It was a high-scoring affair that saw 73 points and more than 1,000 total yards, but in the end, it was the beginning that led to an IU loss Saturday at Northwestern.
Junior quarterback Kain Colter was too much for the IU defense Saturday, both receiving and rushing for 100 yards. He also tied a Northwestern record with a quartet of rushing touchdowns.
IU (2-2) was held scoreless in the first half for the first time in more than a year, and could only manage 145 total yards before halftime. Sophomore starting quarterback Cameron Coffman struggled to get into much of a rhythm and the Hoosiers were only able to convert two of seven third down attempts.
They trailed 20-0 at the break and after junior quarterback Kain Colter ran for his third touchdown of the day on the first Northwestern (5-0) drive of the half, the IU offense had a 27-point deficit to make up.
“You look at the stats, they worked us,” IU head coach Kevin Wilson said. “In the first half, we didn't do much, maybe five first downs, so pretty poor first half, offensively.”
Coffman managed the offense for a nine-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a punishing 20-yard touchdown run from junior running back Stephen Houston to get IU on the board. After that, true freshman Nate Sudfeld took every snap at quarterback for the rest of the game.
“They just told me during the week, ‘Prepare like you’re the starter, but Cam’s coming out first,’” Sudfeld said. “I’m rooting for Cam and everything, but they called my number in the second half and at the end of the first half. I just knew I had to be ready.”
By the looks of it, he and the offense were ready. The Hoosiers would score on their next two drives — with a kickoff return from true freshman Tevin Coleman in between — to make it just a one-possession game at 37-29.
Sudfeld got some help from a couple of dazzling catches from sophomore wide receiver Cody Latimer, but looked solid en route to finishing with 157 passing yards on nine completions, including a touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Kofi Hughes.
"We took some shots down the field and they made some incredible plays,” Sudfeld said. “It was awesome to see just how great of plays they could make. They made me look a lot better than I felt I was playing."
True freshman Tevin Coleman saw time at both running back and kick returner. As a return man, he took a third-quarter kick back 96 yards for a score.
Hughes, who led IU in receiving last season, did it all on offense, catching five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, while running for a two-point conversion as well.
Hughes led the team in receptions with five, but Latimer and Houston each had four catches. Houston led IU in rushes and rushing yardage for the second straight game, as he ran 11 times for 91 yards.
The story of the game, however, was Colter, who ran for 161 yards and grabbed nine passes for 131 yards. He ran for four touchdowns, which tied a Northwestern record, and the Northwestern offense itself set a school record for yardage, with 704.
“He was just so versatile,” junior cornerback Greg Heban said. “He could run the ball and pass the ball. He’s probably one of the best athletes we’ll face all year.”
Colter’s one blemish was an early interception that Heban nabbed and returned 24 yards to midfield. Unlike a number of plays Colter was making, Heban said the IU defense was prepared for that specific play.
“It was a sprint-out and I had the flat,” Heban said. “We’d run that in practice all the time. We’ve been practicing that all week, so preparation was good. I was in the right place, right time and made the play. We just need more of those on defense.”
IU had forced just two turnovers this season prior to Saturday’s game, but the Hoosiers forced three against the Wildcats. Senior safety Alexander Webb grabbed an interception and senior defensive tackle Larry Black, Jr. picked up a fumble as well.
The other side of the ball, however, was what had Wilson talking about after the game. Coffman had been the definitive starter prior to the game, but that could be changing as IU prepares for a homecoming matchup against Michigan State next week.
"There should be competition all the time and that was my comment to both of them the other day,” Wilson said. “I told them we're going with Cam because he's been here longer. But I think they're both starters. But like I say if we need a shot in the arm, we just needed a changeup.
“There won’t be a controversy. I think they’re both adequate. I think they’ll both play.”