No. 25 Northwestern 35, Indiana 17
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) _ At last, Northwestern is playing the way it did in its surprising run to the Rose Bowl a year ago.
Stung by Wake Forest in the season opener, the 25th-ranked Wildcats won their third straight game, beating Indiana 35-17 on Saturday in their first game in defense of their Big Ten championship.
``More than anything, we’re playing consistent. It comes with chemistry,″ said Steve Schnur, who passed for 231 yards and two touchdowns. ``Guys are starting to see their role on the team, and we’re playing with a little more consistency and a little more focus.″
Darnell Autry rushed for 128 yards and three touchdowns and D’Wayne Bates had 159 yards in receptions and both TD passes from Schnur as the Wildcats made big plays and took advantage of big mistakes by the Hoosiers.
``It was a great win to start out the Big Ten,″ Bates said. ``You want to get ahead as fast as possible, especially with us playing Michigan next week. We wanted to play our best this week so we can go in with a full head of steam. But this was a good win for us.″
Northwestern stunned the college football world last year when it went 10-2 _ its first winning season since 1971 _ and was unbeaten in the Big Ten, earning its first Rose Bowl berth since 1949.
``We don’t have nothing to prove,″ Bates said. ``Although we’re the defending Big Ten champions and we’re still in the hunt for another, we don’t feel we’re defending.
Indiana (2-2, 0-1) came in ranked fifth in the nation in total defense, but the Hoosiers gave up touchdown runs of 50 and 23 yards by Autry, a 65-yard TD catch by Bates and receptions of 40 and 37 yards by Bates that set up two scores.
Northwestern totaled 390 yards against an Indiana defense that had allowed less than 185 yards a game.
``They were tough, but I don’t think they respected us very much as far as on the perimeter,″ Schnur said. ``They played us man-to-man pretty much the entire game, and they challenged us to make the plays on the perimeter. D’Wayne Bates made some great catches, and obviously we were able to exploit that.″
Indiana led 10-0 in the second quarter and 17-14 at halftime, but Northwestern (3-1, 1-0) converted a Hoosiers fumble into Autry’s second touchdown, a 1-yard run that put the Wildcats ahead for good midway through the third quarter. Bates’ 40-yard catch on the next possession and two short runs by Autry set up his 23-yard run for a 28-17 lead.
Late in the third quarter, a 17-yard run by Autry, an interference penalty against Indiana on an incomplete pass that would have forced a Northwestern punt and the 37-yard catch by Bates took the Wildcats to the Indiana 9. Three plays later, Schnur hit Bates from the 5 for the final touchdown.
Autry’s 128 yards marked the 17th straight game in which he has topped 100. His career total of 2,914 yards is 148 short of the school record of 3,062 set by Dennis Lundy in 1994.
``We’re going to live it up today and tomorrow and then gear it up for Michigan,″ Autry said.
``We’ve got to let that loss (to Wake Forest) go and just be ready to play week in and week out.″
Both Indiana touchdowns were scored by Alex Smith on 1-yard runs in the first half and he finished with 86 yards. Freshman Jay Rodgers replaced Chris Dittoe at quarterback for Indiana midway through the fourth quarter, but Rodgers had two passes intercepted, including one after the Hoosiers got the ball on a Northwestern fumble at the Wildcats 26 with six minutes to go.
``We had the ball moving in the first half, and in the second half we just struggled,″ Dittoe said.
``We just have to forget about it and somehow bounce back.″
The victory was Northwestern’s third straight against the Hoosiers, the first time the Wildcats accomplished that since winning six in a row from 1969-75.
``We grew up a lot as a team today,″ Northwestern coach Gary Barnett said. ``We held our composure. Being down 10-0 didn’t bother us. We played like a championship team would. The way we held our composure is typical of a championship team.″
Indiana hadn’t allowed a rushing touchdown in the first three games this season, but the Hoosiers’ streak ended on Northwestern’s first possession of the second quarter.
Trailing 10-0 after Smith’s first touchdown and a 30-yard field goal by Bill Manolopoulos, the Wildcats reached midfield with a 13-yard pass to Brian Musso and an 11-yard run by Autry. On the next play, Autry appeared to be stopped at the line, but he burst through and ran 50 yards for the touchdown, his longest run of the season.
On the next series, a 43-yard pass from Dittoe to Dorian Wilkerson and a pass interference penalty on Northwestern helped the Hoosiers to the 19. Smith then ran 14 yards and scored from the 1 three plays later.
Again, though, the 10-point lead didn’t last long.
After a 9-yard pass to Mike McGrew and two short runs by Autry, Schnur hit Bates on the 65-yarder for another touchdown. The Wildcats had another chance when Joey Eloms fumbled at the Indiana 30 on the following kickoff, but the Hoosiers forced a punt and kept the 17-14 lead at the half.
Northwestern punted to the Indiana 5 early in the third quarter, but Smith fumbled on the first play and Northwestern scored two plays later on Autry’s 1-yard run.
Eloms was lost for the season with a broken left leg in the third quarter. Northwestern also lost defensive tackle Ray Robey, probably for the season, with a torn right Achilles tendon in the second quarter.