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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Indiana's J-Shun Harris outruns the pursuit for a touchdown on a 70-yard punt return during the first quarter of the Hoosiers' win in Bloomington.

Sunday, September 24, 2017 1:00 am

Indiana 52 Georgia So. 17

Freshman puts IU's offense in high gear

PETE DIPRIMIO | Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON – Morgan Ellison found Indiana's starting tailback spotlight in his first college start.

And the freshman was more than ready.

Ellison was the offensive catalyst as the Hoosiers dominated Georgia Southern 52-17 Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Ellison ran for 186 yards on 25 carries and scored two touchdowns. He's IU's 11th true freshman to rush for more than 100 yards in a game. It's the fourth-best total by a Hoosier freshman. Anthony Thompson has the record with 207.

Ellison entered the game with 71 yards on 19 carries.

The Hoosiers' Mike Majette had started the first two games at tailback.

“I'm really proud of Morgan,” coach Tom Allen said. “He carried the ball well. He ran hard. He had the fourth-highest total by a freshman in school history, and the offensive line was a big reason.”

Ellison wasn't highly recruited coming out of Pickerington High School in Ohio, in part because he missed most of his sophomore and junior seasons because of to broken legs. Still, as a healthy senior he rushed for 1,841 yards and 29 touchdowns.

“I thought I had to prove something after breaking my legs twice in high school.”

On Saturday Ellison benefited from an offensive adjustment designed to spark the running game.

“We knew (Georgia Southern's) defensive line was their strength,” Allen said. “We knew it would be tough. We tried to spread them out and run out of that look. It was very efficient.”

Indiana got another big game from punt returner J-Shun Harris. The junior returned a first-quarter punt 70 yards for a TD. It was the second straight game he scored on a punt return. That tied IU's single-season record. Rob Turner was the other Hoosier to return punts for a TD in consecutive games. He did it in 1990.

Two other Hoosiers have returned two punts for touchdowns in a season – Mitchell Paige (2015) and Larry Highbaugh (1969).

Harris, who won Big Ten special teams player of the week honors for his Virginia performance (he had 44- and 42-yard punt returns), has returned seven punts for 183 yards this season after gaining 74 yards on two returns Saturday.

He had missed the previous two seasons because of knee injuries.

“How about J-Shun,” Allen said. “That kid is unreal. They're probably going to quit punting to him. He's making them pay.”

Indiana (2-1) was playing its first game after the Sept. 16 home game against Florida International was canceled in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Georgia Southern (0-3) has been outscored 115-36 this season.