No. 12 Indiana stifled No. 16 Wisconsin in Madison. The 14-6 victory was a Hoosier statement. Here’s what we learned Saturday.
Jack Tuttle is more than an adequate replacement
There was much talk throughout the week of what Michael Penix’s replacement could do against a top defense. On Saturday, Jack Tuttle proved to be poised, smart and even capable of big-league throws. The redshirt sophomore making his first career start looked confident over the course of the game. Wisconsin consistently brought pressure but Tuttle stayed in the pocket and made bullet throws knowing he would take some big hits. He even showed an effective ability to quarterback sneak.
Tuttle made his most spectacular throws in the second half, most memorably a beautiful fade to Whop Philyor for the Hoosiers’ second touchdown. And Tuttle showed fight. After taking a big hit by Wisconsin linebacker Jack Sanborn he went to the locker room. But after being being cleared, he came sprinting out of the tunnel just in time for the next drive.
In a Big Ten-style defensive game, IU never needed Tuttle to be a superhero. But Tuttle proved with his confidence under duress and a pretty ball he can be more than a game manager going forward.
Kane Wommack is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country
Every week the IU defense gets better and better. Wisconsin had 342 yards on Saturday. The Badgers never scored a touchdown.
Wommack has designed a defense that never breaks. A defense that forces turnovers, key stops and has a remarkable ability to bow their ears back and stifle teams when needed. And when IU’s offense did not always help, the Hoosier defense was up to the task. The Badgers offense was on the field for more than 10 minutes longer than the Hoosiers. But Wommack’s troops never looked tired.
Wommack has a uncanny ability to game plan and put his experienced players “in the best position to execute,” as he frequently says. It sounds like coach speak at a Monday press conference but it has worked all season on Saturdays. A Tiawan Mullen sack and strip was a prime example of a brilliantly designed blitz. The turnover led to Indiana’s lone touchdown in the first half.
And importantly, Wommack has the players to execute his goals. Mullen and fellow cornerbacks Jaylin Williams and Reese Taylor all made key plays in Madison. Micah McFadden continues to be a perfect leader and playmaker of the defense. And an experienced d-line limited a potent Wisconsin rushing attack.
Indiana needed a great performance from its defense on Saturday to win. A suffocating performance against a physical top 20 team proved the Hoosiers have the best defense in the Big Ten. It will be a big loss in Bloomington but Kane Wommack deserves a Power Five head coaching job.
LEO is real
Miles Marshall early fourth quarter drop will be on all the highlight shows. Jack Tuttle’s third quarter fumble on a quarterback sneak spoiled a possibly game-sealing drive. They were reminders of the pain and struggle that IU football has been through against ranked teams over nearly its entire history. But it did not matter on Saturday in Madison. Why?
The ABC postgame interview was evidence. Tom Allen was constantly interrupted by numerous players hugging and telling the world Allen is the “best coach in the country.”
Indiana has always found a way to lose throughout its sad football history. They were supposed to lose again on Saturday. The Hoosiers were two touchdown underdogs in Madison. On ESPN’s College Gameday almost all the analysts were in agreement that the Badgers would win comfortably. And Indiana just lost its star quarterback.
But Tom Allen’s LEO mantra brought IU’s players cohesion and an unshakeable belief in their teammates and victory. In Indiana’s best win of the season, Tom Allen and the Hoosiers proved that in a dark world, loving each other can still win.