A failed swing pass that was dropped and ruled a fumble ended an improbable comeback for Indiana Saturday as the Hoosiers fell 42-39 to Minnesota at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington. IU falls to 3-5 overall, 1-3 in Big Ten play, and watches their hopes for a bowl bid become precariously slim.
Meanwhile, Minnesota's resurgent season continues to gain steam as the Gophers improve to 7-2 overall, 3-2 in conference play.
The pivotal play in a wild game occurred on second and goal at the Minnesota 8 yard line. With under a minute remaining, the Hoosiers were attempting to score the go-ahead touchdown or settle for a probable overtime with a short field goal. IU QB Nate Sudfeld's awkward swing pass was off the mark, forcing Tevin Coleman to bobble the ball with a Minnesota defender closing in. Coleman dropped the pass, and the loose ball was scooped up by the Gophers Aaron Hill to seal the Hoosiers fate.
"This was a tough loss,"lamented IU head coach Kevin Wilson afterwards. "I thought we had the best chance to win that game and I'm really disappointed for our players. As coaches we have to help them out at the end and make the right plays, and that last one was not the right call."
The disappointing Homecoming defeat wipes out big days for IU backs Coleman and senior Stephen Houston. Coleman galloped for 123-yards, including a 55-yard scamper down the far sideline for a score. Houston, who has seen a diminished role this season, picked up 111 yards and displayed a more aggressive running style.
IU rallied from a 35-13 third quarter deficit behind sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld. Sudfled relieved a largely ineffective Tre Roberson and completed 13-of-20 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. His 30-yard laser to wide receiver Cody Latimer gave the Hoosiers a short-lived 39-35 advantage with 5:33 left to play.
However, Minnesota's Phillip Nelson, who threw for four touchdowns, connected with TE Maxx Williams down the seam for a 50-yard completion to help the Gophers regain the lead with 3:06 remaining.
IU drove the length of the field, mixing an attacking ground game with sideline routes to Latimer and Shane Wynn, before the fateful redzone mistake.
In a game that featured its share of twists and turns, the much-maligned Indiana defense actually came up with some key fourth quarter stops, but, as often has been the case the last several seasons, the Hoosiers couldn't come up with the clincher when they needed it most.
In addition to Nelson's throwing, Minnesota was backed up by the running of junior tailback David Cobb. Cobb sliced his way through the interior of the Hoosiers defense for 198-yards, often picking up yardage after first contact.
The Hoosiers must now win either at Wisconsin or Ohio State, in addition to sweeping home games against Illinois and Purdue, to become bowl eligible. IU will try to pick up the pieces and take the first step when they host Illinois next Saturday at "The Rock."
Extra Points: IU senior safety Greg Heban came up with a big stop on an attempted fake punt by Minnesota in the fourth quarter. The Hoosiers went on to score....Senior TE Ted Bolser caught a career-high six passes and trails the all-time IU mark, set by Bob Stephenson, by five catches....The Hoosiers scored 39 points, the sixth time this season they surpassed the 35 point mark. ...Coleman reached paydirt for the tenth time in eight games....Minnesota coach Jerry Kill watched from the press box....The Gophers lost C Jon Christenson with a severe leg injury in the first half.