, who made this game — the final score, especially — seem much closer than it truly was. One, of course, was Nick Stoner. His save of an onside kick — after Sudfeld connected with Duwyce Wilson for a 12-yard touchdown pass with 1:40 remaining on the clock — cannot be overlooked. It was almost to be expected from one of the team’s best athletes as he jumped through the sideline to bat that ball back into play as his foot began to meet the chalk. It set up Sudfeld and the Hoosier offense at the Ohio State 48, where they drove to the end zone on five plays — culminating with a 25-yard shovel pass from Sudfeld to Stephen Houston with 1:05 remaining in the game. Cody Latimer’s end-around, two-point conversion made it the three-point game that it stood to be.
Don’t miss Greg Heban, either. He led Indiana with nine tackles, but it was his diving interception of Braxton Miller in the end zone early in the third quarter that kept this game from getting truly out of reach. It was a poor decision to throw by Miller, who absorbed a hit as he began his release. But Heban made the catch and stopped a Buckeye drive that took them 41 yards to the Indiana 4-yard line. Ohio State led 31-17 at the time and a touchdown there likely would have made it a 21-point lead. It could have been enough to break the Indiana spirit.
It should also be noted that Heban broke up a pass in the end zone on an OSU third-and-six from the Indiana 18 late in the first half. It probably prevented a touchdown, and Buckeye kicker Drew Basil followed with a missed, 35-yard kick with Indiana leading 14-10 at the time.
Others, too, had memorable marks on this one. It was the first career three-touchdown game for Houston, and Shane Wynn followed Heban’s interception with a 76-yard touchdown reception from Cameron Coffman that stands as Indiana’s longest score of the season. Also, as columnist Andy Graham wrote, Indiana’s 49 points are the most it has ever scored against a top 10 team. It was also the most it has scored against Ohio State.
But Kevin Wilson doesn’t seem like a man who loses himself in numbers. He’s a man that will point to the unseen things in a football game — things that the casual observer may not notice.
For a few brief moments on Saturday night, as Sudfeld and the Indiana offense made something remarkable happen, Wilson ran onto the field and threw his fist into the air. It was a fleeting moment, one that could be lost to the casual observer as fans filed through the exits and time continued to tick away. But it was also something — if even for a moment — that made it seem like everyone in crimson believed anything was possible.
Again, I send a big congratulations true east to Baltimore, where our friend Chris Korman tied the knot this weekend. Dustin will be back this week.