MIAMI — A fourth-quarter deficit, on the road, in a season-opening game with a new quarterback wasn’t exactly the scenario Indiana would have chosen for itself.
The Hoosiers made overcoming that challenge look easy.
Richard Lagow passed for one score and ran for another in the fourth quarter, and Indiana returned two interceptions for touchdowns in its season-opening 34-13 win over Florida International on Thursday night.
Indiana (1-0) trailed 13-12 going into the fourth, then outscored FIU 22-0 in the final 15 minutes.
“A pretty good team win,” Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said. “This game had my attention a lot. First game on the road, you’ve got new defensive coaches, you’re going to have some glitches … and I saw a lot of things we can do better.”
Most of those things were likely before the fourth quarter.
Lagow connected with Daniel Friend on a 21-yard touchdown pass to put Indiana on top for good early in the final quarter, capped the next Hoosiers drive with a 6-yard scoring run and Tegray Scales capped the night with a 16-yard interception return for another score.
Lagow said he wasn’t worried, even when trailing going into the fourth.
“The whole team had played so well all night,” Lagow said. “Defense had played their tails off. We had been real close, a lot. It was just a matter of keeping our foot on the pedal.”
Devine Redding rushed for 135 yards and Rashard Fant returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown in the first half for Indiana (1-0). It was Indiana’s first time with two interception-return touchdowns in the same game since 1966, school officials said.
Alex McGough completed 23 of 46 passes for 263 yards and three interceptions for FIU (0-1). Alex Gardner had a 1-yard rushing touchdown for the Panthers, who were outgained 486-331.
The game had a little of everything: a safety, a missed field goal, a bad snap on another field goal try, two defensive touchdowns and even an end-around for a 2-point conversion by the Hoosiers.
“We battled, we competed, we did some good things,” FIU coach Ron Turner said. “But very, very disappointed in the outcome and very disappointing in the offensive execution and offensive performance. …. Way too many missed opportunities.”
Friend’s touchdown was his first in four years with the Hoosiers, two of those seasons getting cut short by injury.
Indiana played without six suspended players, including three who were probable starters — wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr., safety Chase Dutra and defensive tackle Ralph Green III.
Indiana: Lagow completed 18 of 27 passes for 240 yards, and rarely seemed rattled. And there were some conditioning issues evident in the fourth on a hot, humid night in Miami — players cramping, players with hands on their hips — but Indiana did enough to escape. Tight end Jordan Fuchs had a “significant” injury, Wilson said, but there seemed to be some hope of it not being a season-ending situation.
FIU: It won’t be an easy tape for the Panthers to watch. The defensive series that led to Indiana’s go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter had some breakdowns as well, especially on the TD pass to a wide-open Friend. Taking a lead into the fourth and letting it slip away won’t be easy for FIU to shake off.
Indiana: Host Ball State, Sept. 10. This might not be the easiest home debut for the Hoosiers, either. Indiana has lost the last three games in that series, with two of those defeats coming in Bloomington.
FIU: Host Maryland, Sept. 9. Another Big Ten opponent comes in to face the Panthers. FIU is 0-4 all-time against the Terrapins, losing those games by a combined 127-61 score.