BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana (2-0, 1-0 B1G) struggled right out the gate, but found momentum in the second half to remain undefeated after taking down the Idaho Vandals (0-2, 0-0 Big Sky) with a final score of 35-22.
Idaho dominated the first half and led 10-0 after a touchdown and field goal while Indiana had numerous miscues including missed field goals, interceptions, and crucial penalties. Ultimately, Indiana found its way after the skies parted during the second half and demolished the Vandals on the ground and air while maintaining a steadfast defense.
At the start, the rain required Indiana adjust to the conditions and rely more heavily on their running game. Their running attack was a major area of concern after last week’s win against Illinois. The Hoosiers tallied a total of 32 yards compared to the Fighting Illini’s 216 last week. A major reason was the offensive line’s inability in developing running lanes for Shaun Shivers and it looked like this week would be more of the same during the first half especially as the first half progressed with an offense that seemed to be falling apart. However, the Hoosiers piled on the yards on the ground especially in the second half and outrushed the Vandals 239-126.
Shivers ran for a career high 155 yards today on 20 carries and picked up his second TD of the season.
All eyes were on Connor Bazelak to see how he would play in Indiana’s first true “warmup game” of the season against the outmatched Vandals, but he struggled the first half. Most passes were overthrown and off-target and part of the challenge is throwing in the rain, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for the performance. This looked to be far from the true tune up game that the Hoosiers were anticipating prior to hosting Western Kentucky next week.
The second half really was the turning point for the entire Hoosier offense.
Cam Camper and DJ Matthews Jr. both had incredible, 100+ yard performances last week, but failed to get near this benchmark this week because of the first half struggles. Part of the issue was the passing, but there were numerous dropped passes throughout the night too. DJ Matthews did have a couple of beautiful catches at the beginning of the third quarter that were crucial in the Hoosiers getting their first touchdown on a planned draw from Donaven McCulley.
An overall positive note was Indiana’s defense and it was likely the strongest aspect of their game today. Freshman Dasan McCullough and Senior Aaron Casey had great performances putting consistent pressure on Idaho QB Gevani McCoy. This consistent pressure led to a safety on the drive following the first Hoosier touchdown on a miscue by the Vandals.
On the following drive after the safety, Bazelak connected with AJ Barner on a 43 yard pass down the middle of the field.
At this point, the Hoosiers kept the foot on the gas and cruised to victory in a game that looked like it was going to swing the other way during the first half. The rest of the game was highlighted by running out the clock with Shivers on the ground and trading touchdowns with Idaho.
Indiana still has plenty of room to improve despite improving to 2-0. They need to find a way to prevent the first half struggles from ever showing its ugly head again. It is possible it can be blamed on the rain, but Idaho coped with the conditions much better than Indiana so it was not impossible to do so. Bazelak does appear to be the QB for Indiana this season and Shivers the true RB1, but it was reassuring to see Josh Henderson get some good touches and a score this game. The offensive line did continue to struggle this game, but appeared more steady the second half and provided the offense more time to pass and running room.
Indiana’s next game comes up on Saturday, Sept. 17 against Western Kentucky (2-0, 0-0 C-USA) out of Conference USA. Indiana beat Western Kentucky last year 33-31 in Bowling Green, KY. The game kicks off at 12:00p ET on BTN. Western Kentucky had a bye week this week.
Photo by Indiana Football