Hoosiers roll Sycamores on emotional night

The IU football team took their first step towards fulfilling the wish of their fallen head coach by manhandling visiting Indiana State 55-7 Saturday night. Sophomore quarterback Kellen Lewis passed for 285 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to his main target James Hardy. The duo combined for 497 yards of total offense Saturday night.

The IU football team took their first step towards fulfilling the wish of their fallen head coach by manhandling visiting Indiana State 55-7 Saturday night. Sophomore quarterback Kellen Lewis passed for 285 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to his main target James Hardy. It was a physically overwhelming performance from the 6-foot-7 junior receiver, who caught a career-long 79-yard touchdown completion and had a 58-yard score.

"They are pretty good players," said Coach Bill Lynch of his two biggest playmakers. "Early on we were a little tight…so when you have some really talented guys that can make some plays and kind of pick you up it helps and I think that's what it was."

But it wasn't just a banner night for the offense. The IU defense forced three turnovers and held the Sycamores to just seven points for the game. It was an impressive performance for the Hoosiers on what was a special night for all involved.

"It was an emotional period of time leading up to the game and obviously the tribute was very well done, but these kids worked hard and they have endured a lot," said Bill Lynch, who notched his first career win as the Hoosier Head Coach. "But we kind of sensed all week that these kids we're ready to play. We're really happy for them."

If the Hoosiers are going to "Play 13" this season, as former Coach Terry Hoeppner desperately wanted them to do, then they are going to have handle business during their four game non-conference slate. Saturday night they did just that.

Despite an emotional pre-game ceremony to honor Hoeppner that left several players and coaches red-eyed, the Hoosiers focused on the task at hand once they took the field. They jumped on the Sycamores early and kept their foot on their proverbial throat throughout. The end result was the Hoosiers largest margin of victory since a 1990 42-0 win over Northwestern. IU's 55 points on the night marked their most prolific scoring night since 2001.

"We came out in the second half knowing we could run the ball and that's what we did," said senior Josiah Sears, who was part of a rushing attack that tallied 217 yards on the night. "We couldn't let it up. We kept coming."

While the competition IU faced from their I-AA opponent wasn't stellar, the Hoosiers knew this game wouldn't be easy. After losing Head Coach Randy Walker in the 2006 off-season, the Northwestern Wildcats lost their heavy-hearted home opener 34-17 to Division I-AA New Hampshire. The Hoosiers made sure they didn't suffer the same fate on an equally emotional night.

"When we went back in (to the lockerroom) after the tribute we all talked about staying in the moment and that we got to do our job now and that is to play football," said Lynch.

The Hoosiers opened the scoring with 9:08 left in the first quarter when Lewis hit running back Marcus Thigpen, who used his blockers downfield to scamper for a 22-yard score. Less than two minutes later it was Lewis again finding Hardy for a 58-yard scoring bomb. The Sycamores recovered their own quarterback's fumble in the endzone to close the first quarter scoring, but wouldn't see the endzone again on the night.

"Once we relaxed and started playing the defense totally set the tempo from that point on," Lynch said. "They really played well and played hard and flew around. That's a pretty good offensive team that gives you a lot of different looks and do different things so I thought the defense set the tempo."

Meanwhile, the Hoosier offense continued to pile it on. Lewis was electric, passing for big gains and breaking off elusive runs seemingly at will. He finished the night with 344 yards of total offense in just under three quarters of action. It was certainly a promising start for Lewis and the Hoosier offense and the defense and special teams couldn't complain either. Now it's on to next week and a road game at Western Michigan where the quest to "Play 13" will continue.

"Our whole focus and has been since fall camp and you can walk around our complex and our lockerroom and see signs that say ‘One at a Time'," said Lynch. "We have really tried to stay on that theme in that we have got to take everything one day a time, one practice at a time, one game at a time. Everybody else is going to talk about the big picture and what the ultimate goal is what Hep wanted, but I think it's real important that we don't get ahead of ourselves. I don't think we are that kind of football team."

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