The last time sophomore Zander Diamont played quarterback for the Hoosiers in a nationally-televised game, he passed for just 11 total yards against Michigan State in Indiana’s homecoming game.
In other words, it was a nightmare. But this time, on ABC's national telvision broadcast, it would be different.
Saturday’s game against defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Ohio State was more like a dream, as Diamont had 174 total yards of individual offense as Nate Sudfeld’s replacement in Indiana’s 34-27 loss to the Buckeyes Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
“(Diamont) is a competitor,” Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said. “He’s got a lot heart, teammates rally with him, and he’s better than he was a year ago.”
When Sudfeld went down with an ankle injury re-aggravated from last week – an injury which Wilson classified as a sprain and a “minor deal” – in the third quarter with 7:09 remaining, he went with the sophomore Diamont.
Diamont completed 6-of-14 passes for 76 yards, but made his biggest impact on the ground as he a team-high 98 rushing yards on seven carries.
His 79-yard touchdown run - the longest rush by a Hoosier since Tevin Coleman's 90-yard gallop against Ohio State last year - on a keeper play pulled Indiana within a touchdown of Ohio State late in the fourth quarter. Then he nearly led the Hoosiers on a game-winning drive, but a botched snap resulted in a chaotic final play which ended with an incompletion.
Last year's passing yardage total was just two yards more than the distance between the Indiana line of scrimmage and the endzone on that final drive.
Among the biggest differences between both situations was Diamont’s preparation. Whereas last season Diamont wasn’t sure if he would play or redshirt before the game against the Spartans, this year he trains like he’s going to play.
“I treated it like a usual week, but I am always preparing like I am going to see the field,” he said. “Especially because, like I said, coming out of my experiences from last year, I know not to take any week for granted. I cannot take days off.”
Teammates have noticed a difference as well, including senior tight end Anthony Corsaro.
“Nate sets the standard in that room and for the whole offense for how you’ve got to get ready to play a football game, and I think Zander’s kind of taken some notes from him and just prepared himself a little bit better," Corsaro said.
Wilson wouldn’t specifically say whether Sudfeld would play next week at Penn State. But even if Sudfeld were to play, would Diamont still get some playing time after Saturday’s performance?
“It’s difficult,” Wilson said. “When a guy’s in rhythm – we’ve tried to make quarterbacks happy, and you can’t. (You) to play to strengths.”
The fight and poise displayed by Diamont despite the deficits the Hoosiers faced resonated with his teammates Saturday night after the game.
“Played his butt off, man,” Corsaro said. “I mean, I love that kid. That kid’s got a lot of heart.
“We didn’t play well enough to win, but I’ll take that kid in my corner any day of the week.”