IU Football: Can They Do It Again?
August 19, 2021
In 2019, the Indiana Hoosiers football team surprised many around the country when they managed to finish with an 8-4 record in the regular season. Although they did lose to every ranked team on their schedule, it was still seen as a successful season under third year head coach Tom Allen. This finish bolstered the Hoosiers into the Gator Bowl where they were set to battle Tennessee. Indiana was leading for most of the game and arguably would have won had it not been for a botched kick that doomed them to a 22-23 heartbreaking loss.
Many thought that after this loss, Indiana would sink back into the hole of mediocrity that they usually found themselves in. That couldn’t have been further from the truth.
To start the 2020 season, the Hoosiers found themselves taking on the Penn State Nittany Lions at home, who were slotted as the 8th best team in the nation at the time. What was expected to be an easy Penn State win turned into an overtime thriller as both teams struggled to gain the upper hand.
After Penn State retook the lead 35-28 in overtime, the Hoosiers had a chance to tie once again. On 3rd and goal, IU quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw a strike to the corner of the endzone, which would be caught by senior wideout Whop Philyor for a touchdown. If IU had elected to go for the PAT, the game would have been tied once again, but Tom Allen wanted the win. On 4th and goal, Coach Allen elected to go for a two-point conversion.
Penix Jr. took the snap, looked for an open man, didn’t find one, and took off running. At the last second, Penix leaped for the pylon, which he was able to knock over, and sealed the game winning conversion. The crowd at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington erupted in cheers and excitement; their team had just defeated a top-10 team for the first time in decades.
Following this upset, the Hoosiers continued to build upon what would be the best year they have had almost ever.
The next week, IU traveled to Rutgers and won 37-21. Then, they played the Michigan Wolverines at home. Michigan was ranked number 23 in the country and the Hoosiers had not beaten them since 1987. IU showed how good they were in this game, dominating from start to finish and defeating Michigan 38-21.
Following a 24-0 win on the road at Michigan State, the Hoosiers were faced with their toughest matchup of the season in Ohio State.
Ohio State would usually roll over IU on their way to a College Football Playoff appearance, but this Hoosiers team was different. Indiana never gave up in this game even though it seemed impossible at times. The Buckeyes would win 42-35, but IU showed how good they were in this game, as they forced eventual first-round pick Justin Fields to have the worst game of his career, throwing three interceptions.
The Hoosiers would go on to defeat Maryland and 18th ranked Wisconsin to finish the regular season with a 6-1 record. Notably, those final two wins were without Michael Penix Jr., who suffered a season ending injury in the first half against Maryland.
Despite being qualified, the Hoosiers were snubbed of a big bowl game and were instead relegated to playing Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl. Despite being the heavy favorites, Indiana lost 20-26 in a game where the loss of Penix and many quarantined starters heavily showed through. Despite this loss, there is a lot of optimism and hype surrounding the upcoming season.
Indiana comes into the upcoming season with a lot of expectations. They are projected to win at least 8 games, which would have seemed like a fantasy just a few years ago. Michael Penix Jr. will be returning from his ACL injury and the offense also returns wide receiver Ty Fryfogle and tight end Peyton Hendershot, who are both slated to be top-10 players at their position.
The Hoosiers also added D.J. Matthews to the receiving corps from Florida State and offensive lineman Zach Carpenter from Michigan via transfer, both of whom will make a major impact. But the biggest addition to the offense could be running back Stephen Carr, who transferred to Indiana from USC. Carr was a former 5-star recruit who never really got a chance at USC due to injuries. Carr is the first 5-star rated talent to ever commit to the Hoosiers.
The Hoosiers’ defense, despite losing safety Jamar Johnson and defensive lineman Jerome Johnson to the NFL, will still come into this upcoming season with a stellar unit filled with talent and experience. The defensive line will be headlined by Ole Miss transfer Ryder Anderson, who will add a much needed boost to the front four. The starting defensive line will be rounded out by seniors Demarcus Elliott and Alfred Bryant, along with junior Sio Nofoagatoto’a.
The linebacker unit will be led by All-American senior Micah McFadden, who is projected to be a top-5 linebacker in the country. Fellow seniors Cam Jones and Marcelino McCrary-Ball will fill the other two spots. Indiana also has a deep defensive back stable. More than likely, the starting cornerbacks will be senior Jaylin Williams and junior Tiawan Mullen, while the safeties will be manned by seniors Devon Matthews and Raheem Layne.
For well over a decade, Indiana University football was an annual laughing stock among the ranks of the Big Ten conference. They were usually seen as a stepping stone during the regular season for Ohio State and Michigan as they made their cases for the College Football Playoff, but the Hoosiers have managed to flip the script over the past two years. They are now a well-respected member of the Big Ten, and could quite possibly be on the road to even greater success in the future.