While many are used to watching Nate Sudfeld throw for a lot of yards and put up a lot of points, sometimes the best strategy is to back off and control the game.
Sudfeld played well and orchestrated excellent scoring drives for the Hoosiers, but it wasn’t his best statistical performance. Sudfeld was 18-for-33 with 252 yards and only one touchdown.
“Today, what was working was me managing the offense,” Sudfeld said. “Handing it off, throwing bubbles, taking a shot here or there. I don’t care if I throw one touchdown or even zero touchdowns, I just care about getting the W.”
Sudfeld was calm and collected all game, which was on display in the final minutes of the game. With 2:20 left to play and Indiana down three and beginning a drive at their own 25-yard line, Sudfeld stepped onto the field with all the confidence in the world.
“We believed we were going to win,” Sudfeld said. “We had great play calling, made some great plays, and we just stayed true to ourselves. We weren’t trying to chuck it down the field every play in a panic, but we did what was working. We had a lot of confidence when we broke the huddle.”
Indiana took the possession slow at first, starting with a 3-yard run from running back Tevin Coleman. That was followed up by a Sudfeld scramble for six yards, leaving Indiana with a 3rd and 1. After a false start and an incomplete pass, Indiana was facing a 4th and 6, with the game on the line.
Sudfeld dropped back and looked toward the true freshman, Dominique Booth, who drew the pass interference on a slant route.
“It was a good look for the play that we had,” Sudfeld said. “The corner was kind of draping on him, so I was going to come off it and find another receiver, but I let him make a competitive play.”
That was followed up screen pass to Tevin Coleman, which he took 44 yards to the Missouri 7, setting up a D’Angelo Roberts 3-yard touchdown run to give the Hoosiers a 31-27 lead, leaving only 22 seconds on the clock and earning the Hoosiers the upset.
“It’s a good win, but we’re really not surprised,” Sudfeld said. “That’s what we feel like we should have been doing a while ago. We feel like we’ve been at that level, but we’re finally believing, finishing these drives, finishing these wins.”
Another positive out of the Saturday’s game was Sudfeld being able to find seams down the middle of the field, an area where the offense had struggled to find open receivers in the previous two contests.
Late in the third quarter, with the game tied at 17-17, Sudfeld was able to find freshman receiver J-Shun Harris between the hashes for the 33-yard touchdown, giving the Hoosiers the momentum going into the final quarter.
“Sometimes the defenses we’re playing will give us the middle of the field,” Sudfeld said. “Bowling Green was giving us flats and outs, but this team we knew was a Tampa-2 based defense was going to give the middle a little more. J-Shun did a great job getting open, just a good play.”
There is still plenty of work to be done for the Hoosiers in the passing game, however. Sudfeld still seemed out of sync with receivers at times, overthrowing Shane Wynn and Nick Stoner on a couple of deep routes, as well as missing on a slant route on a key third down in the first half.
The offense continues to stall on third downs as well. Indiana only converted on 1-of-14 third downs on Saturday, which is something they won’t be able to get away with for the rest of the season.
Head coach Kevin Wilson said after the game that some of that was the result of not being as aggressive on third downs, especially late in the game.
“We did some things that maybe schematically were not, you know, fighting up hill,” Wilson said. “We weren’t going to let them tee off on us. So we ran it, and if we didn’t get it, we were going to punt it deep there in the fourth quarter because I thought we could make a stop.
“So we were playing a little conservative. We were not going to let them get our quarterback rattled. We were going to stay patient, a couple times we came up short, but our plan was to make it a 15 round, four quarter game.”