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IU’s fastest start in Memorial Stadium history keys shutout win over Rutgers

Reakwon Jones runs it back for the first points of the day against Rutgers. Indiana’s defense set the tone out of the gate and never looked back. (Jared Rigdon/HN)

Fans hadn’t even finished filing into their seats. With just over 12 minutes to play in the first quarter against Rutgers, IU fans trickled across 17th Street and into the stadium. They came up the ramps and into the bleacher seats, the student section slowly beginning to fill past the exit to the concourse.

And those who did missed 14 points put on the board in a flash.

Just minutes later, fans already began to return to their tailgates.

Indiana scored 21 points in the first eight minutes of football against Rutgers. The Hoosiers scored on the first play from scrimmage, a defensive touchdown in fact, and cruised to a 35-0 win.

Reakwon Jones thrust both his arms up into the air as he crossed the goal line, the football in his hand. He had recovered a fumble caused by Demarcus Elliott, forcing it out of Rutgers quarterback Johnny Langan’s hand as he sacked the redshirt freshman.

That was the first play from scrimmage. Just 10 seconds had elapsed. It was IU’s fastest start in Memorial Stadium history.

One hundred fifty-six seconds later, IU scored again. It needed just two plays to drive 70 yards.

And four minutes later the lead grew again.

“It was 21-0 before you could blink,” Allen said.

With 8:08 to play in the first quarter, IU had already jumped out to a 21-0 lead. It was the same type of start it saw against the weakest nonconference opponents like Eastern Illinois and UConn. Though when facing a Rutgers team with a new head coach, third string quarterback, backup running back and a defense that allowed 48 points to Maryland a week prior, it was the start IU was supposed to have.

IU’s offense took a lull in the second quarter before getting a rhythm back at the start of the second half.

The defense never had a lull, literally from the first play. IU allowed one passing yard the entire game. The defense allowed 75 total yards. Rutgers was 0-11 on third downs.

Cam Jones led IU with six tackles and two sacks, the first two of his career. IU had six sacks and 14 tackles for loss in a breakout for the defensive line.

Stevie Scott began to find the biggest holes he’s had all season, and it led to his best game of the season finishing with 164 yards on 12 carries.

“They have some really good players on defense, and he just ran right over one of them, and it was just a grown-man run that I thought was awesome, just a confident run and just a strong run and just an attitude run,” Allen said. “He’s growing in his confidence, and the guys in front of him and what we’re doing schematically.”

Even then, those players in front of him have been varied.

IU has already lost Coy Cronk for the season, and Hunter Littlejohn suffered an injury Saturday. Allen did say he expects Littlejohn to be fine. Matthew Bedford and Charlie O’Connor have suddenly become key pieces up front, and the running game hasn’t lost a step. In fact, it’s gotten better.

IU had 260 yards on the ground in its best rushing performance of the season. Allen gave the offensive line the game ball as a result.

Whop Philyor had a second straight 100-yard day, and went far beyond that. He finished with 182 yard on 10 catches, his second straight double-digit catch game. He’s the first IU receiver even to have double-digit catches in consecutive games.

He’s developed a strong rapport with Penix, emerging as his favorite target. They’ve played together often since Penix arrived at IU, and especially this season.

Michael Penix finds a hole downfield during Saturday’s 35-0 win over Rutgers. (Jared Rigdon/HN)

And that isn’t limited to football. The two play Fortnite together, and NBA 2K, and they watch film while doing so.

Statistically, IU’s performance resembled the blowout wins it had over Eastern Illinois and UConn. Both those games featured stellar defensive performances — so stellar that IU entered the week ranked as the 31st total defense in the nation.

Though that was what IU was expected to do. Rutgers is among the worst teams in the FBS, and Indiana made sure it looked that way.

And they did it as bowl committees begin to take notice.

IU is 4-2. It needs two wins in its final six games, and it isn’t the brutal stretch IU is accustomed to playing in the Big Ten East. It’s already gotten past two of the top tier Big Ten East teams.

The Outback Bowl had representatives in attendance for IU’s win. The Outback Bowl features the Big Ten against the SEC and has had at least one ranked team seven times since 2010.

Suddenly IU is in a position to make a run at such a game. Tom Allen’s group still has to play Maryland, Northwestern and Purdue. They likely will be favored in all three and should that hold, IU has seven wins.

It hasn’t been the same old Hoosiers in 2019. The same team that hung around with Michigan State might have come out flat against Rutgers. It didn’t do that.

Instead, IU has begun to build momentum into the most crucial stretch of the season with regard to bowl eligibility.

Allen knows that has to continue.

“To be where we’re at right now because of so much youth on our team, there’s no question I feel good about where we are and where we’re headed,” Allen said. “We’ve got to keep getting better.”

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