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B1G 2019 // Ten Times Indiana Football Wasn’t Utterly Depressing

This list was much harder to assemble than I really wanted it to be.

Indiana v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images


In lieu of the traditional traditions piece that occupies Wednesdays, I thought it might be fun to look back at some of the times when Indiana actually played good football and actually won games.

Note that I am only looking at games that happened since I really started paying attention to IU football, so anything before the late 90’s wasn’t considered. These will be presented chronologically, as trying to rank how important any of these wins were seems foolish for a program that needs a larger quantity of wins before we start worrying about the quality.

October 6th, 2001 - Indiana 63, Wisconsin 32

While this was not the last time Indiana would record a win over Wisconsin in football (that would come the following year), this was the last time Indiana would utterly dominate the Badgers, scoring 32 points in the first quarter alone, and leading by as much as 38 before a late Badger touchdown brought the margin back slightly. Six (6!!!) Levron Williams rushing touchdowns would provide the bulk of Indiana’s scoring. Somehow, this is not Indiana’s largest margin of victory over Wisconsin; it trails a 34-0 shutout from 1943. Given how rare any Indiana win over the Badgers has been in the years since, this moment is one to be highly cherished.

November 24, 2001 - Indiana 13, Purdue 7

The only time since 1942 that Indiana did not end their regular season against the Boilermakers (a game vs. Kentucky was played the following week), this also marked the only Old Oaken Bucket win for both IU coach Cam Cameron and star quarterback Antwaan Randle-El. The primary fact about this game that young me remembered is that it was a sloppy mess the whole time, which explains how IU probably won. This was also the last season Indiana wore the non-interlocking IU logo that Cameron introduced when he was named head coach, and much rejoicing happened when that design went away.

Antwaan Randle El
And this is why you don’t create logos in WordArt, kids.

After the Randle-El years, there was a lot of football played, but most of it was bad. Terry Hoeppner looked to be leading the program on an upswing, but treatment for brain cancer would force him on a leave of absence before 2007 spring practices, and the cancer would claim him before summer. Bill Lynch was named interim head coach for 2007.

November 17, 2007 - Indiana 27, Purdue 24

Coming into this Bucket game at 6-5, Indiana was in good shape to make a bowl, but was not guaranteed a spot in the postseason, due to the rule changes allowing 6-6 teams to go bowling having just gone into effect the season before. Indiana started the game strong, opening up a 24-3 lead early in the third quarter before Purdue stormed back to tie the game with 3:39 to play. Indiana would drive into field goal range with 30 seconds to go, setting the stage for junior kicker Austin Starr.

While the emotion of the moment could not carry Indiana to a bowl victory, it looked like the future would be bright for IU. Long story short, it was not. Bill Lynch would not prove to be Indiana’s coach of the future, and Kevin Wilson was hired as his replacement following the 2010 season. The first two Wilson years provided few thrilling wins, though a couple of close losses are how I remember those teams. The 2013 season, though, would provide multiple impressive victories.

August 29, 2013 - Indiana 73, Indiana State 35

Beating up an FCS school is not normally a notable accomplishment, but after having struggled against the Sycamores the year prior, Indiana came within 3 of tying the school record for points in a game, and could have easily set a new record if the Hoosiers hadn’t kneeled the ball inside ISU’s 20 on their last possession. Tre Roberson started the game, but was pulled early once it was clear Indiana was in firm control for Nate Sudfeld. Sudfeld had made sparing appearances the prior year as a true freshman, but 2013 would be the year he firmly took the reigns of the IU offense. Against the Sycamores, he would need only 12 completions to throw for 219 yards and 4 touchdowns. If not for a fumbled kickoff return and a Sudfeld pick six, this win would have been even more dominant for the Hoosiers.

October 5, 2013 - Indiana 44, Penn State 24

16 times before this day, Indiana and Penn State had met on the gridiron. 16 times before this day, Penn State had walked away victorious. But after Tevin Coleman broke a 44 yard run for a touchdown midway through the third quarter to put Indiana up 21-14, Penn State would not lead again on this day. Despite losing the time of possession battle by more than 10 minutes, the Hoosiers would knock off the Nittany Lions for the first time, and stun just about everyone in the process.

While Indiana would fail to capitalize on some golden opportunities the next couple of weeks to ultimately doom their season, there would be one last bright spot in the form of a 56-36 win over Purdue to reclaim the Bucket for the first time with Kevin Wilson as head coach. 2014 would open with a much closer win over Indiana State, and a mildly very embarrassing loss to Bowling Green at Bowling Green. That same Bowling Green squad would lose 68-17 to Wisconsin the following week. IU, on the other hand, was still on the road against a slightly different level of opponent.

September 20, 2014 - Indiana 31, #18 Missouri 27

In a game they were double digit underdogs, on the road, against a ranked team that would go on to win the SEC East division and beat Minnesota in the Citrus Bowl, the Hoosiers came to play and walked off Mizzou’s Faurot Field with their first win over a ranked team in 6 years and first on the road in 10 years. The game featured almost 1000 yards of total offense, and Indiana needed every single one of theirs to hold off the Tigers.

