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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Indiana players celebrate Saturday’s 38-31 win over Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb. The victory was Indiana’s sixth of the season, making it bowl eligible with four games remaining.

  • Associated Press Indiana junior wide receiver Whop Philyor had 14 catches for 178 yards in Saturday's win in Lincoln, Neb.

Sunday, October 27, 2019 1:00 am

Indiana 38 Nebraska 31

IU looks beyond bowl eligibility

First time to 6 wins in October since '93

Cameron Drummond | For The Journal Gazette

LINCOLN, Neb. – Indiana coach Tom Allen is known for passion, his lung-busting speeches and moments of fervor with his team.

But tears flowed in the aftermath of Indiana's (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) 38-31 win over Nebraska (4-4, 2-3) on Saturday, qualifying the Hoosiers for the postseason for the first time since 2016.

Indiana's last two trips to the postseason (2015 and 2016) came after beating Purdue in the season's final game to capture the oft-elusive sixth win.

Now, the Hoosiers have reached the six-win mark in October for the first time since 1993, securing bowl eligibility with four games and plenty of aspirations still in front of them.

“We aren't defined by what others think we can do,” Allen said in a Big Ten Network interview.

“Now we gotta figure out how far we want to go, how warm we want it to be.”

Indiana's first win in Lincoln since 1959 was engineered by backup quarterback Peyton Ramsey.

Frequently called into action because of injuries to starter Michael Penix Jr., Ramsey's 351 passing yards were a career-best. His two passing touchdowns kick-started an offense that has scored 31 or more points in seven of its eight games.

Junior wide receiver Whop Philyor had 14 catches for 178 yards, the third time this season he's had double-digit catches and more than 100 receiving yards in a game.

“He's just a tough little dude,” Ramsey said. “He's a fun guy to throw the ball to because he's gonna get you yards after the catch.”

Nebraska led 14-3 after eight minutes, as backup quarterback Noah Vedral and the Cornhusker offense were aided by trick plays and lax coverage from Indiana's secondary.

Kane Wommack's defense made some adjustments in the middle part of the half to allow Indiana's offense to take over. The defense tilted field position during the second quarter with a sack and forced fumble by sophomore defensive back Jamar Johnson. Defensive lineman Allen Stallings IV returned the fumble 68 yards.

“Man, I was so gassed,” said Stallings, whose return ended at the Nebraska 8-yard line. “I forgot my lungs at the 50 or something.”

All four touchdown-scoring drives from Nebraska took less than 110 seconds from start to finish.

A potentially backbreaking one occurred 40 seconds before halftime as true freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey, who replaced an injured Vedral for part of the game, threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to give Nebraska a 21-16 halftime lead.

Indiana outscored Nebraska 22-10 in the second half, and a three-minute stretch from the end of the third to the start of the fourth quarter featured two Indiana touchdowns.

It gave the visitors a 14-point lead with 12 minutes to play.

A week after the IU defense used takeaways to close out the Maryland win, the offense ran out the clock on Nebraska, owning possession for the final 3:23 of the game.

Postgame, Indiana's locker room was chaos.

Water was splashed skyward.

Indiana athletic director Fred Glass was present.

A Chucky doll from the “Child's Play” film franchise, brought to the IU locker room by Philyor this week, made an appearance in the victory celebrations.

Redshirt sophomore tight end Peyton Hendershot jumped and screamed so much he started to cramp.

Allen mirrored this raw display of emotion. But before speaking to the media postgame, he steadied himself with a swig of water, making himself still for an instant.

“I got really tired of standing in front of you all and talking about how close we are,” he admitted. “Trying to figure out how I'm going to spin it in the right way when I knew I was torn up on the inside.

“I don't really care what anybody else thinks, this is awesome, this is big.”