Saturday, August 1, 2009

IU Signature wins Part II

The second part of my picks for the signature wins of the last five Indiana football coaches begins with Gerry DiNardo.

DiNardo did not last long, coaching three seasons in Bloomington. He won three, two and three games in those years and only one conference game each season. Needless to say no one was surprised when he was fired.

His biggest win in Bloomington was not a Big Ten game. It was a 30-24 win at then No. 24 Oregon on Sept. 11, 2004. Pac 10 powerhouses like USC have trouble winning in Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. But for some reason, that year, the Hoosiers were able to take care of business.

Looking at the box score, the Hoosiers should have been overwhelmed. Oregon rolled up 495 total yards, including 317 yards passing. The Hoosiers managed only 198 total yards. But Oregon also had seven turnovers to IU's two. The Hoosiers were up 23-0 at halftime and hung on for the win in the second half.

The winning touchdown was a 98-yard kick-off return by Lance Bennett in the third quarter. The Hoosiers would win only one more game that season.

Terry Hoeppner

Hoeppner's effect on Hoosier football has been greater in death than his short coaching tenure. He showed confidence in his team, when no one else would. He wouldn't accept mediocrity from a team that had been mediocre or worse for longer than most could remember.

His signature game was a 31-28 win over then No. 13 Iowa on Oct. 14, 2006 in Bloomington. Hoeppner already had missed a few games to undergo surgery, but had returned a few weeks earlier to resume coaching.

This team had two young players leading it -- freshman quarterback Kellen Lewis and sophomore wide receiver James Hardy. Lewis threw for 255 yards and three touchdowns. Hardy had eight catches for 104 yards and three touchdowns. IU trailed 21-17 at halftime, but took the lead in the third quarter on a Hardy touchdown. After Iowa scored again to take a 28-24 lead, the Hoosiers scored the game-winner with less than 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter -- another Lewis-to-Hardy touchdown.

It was the biggest football upset by an IU team in nearly 20 years and the coming-out party for Lewis and Hardy. No one knows how good this team could have been if Hoeppner had been the coach in 2007.

Bill Lynch

It was Lynch who took over after Hoeppner's death and had the unfortunate pressure to bring Hoeppner's dream of a bowl berth to reality. "Play 13" was the slogan for the 2007 season. Lewis and Hardy were hitting their stride.

Lynch's career is not over yet, but his signature win was during that 2007 season. It made "Play 13" a reality: Indiana 27, Purdue 24; Nov. 17, 2007. As it turned out that season, IU needed seven wins to qualify for a bowl game. After getting its sixth win two weeks earlier against Ball State (which I witnessed) the Hoosiers had lost to Northwestern by a field goal.

The Purdue game was the final game of the year and the annual grudge match for the Old Oaken Bucket. The Boilermakers already had their seven wins and were looking for number eight and possibly a New Year's Day bowl game.

The Hoosiers had the lead at halftime, 17-3 and early in the third quarter took a 24-3 lead on a touchdown run by Lewis. But Purdue scored three unanswered touchdowns through the rest of the third quarter and most of the fourth to tie the game.

With about 3 minutes to go, the Hoosiers got the ball back and went on a 12-play, 45-yard drive to the Purdue 31 yard line. Austin Starr then nailed a 49-yard field goal to give the Hoosiers the win and a berth in the Insight Bowl.

Lynch fulfilled Hoeppner's first dream. It has yet to be seen whether he can build the program into a regular conference title contender.

Signature IU football wins

As the Hoosiers begin to prepare for the upcoming football season, I am considering the great IU games of the recent past.

Now that you've stopped laughing, I decided to name one signature win for the last five Hoosier football coaches, beginning with Bill Mallory and ending with current coach Bill Lynch. The selection was not as hard as you might think in some cases. Picking the best win among a series of 3-9 seasons seemed hard at first, but with so few potential selections, it made the choice a lot easier.

Bill Mallory

Mallory likely is among the top two or three football coaches in IU history. He took the Hoosiers to six bowl games, winning two. He also had four seasons with seven or more wins during his 13-year career.

My selection for Mallory's signature win: the 1988 Liberty Bowl. The Hoosiers defeated South Carolina 34-10 and finished the year 8-3-1 and ranked No. 20 in the final Associated Press poll.

Indiana set a bowl record for total offense with 575 yards. Quarterback Dave Schnell threw for 378 yards and Big Ten MVP Anthony Thompson scored two touchdowns and ran for 140 yards. The Hoosier defense only allowed 153 yards. The win assured the Hoosier's highest ranking at the end of the season in Mallory's tenure.

Cam Cameron

Cameron is most noted for finding all-world quarterback Antwaan Randle El, who broke several school and NCAA offensive records. Unfortunately, Cameron won only 18 games during his six-year tenure and never appeared in a bowl game.

My pick for his signature win: Oct. 6, 2001. Indiana thumps Wisconsin 63-32.

Throughout his Hoosier coaching career, Cameron was an offensive coach. His teams could always put points on the board, but lacked defensive skill. This game probably was the height of Cameron's and Randle El's offensive brilliance. The Hoosiers scored 32 points in the first quarter. The game total of 63 was a school record for Big Ten games. It also was the most points scored against the Badgers since 1890.

The Hoosiers rushed for 449 total yards, including 280 from Levron Williams, who also scored six touchdowns. Randle El also threw for 182 yards and rushed for 102.

Cameron could not continue the momentum. The Hoosiers beat Purdue to win the Old Oaken Bucket that season, but finished with a 5-6 record.

What do you think? Leave a comment here.

Coming next: Gerry DiNardo, Terry Hoeppner and Bill Lynch.