Bloomington, Ind. – Indiana opened its 2006 season with a convincing 39-20 win over Western Michigan, but the outcome still left IU Coach Terry Hoeppner wanting more.
IU quarterback Blake Powers threw for 192 yards and a touchdown and the Indiana defense and special teams both produced touchdowns in the Hoosiers' season opener as IU got a much needed win in front of 30,733 against a solid MAC foe.
"A win is a win is a win, and we needed this win," Hoeppner said. "The team needed it, the program needed it."
It was a win, but there were still plenty of areas Hoeppner wants to see improvement.
"We need to run the ball better, we need to throw the ball better, we need to catch the ball better, we need to block better, kick better…a myriad of things I can point to as a coach," Hoeppner said.
While there were areas of concern – most notably some miscues with the kicking game and the inability to consistently move the ball on the ground – the Hoosiers jumped on Western Michigan early and cruised to its 28th win in 33 tries against teams from the Mid-America Conference.
Indiana jumped out in front from the outset. The Hoosiers marched 73 yards on seven plays on the game's opening drive, capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Powers to redshirt freshman Andrew Means. Powers went 3-for-4 on the drive, including a 34-yard strike to James Hardy on a 3rd and 4 that kept the drive alive.
Indiana eventually opened a 20-6 halftime lead, due in large part to the play of the defense. With IU leading 7-3, Hoosier cornerback Chris Phillips stepped in front of a Ryan Cubit pass and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown to give IU a 14-3 lead.
After the teams exchanged turnovers on the next two drives, IU's Will Meyers picked off another Cubit pass midway through the second quarter and returned it 37 yards to the Western Michigan 14. Two plays later, Josiah Sears scored from two yards out to give IU a 20-3 cushion.
Sears, who was one of four tailbacks used by IU against the Broncos, finished with a team-high 35 yards on the ground on eight carries. Overall, the IU ground attack was able to muster only 71 yards on 28 carries.
"I expected (Sears) to have a big role in tonight's game, and he was rumbling out there," Hoeppner said. "We need to build that package, expand it, and use him even more."
Indiana didn't have a great deal of success running the ball, but Western Michigan struggled on the ground as well. The Hoosiers limited the Broncos to 72 yards on 32 carries and WMU mustered only 289 yards of total offense on the afternoon.
Indiana wound up with 11 tackles for loss, five of which came from a pair of players making their first career start. Josh Bailey finished with a team-high 11 tackles and two tackles for loss, while defensive end Brian Faires had three tackles for loss, including a pair of quarterback sacks.
"I though the defense really played well," Hoeppner said.
While it was the defense that came up with a couple of big plays in the second quarter, the special teams turned in its own big play early in the third quarter. Lance Bennett fielded a punt at the IU 14 and handed off to Tracy Porter, who reversed field and raced 86 yards for a punt return score that gave IU a 26-6 lead.
After an Austin Starr field goal pushed the lead to 29-6, Western Michigan answered with its first touchdown on a 17-yard run by Mark Bonds with 2:34 remaining in the third quarter. But IU put the game away for good at the start of the fourth quarter when Graeme McFarland hooked up with Marcus Thigpen for a 30-yard touchdown to pushed the lead back to 23.
McFarland, who completed 4-of-7 passes for 60 yards and the touchdown, was filling in for Powers, who went to the sidelines with an unspecified injury. Afterwards, Hoeppner said x-rays were negative and Powers is expected to be at practice Tuesday.
When the team does return to practice Tuesday, Hoeppner will also be focused on addressing a handful of other problems that surfaced in the opener. Starr, who did convert on both of his field goal attempts, had a pair of extra points blocked, while the Hoosiers also committed eight penalties for 90 yards.
"I really thought we'd come out and execute really well in all phases, and we didn't do that," Hoeppner said. "We are far from a finished product, but the future is bright."
Hoosiers Prevail In Season Opener
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