As J-Shun Harris sprinted past the Ball State bench en route to an 86-yard punt return touchdown, so too did head coach Tom Allen.
With both arms raised and fists clenched, Allen coordinated the celebration along the Indiana sideline as Ricky Brookins and A’Shon Riggins hugged Indiana’s speedy return man in the end zone.
Harris’ gallop to paydirt handed the Hoosiers a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter. It allowed Indiana to create separation against an inferior in-state opponent, and play with ease.
“It’s just great to actually put a game together and finish,” redshirt junior linebacker Reakwon Jones said. “And you know that has been our biggest problem in the past so it’s just great to see people come out and compete.”
In Saturday’s 38-10 win over the Cardinals, Allen’s bunch played their most complete game to date.
Aside from Harris’ punt return Indiana flashed its full capabilities on both sides of the ball.
Offensively Peyton Ramsey was lights-out. Despite starting the day a mediocre 2-for-5, he finished 20-of-27 for 173 yards and rushed for a touchdown.
“He’s proven to everybody why I picked him, and I believe in him,” Allen said of Ramsey.
On the ground Stevie Scott and Ronnie Walker Jr. showed glimpses of a lightning and thunder duo. Scott bruised his way an 18-carry, 114-yard, two touchdown performance, while Walker added a speedy 41 yards and a touchdown.
“Our whole running back group is very perfect,” Scott said. “We all can run the ball. We all can do things to help this team win.”
As for Allen’s unit, the defense held Ball State quarterback Riley Neal to just 115 yards through the air. And though James Gilbert scampered for 89 yards and a touchdown, the Hoosiers largely limited big plays in the ground game.
Further, after totaling just a single sack in their first two games, Indiana tallied three on the day.
“I feel like we stood up. Finished the game.” senior safety Jonathan Crawford said.
It’s also worth noting this wasn’t your average Big Ten-MAC contest. The narrative can be overblown, but Allen said all week that Indiana wasn’t taking Ball State lightly given the in-state factor and that just a week ago the Cardinals took Notre Dame down to the wire in South Bend. Ball State had also won three of the past four meetings against the Hoosiers.
IU’s first two games also furthered the trap-game notion. Though the result was never really in doubt, Indiana let FIU hang around before finishing them off 38-28. Monsoon-like conditions and three-straight stalled fourth quarter drives in Virginia territory kept the Cavaliers within striking distance in week two. But Saturday Indiana finally did what was expected and stomped an inferior team in all facets.
“Really proud of our team to come together and to be 3-0,” Allen said postgame. “It was something we knew we needed to do, we wanted to do, but had to go out and earn it, and that’s what our guys did.”