Bloomington, Ind. - Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis' mother, Saprina, was a track and field star during her college days. Saturday at Memorial Stadium her son must have made her proud as she watched him sprint for a career-high 199 rushing yards, almost single-handedly willing Indiana to a 41-24 victory over visiting Akron.
Whether he was evading tacklers in the backfield, blasting through the middle of the defense, or making a tough throw on the run, it was clearly the Kellen Lewis Show Saturday at Memorial Stadium. He finished the game with three passing touchdowns and two rushing scores in what was clearly a marquee performance. His 199 rushing yards were the most by a Hoosier since Levron Williams galloped for 251 yards in 2001.
"Obviously, Kellen was kind of a difference-maker," Head Coach Bill Lynch understated after the game. "He really does put pressure on a defense. I don't know how many first downs he got when he just pulled it down and ran past the sticks."
The win moved the Hoosiers to 3-0 on the season as they enter Big Ten play next week. It's the Hoosiers first 3-0 start since late Coach Terry Hoeppner won his first three games in 2005.
The IU players seem bouyed with confidence after the game. They know that running the table during the early non-conference schedule was pivotal in their quest to honor their fallen coach and "Play 13".
"This was big for us to win," said freshman Mitchell Evans. "We needed this confidence going into the Big Ten season and to face Illinois next week with our goal still ahead of us."
Of course, the victory almost certainly wouldn't have been possible without the amazing performance from Lewis, who made defenders look like statues on Saturday. The redshirt sophomore quarterback that almost no Division-I team wanted as their quarterback just two years ago, once again showed why he is one of the nation's brightest young signal-callers. Lewis was responsible for 336 yards of total offense on the afternoon and fell just 12 yards short of breaking Antwaan Randle El's school record for rushing yards by a quarterback.
"I didn't know I had that many rushing yards until after the game," said Lewis.
"I had no idea. I also didn't know I was that close to 200. If I had known I was that close then instead of taking a knee at the end I might have quarterback sneaked the last play."
While Lewis' efforts made sure the Hoosiers cruised to a comfortable victory, the game certainly wasn't without its tense moments. After taking a quick 10-0 lead in the first quarter, the Zips staged a quick rally. Sophomore dual-threat quarterback Carlton Jackson came into the game to replace starter Chris Jacquemain and gave the Hoosier defense fits right away. Jackson orchestrated two consecutive touchdown drives that along with a Zip field goal gave the visitors a surprising 17-10 lead.
"I thought their quarterback was pretty good," said Lynch of Jackson, who finished with 71 rushing yards and 200 passing. "He was slippery and made us miss some and we hadn't seen a whole lot of him on tape. He was a difference in the second quarter.
"We got hit in the mouth there in the second quarter and just kind of took it. I really felt like halftime came at the right time, because they kind of had us on our heels and we really needed to regroup."
It would be the Hoosier defense that would lead the charge in the second half. After allowing 220 yards of offense and three scores in the first half, the Hoosier defense would hold the Zips to just 150 yards and a lone score in the final stanza. The biggest difference in their play was increased pressure on the quarterback and a more aggressive defensive approach overall. Indiana added four sacks to their season total and were able to answer the challenge their coach gave them at halftime.
"We really hadn't been in that situation this season (tied at the half)," said Lynch.
"I thought they really responded well. I really like the way the defense played in the second half. We responded and played our kind of football in the second half."
With the defense doing their job, Lewis continued to make the Zip defense look like Swiss cheese. Second half touchdown runs of three and 17 yards complimented a career-long 64-yard dash by Lewis, who also found receivers James Hardy, Ray Fisher, and tailback Josiah Sears for passing scores. Lewis' five touchdown performance was his best since he put up six touchdowns against Michigan State last season.
"He's intelligent," said Akron Head Coach J.D. Brookhart. "He takes them when they're there and then when you get him out there…we had guys in place, but we couldn't make plays on him."
After the game, Lewis credited his success to simply taking what was available at the time.
"A lot of time they were just rushing three and dropping eight (players) so it got to the point where coach just said take what they give you," said Lewis.
"Hopefully, next week our passing game improves, but if they are going to rush only three and drop eight then I guess I will have to be the leading rusher every week."
After Saturday's impressive performance against Akron, that wouldn't surprise anyone.
Lewis Sprints Past Akron, 41-24
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