LINCOLN, Neb. — Tom Allen has his signature win as Indiana football head coach.
Saturday’s 38-31 victory over Nebraska was not remarkable for the opponent beaten or the way the Hoosiers played, but rather the magnitude and consequence of the result.
Indiana (6-2, 3-2) has reached the six-win mark in October for the first time since 1993, securing bowl eligibility with four games left in the 2019 season.
The win also marked Indiana’s first three-game conference winning streak since the 1993 season. Decades of Indiana football futility were put in the rearview mirror by beating Nebraska (4-4, 2-3).
Indiana’s seven-point win came with backup quarterback Peyton Ramsey at the helm and a defensive performance predicated on adjustments and takeaways.
Ramsey’s 27-for-40 passing performance as he filled in again for Michael Penix Jr. generated 351 yards through the air (178 yards to receiver Whop Philyor, who caught 14 passes). This was all the more important in a game which saw sophomore running back Stevie Scott was held to just 68 rushing yards.
Nebraska’s points came in fits and spurts.
The Cornhuskers tallied 14 points in the first 8:03 of the game, but Kane Wommack’s Indiana defense swiftly made adjustments to correct gaps in secondary coverage.
It also didn’t hurt the Hoosier cause when Nebraska sophomore quarterback Noah Vedral, playing in place of injured starter Adrian Martinez, was forced to leave the game due to injury in the second quarter before later returning.
The second quarter featured a game-changing moment in a content full of momentum swinging plays. Sophomore defensive back Jamar Johnson rapidly closed down and hit Verdal while he was still in the game, forcing a fumble which was recovered by senior defensive lineman Allen Stallings IV for a 68-yard return, setting up a Hoosier touchdown.
The sequence gave Indiana a 16-14 lead with most of the second period to play. But Nebraska had the lead back before halftime thanks to a late 24-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey, who replaced Vedral, to senior wideout Kanawai Noa.
Just as it did within the first half though, IU’s halftime changes on defense helped spur a strong second-half showing.
A 1-yard rushing touchdown by freshman David Ellis and an ensuing two-point conversion pass to sophomore Peyton Hendershot gave IU a 24-21 lead.
It was the last time the lead would change.
A three-minute sequence to end the third quarter and begin the fourth saw the Hoosiers take control with two touchdowns.
Sophomore Matt Bjorson’s 2-yard touchdown catch and Scott’s 9-yard rushing score put the Hoosiers up 14 points, with a fumble recovery by sophomore defensive back Juwan Burgess sandwiched in between.
Nebraska cut that lead to seven with a four-yard rushing touchdown with 10:21 to go, and from there it became a battle to see if the Hoosier defense could use the lessons learned in last week’s win at Maryland to put away the Cornhuskers.
With Verdal back in the game at quarterback for Nebraska, he led the hosts into Indiana territory with less than four minutes to go, but made it no further than the 34-yard line after being stopped on fourth and five.
From their Indiana’s offense ran out the rest of the clock for the Hoosiers’ first win over the Cornhuskers since 1959.
Next on the horizon for Indiana could be a ranking in the AP poll, which hasn’t happened since 1994, along with a Saturday night home game next weekend against Northwestern (1-6, 0-5).
Nebraska will look to regroup and get healthier over the coming week before travelling to play Purdue (2-6, 1-4).