Bloomington, Ind. – A steady rain and falling temperatures kept all but the most devout IU football fans away, but there was no shortage of drama in the Hoosiers' annual Cream and Crimson game Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
The contest – which capped IU's spring practice season - featured 565 passing yards, a handful of successful trick plays and even a short fight between Kellen Lewis and Geno Johnson. It was also a game that wasn't decided until a last-second two-point conversion attempt failed, enabling the Cream to knock off the Crimson 27-26.
The Crimson squad – which included the No. 2 offense and the No. 1 defense - overcame a 27-14 halftime deficit and had a chance to win in the closing seconds. Second-string quarterback Ben Chappell hooked up with Terrance Turner for a 79-yard score with 4:05 remaining to cut the lead to seven, 27-20. The Crimson then forced the Cream to punt on its next possession, giving Chappell and the Crimson one final chance with 1:49 remaining.
Chappell responded, guiding the Crimson on an eight-play, 90-yard scoring drive. Chappell's top target on the drive was Nick Polk, who caught three passes for 67 yards on the series, including a 34-yarder where he broke free and raced into the end zone to cut the lead to 27-26.
But the Crimson was unable to convert on a potential game-winning two-point conversion. After Chris Phillips was flagged for pass interference on Chappell's attempted fade to Terrance Turner, Chappell's subsequent attempt to Polk sailed high, and the Cream escaped with the one-point win.
"He threw it up there, and I should have made the play and didn't," Polk said.
Despite the outcome, it was still a big day for Chappell, Polk and just about everyone involved with the IU passing attack. Chappell finished 16-of-26 for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Polk caught six passes for 113 yards and a score. Polk – who also started at free safety for the No. 1 defense - also had a 29-yard touchdown pass to Turner in the first half, to go along with five tackles in the secondary.
Saturday marked the first time Polk had played offense in nearly two weeks after the staff moved him to free safety.
"He's a very, very good football player," IU Assistant Head Coach Bill Lynch said. "That's why we made the move (to defense). He gives us something defensively, but there's that ability that he can (go both ways)."
The Cream squad dominated early in jumping out to the 13-point halftime lead, and it did so behind the play of quarterback Kellen Lewis. Lewis threw for 242 of his 259 yards in the opening half, leading the Cream to four touchdowns in its first six possessions.
Lewis hooked up on a 46-yard touchdown pass to James Hardy to put the Cream on the board midway through the first quarter, and then connected with Ray Fisher on a short route, which Fisher turned into a 67-yard score.
Lewis finished the day 13-of-26 for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Fisher (six catches, 109 yards, one touchdown) and Hardy (five catches, 107 yards, two touchdowns) also had big days with the No. 1 offense. Add in Polk (113 yards) and the day's top pass catcher, Terrance Turner (seven catches, 157 yards, two scores) on the Crimson squad, and the Hoosiers were explosive offensively despite the weather conditions.
"We've got some guys that can make some plays and they made them," Lynch said. "If you get the ball in the hands of some of those players enough, they're pretty good football players."
Those players made those plays Saturday, although only a couple of hundred IU fans were in the stands to witness it. Another person who remained absent was IU head coach Terry Hoeppner, who is still on a leave from the team. Lynch said he plans to see Hoeppner Monday to talk about the game as well as the spring practice season as a whole.
"He's stayed up on it. We've taken it out after every practice," Lynch said.
Lewis, Cream Hang On in Spring Game, 27-26
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