Winston-Salem, N.C – . — Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld is happy that the Hoosiers are now 4-0, and on their longest winning streak in in 28 years.
But even after Indiana’s 31-24 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday, Sudfeld and his teammates know there’s still some areas for improvement.
“The cool thing about where we’re at right now is that we’re really not clicking at the level we know we can,” Sudfelt said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s good to be 4-0.”
Sudfeld threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns, and Jordan Howard added 168 rushing yards and a touchdown for the undefeated Hoosiers, who head into next week’s Big Ten showdown against No. 1 Ohio State riding a five-game winning streak.
Indiana’s 4-0 start is its best since 1990, and the sixth time in program history that the Hoosiers have opened a season with four consecutive wins. And the five straight wins, dating back to the final game of the 2014 season, is their first since 1987.
However, the Deacons (2-2) made it close at the end, rallying from a 31-10 deficit with a pair of touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, and setting themselves up to tie the game by recovering an onside kick with 2:31.
“It was a good win, but we made it hard at the end,” Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said. “It was nice to keep playing, get a little pressure and close it out. We made it harder than we needed to.
“No game has been easy for us. If we’re not awake, we’re doing a bad job coaching. We know conference play is coming, and there’s a lot of football to play.”
Sudfeld, who finished 19 of 34 passing, threw touchdown passes of 6 yards to Simmie Cobbs Jr. and 28 yards to Ricky Jones in staking Indiana to a 17-10 halftime lead. Griffin Oakes also hit a 30-yard field goal as time expired.
Howard, who entered Saturday’s game as the nation’s rushing leader with 507 yards, added a 2-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
“We started out a little slow, but we kept doing what we know best,” said Howard, who now has 672 rushing yards in four games. “Things opened up for us.
“We didn’t want this to be a trap game, we didn’t want to look ahead (to playing Ohio State) and end up slipping up. But games like this are bringing us closer together, showing us that we’ve got to keep fighting throughout the game.”
Kendall Hinton, making his first start at quarterback, ran for two touchdowns and threw for a third for the Deacons. But Hinton was sacked six times, and he threw an interception that Tony Fields retuned 20 yards for a score that put the Hoosiers up 31-10 with 10:22 remaining.
However, Hinton kept Wake Forest close with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. His 14-yard keeper with 6:25 left cut the Hoosiers’ lead to 31-17, and a 29-yard scoring pass to Tabari Hines with 2:33 left pulled the Deacons within 31-24.
“In the first quarter, we started out slow,” said Hinson, who also had a 15-yard TD run to open the second quarter that tied the game at 7-7. “I missed a lot of throws, and in the third quarter as well. (But) coming out at halftime, we started out slow, but once we got in a rhythm, the team picked it up.”
Wake Forest’s Julian Jackson then came up with an onside kick to give the Deacons one last shot. Aided by a pass interference call, Wake Forest drove to the Hoosiers 32, but a holding call pushed the Deacons back.
Wake Forest’s last chance ended when Indiana’s Rashard Fant broke up a pass in the end zone for Deacons receiver K.J. Brent.
Hinton completed 19 of 46 passes for 245 yards and added 57 yards rushing for the Deacons. Mike Weaver also made a 35-yard field goal with 3:47 left in the first half that pulled Wake Forest within 14-10.
“I thought our kids played hard for four quarters,” Deacons coach Dave Clawson said. “The bottom line is on offense, we missed some opportunities in the passing game. We had people open and just didn’t throw and catch as well as we needed to.
“We came to life in the fourth quarter, but too little too late. We’re making progress, but this is one that we really wanted to get and thought we could get, so we’re disappointed.”