Indiana sophomore quarterback Cameron Coffman was benched after the game’s first drive, but returned just before halftime to throw for 315 yards and three touchdowns to lead Indiana to a 24-21 win over Iowa in front of 40,646 at Memorial Stadium. Sophomore wide receiver Cody Latimer caught all three of those touchdown passes, grabbing seven passes for 113 yards, and the Hoosiers won back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time since they beat Iowa and Minnesota in 2007.
The Hoosiers improved to 4-5 overall, 2-3 in the Big Ten, claiming more than one conference victory for the first time since 2007. It’s a victory that allows the Hoosiers to build on the momentum created from last week’s win over Illinois.
“I don’t think our kids are going to get a big head by any means,” Wilson said. “But do you learn how to still come back and be tough and work hard and prepare when you’ve won a game? … Now you’ve got the result. Do it again. Keep working hard and the result is going to repeat itself. It’s a little bit of the snowball mentality. You want to gain momentum as you’re playing through the season.”
The victory also set up the most potentially consequential game at Memorial Stadium in recent memory. The Hoosiers play Wisconsin (6-3 overall, 3-2 in the Big Ten) next week. The winner of that game will have the inside track toward representing the Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis on Dec. 1. The Badgers and Hoosiers are currently third and fourth respectively in the division, but first-place Ohio State and second-place Penn State are both under postseason banishment because of major NCAA sanctions.
The Hoosiers, unsurprisingly, weren’t looking to address that on Saturday evening.
“We’ve always controlled our own destiny since the first game,” junior wide receiver Kofi Hughes said. “Like we said. This game is over. We won. Now we got Wisconsin. We’re not looking at anything past that.”
It appeared the Hoosiers might have squandered all of the momentum they took from last week’s win over Illinois in the first quarter. Iowa took a 14-0 lead on a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback James Vandenberg to wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley and an 18-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Christian Kirksey on a pass from Indiana freshman quarterback Nate Sudfeld.
The Hoosiers answered with a 45-yard field goal by kicker Mitch Ewald on the next drive. However, they went three-and-out on the next possession, turned the ball over on downs on the Iowa 8-yard line when junior tailback Stephen Houston was stuffed the next time they had the ball. Then Ewald missed a 38-yard field goal and the Hoosiers were still down 14-3 with 6:48 to go in the first half.
Wilson brought Coffman back in the game in the next possession after he had been benched early in the game, and that proved catalytic. The sophomore junior college transfer led the Hoosiers on a six-play, 87-yard drive in just 1:26, finding Latimer with a 15-yard pass with 47 seconds left to cut the deficit to 14-10 at halftime.
Meanwhile, the Indiana defense posted its best performance against a Big Ten opponent all season. Defensive tackles Adam Replogle and Larry Black Jr. destroyed the Iowa offensive line and the Hoosiers held the Hawkeyes to just 96 rushing yards on 30 carries. It was the first time since the Hoosiers win over Purdue on Nov. 27, 2010 that an IU opponent had failed to rush for at least 100 yards. The Hawkeyes went three-and-out five times, punted eight and turned the ball over twice.
“Our defensive line was just real aggressive against their offensive line,” safety Greg Heban said. “Replogle and Larry Black did an absolutely great job. Going from, myself, 13 tackles to (four), it shows how well the line’s playing. The ball’s not getting back to the safeties.”
The Hoosiers took the lead with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Coffman to Latimer . Iowa got it back on a 4-yard touchdown run by tailback Damon Bullock with 12:17 left, but Indiana took the lead for good on the 30-yard post pass to Latimer with 10:58 to go.
Indiana almost got in trouble with a fourth-quarter fumble by Houston, but Iowa went three-and-out, punting instead of going for it on fourth-and-1 on its own 28, and the Hoosiers took up 4:25 on an eight-play drive that took up just 15 yards, but included a tough run by tailback D’Angelo Roberts for a critical first down. Iowa had the ball with just 18 seconds left and had to resort to a desperate hook and ladder play to try to continue the game before Replogle fell on the fumble.
And so it’s real. Indiana is playing next week for the lead in its division. Even the Hoosiers aren’t ready to talk about that yet.
“We have to win more games,” junior tight end Ted Bolser said. “We haven’t done anything yet. We’re two short of a bowl. We’ll see what happens.”