Indiana lost its starting running back, then its starting quarterback. It was already without stud defensive tackle Darius Latham.
And yet, the Hoosiers were still right there, within a single score of the top-ranked and defending national champion Buckeyes with a chance to tie or win.
The upset bid ultimately fell short in a 34-27 loss to Ohio State, but Indiana was beyond impressive and showed everyone in the nation that the Hoosiers are for real. Their 4-0 start was no fluke.
The Hoosiers (4-1, 0-1 Big Ten) got the ball back with just under four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, trailing by 7 points. Indiana moved it all the way to the Ohio State 5-yard line with under a minute to go, but failed to get the ball in the end zone. On 4th and goal, the snap was high, Zander Diamont heaved a pass to the left corner of the end zone on the run, but it fell incomplete and the game was over.
"Close," Diamont said afterward. "Frustrating, but close. This team's gonna do big things."
Starting running back Jordan Howard injured his leg in the first half and limped off the field. He returned to the game, but was clearly not the same, and missed most of the second half. Devine Redding took his place, but Indiana's running game never really got going. Redding had 45 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.
As if that wasn't enough, star quarterback Nate Sudfeld left the game in the third quarter with an apparent ankle injury and did not return. Game over, right?
Against all odds, the Hoosiers refused to quit and pushed Ohio State to the brink. Backup quarterback Zander Diamont, who was going to be redshirted this year, replaced Sudfeld and nearly led Indiana to its biggest win in program history.
Indiana fell behind by 10 and then 14 points as Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott put on a second-half show, but both times Diamont led the Hoosiers down for touchdowns. Just when you thought the game was over, it wasn't.
After Elliott went 75 yards for his third TD of the second half to put Ohio State ahead 34-20 with 10:24 left, Diamont kept the ball on an option read and took it in for a 79-yard score. Diamont, who started last season after Sudfeld suffered a shoulder injury, looked like he belonged on the field against one of the nation's top defenses.
In less than a half of football, Diamont threw for 76 yards, caught a pass on a trick play for a first down, and ran for a 79-yard touchdown. This game was crazy, and Diamont's afternoon is one of several examples of just how wild it was.
"I'll take that kid in my corner any day," said tight end Anthony Corsaro.
Elliott, Ohio State's star running back, had 243 yards and three scores in the second half alone. Keep in mind, this was a 10-6 game at halftime. Tell me Elliott has those kind of numbers in the second half, and I'd tell you Ohio State wins in a blowout.
So how'd the Hoosiers stay in it?
SHORT ANSWER: With heart. Lots and lots of heart.
LONG ANSWER: They forced three Ohio State turnovers, two in the red zone, and didn't turn it over themselves. Other than three really long runs to Elliott, the Indiana defense was really, really good. What did I say two weeks ago? Bend, but don't break. The three turnovers gave IU a chance. Just came up short.
This felt, all afternoon long, like it was destined for a dramatic upset finish. I just had a feeling. Had the same feeling the day IU upset No. 1 Kentucky in basketball. Sometimes, things just seem to fall into place, even though they don't make any sense. And a lot of those things did.
Ohio State had a punt downed at the 1-yard line, then dropped it in the end zone for a touchback. Cardale Jones had a wide open receiver in the corner of the end zone, and missed him. Indiana shanked a punt for 14 yards, gave up a huge passing play, then stripped the receiver on the back end in the red zone.
It just felt like it was meant to be, if you believe in such things.
"I told the team, 'We thought we could play, now we know we can,'" Wilson said.
The Indiana players didn't think it was meant to be. They thought it would be. If you want a sign to show you where this football program is at and where it is going, it's that the Hoosiers genuinely thought they were going to beat Ohio State. They don't take moral victories, not anymore.
"We came here to win," Diamont said. "We didn't come out here trying to have a close game. We came out here to win. We thought we were gonna win, we really did.
"I think we can play with any team in the country. I think people around here are strarting to realize, this is a really, really good football team. We've known that for the past few years. We can play with anybody. When we play as a team, we're really good."
Diamont's performance was both gutsy and admirable, but so was the performance of every player on the team. Nobody gave Indiana a chance against Ohio State, and that was before the Hoosiers lost their star quarterback and running back. In front of a national television audience, Indiana reminded people that it does, in fact, have a football program.
"He played his butt off, I love that kid," Corsaro said of Diamont. "That kid's got a lot of heart, man. I don't know if there's another team in the country that has the heart that we have. We might have lost that game, but I've never been more proud to be part of an organization. I'm just really proud to be an Indiana Hoosier today."
I've been skeptical in the past, but it's clear to me now that Kevin Wilson is building something in Bloomington. The heart and effort that his team showed on Saturday should earn IU more fans, and I hope it does. This team is fun to watch and easy to root for.
The football culture at Indiana isn't good. There really isn't a football culture. Students drink and tailgate, and a few stumble into the stadium for a portion of the game. Students make fun of the losing with shirt slogans like "Never lost a party" and it doesn't take long for IU fans to take to social media to ask: How many days until basketball starts?
Wilson has voiced his disgust with those things in the past, and he is making real progress in changing it. You have to win to build the culture, and Wilson understands that.
I liked what I saw on Saturday, but I loved what I heard afterward. This program is in good hands. I believe that now more than ever.
"We thought we were going to win this game, and we weren't even playing our best," Diamont said. "We're not even close yet. We're just excited for what's to come. It's going to be a great year."