BLOOMINGTON – After so many so-close outings, Indiana finally made plays when it mattered.
The Hoosiers overcame 612 yards of total offense from Illinois with a Memorial Stadium record of 650 total yards of their own in a 52-35 win Saturday.
The victory kept IU (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten) in the bowl conversation for at least two more weeks. The Hoosiers need to win two of their last three games to be bowl eligible.
We talked about making strides and showing we can make some strides, again, coming off some adversity, said IU coach Kevin Wilson, whose team suffered a spirit-breaking three-point loss to Minnesota last week. I think the way they handled themselves, and I think the way our coaches coached this week, is a positive sign for where were trying to go.
In the first half, sophomore running back Tevin Coleman ran for 108 yards on his first five carries, sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld threw for 139 yards and junior wide receiver Cody Latimer caught eight passes for 86 yards and a touchdown to give the Hoosiers a 28-21 lead. Coleman finished with 215 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
After IU stalled on the opening drive of the third quarter, the Illini (3-6, 0-5) mounted a 14-point swing thanks to quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who threw for 450 yards and had three total touchdowns.
Unlike in previous years, and previous games this season, IU didnt fold when its opponent responded.
We weathered it, settled down, kind of came through that with a couple drives and made a couple good plays – finished strong, Wilson said. Those next two drives really got us going.
After Illinois went ahead 28-21, Sudfeld orchestrated a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a 41-yard touchdown catch Latimer.
Then came an IU defensive stand in Illinois territory and some clever play calling. Coleman took two carries to the left, and Sudfeld came back at the Illini with play-action to the left on the same run concept.
Latimer got a step behind the defense again and caught the 50-yard reception that put the Hoosiers up 35-28 with 2:21 left in the quarter.
The 6-foot-3 wideout had a career-high 189 yards on 11 catches and three touchdowns.
We can all do better, Latimer said. We got to learn to build consistency still and just keep attacking.
Illinois answered again, only to watch Coleman break his second 60-plus yard run of the day.
Coleman got the first score of the game on a 64-yard run, which tied a career-high he set against Michigan State this season. He broke his record on a 75-yard score on the first play after the Illini tied it at 35-all to give IU a 42-35 lead with 12:31 left.
That run made Coleman the first Hoosier to rush for more than 200 yards in a game since BenJarvus Green-Ellis in 2003. He also became the first with back-to-back 100-yard games since Green-Ellis in that same year.
Coleman suffered an ankle sprain with 8:19 remaining, which gave senior running back Stephen Houston the chance to get back-to-back 100-yard games, as well. He finished with 150 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
We really buckled down, Houston said. We played lights-out. We got to take this and build on it next week going into Wisconsin.
Note: IU freshman defensive end David Kenney was called for targeting with 2:03 left in the game and was disqualified. He will miss the first half of the next game.