MIAMI – By the end of the first quarter, it was Logan High School 14, Florida International 7.
And Logan High wasn’t done yet, either.
Donavan Hale and Jon Crawford, prep teammates at Logan (Fla.) High School, helped spur Indiana’s Hoosiers to a 38-28 win over host FIU in Saturday night’s season-opener for both teams.
“These first games, man, I lose more sleep,” Hoosier coach Tom Allen said of openers, “…There are so many things you don’t know about your own team and the team you’re playing.
“You’ve just got to get in there, fight it out and find a way to win. I’m proud of our team for finishing. That’s the thing for me. I was proud of the way they finished the fourth quarter.”
That’s because after Hale recovered a Florida International onside kick with 6:03 left, the Panthers never saw the ball again. Indiana kept it for 10 plays, nine of them runs, and finished the game with a 1st-and-goal at the FIU 1.
The game didn’t start quite as well as it finished for Indiana.
The hosts got on the board first after a Peyton Ramsey interception set the Panthers up at their own 34. They marched 11 plays with Anthony Jones powering in from the 3 with 7:42 left in the first.
The Hoosiers, with Ramsey not only undaunted but shining, responded with 21 straight points.
And it was Hale fellow, well-met.
Ramsey rifled a perfect strike on a post pattern to the rangy 6-foot-4 junior wideout as IU tied the score just 2:43 later, moving 75 yards in just seven plays – including a very nifty 32-yard run by freshman Reese Taylor on his first-ever college touch.
Less than a minute later, senior safety Crawford jumped a 3rd-and-6 route alertly and sailed in from 33 yards out for a pick-six that gave Indiana a lead it would never lose.
IU made it 21-7 with 13:42 left in the half as Ramsey found redshirt-freshman tight end Peyton Hendershot wide open on a rollout left from three yards out.
Jones broke free around right end for a 36-yard TD gallop at 6:12 to make it a one-possession FIU deficit again but, again, IU came right back to score.
This time the Hoosiers went 75 yards on nine plays, with Ramsey and Hale hooking up for another TD – this one on a gutsy 4th-and-goal slant from the two, with Hale making a terrific adjustment in the end zone to catch a ball that was thrown behind him. IU was up two TDs again.
It was the sort of play Allen had hoped to see from Hale, who had to take a medical redshirt last season after playing just three games.
“I’ve challenged that young man,” Allen said of Hale. “I’ve told him, ‘You can be as great as you want to be. And there is no defensive back that should be able to cover you.’ He’s a big ol’ body and has great hands.
“Last year, we lost him for most of the season, which was tough. He’s back healthy, now, and we’ve challenged him to step up and make the kind of catches that you saw him make tonight. Because we know he can physically do it. And we’ve got to continue to grow our game around guys like that. It was encouraging to see, for sure.”
Indiana took that 28-14 lead into intermission. Ramsey was already 17 of 24 through the air for 144 yards and three TDs.
That didn’t stop Allen from inserting true freshman quarterback Michael Penix into the game at 10:55 of the third quarter. And Penix did not disappoint.
Penix immediately directed an 8-play, 72-yard Hoosier scoring march capped by his swing pass that perfectly led Mike Majettefor a nine-yard TD at the 7:39 mark, bumping Indiana’s bulge to 35-14.
FIU got a 1-yard TD plunge from Shawndarrius Alexander with 1:11 left in the third before Penix orchestrated another IU scoring drive, this time for 70 yards on 13 plays, featuring a great leaping catch by Hale up the sidelines for 34 yards.
Perhaps only an offensive-interference call limited the Hoosiers to a 36-yard Logan Justus field goal (his first career 3-pointer, booted dead-center).
“It was great to see Michael come in there (and do so well), as a true freshman back in his home state,” Allen said of Penix. “He had a whole bunch of family here, and sometimes those nerves can be pretty big in sort of environment and you don’t want to do too much, too soon.
“He was very poised. He distributed the ball well, protected it well and got himself a touchdown pass. Really proud of him.
“Peyton did an excellent job, as well. Three touchdown passes. And just commanded the offense with the kind of authority and consistency that I saw all fall camp. That’s the reason why he’s the starter.”
The final Panther score came on a 7-yard pass to Maurice Alexander from James Morgan with 6:04 left.
That’s when the onside kick came. Hale was ready for it.
“We didn’t think they were going to do (an onside kick) that early,” Allen said “… but when we saw the formation, we got a timeout and got our ‘hands’ team out there, which was huge.
“The guys (specifically Hale) secured the ball. There was 6:03 left in the game and they never got it back. That was big-time.”
Hale finished with four catches for a team-high 60 yards and the two TDs and his former prep teammate, Crawford, added a forced fumble to his pick-six.
“It just felt good getting back out on the field,” Hale said post-game, mindful of his lengthy injury rehabilitation. “I hadn’t played since week three last year, and it just felt good to get back out here with the boys.
“First of all, just change my mindset (after last year’s injury). Just come in, stay on treatment, be healthy, play hard for the boys. Coach Allen, I’ve got a lot of respect for him, and I know he believes in me. I’ve just got to believe in myself as much as he do.”
A reinserted Ramsey then calmly helped the Hoosiers run out the clock. He finished 20 of 27 for 156 yards and three TDs with one interception. Penix was 8 of 10 for 96 yards and a TD.
“Boy, both of them did an awesome job,” Allen said of his quarterbacks. “And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we’ve got two really good quarterbacks that I think have special talents that they bring to the table. They’re both guys that I trust, and that the team trusts and believes in.”
The Hoosiers amassed 31 first downs and 465 total yards compared to FIU’s 327.
IU now focuses on its home opener, next Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff with Virginia (also 1-0 after Saturday’s 42-13 win over Richmond).
“We need to pack The Rock,” Allen said of Indiana’s Memorial Stadium, now enclosed at both ends with the addition of the south end zone complex. “We need it loud.”