The momentum built in this game crashed to Earth the following week against Maryland in their Big Ten debut, and two weeks later Nate Sudfeld and linebacker turned backup quarterback (eventually turned back to linebacker) Chris Covington both went down with season ending injuries against Iowa. Freshman Zander Diamont would take over for the rest of the season, and the Hoosiers struggled mightily for the rest of the season. Highlights among the lowlights included a 13-7 loss to Penn State that everyone who enjoys the non-punting aspect of football would love to forget, and weirdos like MNW other people love to relive, Tevin Coleman’s 307 yard rushing performance against Rutgers (which wasn’t even the best rushing performance in the conference on that day), and one of the increasingly large number of times IU played Ohio State tough for 3 quarters, only to fall apart completely in the 4th. There was, however, one actual bright spot left in the season.

November 29, 2014 - Indiana 23, Purdue 17

The game itself was not terribly remarkable, though IU pulling off the win on a late scramble to the end zone by Zander Diamont was a nice way to finish what had been a difficult half-season for him. The reason you might remember anything at all about this game has to do with a certain celebratory post-game photo.

Indianapolis Star

I think that says it all about this one.

The 2015 season appeared to be set up for Indiana to return to the postseason for the first time since Austin Starr had kicked the 2007 Hoosiers into the Insight Bowl. With 7 home games, and a very winnable non-conference slate, if ever Indiana was going to make the leap, this was their best chance. And it still almost didn’t happen.

4-0 the non-con, check. Competitive against Ohio State, less so against Penn State, 2 not terribly surprising losses. And then came Homecoming against Rutgers. With 5:25 left in the 3rd quarter, Indiana went up 52-27 against the Scarlet Knights. The Hoosiers would not score again, a fatal mistake. 20 minutes and 25 seconds of game time later, IU was on the wrong side of a 55-52 scoreline. By the end of a double overtime game against Michigan 4 weeks later, IU had gone from 4-0 to 4-6, and any margin for error they had in making a bowl game was gone. It was now win twice or go home. A 19 point win at Maryland was step one, but a trip to West Lafayette still loomed.

November 28, 2015 - Indiana 54, Purdue 36

It wasn’t easy, but Indiana never trailed, and just like in 2007, Indiana would claim the Old Oaken Bucket and play 13. Indiana would go on to the Pinstripe Bowl against Duke, and what happened there is best left unmentioned, because even to this day the ending of the game riles up IU fans.

2016 opened with a less exciting than hoped start, mostly because of a 33-28 loss to Wake Forest that Indiana absolutely threw away (literally; Richard Lagow threw 5 interceptions in this game). At 2-1, Indiana would have to win 4 times in the Big Ten, something that Hoosiers had not done since Antwaan Randle-El’s senior year.

The conference opener? Just #17 Michigan State for the Old Brass Spittoon.

October 1, 2016 - Indiana 24, #17 Michigan State 21

Many times, it looked like Indiana would yet again fail to reclaim the Old Brass Spittoon. In fact, the game could not even be settled in regulation, thanks to Indiana’s defense giving up the game-tying touchdown with 11 seconds left. But in overtime, Griffin Oakes managed to knuckle a 20 yard field goal through the uprights off a Spartan and bring the crowd at Memorial Stadium onto the field to celebrate the victory.

(A victory that would almost immediately be tarnished by Michigan State failing to show up for most of the rest of the season, but whatever, a win’s a win.)

In November, Indiana would finally get their first win over Rutgers, in spite of 4 turnovers, 3 missed field goals, and 2 missed extra points. The end of the month would see Indiana hold the Old Oaken Bucket for the fourth straight year, and yet again make the postseason at 6-6. Between that win and the bowl game against Utah, Kevin Wilson would be fired, and Tom Allen promoted to head coach. The Hoosiers would yet again fail to find a bowl win.

The last game I’ll mention is less impactful than most of the rest, but was a moment of catharsis for the Hoosier fanbase, which is why it gets the “honor” here.

November 18, 2017 - Indiana 41, Rutgers 0

Indiana’s first matchup against the Scarlet Knights came without a quarterback. Indiana’s second matchup against the Scarlet Knights came without a defense. After finally winning a game against Rutgers in 2016, Indiana entered the 2017 game needing to win to keep their bowl hopes alive. They responded with a dominating performance, posting their second shutout of the season and their largest Big Ten win since 1990. Though this season would not end with either a Bucket win or a bowl game, this game gave Indiana fans a glimmer of what a Big Ten football team should look like, rather than the one we often have to watch instead.


What’s the best win in recent IU football memory?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    2001: Levron Williams destroys Wisconsin
    (10 votes)
  • 3%
    2001: AR-E’s only Bucket win
    (4 votes)
  • 10%
    2007: Play 13 for Hep
    (13 votes)
  • 4%
    (5 votes)
  • 12%
    2013: The Penn State curse is over.
    (15 votes)
  • 28%
    2014: SEC East Champs!
    (34 votes)
  • 5%
    2014: A cigar is just a Bucket-winning cigar
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    2015: High-scoring Bucket win
    (0 votes)
  • 3%
    (4 votes)
  • 10%
    2017: Eat it, Rutgers
    (12 votes)
  • 10%
    How could you forget the 1991 Copper Bowl?!
    (13 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (comments!)
    (2 votes)
119 votes total Vote Now