BLOOMINGTON-The second half of Saturday's game – much like the second half of IU's football season – didn't go as planned.
After going into the locker room with momentum and a 14-7 lead over Minnesota, Indiana self-destructed in the third quarter. The offense stalled, the defense succumbed, and the team was outscored 27-0 in the period and eventually dropped a 42-21 decision to the Gophers (6-3/3-3) in front of 30,656 at Memorial Stadium.
"The second half, obviously, the attitude pendulum swung their way," said IU Coach Terry Hoeppner. "They came out with a renewed effort, they played hard, and you saw they're one of the best offenses in the country."
The Gophers' win ended their seven-game losing streak in Bloomington, dating back to 1985 when Lou Holtz was the Gophers' coach. The loss for Indiana, meanwhile, was its fourth in a row, dropping Coach Terry Hoeppner's team to 4-5 overall, 1-5 in the Big Ten, and within one game of having its bowl dreams dashed.
"Our backs are against the wall, literally," said Hoeppner. "We have zero margin for error, and the road only gets tougher."
A pair of second-quarter touchdowns had given Indiana momentum going into the half, but Minnesota quickly recaptured it in the third quarter. Minnesota out-gained Indiana 213-39 in the third period, scoring on each of its four third-quarter drives. Indiana, meanwhile, went three-and-out on three of its first four drives to open the second half, and threw an interception on the second play of its other drive to give the Gophers the ball at the Indiana 31.
Minnesota's offense was quick to capitalize on the turnover as well as its good field position. Gary Russell ran for 98 of his game-high 188 yards in the third quarter, including a pair of touchdowns, while Gopher quarterback Bryan Cupito was 4-for-4 for 67 yards and a touchdown in the period. Cupito finished 16-of-26 for 225 yards and one touchdown.
Indiana's defense, which entered the game already missing starting middle linebacker John Pannozzo and strong safety Aaron Mitchell, suffered another big blow early on. Nose tackle Russ Richardson left the game with a knee injury less than a minute into the fourth quarter and didn't return.
With Richardson, Pannozzo and Mitchell watching from the sidelines, Hoeppner witnessed his defense give up a season-high 572 yards and 27 first downs. Those totals included a staggering 347 yards on the ground for a Minnesota offense that entered the game ranked No. 1 nationally in rushing offense and No. 6 in total offense.
Indiana's offense, meanwhile, wasn't able to keep pace. Blake Powers completed 26-of-43 passes for 253 yards and Chris Taylor ran for 82 yards and two scores, but some first-half drops by IU's wideouts and the offense's third-quarter ineptitude was too much to overcome.
Noticeably absent from Indiana's offensive arsenal was James Hardy, who caught just one ball for seven yards. That one catch came on a first-quarter deflection, a ball that went off the hands of Jahkeen Gilmore, then off the chest of Gopher linebacker John Pawielski and into Hardy's hands. Hardy wound up leaving the game in the third quarter and didn't return as well.
"We had a couple of tough injuries today – I'm not sure of the status yet," said Hoeppner. "Russ got hurt early and wasn't able to come back, and James Hardy got hurt in the third quarter and I'm not sure of the status of either one right now."
Hardy continues to deal with a handful of nagging injuries, including a bruised quad, a sore knee and a strained Achilles, and for just the second time this season, he was a non-factor for the Hoosier offense.
For the game's first 30 minutes, it appeared Indiana might bring an end to its three-game losing streak and move within one win of bowl eligibility. After falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter and getting dominated statistically, Indiana battled back to two unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter to take the lead at halftime, 14-7.
Chris Taylor capped a seven-play, 56-yard touchdown drive with a five-yard run to tie the game at 7-7, and Blake Powers scored on a one-yard plunge with just under two minutes remaining in the half to give Indiana its first lead, 14-7.
It appeared that lead would be short lived. Aided by a late hit penalty along the sidelines by Troy Grosfield and a pass interference call in the end zone on Tracy Porter, Minnesota moved the ball to the Indiana 2 with five seconds remaining. But on the ensuing play, Gopher quarterback Bryan Cupito's pass to a diving Gary Russell was ruled incomplete in the end zone as time expired.
Hoeppner, who had felt short-changed on a couple of officials' calls earlier in the game, directed his team off the field and sprinted into the IU locker room, seemingly seizing the game's momentum. But Minnesota regained it from the second half's opening drive, when it forced Indiana into a three-and-out.
"We weren't defensive at halftime," said Hoeppner. "We didn't say we need to protect this lead. We said we have to come out with that same attitude for 30 minutes and play hard and play tougher. They did it and we didn't."
INDIANA-C. Taylor 19-82, Y. Washington 8-21, Powers 7-11, Thigpen 3-5. Totals 37-112. MINNESOTA-G. Russell 28-188, L. Maroney 15-85, A. Pinnix 2-48, J. Wallace 2-14, L. Payne 1-11, J. Valentine 1-1. Totals 49-347.
INDIANA-B. Powers 43-26-1 253. MINNESOTA-B. Cupito 26-16-0 225.
INDIANA-J. Gilmore 6-39, M. Thigpen 5-86, Y. Washington 4-16, B. Walker-Roby 3-24, J. Bailey 2-51, R. Kkleinschmidt 2-9, M. O'Neal 1-11, C. Rudanovic 1-10, Hardy 1-7, Taylor 1-0. MINNESOTA-M. Spaeth 4-66, J. Wallace 3-52, E. Wheelwright 3-29, G. Russell 2-18, L. Payne 2-16, M. Rucker 1-36, L. Maroney 1-8.
Third Quarter Collapse Does In Hoosiers
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