Hoosiers overcome early deficit, defeat FIU 38-28 in season opener
MIAMI — Peyton Ramsey was glad to finally complete passes against an opponent.
Ramsey threw for three touchdown passes to lead Indiana to a 38-28 victory over Florida International in the teams’ season openers Saturday night.
The Hoosiers overcame a 7-0 first quarter deficit and scored three unanswered touchdowns.
Ramsey connected with Donavan Hale on scores from 18 and 2 yards and also threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Peyton Hendershot. Ramsey completed 20 of 27 for 156 yards.
“It feels good to have one under our belt,” Ramsey said. “We’ve got a little confidence now. We’ve played one. And now we’re ready to get rolling and get this thing going.”
Indiana broke a 7-7 tie and took the lead for good on Jonathan Crawford’s 33-yard interception return for a touchdown with 4:01 remaining in the first quarter.
“I think last year we had two pick-sixes that were dropped,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. “You see how that changed the whole game.
For Crawford, the return for a touchdown was the first of his career. Crawford, a senior defensive back from Largo, Florida and one of 24 Hoosier players from the state, also forced a fumble in the Panthers’ first drive of the game.
“All summer I had it in mind to get a pick-six,” Crawford said. “As soon as I caught it my goal was getting in the end zone.”
Michael Penix replaced Ramsey in the second half and threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Mike Majette. Penix led the Hoosiers on another scoring drive which ended on Logan Justus’ 36-yard field goal for a 38-21 lead with 9:58 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“It’s just great to get the first win, a team win for sure,” Allen said “I’m really proud of our offense. They were able to finish.”
Florida International’s Anthony Jones rushed for 88 yards on 15 carries and scored on touchdown runs of 36 and two yards.
“You got to start some place,” Florida International coach Butch Davis said. “To be honest to score 28 points and run the ball as well as we did that part is encouraging. ”
The Hoosiers played without sophomore running back Morgan Ellison, who rushed for a team-high 704 yards last season. Ellison was suspended for the opener because of a violation of team rules.
Indiana: Ramsey overcame an interception to Florida International’s Dorian Hall in the team’s first series and led the Hoosiers to touchdowns in three of their next four drives. Ramsey moved Indiana to the Florida International 37-yard line in the final series of the first half before time elapsed.
“When you make a mistake you have to bounce back,” Ramsey said. “I’m not perfect. I made mistakes last year and I think I learned from that. I just tried to stay calm. Stay cool.”
Florida International: throughout fall practice, coach Butch Davis rotated transfer graduate student James Morgan and red-shirt juniors Christian Alexander at quarterback. Morgan started Saturday but Alexander also played in multiple series against the Hoosiers.
HOOSIERS AND THE FIU PICK-SIX LINK
Crawford’s interception return for a touchdown was Indiana’s first since two years to the day and against the same opponent. Tegray Scales and Rashard Fants scored on interception returns against Florida International on Sept. 1, 2016.
TURNOVERS COSTLY FOR THE PANTHERS
In addition to Crawford’s interception return, Florida International fumbled on its first drive. Hoosiers won the turnover total against the Panthers 3-1.
“Throwing an interception for a pick-six and the two fumbles are hard to overcome,” Davis said. I think this team is mature enough and smart enough and our coaches are smart enough to look at the film and realize the areas where we have to improve.”
Indiana: The Hoosiers begin their 2018 home schedule against Virginia Sept. 8.
Florida International: The Panthers open Conference USA play at Old Dominion Sept. 8.