Bloomington, Ind. The hoopla surrounding Indiana's Cream and Crimson game didn't include any fireworks off the field, but there were plenty of them on display in Memorial Stadium Saturday.
Blake Powers completed 7-of-11 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns – included a pair of 75-yard-plus scoring strikes in the fourth quarter – to lead the Cream squad to a 31-27 win in front of approximately 1,500 fans in Bloomington. The day was the 15th and final spring practice session.
Powers' huge numbers were nearly mirrored by Graeme McFarland, last year's No. 2 quarterback who split time with the Cream (which consisted of the No. 1 offense and No. 2 defense) and Crimson (No. 2 offense and No. 1 defense) teams Saturday. McFarland completed 10 of his first 11 passes on the day and finished 11-of-17 for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
Redshirt freshman Kellen Lewis, meanwhile, added 130 yards on 14-of-23 passing, giving the two teams a combined 659 yards and five touchdowns through the air.
"I thought all our quarterbacks made plays at times, which we need them to do," IU Coach Terry Hoeppner said. "We need guys to be able to make plays when the opportunity is there."
While each of the quarterbacks had plenty of highlights, it was Powers' big plays in the fourth quarter that enabled the Cream to overcome a 27-17 deficit. Early in the fourth quarter Powers hooked up with redshirt freshman Andrew Means for a 76-yard touchdown to cut the Crimson's lead to three. After the Crimson's ensuing drive stalled at the Cream's 44-yard line, Powers went to work again, finding James Bailey down the sideline for an 84-yard touchdown that turned out to be the game's decisive play.
Bailey, who also caught a 60-yard touchdown pass from Powers in the first quarter, finished with four catches for a game-high 165 yards and two touchdowns. Jahkeen Gilmore added three catches for 94 yards and a touchdown for the Cream, while junior Lance Bennett (five catches, 86 yards) and redshirt freshman Chris Banks (three catches, 101 yards, one touchdown) had big performances for the Crimson.
"James (Hardy) sat out and he's obviously the go to guy, so we had to have someone step up, and I think Jahkeen and James Bailey played a really nice game," Powers said. "That's what they're both capable of."
Hardy dressed for the game but sat out due to a groin injury and that wasn't considered serious by IU Coach Terry Hoeppner.
"He wasn't full speed," Hoeppner said. "Even though we'd to see him out there, discretion was the better part. James Hardy will have a great summer working with the quarterbacks. If he keeps doing what he's doing, as I told him, ‘big fella, you're going to be illegal if you keep doing what you're doing.'"
Saturday's offensive explosion stood in stark contrast to the spring's first 14 practices when the defense generally got the best of the IU offense. Big plays in the passing game had been sporadic during the last month, but that all came to an end Saturday. The Cream averaged 30.2 yards per completion and 22.6 yards per attempt, and four of the game's five touchdown passes went for 60 yards or more.
Hoeppner admitted he was surprised by the offensive outburst Saturday given the defense's success for most of the spring, but he didn't appear overly upset with the play of the defensive units.
"(IU President) Dr. Herbert wanted to know at halftime who was coaching the corners, and I said it wasn't me," joked Hoeppner. "But just because the guy is a little open, you still have to make that throw and the catch and I thought we did that several times today.
"The defense has been very stingy (this spring). I don't think they played their best, but I think the defense is on track. We've made some structural changes, and I'm optimistic the defense will be much improved from where it was last fall."
One of the reason the quarterbacks had a chance to work the ball downfield was the play of a young and unproven offensive line that has been the team's No. 1 concern for most of the spring. While Powers was "sacked" five times – the Hoosier quarterbacks were whistled down whenever they were touched – the quarterbacks generally had time to find receivers downfield.
"We pass protected," Hoeppner said. "If we do that, we have some players, quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, who can make plays."
That was especially obvious in the passing game on Thursday. While Demetrius McCray (nine carries, 35 yards) and Marcus Thigpen (five carries, seven yards) didn't get much going on the ground with the Cream squad, they have both shown big-play ability and breakaway speed during the spring, which could make the offense even more potent.
"(This can be) a huge play offense," Powers said. "We have the weapons at every position. We just have to keep getting better and keep those linemen doing their job and we'll just be fine."
Rushing: Cream – McCray 9-35, Thigpen 5-7, Miles 1-0, McFarland 1-(-4), Powers 10-(-27). Crimson: Payton 9-51, Burns 4-19, Carrington 5-16, Lewis 7-5, McFarland 2-(-5), Hass 2-(-6).
Passing: Cream-Powers 11-7-0 289, McFarland 5-5-0 73. Crimson:Lewis 23-14-1 130, McFarland 11-6-0 143, Burns 1-1-0 24.
Receiving: Cream-Bailey 4-165, Gilmore 3-94, Thigpen 3-20, Means 1-76, McCray 1-7. Crimson-Bennett 5-86, Carrington 5-24, Banks 3-101, Harangody 2-22, Taylor 2-22, Turner 2-22, Payton 1-16, Burns 1-4.
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