Bloomington, Ind. — After just one quarter, it was clear that Indiana coach Kevin Wilson has more confidence than ever in the Indiana running game. And by halftime, Hoosiers quarterback Nate Sudfeld had made so many handoffs it was strange to see him drop back to pass.
Indiana rode Tevin Coleman, who rushed for a career-high 247 yards, and D’Angelo Roberts to a 28-10 home win over Indiana State on Saturday. The IU backfield duo combined for 376 yards and three touchdowns on 47 carries.
Whether the Hoosiers were playing it safe because the field was wet after a rain storm delayed the start of the game 50 minutes or Wilson used the season-opener against the Football Championship Subdivision Sycamores to not reveal much of the Indiana playbook to opponents, the offensive game plan might have seemed bland on the surface.
Either way, the Hoosiers are off and running.
“The run game was going well enough and we rode that,” Wilson said. “(Indiana State’s) structure was a little bit softer defending the perimeter and that gave us a chance to give our backs some creases. I don’t know if I’d call it ‘vanilla.’ It’s just kind of how we started (the season).”
After a breakout season a year ago in which he ran for 958 yards and scored 12 touchdowns, Coleman on Saturday asserted himself early. He helped the Hoosiers grab an early hold on the contest by capping Indiana’s first drive with a 13-yard touchdown run.
After an Eric Heidorn field goal pulled the Sycamores within 7-3, Coleman busted loose on Indiana’s ensuing drive for a 73-yard scamper. At that point he had already recorded 119 yards on just seven carries.
Coleman downplayed his ability to create big plays by eluding tackles and extending plays. And when asked about his career day, Coleman quickly deferred the credit to his teammates.
“Me and the O-line just have trust in each other,” Coleman said. “I was just hitting the holes with velocity and just reading (the defense). We planned all during camp that we were going to run the ball a lot this year.”
When Wilson gave Coleman a break, it was Roberts gashing the Sycamores defense. Roberts also surpassed the 100-yard mark, finishing with 129 yards and one touchdown. Even Sudfeld contributed to the Hoosiers rushing attack with 32 yards on 10 carries. As a team, Indiana ran 69 times for 455 yards and got all four of its scores on the ground.
In the end, it was Coleman’s performance that outshined any individual effort. It marked the fifth-best rushing performance in school history. He led the nation a year ago in runs of 40 yards or more with eight. And he’s off to a good start in 2014.
Indiana State was able to keep the game close by taking care of the ball and stopping the Hoosiers twice on fourth down inside the red zone. Sycamores quarterback Mike Perish went 17-for-32 with 140 yards. Running back Buck Logan rushed 10 times for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Trailing 21-3 midway through the third quarter, Indiana State turned a Sudfeld interception into a touchdown after Travis Starks’ pick stalled a 12-play Indiana drive. Starks returned the ball 60 yards to the Indiana 16. The Sycamores needed just three plays to cash in.
Logan’s touchdown with just more than three minutes left in the third quarter gave Indiana State some life. But Myles Graham’s 1-yard touchdown run for Indiana with just less than five minutes left in the contest sealed the win for the Hoosiers.
“First thing, we’re a better football team than that score,” Indiana State coach Mike Sanford said after the Hoosiers outgained the Sycamores 566-170 in total yards. “If we take care of the ball and score in the red zone . it’s 21-21 at some point in the third or fourth quarter and we’re right there to win the game. We’re a better football team than that and we’re not satisfied with anything.”
The Hoosiers will be on the road at Bowling Green on Sept. 13 after a bye week next week. Indiana State will host Tennessee Tech next Saturday.