The junior ran wild for a career-high 247 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns in Indiana’s season-opening 28-10 victory over Indiana State. While he didn’t come close to Thompson’s single-game rushing record of 377 yards, Coleman’s total was good for fifth all-time at IU, surpassing Alex Smith’s 245 yard game against Purdue in 1994.
Coleman is the one with the stats to his name, but the astronomical numbers were due in large part to an experienced and talented offensive line.
“It was just the O-line, I was following behind them,” Coleman said. “We all just have trust in each other. I was just hitting the holes with velocity.”
His teammates enjoy blocking for him, too.
“They love running the ball and we love blocking for them,” said OL Dan Feeney, who returned after missing last season due to a foot injury. “Whatever they’re doing, they’ve just got to keep doing it.”
Coleman’s impact was felt early, as IU’s first drive featured nine plays, all rushes, including five attempts for 38 yards for the 2013 honorable mention All-Big Ten back. The Tinley Park, Ill. native capped off the first drive with a powerful 13-yard touchdown run, but it was the second TD run that really turned heads.
With 3:06 left in the second quarter, the running back exploded through a gap on the left side of the line and took it 73 yards to the end zone, the second longest run of his career. Last year, Coleman had eight runs of 40 yards or more which was tied for first in the nation.
Coleman often talks about velocity, and the 6-1, 210-pound junior showed velocity multiple times, hitting holes hard and extending plays. Last year, Coleman ran for 169 yards versus the Sycamores, but this year the running backs took it to a whole new level. As a team, the Hoosiers outpaced the Sycamores 455 yards to 30 on the ground.
The four IU running backs accounted for 423 of those yards.
Through three quarters, Coleman had already surpassed the 200-yard plateau, but it was his efforts in the fourth quarter that wrapped up Indiana’s third straight season-opening victory over the Sycamores.
After recording no carries in the first eight minutes of the final quarter, Coleman spearheaded a nine play, 83-yard drive that put the game away. On that drive, Coleman had the first three carries totaling 46 yards, which would put him over his own personal best of 215 yards that was set versus Illinois last year.
“Just feed him the ball, the linemen opened gaps for him,” freshman WR Simmie Cobbs said. “He just did whatever he could. You need more than one body to take him down. It was awesome to watch him for the first game as well.”
It was the fifth time Coleman has surpassed the 100-yard mark and the fourth time he finished with two touchdowns. Coleman’s 10.7 yards per carry represented right where he left off a year ago before missing the final three games due to an ankle injury.
Despite missing those three games, he still finished with 958 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. With his performance Saturday, he now has rushed for 1,205 yards in his last 10 games, including a touchdown in each game.
“Tevin’s a beast, dog,” senior RB D’Angelo Roberts said. “That’s my little brother. He had a great game, fast guy. Happy for him.”
Roberts had a career game in his own right. The senior carried 24 times for 129 yards and plunged into the end zone for his first rushing touchdown since 2012.
“Unbelievable,” said junior quarterback Nate Sudfeld of Coleman’s day. “He’s unreal. I said last year when I see him break through the middle and guys are running angles at him I just point in the air because he’s gone.”
IU coach Kevin Wilson was complimentary of Coleman and the offensive line, but was quick to point out IU’s tight ends as crucial blockers.
“You’ve got to give credit to (Jordan) Fuchs and Michael Cooper, because so many times they’re back side and reach blocking,” Wilson said. “That is the guy that pops those runs for Tevin. Instead of two or three yards, it goes six, eight, ten.”
Wilson said the performance by the backs Saturday was something for former IU coach Bill Mallory and Thompson to be proud of.
“A year ago, we wore the Block I, representing a great era and a great coach, and we didn’t get it done,'' Wilson said. "If we’re going to wear the Block I and A.T. 32 on the back, it represents a group of guys that really played hard.”
Thompson was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1989 and ran for 5,299 yards and 67 touchdowns in his career. He now works as IU’s associate athletic director for engagement, sports performance and sports medicine and was honored with a video presentation before the game.
“He’s a good guy and a good running back,” said Coleman of Thompson. “I just wanted to show him we have a good running back here. I just do my thing out there.”
With the eye-popping stats and staggering physical ability, naturally Coleman fielded questions about his NFL prospects. However, after just one game, he was close to the vest about his thoughts on the next level.
“I’m not focusing on that right now, I’m just trying to play my game and focus on this season,” Coleman said. “We can talk about that down the line after the season.”
Follow Sam Rumpza on Twitter.com/samrumpza