Rushing offense – A-
At no point this season have the Hoosiers been thinner at running back than they were against Minnesota. And truth be told, at no point this season did IU's ground attack looked any better than they did Saturday. With Demetrius McCray (foot) out for a third straight game and Josiah Sears (concussion) and Marcus Thigpen (ankle) lost in the first half of this contest, Bryan Payton was presented with an opportunity and he seized it. Payton produced big plays (such as a 48-yard touchdown burst up the middle on his first carry of the game) and critical short runs (such as his one-yard, third-quarter touchdown run when he was hit behind the line of scrimmage but managed to drag a Gopher defender into the end zone) on his way to a 13-carry, 90-yard, three-touchdown afternoon. He took advantage of his opportunity, and certainly did enough to earn more carries no matter whom is healthy in the coming weeks. Payton wasn't the only one getting done on the ground, as Kellen Lewis added 75 yards on 10 carries, including a 44-yard, third-quarter jaw-dropping scramble where he eluded pass rushers, sidestepped linebackers, and outran defensive backs.
Notable: The Hoosiers piled up 228 yards on the ground, marking the fourth time in six games Indiana has rushed for at least 200 yards. IU is averaging 201.8 yards/game rushing, which ranks 22nd nationally. Not bad for a team that has had only one 100-yard effort by a runner this season. Kellen Lewis' 18-carry, 199-yard effort against Akron is the only 100-yard outing for an IU runner this season. Payton's 90-yard effort was the biggest output by a Hoosier tailback this year. The last time an IU running back eclipsed the century mark was Oct. 28, 2006, when Marcus Thigpen ran for 104 yards in IU's 46-21 win over Michigan State.
Passing offense – B-
It was another solid game for Kellen Lewis, who completed 24-of-36 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown. Lewis got things going early, completing 7-of-8 passes for 94 yards on the first drives of the games, both of which went for touchdowns. That start included a perfectly thrown 51-yard pass to James Hardy down the sideline that set up IU's first score. Hardy, meanwhile, caught a touchdown pass for the seventh straight game and had five catches for 85 yards, while Ray Fisher added a game-high nine catches for 106 yards. While those were all things for the staff to be pleased with, there were a couple of things that could have been better against a Gopher pass defense that ranked last in the nation with 368.0 yards/game during the first five weeks. Lewis was the victim of at least four drops, including one by Fisher in the end zone and another by Andrew Means at the Minnesota five-yard line that might have resulted in a touchdown as well. Lewis also was picked off by Kyle Theret over the middle on an ill-advised throw late in the third quarter. Ultimately, it was solid if not spectacular effort by IU's passing attack against a porous Gopher secondary.
Notable: James Hardy continues to inch closer to re-writing the IU record books for receivers. Hardy's touchdown catch gives him 28 for his career, ranking him second to Jade Butcher (30) on IU's all-time list. He also has 137 receptions, which ranks third behind Courtney Roby (170) and Thomas Lewis (148). Hardy also became the first player in IU history to catch a touchdown pass in seven straight games with his first quarter, two-yard TD catch. Hardy has a ways to go, though, to challenge the NCAA's all-time record of 17 set by current Arizona Cardinal and former Pitt standout Larry Fitzgerald.
Rushing defense – B+
Stopping the run was a concern for the IU defense heading into this game, and it did a very job of keeping Gopher ball carriers under wraps. Minnesota managed just 112 yards on the ground on 29 carries, and IU was able to keep Gopher quarterback Adam Weber from hurting them with his scrambling ability. Weber entered the contest averaging 53 yards rushing/game, but finished with zero yards on seven carries Saturday. Indiana showed some vulnerability against the run in each of its last three games, highlighted by Illinois' 288-yard effort on the ground two weeks ago. But Indiana was much better on Saturday against a Gopher team that has a couple of capable ball carriers. Indiana's offense helped out by jumping out to a lead and forcing Minnesota to throw the ball, but it was an encouraging effort by the Hoosier unit.
Notable: Virtually all of Minnesota's success on the ground came on one fourth-quarter touchdown drive, when it totaled 73 yards on eight carries and cut Indiana's lead to 33-20. Jay Thomas broke off a 36-yard run on the drive's first play, followed by a pair of double-digit yard efforts by Amir Pinnix. Take away that one drive, and Minnesota totaled just 39 yards rushing on 21 carries, less than two yards per carry.
Passing defense – B-
For the second straight game, Indiana gave up a big chunk of yardage through the air. Iowa's Jake Christensen threw for 308 yards and a trio of touchdowns, while Minnesota's Adam Weber connected on 24-of-44 throws for 280 yards and a score on Saturday. But Indiana's effort against the pass was once again much better than the numbers would indicate. Other than a 42-yard completion to Eric Decker on Minnesota's first drive of the game, IU's secondary didn't give up anything deep downfield. The Hoosiers also got interceptions from both Leslie Majors and Will Patterson in the second half, a pair of plays that not only ended Gopher drives but set up Hoosier scores. Minnesota entered the game having scored at least 30 points in four out of five games, so IU's ability to limit Coach Tim Brewster's team to 20 is an accomplishment.
Notable: Indiana totaled two sacks (Greg Middleton, Ryan Marando), bringing its season total to 29, which still leads the nation. The Big Ten has four teams ranked in the top 10 nationally in the category, including its next two foes, Michigan State and Penn State, which are tied for fourth with 24 sacks. Of course, both of those teams have had the luxury of padding their sack totals against Notre Dame, a team that ranks last in the nation by a wide margin with 32 sacks allowed.
Special teams – A
Indiana was very good offensively, pretty solid defensively, and outstanding on special teams. Austin Starr tied a school record with four field goals, including a pair of 40-plus yarders. He leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth in the nation with 12 field goals, and his nine straight made field goals ranks second on IU's all-time list. Tracy Porter, meanwhile, added a 71-yard punt return in the second quarter that set up an IU touchdown that extended the Hoosiers' lead to 27-14. Punter Michael Hines didn't get a chance to punt until the fourth quarter, but he blasted a 56-yarder that was downed at the Minnesota 7, and had another 40 yarder that wasn't returned. The IU coaching staff couldn't have asked for much more from its special teams units.
Notable Stat: Austin Starr needs just one more field goal to tie Doug Smith's school record of 10 straight made field goals, established from 1981-82. He has a ways to go to challenge the Big Ten's all-time record, though. Ohio State's Mike Nugent converted 24 straight field goals from 2001-02. One Big Ten record Starr could challenge is the Big Ten's all-time single-season record of 25 field goals, which is shared by Nugent, Remy Hamilton (Michigan), Dan Nystrom (Minnesota) and Ben Jones (Purdue).
Overall – B+
Offensively, Indiana got another 300-plus yards of total offense from quarterback Kellen Lewis and might have had a tailback emerge in Bryan Payton. Defensively, the Hoosiers were solid against the run and had a couple of big second-half interceptions that kept the Gophers at bay. On special teams the Hoosiers were outstanding, with four field goals from Austin Starr along with a tide-turning punt return from Tracy Porter. Indiana's 40-20 win wasn't a dominating performance, but it was still a solid win against a team that might not win a lot of games this year, but will give teams problems with their offense. The bottom line was it was a 20-point win that moved Indiana to within one win of bowl eligibility.
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