BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — That one was tough to watch.
Yes, the Indiana Hoosiers (2-2, 0-1 B1G) defeated the Akron Zips (1-3, 0-0 MAC) on Saturday night, 29-27 in 4OT. Tayven Jackson found Dequece Carter in the end zone for the game-winning two-point conversion, and Phillip Dunnam ensured Akron didn’t tie the game in the final OT. However, with IU coming into this game as a 17-point favorite, the team ignited more concerns with a sloppy 4.5-hour long performance in the non-conference finale.
The visiting Zips, who entered ranked 130th out of 133 FBS teams per ESPN’s SP+ rankings, out-gained the Hoosiers 474-282, converted 24 first downs to IU’s 14, and held the football for nearly nine more minutes of possession. Indiana benefited from some timely takeaways, including a Louis Moore interception for a touchdown, and limited their penalty total on the field, committing five to Akron’s 10.
The game began with Walt Bell calling consecutive inside runs with Jaylin Lucas netting four yards, and Jackson taking a 3rd down sack. That set the tone for the remainder of the game on that side of the ball.
The Hoosiers’ first three drives resulted in two punts and a turnover on downs. While the offense sputtered, the defense continued in its strong play from the second half of the Louisville game. IU finally strung together its first scoring drive early in the second quarter.
Cam Camper continued his dominance of Akron’s defense, catching a second long pass from Jackson, which put IU in scoring position. Wake transfer Christian Turner, who came into the game with a larger role than anticipated with Josh Henderson’s absence, found space off left tackle to find the end zone.
Indiana’s first extended stretch of frustrating play began after Moore’s first interception, which he returned to Akron 4. What should have taken a play or two to extend IU’s lead to 14 instead resulted in four ugly, slow-developing efforts, all stopped by the Zips defense. The last two plays involved Donaven McCulley coming into the game as the Wildcat QB and running, with both tries denied.
On Akron’s first play from their own 1, Akron WR Alex Adams slipped behind IU’s secondary and simply dropped a pass from QB DJ Irons that would’ve resulted in a 99-yard touchdown.
After Akron punted, Jackson stared a linebacker down and saw his pass picked off by LB Andrew Behm. Behm returned the ball to the IU 24, Akron ended up kicking a field goal, and the Zips drew within 7-3 with 1:53 left until halftime.
Instead of an emphatic response via a two-minute drill before halftime, Jackson threw three straight incompletions, including a second-down throwaway that was whistled for intentional grounding. IU punted, Akron kneeled, and the teams headed to halftime with Hoosier Nation disgruntled.
After halftime, the Zips were clearly the better team. Irons completed three straight passes to start the drive, then in the red zone, he used his legs to give Akron the lead. He had 54 rushing yards in the first half alone, yet Tom Allen, Chad Wilt, and Matt Guerrieri could not find the necessary adjustments to slow down that part of Irons’ game.
Akron then sprung a surprise onside kick on the Hoosiers, like IU did last week to Louisville. It worked. The ball bounced off Dequece Carter, and kicker Dante Jackson recovered. The Zips didn’t turn the kick into points, but they showed once again they were the proactive team at Memorial Stadium, not the reactive one.
Louis Moore’s pick six gave IU the lead during a quarter in which they ran a measly three offensive plays. Akron QB Jeff Undercuffler, who came into the game as Irons was getting treatment for a hand injury, threw a pass to TE TJ Banks. Banks mishandled the target, Moore pounced on the deflection, and returned it all the way for a 17-10 IU lead.
It felt like the Hoosiers would separate themselves on a 72-yard drive early in the 4th quarter. However, like the Louisville game, they didn’t get the final yard. Jackson completed passes to Camper, Trey Walker, and Carter to get to the red zone. After a seven-yard run from Turner to the Akron 2, he and Jackson were stonewalled by the Zips defense, creating a 4th-and-goal from the 1. Allen opted to kick, and IU went up 17-10 with 8:05 left.
After forcing a punt, the Hoosiers offense failed to salt the game away with six minutes left. Even a field goal would’ve created a two-score gap, but after another three-and-out, Akron tied the game.
Lorenzo Lingard found a crease off the right side of the line and hit the accelerator. Jamari Sharpe valiantly tried chasing him down, but Lingard had enough in the tank to cross the goal line.
IU showed the exact opposite of resilience, the word the program chose for their theme of the week. Lucas ran in circles for a three-yard kick return and got stuffed on first down. Jackson took a sack on second, and after Lucas clawed back eight yards to get back to the original line of scrimmage, IU punted again, giving Akron the ball with 1:25 left with a chance to win.
Irons, who returned to the game, tallied 35 yards on a run well into IU territory, then he and Lingard set up Dante Jackson for a game-winning 32-yard field goal. He hooked it, pushing the game to OT.
Irons and Lingard continued carving up IU’s run defense to start overtime, with Irons taking it to paydirt to give Akron a 24-17 lead. Easily the best offensive player in the game, Irons finished with 335 total yards, including 141 on the ground with two scores. IU needed a TD to tie.
The Hoosiers got it. Jackson lofted a jump ball to his best receiver, and Camper brought it in to keep IU alive. It was his third career TD and first of the season.
In 2OT, IU and Akron exchanged field goals, resulting in a shootout of two-point conversions to determine the winner. After both teams misfired in 3OT, Jackson hit Carter on a creative play-call from Bell to give IU a two-point lead, and Dunnam’s denial completed the exhausting win.
Indiana will take on Maryland (4-0, 1-0 B1G) on Saturday at 3:30 on BTN. The Terrapins blew out MSU 31-9 in East Lansing on Saturday behind 362 yards of offense and five takeaways. IU is a 14.5-point underdog, per FanDuel Sportsbook.
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