MADISON, Wis. – In its first Big Ten test of the season, Indiana didn't pass.
That's due in large part because it couldn't.
Blake Powers completed just one of his first 10 throws and had a pair of interceptions in the game's first 17 minutes, putting Indiana in an early 24-7 hole that it couldn't recover from. Powers' struggles, coupled with four turnovers and 12 IU penalties, proved to be too much to overcome as Indiana (3-1/0-1) fell to the Badgers, 41-24, in front of 82,330 at Camp Randall Stadium.
"I had some jitters before the game - I'm not going to say I didn't when I did," said Powers. "I have to play better. If we're going to be a successful team in a conference like this, then I have to play better and make a lot of throws that I didn't make today."
While Powers struggled, Wisconsin quarterback John Stocco surprised. It was Badger tailback Brian Calhoun and the UW running game that was supposed to give Indiana fits. Instead, the Badgers relied on the arm of Stocco to hand the Hoosiers their first setback of the 2005 season. Wisconsin, meanwhile, improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten.
Stocco completed 10-of-18 first half throws for 195 yards, and finished with a season-high 274 yards through the air and three touchdowns. Stocco's top target was Brandon Williams, who had all six of his catches for 113 yards in the first half and also added a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter. Wisconsin's other wideout, Jonathan Orr, also had a big afternoon, catching four passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.
"I really thought our pass defense…could cover them up better than we did," said Coach Terry Hoeppner. "We'll have to take a hard look at that because we didn't cover them up very well when they did throw it…that was disappointing. We have to get better at that, there's no doubt."
Certainly some of that had to do with the focus the Hoosier defense had to pay to Calhoun, who finished with 101 yards on 26 carries, including one touchdown. Indiana held Calhoun more than 50 yards below his season average of 157.5, and limited the Badgers to 103 yards rushing overall, more than 130 below their season average of 239.5.
"They're a good team, and you know they're going to take what we give them," said linebacker Kyle Killion, who finished with six tackles. "We put our cornerbacks on an island and (Wisconsin) did a good job (of exploiting that)."
While Wisconsin had its best game through the air on Saturday, Indiana undoubtedly had its worst. Powers was just 6-of-19 in the first half with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. The sophomore did wind up 20-of-41 for 244 yards with three touchdowns, but the two interceptions, a healthy dose of overthrows and a costly third-quarter fumble will make his first career Big Ten start a day that will go down as a learning experience.
"It was our first Big Ten game, and it was for (Powers) as a starter," said Coach Terry Hoeppner. "Not an excuse, but it's also facing reality."
Despite the struggles, Indiana had opportunities. A pair of blown Wisconsin coverages in the first-half resulted in an 83-yard touchdown to James Hardy and a 46-yard scoring strike to James Bailey. That, coupled with a 34-yard field goal by Joe Kleinsmith at the conclusion of the second quarter, had Indiana down 31-17 at halftime.
"We felt we were in it all day, especially at halftime," said James Hardy.
But a couple of great third quarter opportunities were squandered. With Wisconsin leading 34-17 midway through the third quarter, IU cornerback Tracy Porter intercepted a Stocco pass and returned it to the Wisconsin 25. But on the drive's second play, tailback Yamar Washington fumbled at the Wisconsin 15 and Wisconsin's Roderick Rogers recovered. On Indiana's next possession it moved the ball to the Wisconsin 31, but Joe Monty sacked Powers and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Badger lineman Nick Hayden.
"We took the game from ourselves," said James Hardy, who finished with season-highs of seven catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns. "Four turnovers, the punt return (for a touchdown)...there's no way they are 17 points better than us."
Hardy might not think so, but the scoreboard suggested otherwise at the game's conclusion.
"Are they 17 points better than us? I don't know," said Hoeppner. "They were today."
RushingINDIANA-Taylor 10-35, Washington 8-35, Powers 13-34, Thigpen 1-18, Sears 1-3. Totals 33-125. WISCONSIN-Calhoun 26-101, Stanley 7-18, Stocco 5-(-16). Totals 38-103.
Passing-INDIANA-Powers 20-41-2 244. WISCONSIN-Stocco 13-24-2 274.
Receiving-INDIANA-Hardy 7-157, Thigpen 4-27, Washington 4-(-14), Bailey 3-63, Walker-Roby 1-7, O'Neal 1-4. WISCONSIN-Williams 6-113, Orr 4-128, Calhoun 2-23, Pociask 1-10.
Leading TacklesINDIANA-Grosfield 5-3-8, Pannozzo 2-6-8, Porter 7-0-7, Majors 5-2-7, Meyers 5-1-6, Killion 3-3-6, Mitchell 5-0-5. WISCONSIN-Sanders 7-4-11, Zalewski 4-3-7, Bell 5-1-6, Hayden 3-3-6, White 4-1-5, Watkins 1-4-5.
Hoosiers Can't Pass First Big Ten Test
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