BLOOMINGTON – Indiana football’s one-word motto of the week was “dominate.”
Appropriate word choice right there.
Ball State, with 50 Indiana natives on its roster, doubtlessly came to Indiana with a chip on its collective shoulder Saturday – but the host Hoosiers made entirely sure that chip wasn’t cashed.
It ended 38-10, house money, as IU slotted in its best overall performance of a sparkling 3-0 start to the season.
(And J-Shun Harris II took it to the house. More on that later.)
A BSU team that had gone on the road and played No. 8 Notre Dame to a single-score game a week prior got waxed in Bloomington. The Cardinals scored the first three points. The Hoosiers scored the next 31.
Pick your preferred variety of dominance, and the Hoosiers delivered.
- IU’s offense totaled 457 efficiently amassed yards, averaging a healthy 6.0 per play (including 5.8 on runs), and completed 75 percent its passes (24-of-32).
- The Hoosier defense posted six 3-and-outs, held BSU to 4-of-14 on 3rd-down conversions, and had three sacks among seven tackles for loss (including back-to-back sacks by Reakwon Jones and Jonathan Crawford).
- Indiana’s special teams supplied Harris’ 86-yard punt return TD and a blocked punt. And six of Jared Smolar’s seven kickoffs produced touchbacks.
And so on and so forth.
“Our one word this week was ‘dominate,'” Hoosier head coach Tom Allen affirmed post-game. “We wanted to be able to dominate in all three phases. Part of that was to just keep coming, keep coming, keep coming.
“… Today was kind of a hot day (climactically), so we have to continue to play the numbers and let our volume overwhelm them.”
Most of Indiana’s deeper roster indeed saw the field and it was hard for the Cardinals to stay chirpy. IU had nine different players carry the ball, had 10 players catch a pass and had 18 defenders post multiple tackles.
BSU (1-2) began well, choosing to receive the opening kickoff and moving 61 methodical yards in 12 plays to produce a 31-yard Morgan Hagee field goal to open the scoring.
IU answered with its own 12-play drive, moving 85 yards but bogging down at the BSU 3, prompting a 21-yard Logan Justus field goal.
But after Hagee missed a 48-yard field goal attempt on the ensuing Cardinal possession, it was pretty much all Hoosiers all the time, and for a good long while.
Indiana starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey, after going 2-of-6 (with a drop) on the opening drive, proceeded to complete 18 of his next 19 passes in guiding the Hoosiers to a 24-7 halftime bulge. Ramsey would finish 20-of-27 through the air.
“I think there is this sense of knowing where I’m going with the ball, sometimes even before it happens,” Ramsey said. “Other times, it is whatever the defense is giving me. There are holes in the defense (to exploit).”
Ramsey found leaping tight end Matt Bjorson behind the linebackers and underneath the safeties for a 22-yard completion that kick-started IU’s first TD drive. It was capped as true freshman running back Stevie Smith
scored standing up from the 1 on the second quarter’s first snap to make it 10-3.
Then, after a BSU 3-and-out, Harris electrified the crowd with his punt return score.
Harris split the first two Cardinals to arrive in his vicinity, made another guy miss with a cut to the left, picked up a convoy down the east sideline and set sail.
“It felt awesome seeing all those guys (blocking) at the end,” Harris said. “It was almost like a wall of them guiding me toward the end zone.”
And suffice to say he remains fleet of foot after three ACL surgeries.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the young man,” Allen said of his inspiring fifth-year senior. “I said it from the beginning that his attitude was unbelievable (after yet another ACL). When he found out he had his third tear, I just
assumed it was over … but, no, he’s never flinched and has worked himself back.
“That’s a dangerous weapon to have, now, back there (returning punts). They’re probably going to quit kicking to him.”
Harris’ 86-yard return was the third of his career, tying Tim Wilbur’s school record.
After Peyton Hendershot blocked a BSU punt, the Hoosiers gave the ball back with a fumble, and an exchange of punts ensued. But IU was only momentarily thwarted.
Indiana’s offense ate all but the final 22 seconds of the second quarter clock to score as Ramsey faked a jet-sweep handoff and scooted unhindered up the gut from 5 yards out.
Justus’ PAT then concluding the half’s scoring and a decisive 21-0 second period for the home team.
BSU had trailed 24-6 at Notre Dame before rallying, but there was no comeback in the Cards this day.
With true freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. at the controls, Indiana scored first in the third quarter.
On true freshman running back Ronnie Walker Jr. first career carry.
It was a beauty. Walker ripped through a big hole on the right side, then made a slick spin while taking a hit at the 5 to stay on his feet and make the end zone.
“I just had to use my balance,” Walker recalled. “I felt like that spin helped me keep my balance. It was a nice big hole. The guard blocked down, and I cut right under him. And then it was one-on-one. And Coach (Mike) Hart says you’ve always got to win those one-on-one battles.”
“Coach called my name. I knew I had to do it. This was my first chance. You either make it or break it. But I was confident going out there. I know these boys up front will put me in the end zone.”
Ball State got its lone TD of the day on a 27-yard scamper around left end by James Gilbert to cut the deficit to 31-10 with 2:08 left in the third.
But IU slammed the door behind another nice Harris punt return, setting up shop at the BSU 38 and scoring after three successive Scott runs. Scott ran over or through at least a couple of would-be tacklers from 11 yards away with 10:11 to play and the final margin was forged.
Scott, who finished with 114 yards on 18 carries (6.3 per rush) became just the fourth IU true freshman ever to post back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, and did it earlier in his career than any Hoosier frosh ever.
Senior safety Crawford, who joined Jones in leading the Hoosier tacklers with five apiece, noted, “All aspects of the game … our offensive put up a lot of points, J-Shun returned a punt, which was huge. The defense, I thought we stood up. Finished the game.”
Asked what the difference was between the previous week and Saturday for his team, Ball State coach Mike Neu said, “I think you have to give IU credit. They did a good job of controlling and establishing the line of scrimmage. We struggled and they did a good job of mixing it up.
“Coach (Mike) DeBord did a good job mixing it up (with) run-pass option stuff. They were very effective in that. They were able to get some throws on the perimeter, too, and their guys did a good job with tackles in the open field. So you have to give them credit. They did a good job of executing what they do.”
IU’s next chance to execute what it does will come at home against a Big Ten foe, 1-1 Michigan State, which is coming off a bye week heading into a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday.