Bloomington, Ind. – The return of head coach Terry Hoeppner and wide receiver James Hardy wasn't nearly enough for the Hoosiers in their Big Ten opener.
Wisconsin rolled up 390 yards of total offense in the first half and opened a 35-0 halftime lead, eventually blowing out Indiana, 52-17 at Memorial Stadium.
Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) out-muscled and out-manned the Hoosiers (2-3, 0-1) from start to finish on both sides of the ball as IU dropped its third straight game at home. The Badgers handed Hoeppner his worst loss in eight seasons as a head coach.
"I'm in shock," said Hoeppner. "After the week of practice we had, I didn't see this coming at all. They out-coached and outplayed us in every aspect of the game."
Hoeppner was pacing the sidelines for the first time since undergoing brain surgery Sept. 13 and was unable to end the Hoosiers' skid. Hardy also returned to the lineup after sitting out two games for unspecified reasons, but made little impact on the game. He finished with just one catch for eight yards.
The loss was Indiana's ninth in the last 11 games. The Hoosiers have now lost seven straight Big Ten games and have given up more than 38 points and 200 yards rushing in each of those losses. Hoeppner is now 1-8 in Big Ten play at Indiana and the Hoosiers have dropped the last six conference openers.
Wisconsin showed balance early behind the arm of senior quarterback John Stocco and the legs of redshirt freshman P.J. Hill. Hill continued his impressive start to the 2006 season, picking up 129 yards on 23 carries after entering the game tenth in the nation averaging 117.2 yards a game. After his three touchdown-performance Hill spent most of the second half resting while freshman Lance Smith got his share of carries, picking up 67 yards on 19 rushes.
Stocco did his part to take the balance out of the stat sheet throwing for 304 yards on 15-of-17 passing. Wisconsin finished the game with 539 total yards including 209 rushing yards.
While Wisconsin's offense put up huge numbers, the IU attack struggled for a second straight week. Redshirt freshman Kellen Lewis got his second start of the season and went 13-of-29 through the air for 113 yards. Lewis also added 31 yards rushing on 11 carries.
If there was an offensive standout for IU it was Josiah Sears who finished with 105 yards on nine carries, marking the first time this season IU has had a 100-yard rusher. Most of those yards, though, came in the fourth quarter after the game had long since been decided.
While Wisconsin entered the game known for its ability to run the ball, it was Stocco's three first-half touchdown passes that spurred UW to its 35-0 lead. The Badgers came out in the third quarter and put the game even further out of reach. Stocco completed a 37-yard pass to Hill, allowing him to pick up his third rushing touchdown of the day on a 1-yard rush.
Wisconsin added a field goal before recovering a Marcus Thigpen fumble on the Indiana 4-yard line. Smith made his way into the end zone on the next play, capping the Wisconsin scoring parade at 52-0.
Indiana avoided Hoeppner's first shutout as a head coach, scoring on a 21-yard Austin Starr field goal in the fourth quarter. The field goal was setup by a 34-yard Sears' fumble recovery when Lewis fumbled, and Sears recovered it and scrambled up the middle of the field into the red zone. It was Indiana's first trip to the red zone in the game.
"The only solace I can draw right now, and I just talked to the team, the challenge at halftime was, ‘See what we're made of. I'm not going to quit, are you?'" said Hoeppner.
"And they didn't. The reality is we played a good football team that played very well today, who executed very well in every aspect."
Indiana's first touchdown came from the special teams unit for the second week in a row. This time it was a Troy Grosfield 15-yard touchdown return after Wisconsin fumbled the kickoff following Indiana's field goal.
Indiana pushed the ball into the end zone with the offense for the first time in seven quarters when Sears broke through the goal line on an 8-yard touchdown rush to end all scoring, 52-17.
"You're not always going to get what you want," said Hoeppner. "We need to learn. Not just observe, but learn some lessons and get a whole lot better, because we've got some things that have got to get fixed. I know we're young, and I know we've got guys playing their first Big Ten game, but this is unacceptable, and we're going to start getting it fixed, starting tomorrow."
The score was Indiana's worst loss since 2003 when Indiana loss 55-7 at Minnesota. Indiana's worst loss to the Badgers was at Wisconsin 59-0 in 1999.
"It's the Big Ten," said Hoeppner. "The deep water with the big fish. We need to start playing better, start coaching better. It starts with the coaching staff and the players have got to start playing better. This becomes a gut check. I can't think of a better word to describe how I feel right now than shock. I cannot believe that we played like this today."
Badgers Embarrass IU, 52-17
Peegs.com Top Stories
Five-star Louis King in no rushLouis King's big offseason is giving him plenty of options and some patience with his recruiting decision.
5-star Keion Brooks updates where IU standsGRAND RAPDIS, Mich. — Five-star 2019 forward Keion Brooks of Fort Wayne, Ind., talks with Peegs.com and updates where Indiana stands in his recruitment.
Marshall makes the call for IndianaGeorgia wideout Miles Marshall has committed to the Indiana football program.
PJP: Lagow by the numbersThe Punt John Punt team of Dan and Billy number crunch IU quarterback Richard Lagow and look at the keys for his success in 2017.