BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana hasn't been able to run the ball very well this season, but it hasn't mattered. It's been winning anyway. But that weakness turned into a major strength on Saturday in a critical 27-11 win over Maryland at Memorial Stadium.
The new-look Hoosiers ran a lot of Wildcat sets for the first time all year, and that new wrinkle helped them explode for 234 yards on the ground, far above their 76.0 average through five game that was among the worst in the country. Veteran running back Stevie Scott had 80 yards and three touchdowns and true freshman Tim Baldwin had his first dominant performance with 106 yards on 16 carries.
"I've been impressed with him in practice, and our whole offensive staff was very confident in Tim,'' Indiana coach Tom Allen said of Baldwin, a freshman from Nokesville, Va. "Some guys have a knack for finding the hole. He's our kind of guy, smart, tough and dependable.''
With the win, the Hoosiers moved to 5-1 on the season, all against Big Ten East foes. The victory meant a lot, because division leader Ohio State had to cancel its game with Illinois. If the Buckeyes can't play next week or in their finale vs. Michigan, they would not be eligible to play in the Dec. 19 Big Ten championship game, and the Hoosiers now would slide into that spot. The Hoosiers have never played in the title game, and haven't won a Big Ten title since 1967.
Indiana's improved running game came at a perfect time, because quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who passed for a career-high 491 yards in the loss to Ohio State last week, had his worst game as a Hoosier. He was just 2-for-15 passing for 37 yards in the first half, and finished the day 6-for-19 for 84 yards. His day ended, coincidentally, on a long run, where he injured his leg at the end of a 21-yard gain. Backup Jack Tuttle had to finish off the win for the Hoosiers.
"Sometimes you just have days like that,'' Allen said. "He just seemed really off, I don't really know the reason why, for sure, but he was just missing guys."
Allen didn't have any update on the severity of Penix's injury, and said he would be evaluated over the weekend and would have an update on Monday.
Indiana's defense gave up a lot of yards early, but still kept Maryland out of the end zone. Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw an interception in the red zone and Maryland also missed a field goal on their first drive of the game. Maryland got only three points in the first half, and the Hoosiers led 7-3 at the break thanks to an early touchdown run by Scott out of the Wildcat
They slammed the door in the second half, with Maryland going backward in the third quarter, losing 5 yards in the stanza. Indiana's offense then had the chance to pull away.
Indiana tackled Tagovailoa for a safety midway through the third quarter to make it 9-3, and then scored on its next possession, with Scott scoring from 1-yard out after Penix's long run. Indiana added a two-point conversion to go up 17-3. The Hoosiers added another Scott touchdown and a Charles Campbell field goal to make it 27-3.
Maryland scored a late touchdown on a 43-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Dontay Demus, Jr., but then the Hoosiers ran out the clock from there.
The Hoosiers travel to Wisconsin next Saturday, and then finish the regular season with a home game against Purdue.
Maryland (2-2) plays at Michigan. The Terrapins had just 59 yards rushing on 24 carries against Indiana. Tagovailoa finished 17-for-36 passing for 241 yards, with a touchdown pass and three interceptions.
"We did a lot of studying on him. He's a one-read player,'' Indiana cornerback Tiawan Mullen said of Tagvailoa. "We had to bounce back from Ohio State, because everybody knew we left a lot on the field. We got focuses on Maryland, and we knew we had to play at a high standard.''
Related stories on Indiana football
- PENIX INJURED: Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was injured at the end of a long run in the second half, and did not return. CLICK HERE
- LIVE BLOG: Follow all of Indiana's victory over Maryland in real time in our live blog, with news and commentary. CLICK HERE
- GAMEDAY PREDICTION: HoosiersNow publisher Tom Brew broke down the matchup and told you how it would play out. (He was right again, now 6-0) CLICK HERE