By the end of September, Indiana fans are usually counting down the days until basketball season. The football program hasn't given them much to cheer about.
This year is different. So far, anyway.
The Hoosiers held on in their first road test of the season with a 31-24 win at Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon, giving Indiana its first 4-0 start since 1990. The Hoosiers are only two wins away from bowl eligibility with eight games remaining.
The win sets up a matchup of unbaeten teams when No. 1 Ohio State visits Bloomington next Saturday.
But the Hoosiers nearly gave their fans a heart attack in the process.
Indiana led 31-10 when Tony Fields returned an interception for a touchdown with 10:22 left in the game, and it looked as if the Hoosiers would cruise to an easy win. But Wake Forest scored back-to-back touchdowns and recovered an onside kick with 2:33 remaining. The Hoosiers were in trouble.
Rashard Fant interfered with a Wake Forest wide receiver on a 4th-and-18 play, giving the Demon Deacons new life. Wake Forest converted another 4th-and-10, but it was called back due to a holding penalty. Kendall Hinton's 4th-and-20 pass fell incomplete, and the Hoosiers were finally safe.
Indiana has featured a fast-paced offense since Kevin Wilson took over in 2011, but the Hoosiers have found success in a more methodical approach of late. They've been able to wear down opposing defenses with big running back Jordan Howard while also keeping their own defense -- the weakness of the team -- off the field more than in the past.
Howard carried it 33 times on Saturday for 168 yards and a touchdown, his eighth consecutive 100-yard game. Howard has 675 rushing yards in his first four games as a Hoosier. To compare, Tevin Coleman had 691 yards in his first four games last season.
Nate Sudfleld completed 19-of-34 passes for 205 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Sophomore wide receiver Simmie Cobbs was his favorite target, especially in the first half. Cobbs caught seven passes for 75 yards and a score. Ricky Jones also had a touchdown catch, his third of the season.
Indiana did not turn the ball over, but did have 11 penalties for 119 yards, an area the Hoosiers need to continue to clean up.
Defensively, linebacker Tegray Scales led the team with nine tackles, including two sacks. The Hoosiers had six sacks in the game.