Gophers scrape past Indiana with 42-39 win

Linebacker Aaron Hill recovered a fumble to clinch the 42-39 victory.

Gophers linebacker Aaron Hill recovers a fumble against Indiana University in the closing seconds of Saturday's game at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. The Gophers won 42-39 and improved to 7-2 this season.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Gophers linebacker Aaron Hill recovers a fumble against Indiana University in the closing seconds of Saturday’s game at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. The Gophers won 42-39 and improved to 7-2 this season.

Nate Gotlieb

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The University of Minnesota football team led by 22 points midway through the third quarter Saturday, but it needed a late stop to beat Indiana at Memorial Stadium.

The Gophers got just that as senior linebacker Aaron Hill recovered a fumble with less than 30 seconds to play, and his team held on to defeat Indiana 42-39 for its third-straight Big Ten win.

“Our kids made plays when they needed to make plays,” head coach Jerry Kill said after the game. “I’m very proud of them.”

Minnesota (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten) built a 35-13 lead midway through the third quarter in part because of three touchdown passes by quarterback Philip Nelson. But the Hoosiers (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten) scored 26 unanswered points and took a 39-35 lead with 5:33 remaining in the game.

Nelson promptly led the Gophers on a five-play, 75-yard drive and capped it with a 50-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman tight end Maxx Williams.

Indiana got the ball back with 3:06 remaining and marched to the Gophers’ 9-yard line.

Minnesota’s acting head coach and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys dialed up a blitz package that the Gophers practiced last week but hadn’t used yet in the game.

When they did implement the blitz, it worked nearly to perfection.

Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld threw a lateral to running back Tevin Coleman that Coleman was unable to handle. Hill recovered the fumble to seal the victory.

Minnesota finished with a season-high 573 yards on offense and appeared to have the game nearly wrapped up when running back David Cobb scored a 27-yard rushing touchdown midway through the third quarter.

But Indiana scored touchdowns on its next four drives, including a 30-yard touchdown pass from Sudfeld to wide receiver Cody Latimer that gave the Hoosiers a 39-35 lead.

Indiana found success utilizing the running game in the second half and finished with 267 rushing yards. Coleman and running back Stephen Houston each finished with more than 100 rushing yards for the Hoosiers.

Cobb matched Indiana’s rushing production with a career game of his own. The junior rushed for 188 yards and a touchdown and also caught two passes for 48 yards.

“It’s just been easy for me when you can make your cuts and the [offensive line] gets a great push,” he said.

Nelson also had a career day, throwing for 298 yards and four touchdowns. The sophomore started the game with a big play — a 40-yard flea flicker to wide receiver Derrick Engel.

“We were talking about it in the hotel [Saturday] morning,” Engel said. “We knew it was in the playbook [and were thinking] we were going to open up with that.”

Minnesota scored 21 unanswered points to close the first half and took a 28-13 lead into halftime. But the Gophers lost starting center Jon Christenson to an apparent leg injury in the second quarter.

Neither Claeys nor Kill said they knew the extent of his injury Saturday. But Claeys said Christenson would fly with the team back to Minneapolis, which he said was a good sign.

Nelson sustained a hip injury during the fourth quarter Saturday and was taken to the locker room. He returned to the game after getting a couple of shots.