With less than a quarter and half to go in the game, the Indiana defense had shown why it was one of the worst in the league, allowing scoring drive after scoring drive. The offense was providing no help on the other side of the ball, sputtering to get anything going, and the team dug themselves into a 35-13 hole.
But then, just as this team is able to do, it began to make plays. It started with one, spiraled into several, and created a stretch that, over a span of 16 minutes, saw the Hoosiers go from trailing by 22 points to leading by four.
"I don't think we were worried," Cody Latimer commented about the deficit. "Even when we start slow, we end up firing up. We never let it get us down."
The comeback was sparked by the Hoosiers' ability to put points on the board in the second half. With 5:13 remaining in the third, Indiana drove the ball down the field to notch its second touchdown of the game, a 40 yard pass from Nate Sudfeld to Shane Wynn.
"It was a great call by my coach," Wynn said about the play. "He saw I had outside leverage on me, and I just stuck to the corner, crossed his face to the post, and the ball was on me."
The ensuing possession for the Gophers was crucial for the Hoosiers as well, as they were able to force the visitors to punt after allowing Minnesota to drive to the Indiana 35-yard line. It would steamroll into not allowing the visitors to score for over 18 minutes, each drive ending with the Hoosier defense stepping up and making the plays necessary to keep the game within reach.
"It definitely gave us some confidence," Wynn said. "It brought us energy. Feeding off of defense, feeding off of offense, feeding off of special teams; they're just all energy builders."
And build energy they did. Still trailing 35-20 at the start of the fourth quarter, Indiana's first play was another touchdown, this time in the form of a 55-yard rush from Tevin Coleman.
"We changed it up a little, I went out of the pistol and that worked," Coleman said about the effectiveness of the offense in the second half. "It worked a lot for the offensive line to be able to get their blocks and for us to see the holes better."
So the tide kept building. The defense kept getting stops, and the offensive continued to take chunks out of the lead until with 5:33 left in the game, Indiana held its first lead, 39-35.
"I'm very proud of how hard they played," coach Kevin Wilson said. "They battled, they bought in, even when the crowd left. They battled, battled, battled."
"Battle" is the perfect word to describe the action. All year, this team has had the M.O. being able to score at will and not have the defense be able to make plays. This game, the offense was stone cold throughout a majority of the first half, and without the fight the team showed, the 26-point swing would have never came to fruition.
"We just started clicking," quarterback Nate Sudfeld said. "We always had confidence, we just started to gel a bit more. The run game was doing awesome. Stephen [Houston] and Tevin were doing well, the offensive line was making huge holes in there, so that was awesome. I missed a few throws early so I was disappointed, but I knew once I got in a rhythm I could make all the throws I wanted."
In the end, the battle from the team would not be enough, as it faltered on the final drive, producing a game-deciding turnover and sealing the fate the Hoosiers had fought so hard to overcome.
. "I'm not disappointed in my players, I'm disappointed in some of the decisions I made, I'm disappointed for the seniors and the coaches," Sudfeld said. "We are due for some of those wins.''
Follow Will Padgett at Twitter.com/Will_Padgman