;BLOOMINTON, Ind. – In a battle of high-powered offenses Saturday, Minnesota was able to keep it close with Indiana for part of the game.
But at the beginning of the second quarter, the Hoosiers (5-1 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) clearly distanced themselves as the better team to gain their first home victory of the season with a 40-20 win.
The Gophers (1-5 overall, 0-3 Big Ten) looked evenly matched with Indiana after one quarter of play as they both were able to score almost at will.
The Hoosiers flexed their offensive muscles on the very first drive of the game, starting with a 51-yard pass from junior quarterback Kellen Lewis to senior standout receiver James Hardy.
Hardy, who stands at 6-feet-7-inches and weighs 220 pounds, was easily able to position himself over Minnesota’s 5-foot-9-inch freshman cornerback Ryan Collado to haul in the long pass near the sideline.
Later in the drive on a third-and-two attempt for Indiana, Lewis again found the towering Hardy, this time in the corner of the end zone over a taller cornerback Jamal Harris, who he still had 7 inches on.
The Gophers answered on their first drive, as freshman running back Duane Bennett started things with a 14-yard run.
Minnesota was able to counter Indiana’s big play combination by way of a 42-yard pass from freshman quarterback Adam Weber to sophomore receiver Erik Decker.
Weber then took a bootleg run into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.
But Indiana could not be outdone because on their next series running back Bryan Payton scampered 48 yards un-touched into the end zone to put the Hoosiers up 14-7.
The Gophers found Decker again multiple times to get themselves in scoring position on their next drive, and Bennett plowed into the end zone on a fourth-and-one conversion to tie the game at 14-14 going into the second quarter.
That would be the shining moment of the game for the Gophers because the next three quarters belonged to the Hoosiers.
“Give credit to Indiana. They stopped us, and we weren’t able to get back a good rhythm,” Weber said.
The pain started for the Gophers when Bennett went down with a foot injury and did not appear after the second quarter. The freshman back had sparked the Gopher’s offense and provided much-needed energy in the running game as senior Amir Pinnix has been hobbled with a turf toe.
Pinnix came in on the Gophers’ first offensive play of the second quarter, only to fumble on an option carry which was recovered by Minnesota. Pinnix did not receive another carry until the fourth quarter when it was too late to matter.
Jay Thomas received most of the carries for the rest of the game, finishing with a team-high 58 yards on the ground.
“Our rush numbers hurt us,” Gopher’s coach Tim Brewster said. “We did not run the football well.”
Weber was unable to continue his strong first quarter play, as he started the game 7 of 8 passing but finished 24 of 44.
The Gopher’s defense somewhat held strong in the second quarter, but allowed two field goals and another Payton touchdown run.
The Gophers offense was not able to respond like they did in the first quarter and went into halftime down 27-14.
In the third quarter the Minnesota defense held Indiana to two field goals while also grabbing an interception, but the Gophers offense was unable to muster up any points and threw an interception of their own.
“We’ve got to go and convert that (interception) and knock it into the end zone to put the pressure back on them, and we didn’t do it ,” Brewster said.
To start the fourth, Minnesota was able to score by way of a Weber pass to Decker for a touchdown, bringing the score to 33-20 and restoring hope for a late-game comeback.
The Gopher’s defense used the momentum force to earn a defensive stop and forced the Hoosiers to punt.
Having a chance to bring the game closer with just less than five minutes remaining, Weber showed his freshman inexperience by throwing his second interception of the game and halting any chance of a comeback.
Indiana added a rushing touchdown late in the fourth to seal the deal and send the Gophers home still winless in the Big Ten.
“We’ve got to have that confidence that we can win,” Decker said. “And I don’t think that it’s there right now.”