Iowa Falters at Indiana

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Oct. 14, 2006

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) – Indiana waited nearly two decades to party like this. So why worry about another 20 seconds?

Players stormed the field and fireworks went off before the Hoosiers’ biggest upset in almost 20 years was official, but there was nothing premature about Saturday’s stunning 31-28 upset over No. 15 Iowa.

As officials spotted the ball for the final time, the scoreboard clock was at 22 seconds and with the Hawkeyes out of timeouts, all that remained was a celebration of the Hoosiers’ biggest win since beating No. 9 Ohio State 31-10 on Oct. 10, 1987.

“It’s a little crazy. I pretty much lost my voice on the field celebrating,” quarterback Kellen Lewis said leading his second straight fourth-quarter comeback. “It’s just fun right now.”

The Hoosiers (4-3, 2-1) included the fans, too.

After shaking hands with Iowa’s players, players sprinted toward the student section. Some jumped into the crowd, hugging classmates as they sang the school fight song.

But this was no mere victory for Indiana (4-3, 2-1); it was a milestone in a season that has included a loss to a Division I-AA school, coach Terry Hoeppner’s second brain surgery in less than nine months and a two-game suspension of their top player, James Hardy.

On Saturday, those were distant memories.

Hardy delivered the big game Indiana needed, becoming the first Hoosier to catch three TD passes in a game in nearly a quarter-century. He had eight catches for 104 yards, easily his best performance of the season.

Lewis, too, was productive before getting hoarse. After beating Illinois with a last-minute drive a week ago, he again rallied Indiana with a 20-yard TD pass to Hardy with 9:51 left for the winning score and also beat the clock by marching Indiana 50 yards in 51 seconds for a field goal just before halftime. He finished 19-of-25 for 255 yards.

The Hoosiers also overcame the loss of their top running back and the nation’s top kick returner, Marcus Thigpen, for most of the second half with what appeared to be a right leg injury. His replacement, Demetrius McCray, carried 13 times for 84 yards.

It was the kind of day that impressed Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.

“They’ve done a great job getting on their feet and doing what they have to do,” Ferentz said. “They have to feel great what they’ve done the last couple weeks.”

The loss likely ended any outside chance Iowa (5-2, 2-2) had of contending for a Big Ten title.

Drew Tate was 23-of-40 for 292 yards with one touchdown and one interception and Damian Sims, filling in for the injured Albert Young, carried 22 times for 94 yards and two TDs.

Iowa even had 467 yards in offense, but it wasn’t enough to extend their three-game winning streak in the series.

The Hoosiers contended with their own problems.

Iowa used first-half fumbles by Josiah Sears and Lewis to score 14 points and eventually build a 21-7 lead.

Just as it did against Illinois last week, Indiana steadied itself.

“You can never take the field not prepared to give your best,” Ferentz said. “If you do, you leave the door open against a team that’s hustling, that’s very spirited and very well-coached and that’s what Indiana is.”

Lewis’ 2-yard run with 3:25 left in the half got the comeback started. Then Austin Starr hit a career-long 46-yard field goal into a brisk, swirling wind as the half ended to make it 21-17.

“The field goal right before the half turned out to be pretty big,” Hoeppner said.

Indiana took its first lead on Hardy’s diving 23-yard TD catch late in the third quarter, but Tate responded with a methodical 77-yard drive that ended with Sims’ 1-yard run to give Iowa a 28-24 lead early in the fourth quarter.

But the Lewis-to-Hardy connection had one more answer. On third-and-6 from the Iowa 20, Hardy broke open in the end zone and Lewis threw a perfect pass to give Indiana a 31-28 lead. Hardy is the first Indiana player with three TD receptions in one game since Duane Gunn on Oct. 8, 1983, against Minnesota.

“He’s got great hands and you can’t coach 6-6, 6-7 height,” Lewis said. “So any time they were blitzing and they were going to leave a defensive back on an island, we said we’ll take our shot with James Hardy.”

Tate had one more chance, but his final pass was deflected by Andy Brodell and Hoosiers safety Will Meyers made a diving, one-handed interception to seal the win.

After Ferentz challenged the call and it was upheld, the party was on.

“I had an interesting call on the field – Ben Roethlisberger called my son’s phone,” said Hoeppner, who coached the Steelers quarterback at Miami of Ohio. “He just wanted to call and congratulate me. Normally, I wouldn’t take a phone call at that point, but I’d take that phone call.”