Indiana football gets ugly 35-22 win over Idaho


BLOOMINGTON — Given that Tom Allen lost his voice in practice mid-week and had a continuing laryngitis problem, he couldn’t even yell at his players at halftime of the Indiana-Idaho football game.

Whether he used sign language, assistant coaches to transfer his message or wrote things down on a chalkboard with exclamation points, his mood seemed to translate.

After trailing 10-0 at the intermission, Indiana exploded for 23 points in the third quarter to take down Big Sky Conference’s Idaho 35-22 at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.

The misery index from a pelting, pounding rain that soaked every angle of the building and postponed the kickoff by 35 minutes was only compounded by the bad football played by the Hoosiers in the first half.

Failure to take advantage of good field position, two missed field goals, a fumble, an interception and general offensive listlessness gave Allen plenty to talk about. Who would have thought 90 minutes later fans (however many were still there) would be exiting the stadium with smiles on their faces?

Allen’s post-game talk was as schizophrenic as the game itself, though drier, because it was indoors. He bounced back and forth between displeasure over flaws and satisfaction with the win, making IU 2-0 a year after capturing just two games all season.

“All right, well, we won,” Allen said. “So that’s a positive thing, but obviously didn’t start the right way. Just a frustrating night, but found a way to win the game. Obviously, didn’t respond to the delay very well. Didn’t respond to the weather very well. That’s on me. Just felt like, gosh, we should have been up by multiple scores in the first half. Gosh, we sure enjoy making it hard on ourselves.”

Always, however, points on the scoreboard are more critical than style points. Quarterback Connor Bazelak, impressive in his Hoosier debut over fellow Big Ten foe Illinois last week, was shaky early, admitting the ball felt slippery from the deluge. Everything over the first 30 minutes seemed to move in slow motion, but Indiana’s specialty, the no-huddle, quick-strike offense, was resuscitated in the second half.

“I don’t want to make an excuse about the weather,” said Bazelak, who was 16-for-29 for 197 yards after throwing for 330 yards versus Illinois, “but the ball was definitely slick in the first half, and that plays a part in your confidence out there and really just getting into a rhythm.”

Fans got into their own rhythm of squirming, both at the show in front of them and from being soggy. The announced crowd was 46,785, but that was tickets sold, not live and in person. As the stadium morphed into a wetland, it could have attracted ducks instead of humans. Watchers could be counted in the vast open spaces.

Those IU supporters who stayed got some return value. In a quick switch, Allen inserted Donaven McCulley at quarterback for a play, and he powered into the end zone for Indiana’s first score from the 4-yard line.

That triggered an IU avalanche of points. The Hoosiers dropped Vandals quarterback Gevani McCoy in the end zone for a safety and took the lead on a Bazelak to A.J. Barner 43-yard touchdown pass. Bazelak hit D.J. Mathews for 26 yards and another score, all in the third period. Five seconds into the fourth, Josh Henderson scored on an 8-yard- run, towing Idaho (0-2) tacklers.

IU put up 29 points in just more than 10½ minutes. It was a full-fledged advertising brochure for Indiana’s speed-up game, a blitz mightily aided by the actual presence of a ground game, invisible the week before.

Shaun Shivers, a transfer from Auburn, managed only 28 yards against Illinois but ripped his way to 155 yards and a touchdown against the Vandals, and Henderson added 58 yards.

“That’s exactly what we preach it to be,” Shivers said of how the running game unfolded for 239 yards. “What we practice is exactly what came out there. We spread them out.”

As awfully as the Hoosiers played in the first half, they could have trailed by more. The 10-0 margin never looked unconquerable — if they got their act together.

“Things switched,” Idaho coach Jason Eck said. “They came back and played better the second half, kicked their butts into gear a little bit, and we have to go with them when they do that.”

Allen will still be a harsh film critic when he reviews game tape. There were some missed tackles that kept the Vandals hoping they could come back. There was sloppy offensive play early. The defense did manage three sacks, and the offense clicked when it needed to do so.

Winning is always the bottom line, but Allen sounded like the grumpiest 2-0 coach around.

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