Indiana Football says goodbye to the passing game and welcomes the running game with open arms

It was an implausible display of the run game for Indiana on Saturday.

In his first loss of the season against the University of Cincinnati on Sept. 24, Indiana Football quarterback redshirt junior Connor Bazelak threw the ball 66 times — a program record in a single game. On Saturday, after a seven-loss streak that began against Cincinnati, the Indiana running backs, led by redshirt quarterback Dexter Williams II, secured the Hoosiers’ first win in two months.

The game began with the decision to start Williams as quarterback over Bazelak — who had started nine of the Hoosiers’ 10 games that year. On the first offensive drive, Indiana started with three straight carries to senior running back Shaun Shivers for a total of 16 yards.

Williams found space on the left in his first quick try of the day and ran into the end zone to give Indiana a 7-0 early lead.

But that was it for the first half as the Indiana offense took the field the next five times. They came out scoreless, with four straight punts and a three-game drive to end the half.

Concerns over whether Indiana’s offense could play back into play were quickly dispelled. On the first Indiana game of the half, Shivers broke for a 79-yard touchdown and gave an impetus to the Hoosier offense.

A few drives later, the Indiana defense absorbed another Spartan touchdown. It was soon answered, however, as Michigan State geared up after his kick-off goal and ready to give football back was the freshman running back Jaylin Lucas.

On the return, Lucas found space and accelerated down the field, 88 yards separating him from the end zone when he caught the kick and he ran each of them. It was his FBS-leading second kickoff return for a touchdown this season.

In the fourth quarter, senior running back Josh Henderson needed just a yard to reach the end zone to end a nine-game drive and level the game at 31. When he later hit it in a game, every Indiana player responsible for a rushing yard scored a touchdown against the Spartans.

By the end of the fourth quarter, Williams had just one completion for seven yards, but Indiana went into overtime, 31-31.

After both teams failed field goals in the first overtime, the Hoosiers found their ultimately game-winning touchdown through the floor with a 1-yard touchdown over Shivers in double overtime.

“(Shivers) saved his best for us for a really important game,” Allen said.

Shivers finished for 115 yards on 13 carries. Williams rushed for 86 yards on 16 attempts and clinched the win on his first start under center — even though all of Indiana’s five touchdown plays didn’t include a throw.

On Saturday, Indiana had four touchdowns on the floor and Lucas’ kick return in a 39-31 win over Michigan State. At game start, the Hoosiers had just 10 rushing touchdowns and 85.8 rush yards per game this season, both of which tied bottom in the Big Ten.

The last time Indiana was on the winning side of a football game was two months ago on September 17th. At the Western Kentucky University game, they only had 32 rushing yards.

Shying away from the passing attack, Indiana Football resorted to the running game to adjust to its new starting quarterback. It resulted in a win, and now Indiana is bringing the Old Brass Spittoon back to Bloomington for the first time since 2020.

“Really proud of our players and the fight they put in today,” Allen said. “Incredible, I expected this to be a dogfight.”

Follow reporter Garrett Newman (@Garrett Newman20) and Jakob Spudich (@spudichjacob) and columnist Will Foley (@foles24) for updates throughout the Indiana football season.

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