October 17, 2009

Career highs halt Hoosier losing streak

The Indiana football squad answered the call on their first must-win game of the season.

Facing a potential four-game losing streak that would severely hinder IU's postseason bowl hopes, the Hoosiers (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) picked up a crucial 27-14 victory over Illinois (1-5, 0-4) on Homecoming Night behind career days from numerous Indiana players.

"It was obviously a big win for our football team and one that we needed," Indiana head coach Bill Lynch said. "I was really proud how they bounced back from a tough couple of weeks. Those that have been around all week know that we challenged them pretty good on Monday and they really responded."

Despite two missed field goals early, the Indiana offense clicked on all cylinders throughout the majority of the game. By halftime, the Hoosiers had tallied 317 total yards. However those yards didn't equate to points in the opening 30 minutes, as IU held a slim 13-7 lead.

Late in the third quarter, it would seem that those missed opportunities might cost the Hoosiers in the long run. Behind quarterback Juice Williams, the Illinois offense had driven down to the Indiana six-yard line and looked poised to erase IU's lead. However defensive end Jammie Kirlew forced the first of his two fumbles on the evening and defensive back Ray Fisher picked up the loose ball and ran it back to the 32-yard line.

Five plays later, Chappell fooled the Illinois defense with a play-action pass and found his favorite target, Tandon Doss, for a 44-yard touchdown. The score gave Indiana a 20-7 lead along with a swing in momentum.

After Kirlew's career high second forced fumble of the night was recovered by Larry Black, Jr., Chappell used the play-action again. This time, he found rarely-used tight end Troy Wagner in the endzone for a 13-yard touchdown to give IU a 27-7 lead.

The score marked a career-best three touchdowns for Chappell, who finished 23-for-38 and also set a career mark for passing yards with 333. He did not throw a pass for the final 10:48 of the game.

"The play-action was open all night because of the run," Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell said. "I missed one over the middle to Damarlo (Belcher), but it was there."

Chappell's career day led to big numbers all around for the Hoosier offense. Doss continued his hot streak against the Illini. The sophomore torched the secondary with seven receptions for a career-high 130 yards and a score. Damarlo Belcher matched a career best with six receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown.

Indiana also incorporated more Wildcat formations into the offense. Mitchell Evans took full advantage of the Wildcat's flexibility, taking 11 snaps at quarterback en route to a career best 88 yards on nine carries. The formation changes gave the Illinois defense problems all game.

"One of the things they do a very good job of is the different formations," Illinois head coach Ron Zook said. "The unbalanced things that they do try to get you to make checks, and when you do that, there's a lot of thinking involved."

While the offense put up 482 total yards, the defense may have caused the most havoc of the evening. The defense tallied four fumbles on the evening, three of which were recovered by the Hoosiers. That total was also the most since 2008.

Matt Mayberry was everywhere on the field on D. The senior finished with a game and career high 14 tackles. Along with his two fumbles, Kirlew set the tone along the defensive front with nine tackles and one sack. The sack gave him 22.0 for his career, which is tied with Greg Farrall (1988-91) for fourth on the all-time leader list.

"(Coach Lynch's) ideas and him talking to us, and making us think outside the box and getting us back on track (helped). So many things he did in practice, things we did earlier in the season kind of faded away. This is a big win for us. It's homecoming and everyone is feeling good and we definitely want to use this as momentum for the rest of the season."

After allowing 47 points last week against Virginia, the entire Hoosier team made a point during the week's practice to play inside themselves. After feeling they didn't play their type of game last week, IU made a point to come out and solidify that point early.

"We made a big point in practice this last week that we can't play like that. It was just not us," Evans said. "I thought this was a big game and it really built our confidence back up."

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