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<p>Jaylin Lucas celebrates a touchdown during Indiana&#x27;s 21-14 loss to Louisville on Sept. 16, 2023. (HN photo/Nick McCarry)</p>
Jaylin Lucas celebrates a touchdown during Indiana's 21-14 loss to Louisville on Sept. 16, 2023. (HN photo/Nick McCarry)

Indiana comeback comes up short against Louisville

The Hoosiers held the Cardinals scoreless after halftime, but couldn't punch it in when they needed a final score

INDIANAPOLIS — Josh Henderson is stuffed at the 1-yard line. A single sentence that spelled Indiana’s fate at Lucas Oil Stadium.

A promising third quarter was not enough for the Indiana Hoosiers to capitalize over Louisville on Saturday afternoon, ultimately falling to the Cardinals with a final score of 21-14. 

With a first half that gave many a sense of deja vu to previous seasons, being down 21-0 at halftime left little to look forward to in the second half. Ending the first half with 107 total yards compared to Louisville’s 302 yards, meant that a Tom Allen halftime speech was destined heading into the Indiana locker room. 

“It was very intense… [Allen] was telling us, ‘We’re not quitting, we’re going to keep going,’” Indiana quarterback Tayven Jackson said. “‘This is who we are as a program, we're fighters and this is what we do. We’re coming out and we’re coming out like a wrecking ball,’ and that's what we did.”

It was an even matchup between the two teams to start the first half, until Jackson was intercepted on a pass intended for DeQuece Carter towards the end of the first quarter. Louisville’s Jack Plummer immediately answered by finding his go-to receiver Jamari Thrash for an 85-yard touchdown, giving Louisville a 7-0 lead heading into the end of the first. 

From there on out, Louisville continued to dominate and score on its following two drives, giving the Cardinals the 21-0 lead heading into halftime. 

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell my teammates, that we can’t bust coverages,” Indiana defensive back Louis Moore said, “and that’s exactly what happened today.” 

Indiana linebacker and captain Aaron Casey said the locker room environment during halftime was serious.

“We knew that we were beating ourselves, more than they were beating us,” Casey said. “We decided that we had to lock in, trust each other, and play our responsibilities and really just focus and hone in on what we had to do.” 

And trusting each other is what they did as they came right out of the locker room electing to go for an onside kick and recovering it, which led to Jackson and Indiana’s first passing touchdown of the season connecting with none other than Jaylin Lucas for a 30-yard touchdown in the first drive of the second half.

With the lit-up offensive performance came an electrified defense to follow. Indiana held Louisville scoreless throughout the entire second half, with pressure coming all over the field, especially from Casey and Andre Carter. With the help of a crucial interception by Phillip Dunnam — his second on the season — Jackson & Co. were able to put Henderson in position to score a 2-yard touchdown and tighten the lead to seven. 

Unsurprisingly, Casey showed up when he was needed — ending the day with 10 total tackles, five solo tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss. 

In one of the biggest defensive plays of the game, in the fourth quarter Casey read right through the Louisville offense as Plummer handed the ball off to running back Jawhar Jordan, who handed it off to wide receiver Kevin Coleman Jr. on a trick play. Casey was right there to stuff Coleman for the 8-yard loss — which ultimately led to Louisville having to punt it away. 

“It was a first for me,” Casey said. “I was kind of surprised that I was scot-free coming in there and I saw [Kevin Coleman Jr.] and I was like, ‘Wow, he’s coming right to my lap.’”

While the Indiana defense continued to hold Louisville scoreless until the end, the Cardinals began to do the same to the Hoosiers in the fourth. With eight minutes left on the clock and Indiana down by seven, the Hoosiers had no option but to execute and score on this drive. 

Indiana was moving down the field with confidence, with the help of a 41-yard reception by Cam Camper for Indiana’s longest play of the season. Multiple successful plays lead to this one single moment. On a third and goal at the Louisville 8-yard line, Jackson had no option but to scramble to the right and fans all over the country suddenly got flashbacks of a certain Michael Penix Jr. leaping into the end zone.

After further review, this call led to a different outcome. A fourth and goal. 

Cam Camper tries to shed a tackle during Indiana's 21-14 loss to Louisville on Sept. 16, 2023. (HN photo/Nick McCarry)

Following an Indiana timeout, it all came down to this single play. Jackson handed it off to Henderson who was stuffed at the 1-yard line. 

With Indiana coming out of this drive ending at the Louisville 1-yard line, Indiana fans left the game puzzled and frustrated with that final play call. 

As the Hoosiers head into their non-conference finale, they look to find some redemption and even their 1-2 record next week as they will be facing the Akron Zips on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. back in Bloomington at Memorial Stadium. 

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