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Indiana Football Shut Out in Second Half, Loses 35-21 at Nebraska

Indiana had all the momentum heading into the halftime locker room, but the Hoosiers were shut out in the second half in a 35-21 loss to Nebraska on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.

Nebraska linebacker Luke Reimer tipped Connor Bazelak's 4th-and-16 prayer to the ground, sealing the second-half shutout. 

The Hoosiers punted 11 times and finished the game with seven three-and-out drives, and Nebraska gashed a worn-out Indiana defense for two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 35-21 win. On Saturday night at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., Mickey Joseph claimed his first victory as Nebraska's interim head coach to snap the school's nine-game FBS losing streak.

From coaching changes to ugly home losses, Nebraska showed serious disfunction through four games. But as Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson took a knee in victory formation on Saturday night, the evident flaws shifted to the Indiana sideline. 

Despite Indiana coach Tom Allen shaking things up in practice in hopes of generating a faster start, it was clear from the start that Indiana is far from overcoming its early game-struggles. Whether it was caused by a raucous Memorial Stadium crowd, a different look from Nebraska's defense, miscommunication or all three, Indiana was forced to call a timeout before its first offensive snap.

After two rushes for three total yards by Indiana running back Shaun Shivers and an incompletion from Bazelak, the Hoosiers punted on their first drive. Indiana has scored just nine points in the first quarter, and it has failed to score a first-quarter touchdown through five games. 

Nebraska was ready from the opening kick, as Thompson found Trey Palmer for a 34-yard gain on the second snap. On the third play, Thompson put Nebraska on the board with a 34-yard touchdown to Oliver Martin.

Indiana tied the game early in the second quarter when linebacker Cam Jones and defensive back Louis Moore crushed backup quarterback Chubba Purdy in the end zone, causing a fumble that Myles Jackson recovered for an Indiana touchdown. But just two minutes later, James Evans’ punt was blocked by Nebraska’s Chris Kolarevic and returned for an easy scoop-and-score touchdown by Malcolm Hartzog.

Following six punts and four three-and-out drives, Indiana’s offense started to click for the only stretch of the entire game late in the first half. Bazelak orchestrated a seven-play 75-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown reception from Emery Simmons. True freshman running back Jaylin Lucas broke two defenders' ankles on a 34-yard run to set Shivers up for a touchdown on the next drive, tying the game at 21 at halftime. After a lackluster start, it finally felt as if Indiana figured out Nebraska's defense, which entered the game ranked 127th out of 131 teams in yards allowed per game.

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But Indiana gave away all the momentum it gained in the second quarter as fast as it could. Bazelak found wide receiver Javon Swinton across the middle, but Swinton absorbed a hard hit before he could secure the ball, and Reimer snagged it for a Nebraska interception. Indiana went on to punt the ball five more times in the second half, and its offense looked lost as ever. 

"At the end of the first half, they couldn't stop us," Bazelak said. "In the second half we couldn't do that, but it wasn't because of them. It was because of us."

The Hoosiers were playing without their top two wide receivers, Cam Camper and D.J. Matthews, which appeared to have a legitimate affect on the offense. Bazelak finished the night completing 22-of-44 passes for 223 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Simmons stepped up to lead Indiana with six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown, and Andison Coby added five receptions for 54 yards.

"Obviously, [Camper and Matthews] are huge parts of our offense," Bazelak said. "It's tough not having them. We had some guys step up and made some plays. We just have to find ways to make more. I've got to be more accurate on some balls."

The Indiana running game had another inconsistent night, generating 2.9 yards per carry on 23 attempts. After an electrifying play from Lucas in the first half, Indiana didn't call his number in the final 30 minutes. Shivers ran nine times for 25 yards, and Josh Henderson gained 22 yards on five carries. 

“The whole offense wasn’t good enough," Allen said.

As Indiana's fast-paced offense failed to stay on the field and sustain drives, the Hoosier defense noticeably wore down in the fourth quarter. Thompson connected with Palmer for a 71-yard touchdown to break the tie in the fourth quarter, and following another Indiana punt, Nebraska milked over six minutes of clock with the run game. Anthony Grant ran seven times for 31 yards on this drive, which concluded with a 1-yard walk-in touchdown from Thompson to seal the game. Grant finished the game with 32 carries for 136 yards, and Palmer led Nebraska with eight catches for 157 yards and a touchdown. 

With its second consecutive loss, Indiana moves to 3-2 on the season. This was a big missed opportunity for an Indiana's bowl-game hopes, as No. 4 Michigan comes to Bloomington, Ind. next weekend, followed by a full Big Ten East slate. 

  • LIVE BLOG: Indiana (3-1) and Nebraska (1-3) square off in a Week 5 matchup at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. Follow along with our live blog for updates and thoughts on the game. CLICK HERE
  • INDIANA WEEK 5 DEPTH CHART, INJURY NOTES: Indiana football (3-1) travels to Lincoln, Neb. on Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff against the Cornhuskers and interim head coach Mickey Joseph. Here's Indiana's Week 5 depth chart, as well as some quick injury updates. CLICK HERE
  • CAM JONES PODCAST: On this week's Episode 5 of Hoosier Roundtable Podcast, Indiana linebacker Cam Jones was awarded the Terry Tallen Football Leadership Scholarship, and his reaction was caught on camera! Shot at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, take a look at the full podcast video, or read the transcript summary. CLICK HERE