By Mike Johnston
Indiana won their second consecutive Big Ten game for the first time in five years, defeating Iowa 24-21 in dramatic fashion on Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Hoosiers (4-5, 2-3), move within a game of idle Wisconsin for the lead in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten with three games left to play.
It didn’t look good early for the Hoosiers, as they spotted the Hawkeyes 14 points in the first eight minutes. Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg found Kevonte Martin-Manley for a 24-yard touchdown strike to open the scoring, with 7:20 left to play in the first quarter. On the ensuing IU possession, freshman quarterback Nate Sudfeld was intercepted by linebacker Christian Kirksey, who ran untouched 18 yards for Iowa’s second score.
The Hoosiers woke up late in the stanza, as a Mitch Ewald 45-yard field goal put Indiana on the board with 3:27 remaining in the first quarter.
Indiana’s offense struggled to find their footing in the early going, but their defense came up big time and time again. The Hoosiers finished with seven tackles for loss, and held Iowa tailback Damon Bullock in check for most of the first half.
The Hoosiers entered the locker room with the momentum after a 6-play, 87-yard drive was capped by a 15-yard Cody Latimer touchdown catch. The score cut Iowa’s edge to 14-10, with just 47 seconds left to play in the opening half.
Indiana kept the momentum on their sideline early in the second half, as Antonio Marshall intercepted a Vandenberg pass in the end zone to give the Hawkeyes off the scoreboard. Indiana responded right away, as Kofi Hughes took a Cam Coffman pass 77 yards to give the Hoosiers first-and-goal inside the 1-yard line. After a strange sequence of penalties on both teams, Coffman found Latimer once again in the end zone, giving the Hoosiers their first lead of the game, 17-14, with 7:28 left in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter was nothing if not suspenseful for the Hoosier fans that braved the cold weather and early drizzles. After starting deep in Iowa territory, Vandenberg found Martin-Manley for a 39-yard strike that reversed the field position. Eight plays later, Bullock scampered in from four yards out to reclaim the lead for Iowa, 21-17.
Earlier in the year, Indiana might have panicked in a similar situation, but not this day. The Hoosiers, spurred by a nice kick return from Isaiah Roundtree, had the answer. A pair of nice runs by Stephen Houston moved the ball into Iowa territory, and Coffman found Latimer in the end zone for the third time on a 30-yard strike up the seam, giving the Hoosiers a 24-21 lead with 10:58 left to play.
When the Hoosiers needed a stand, their defense did the heavy lifting.
Vandenberg threw three consecutive incompletions on Iowa’s next drive, giving Indiana a chance to eat some clock. Indiana did a nice job of moving the ball, but Iowa capitalized on a miscue, as a Houston fumble at the Iowa 19-yard line gave the Hawkeyes the ball back with 6:03 left to play.
Indiana’s defense held firm once again on the Hawkeyes’ next drive, forcing them into a three-and-out. From there, the Hoosier offense took over, picking up two critical first downs and icing the game away. While the Hawkeyes did get the ball back with less than 30 seconds to play, they moved no further than the 35-yard line.
Coffman finished an impressive 21-of-33 on the day, with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. All three touchdowns were thrown to Latimer, whose seven catches and 113 yards were both team highs. Houston led the Hoosiers on the ground, rushing 18 times for 52 yards.