Bloomington, Ind. – Terry Hoeppner is only 18 games into his IU coaching career, but his team produced arguably its most improbable – and important - win in the last 19 years of the program on Saturday.
Kellen Lewis and James Hardy hooked up for three touchdowns and safety Will Meyers came up with a diving one-handed interception in the closing minutes to help Indiana to a 31-28 over No. 15 Iowa.
"We were put to the test today," said Hoeppner. "All the credit to Coach (Kirk) Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes. It's special for the team and special for the program because Iowa is ranked for a reason - they are obviously a very good football team. Why not us?"
Hoeppner beat the Hawkeyes (5-2/2-2) for the first time in his coaching career and the Hoosiers (4-3/2-1) have now won two Big Ten games for the first time in four seasons. Hoeppner had lost to Hawkeye Coach Kirk Ferentz and Iowa each of the four times he faced them while coaching at Miami of Ohio and the Hoosiers had not beaten Iowa since 2000.
The win was also Indiana's first win over a top-15 opponent since beating then-No. 9 Ohio State in 1987 in Columbus, 31-10.
"Obviously, this is a very satisfying win for our football team and our football program," said Hoeppner. "I know technically it's considered an upset, but in my mind I felt very confident. I know what kind of people (our players) are and I know what kind of coaching staff we have."
Iowa entered the game with a 5-1 record with the lone blemish coming against the top team in the nation, Ohio State. However, the Hoosiers caught Iowa napping in the secondary as Lewis threw for a career-high 255 yards and three touchdowns, all to Hardy.
Lewis was 19-of-25 in the game with no interceptions and also ran for 13 yards and one touchdown. Hardy's three touchdowns were also a career-high after he posted two touchdowns on three different occasions last season, against Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State. He became the first Hoosier to catch three touchdown passes in a game since 1983 (Duane Gunn).
"This game is going to give us a lot of confidence," said Lewis, who hasn't thrown an interception in the last two weeks. "Knowing that we can beat a giant like that in the Big Ten. Iowa year in and year out is one of the top three teams in the Big Ten. To beat them gives you confidence heading into a game against Ohio State."
Hardy finished with eight catches for 104 yards, his best production in nine games since catching eight passes against Michigan State last season. Hardy grabbed his sixth-career 100-yard game and his second in two games against Iowa. In his career, Hardy has 20 catches for 307 yards and four touchdowns in two games against the Hawkeyes.
"When you lose you start to put your head down," said Hardy. "We can go back and look at the film from this one and see what we can do right.
"Coach Hep has been preaching to us the last few weeks that we need to do everything together. If we don't let each other put our heads down then it's going to carry on. We have to keep fighting."
Senior safety Will Meyers sealed the win his interception late in the fourth quarter. Iowa quarterback Drew Tate overthrew his intended target and Meyers made a diving play to catch the ball. The defensive play came just moments after Meyers was flagged for a late hit along the sidelines that appeared to have the Hawkeyes poised to go in for a game-tying field goal or potentially a game-winning touchdown.
It was Tate's only mistake in the game after throwing 23-of-40 for 292 yards and one touchdown. Ferentz challenged the play, but lost his last timeout when the call on the field was confirmed.
With no timeouts remaining, Iowa was unable to stop Indiana from running out the game clock.
"There wasn't too much emotion going through my head at the time," said Meyers. "Really all I was thinking was to stop them, make them kick a field goal and hopefully they would miss.
"You see a tipped ball come up like that and your eyes kind of get big. I just tried to make a play on it. I was confident I caught the ball so I wasn't too worried about the review."
Iowa jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter. After a Josiah Sears fumble gave Iowa a short field to work with, Iowa marched 39 yards for a Damian Sims 1-yard touchdown run.
Indiana tied the game on the next drive when Lewis found Hardy for his first of three touchdowns - this time on a 16-yard pass into zone coverage that saw three defenders flanking Hardy.
The Hoosier defense held Iowa to a field goal attempt on their next drive, but Kyle Schlicher missed his second attempt of the first quarter. Indiana had the ball for just one play before Lewis was sacked and fumbled, giving Iowa the ball on the Indiana 12-yard line. The Hawkeyes needed just three plays for Tate to find Scott Chandler on a 19-yard touchdown pass.
Tate and company appeared to have control of the game when they took a 14-point lead on an Herb Grigsby 25-yard touchdown run, 21-7. However, Lewis led the Hoosiers on two more scoring drives before halftime. Lewis scored on a 2-yard rush and Austin Starr hit a career-long 46-yard field goal to make the score 21-17 at the half.
Iowa had another chance to make the game a two-possession affair in the third quarter. Tate led the Hawkeyes on an 11-play, 87-yard drive before Sims was hit by Austin Thomas and fumbled. Josh Bailey recovered the ball for his first career fumble recovery and the Indiana offense marched 88 yards the other way for a go-ahead touchdown. This time Lewis found Hardy for a 23-yard strike in the back of the end zone.
The Hawkeyes battled back on the very next possession with a 77-yard drive capped off by a Sims 1-yard rush. However, Lewis would not be outdone as he led the Hoosiers on what would be the final scoring drive of the game. Lewis found Hardy for his third touchdown pass of the game. This time on a 20-yard game-winning throw.
"I knew we had it in us to put this kind of game together, this kind of performance on both sides of the ball," said Hoeppner. "And yet we are still far, far from where we can be. We can build on this very, very satisfying win."
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