Bloomington, Ind. – With the rain and wind doing its part to keep the Indiana passing game in check, the Connecticut Huskies took care of grounding the IU rushing attack.
Indiana (2-2) gained zero yards on the ground and just 192 yards of total offense as the Hoosiers lost their second consecutive game at home, falling 14-7 to a hard-nosed Connecticut (2-1) squad.
"We expected it to be a pretty physical hard-nosed football game," said interim head coach Bill Lynch. "Going into the weather conditions, we figured the field position would be important and that it would be a windy day. I thought our defense just did a tremendous job making it that kind of game."
The Hoosier defense did its part in limiting the UConn attack that came into the game ranked No. 4 in the nation in rushing with 272.5 yards a contest. Indiana did allow 257 yards on the ground, but nearly 100 of those yards came on two big runs for the Huskies. Indiana did not allow a Husky first down until three and a half minutes into the second quarter and kept UConn to just 27 passing yards.
However the stingy defense could not make up for the lack of offense as Indiana's only score came off a Marcus Thipgen kickoff return and Connecticut got one touchdown from each side of the ball.
In a contest that featured 10 three-and-outs in the first quarter alone, Indiana out-gained the Huskies in the first quarter with just 25 total yards. Connecticut picked up just 18 yards, but still finished the period with a 7-0 lead.
The only score of the opening half came on a 39-yard interception return by junior linebacker Danny Lansanah. The interception came off Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis, who came into the game on the third drive to replace starting quarterback Blake Powers.
Lewis and Powers took turns running the offense all afternoon, but neither had a great deal of success. Powers went 14-of-30 for 128 yards and one interception while Lewis was 6-of-13 for 64 with two picks.
"Offensively, we knew it was going to be a tough struggle," said Lynch. "They are a very, very good defensive football team. We didn't play well enough. We didn't make enough plays and didn't score enough points. But I do think that as a football team we can grow from this one. I saw some guys that really prepared really hard this week and put a lot into it. It's a disappointed group right now."
The second quarter got even uglier for both teams. In a comical series of events the teams combined for three turnovers in three consecutive series to open the quarter, starting with D.J. Hernandez's second interception of the game to Indiana corner Tracy Porter. Indiana gave the ball back on the very next play when Powers came back into the lineup to throw an interception to UConn safety M.J. Estep who returned the ball 17 yards to the Indiana 21-yard line.
Two plays later, Hernandez gave the ball back on a naked bootleg when he let go of the ball while falling out of bounds. The ball rolled into the end zone and the Hoosiers recovered to keep UConn from putting any more points on the board.
The 16-yard run by Hernandez was the Huskies' first first down of the game, and they would finish the first half with just four first downs, two more than Indiana.
The highlight of the second quarter for the Hoosiers came on a 71-yard punt by senior Tyson Beattie that pinned the Huskies on the UConn 1-yard line by Porter, but a 57-yard run by senior Terry Caulley two plays later seemed to get the wheels turning for Connecticut.
Caulley continued his strong season on the ground, this time picking up 152 rushing yards on the afternoon. It was the second time this season Caulley went over the century mark and the 12th time of his career.
After the UConn drive stalled, Porter came up with his third big play of the game for Indiana. This time, Porter blocked a UConn field goal that would have put Indiana in a 10-0 hole. Indiana instead went into the half trailing by just seven even after picking up just 42 total yards, including one rushing yard. The Huskies did not fair to well either, picking up just 169 first half yards, including 12 through the air.
Connecticut opened up the scoring on a 54-yard drive to start the third quarter to take a 14-0. Sophomore running back Lou Allen scored on a 35-yard run up the left side after breaking a Greg Brown tackle.
But Indiana finally got on the board on the ensuing kickoff when Marcus Thigpen returned his second kickoff for a touchdown this season, this time for 87 yards. Thigpen came into the game leading the nation in yards per return with 44.0 and is the first Indiana Hoosier to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season. The touchdown was also his fifth of the season in just the fourth game.
Thigpen left the game averaging 52.6 yards a return.
From there on the second half resembled the first as neither team could get enough momentum to make another trip into the end zone. Connecticut could not take advantage of two Indiana turnovers in the third quarter and the Hoosiers could not get anything going in the running game.
Indiana finished the game with just 192 total yards, marking the fewest yards the Hoosiers have gained in one game since picking up only 137 yards against Ohio State on Oct. 22, 2005. Indiana managed zero trips into the red zone, and the Hoosiers were able to move the ball into UConn territory on only three of 16 possessions.
Indiana had one more chance to tie the game with less than a minute to go in regulation. On first down from the Indiana 20-yard line, Powers hit Thigpen for a 16-yard gain and three plays later Powers hit Andrew Means across the middle for 18 yards. But without no timeouts remaining and throwing into the wind, Powers could not lead the Hoosiers into the end zone and the drive stalled on a fourth down and six when Powers was tackled two yards short of the first down.
"I think we really gained something today, and obviously we are very disappointed," said Lynch. "You only get to play once a week, and you don't want any opportunity to get away, but I think we grew in terns of how we prepared and how we played and how much it meant to us.
"That's what you've got to have when you go into the Big Ten season, because Big Ten football is a physical, hard league that you have to really prepare and be ready to play that kind of game."
Hoosiers Stymied By Huskies, 14-7
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