Indiana cruises to 34-3 win behind Stevie Scott's strong night
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Stevie Scott III was a smash hit in Indiana's Saturday night premiere.
He ran around defenders. He overpowered defenders. He even fooled defenders.
In the first November night game played in Bloomington, Scott stole the show with two touchdown runs and a 20-yard touchdown reception, leading Indiana to a 34-3 rout over Northwestern and locking up the Hoosiers' first seven-win season since 2007.
"I do feel like there was a concerted effort by the teams we were playing to load the box and he was getting impatient and trying to bounce those runs," Indiana coach Tom Allen said. "But I think coach (Mike) Hart did a good job of teaching him how to stay with it and then he started running hard, with more confidence and our offensive line keeps getting better and better. And in the passing game he (Scott) has really worked on that."
It certainly showed Saturday.
Scott set the tone early by driving defenders backward on an overpowering 7-yard run on the game's fifth play. He followed that by sprinting around the left side and down the field for 27 yards on the next play to set up a field goal. He wound up carrying 26 times for 116 yards and scoring on his only catch of the night, a 20-yard TD reception.
Indiana (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) has now won four straight in conference play, its longest such streak since 1993 when they won four in a row. And the Hoosiers are one win away from their first eight-win season in 26 years despite losing starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. in the first half Saturday with yet another undisclosed injury.
But against the Wildcats' flailing offense, it didn't matter.
Northwestern (1-7, 0-6) lost its sixth straight, failed to top the 10-point mark for the fourth consecutive game and still hasn't scored a touchdown since Oct. 5. And it was downright ugly.
Quarterback Aidan Smith lost a fumble on Northwestern's first offensive play. Seven plays later, Scott's 2-yard TD run made it 10-0.
After a short field goal and a defensive stop, the Wildcats gave it away with another fumble that led to the benching of Smith. Penix capped Indiana's four-play, 18-yard run with a 1-yard plunge for a 17-3 lead.
"Can't lose the turnover ratio," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said was what he told the Wildcats. "I thought we had a pretty good offensive game plan that we failed to execute. It starts and ends with me, and I have to take responsibility for that."
The Wildcats' defense wasn't much better, though.
Two pass interference penalties in the end zone set up Scott's second 2-yard TD run and the Hoosiers made it 34-3 with Scott's touchdown reception and a short field goal early in the fourth.
"Seven wins to secure a winning season for the first time in 12 years is a very big deal," Allen said. "I don't think they're shocked by what they're doing, I think they expected it."
Northwestern: This loss essentially seals the Wildcats' postseason fate. Northwestern will not be bowl-eligible for the first time since 2014 — a jarring reality for a team that played for a Big Ten championship last season.
Indiana: With three regular-season games left, Indiana is positioning itself for a solid bowl bid. It hasn't won eight games in a season since 1993 and hasn't won nine since its 1967 Big Ten championship season.
Northwestern: The Wildcats lost three fumbles and had four defensive pass interference calls in the end zone — in the first half. ... Hunter Johnson replaced Smith early in the second quarter but left with 5:35 to go in the third quarter with what appeared to be an injured right leg. Johnson and Smith both played high school football in Indiana. ... Northwestern had 199 yards in offense. ... The Wildcats are on their longest losing streak since a seven-game skid in 2013.
Indiana: Penix was 10 of with 162 yards while Ramsey was 7 of 10 with 108 yards and one TD. ... The Hoosiers ran 18 of the first 19 plays of the game. ... Nick Westbrook had five catches for 59 yards. Whop Philyor caught two passes for 76 yards. ... Indiana has scored 30 or more points in five consecutive games and eight of the first nine — a school record. ... Linebacker Cam Jones was ejected in the first half for targeting.
Northwestern: Hosts Purdue next Saturday, still seeking its first conference win.
Indiana: Visits Penn State on Nov. 16 following next week's bye