Defense shines in win over FIU

Indiana's defense had a redemptive performance Saturday one week after a disastrous season-opener.

Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said he did a lot of yelling at practice this week. Whether the players listened to him, Wilson said, he didn’t know.

He had every right to yell, and the players no choice but to listen after how the defense fared in the season opener Sept. 5. Based on the results Saturday, it appears they listened to him loud and clear.

After yielding 659 yards of total offense and 47 points in its season opener, Indiana’s defense responded with 20 points off three turnovers – including an interception returned for a touchdown – in the Hoosiers’ 36-22 victory over Florida International Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

"You could see it on the field, we were hyped,” Sudfeld said of the defense. “We were able to put plays behind us, and I think it shows we can be really good once we know what we are doing."

Sudfeld and the Indiana offense had uncharacteristic struggles against Florida International Saturday, especially on their first four drives.

Indiana attempted to convert on fourth down twice on the first drive but was only successful once. On the second attempt, Sudfeld fumbled the football, which was recovered by the Panther defense near midfield.

The second drive, the Hoosiers were forced to punt. The third and fourth drives ended in the redzone with field goals from Griffin Oakes.

Those redzone and offensive sputters ended when senior defensive end Nick Mangieri recovered a fumble inside the Florida International 10-yard line, setting up what would be the first of two rushing touchdowns on the day from Sudfeld.

Mangieri also came up big on the Hoosiers’ 12th offensive drive, forcing a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Marcus Oliver inside the Panthers’ 20. The turnover set up the go-ahead touchdown from Sudfeld to redshirt junior wide receiver Mitchell Paige.

"I think once we saw that we could attack early in the game, it set us up for success later.  We played the game like we knew we could live in the backfield, and for the most part we were able to limit the damage they tried to commit. I think we knew we had good control of the game."

But the biggest play of the game game from freshman Jameel Cook, who returned an interception 96 yards for a touchdown to put the Hoosiers ahead by two touchdowns. Cook’s interception returned was the fourth-longest in program history.

”They played incredible,” Paige said. “We fed big-time off their energy.”

Indiana was also aided by the return of defensive linemen Darius Latham and Ralph Green III, both of whom were suspended for the Hoosiers’ season opener against Southern Illinois.

”I think it gave us more players in the mix,” Wilson said of the players returning. “Last week we couldn’t get the stops in the heat.”

Indiana’s struggled mightily in its season opener, but clearly found redemption in its second game of the season. It’s a performance coaches hope gets cleaned up and then repeated next week.


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