Hoosiers Come Up Empty Against I-AA SIU

Indiana jumped to a 14-0 lead early but wilted in the second half as the Terry-Hoeppner-less Hoosiers fell to Southern Illinois 35-28 in Bloomington. SIU ran for 244 yards against an IU defense that had given up only 113 total rushing yards in the first two weeks...

Bloomington, Ind. – The Southern Illinois Salukis didn't help Indiana head coach Terry Hoeppner's recovery.

With Hoeppner unable to coach the Hoosiers after undergoing brain surgery Wednesday, assistant head coach Bill Lynch took over the reigns as Indiana fell to a gutsy Division I-AA Southern Illinois, 35-28.

"We didn't have a real rhythm offensively all night," said Lynch. "We have to give them some credit for that. We had our chances. We just didn't play well enough and take advantage of the field position.

"We didn't play well enough as a football team to win the game."

Kellen Lewis got his first start after leading Indiana to a second-half comeback over Ball State 24-23 a week ago and picked up where he left off early. Lewis led the Hoosiers on two touchdown drives in the first quarter.

Lewis finished 20-of-40 for 238 yards, but was unable to lead the Hoosiers to the win. Lewis was pressured consistently all night and was able to rush for just one yard on the night after being sacked twice. After not turning the ball over at all against Ball State, Lewis threw one interception and had a fumble Saturday.

"They had a good scheme and mixed blitzes with coverage well," said Lynch. "They were conscience of (Lewis) and trying to keep him from taking off."

Marcus Thigpen opened up the scoring for Indiana on his third touchdown of the young season, this time on the ground. Thigpen scored via a three-yard run on the Hoosiers opening drive and has now scored in each of Indiana's three games. In the season opener against Western Michigan, Thigpen scored on a 30-yard reception from Graeme McFarland and one week later returned a kickoff 100 yards in Indiana's win over Ball State.

Thigpen's first quarter score made him the first IU player since Duane Gunn in 1981 to score a touchdown on a reception, rush and kick return in the same season. He finished the game with 32 rushing yards on seven carries and two touchdowns.

The Hoosiers cooled off after the fast start and gave Southern Illinois a chance to get into the game in the second quarter, but penalties, dropped passes and a strong effort from the Indiana defensive line kept the Salukis from scoring more than once. Indiana took 14-7 halftime lead into the locker room before losing the momentum in the second half.

"It was obviously a very disappointing game for us," said Lynch. "They withstood the beginning of the game, changed the momentum in the second quarter and really controlled it for the rest of the game. We didn't bounce back in any phase once they took over the momentum."

The Salukis' only first-half touchdown came with 27 seconds to go in the second quarter when junior quarterback Nick Hill hit Braden Jones for a 5-yard touchdown. However, SIU finished the first half with seven penalties for 64 yards, and the Saluki receiving corps did Hill no favors as he finished the first half completing just four of ten passes, but would recover in the second half.

"It was frustrating," said Lewis. "We came out hard in the first quarter. It looked like we were poised to just put them off at the very beginning of the game, but we let them hang around. They win a lot of games in Division I-AA and they're used to winning. If you give a good team a little bit of hope they're going to upset you."

Indiana broke open the second-half scoring when Thigpen found his way into the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the game, this time on a two-yard carry.

The Salukis answered on a 78-yard scoring drive assisted by a 15-yard Indiana penalty and pulled back within seven on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Hill to freshman tight end Ryan Kernes.

Soon afterwards, Indiana gave Southern Illinois a chance to tie the game after Lewis was sacked and fumbled the ball on the Indiana 21-yard line and the Salukis were more than happy to accept the Hoosiers' present.

Hill hit junior wide receiver Alan Turner on an 8-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 21 with 11 seconds left in the third quarter.

Indiana got the ball back to start the fourth quarter but once again was unable to do much of anything. After picking up two first downs, the Hoosiers went for a fourth-and-one on the 49-yard line but a Lewis pass to Thigpen in the flat fell incomplete and the Salukis were once again on the offensive, scoring for the third straight possession.

This time Hill found junior wideout Phil Goforth on a 29-yard touchdown strike, giving SIU a 28-21 lead.

It was the final scoring throw on the afternoon for Hill, who finished 10-of-18 for 142 yards and four touchdowns.

"Coach Hep told us not to make excuses," said Lewis. "We just loss a game we should have won."

Indiana's defense came into the game giving up just 56.5 rushing yards a contest, but let Southern Illinois rack up 244 yards on the ground and 386 total yards. One week after shutting down Ball State's offense in the second half, the Hoosiers let SIU score 28 second half points and pick up 220 second half yards.

Indiana momentarily stopped the bleeding with a 7-play scoring drive that covered 72 yards. The play of the drive came on a Lewis completion to freshman Ray Fisher which originally looked like it would result in a loss of yardage until Fisher reversed field, found blockers and turned the play in a 19-yard gain. Redshirt freshman Demetrius McCray finished the drive on the next play with a 12-yard touchdown run to tie the game again at 28.

SIU quickly regained the momentum and the lead, marching the ball back down the field 80 yards in seven plays. Indiana appeared to have the Salukis on the ropes when Hill hit junior receiver Justin Allen on third-and-11 for a 33-yard completion. Indiana helped the SIU cause with a 15-yard personal foul lining up a 9-yard rushing touchdown by senior running back Arkee Whitlock.

"They are a team that's used to winning," said Lynch. "When you play a football team that is used to winning it doesn't matter who you are. They gain confidence as the game goes on and we never turned it around."

Whitlock was a constant pain for the Hoosiers the entire game before finally breaking into the end zone in the fourth quarter. He rushed for 103 yards on 23 carries in the game.

Lewis led Indiana on another long drive, but the Hoosiers were unable to put the ball into the end zone and a seven-yard sack on Lewis put Indiana out of field goal range. Forced to go for it on fourth down, Lewis was sacked again, this time for a 13-yard loss, giving SIU the ball at the Indiana 48-yard line with just over two minutes left in the game.

The absence of sophomore wide receiver James Hardy may have been felt on the field, but not in the statistics. With Hardy sitting out because of personal reasons, Lewis found seven different receivers. Senior Jahkeen Gilmore, Fisher and Thigpen each caroled four catches while sophomore Brandon Walker-Roby caught three.

Indiana had one more chance to mount a comeback, but with just 1:12 left in the game and starting on their own 3-yard line the Hoosiers fell short as Lewis' could not get the Hoosiers across the 50-yard line.

"It's a football game, but (the team) is awfully disappointed," said Lynch. "They really wanted to win this one. We didn't get it done for Coach Hep. We all feel bad about that."

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