BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Richard Lagow and Devine Redding kept the Indiana offense humming Saturday.
The Hoosiers defense took care of everything else.
On a day Lagow threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns and Redding extended his streak of consecutive 100-yard games to five, Indiana forced three turnovers, pitched its first first-half shutout in four years and survived a frantic fourth-quarter flurry for a 30-20 victory over Ball State.
“I thought they were pretty good till we wore down late and got the blocked punt,” Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said about the defense. “We’ve got to play better, but we played good football today.”
It’s been a dramatic change for a defense that has struggled mightily for most of the last quarter-century.
But as Ball State (1-1) discovered, Indiana suddenly looks like it’s found a solution.
The Hoosiers stuffed the Cardinals’ ground game for three quarters and held quarterback Riley Neal to 15 of 30 for 231 yards with one touchdown and one interception. First-year coach Mike Neu, a former Ball State quarterback, was impressed with what he saw from Indiana, which already has forced six turnovers in eight quarters after producing only 22 takeaways in 13 games last season.
“We’ve got to make sure we emphasize ball security in practice because we can’t have fumbles. We can’t have interceptions,” Neu said. “We have three turnovers and they have none, I don’t care what team you face, that’s a tough recipe to have success.”
With the defense holding the Cardinals in check, Lagow & Co. made it look easy.
After converting an early fumble recovery into a field goal, Lagow found Nick Westbrook on a 43-yard TD pass to make it 10-0. Lagow put it away with a 10-yard TD pass to Luke Timian in the second quarter and a 79-yard TD pass to Westbrook on the second play of the third quarter.
Redding finished with 26 carries for 110 yards. Westbrook had three catches for 133 yards.
Ball State: The Cardinals have a long way to go to compete with college football’s big boys. After rushing for 325 yards against Georgia State, Ball State managed just 371 yards in total offense and fumbled away its first scoring chance — at Indiana’s 3-yard line.
Indiana: The Hoosiers have been impressive in their first two games, winning both in typical Big Ten fashion — putting away Florida International late in the Miami heat and never giving the Cardinals a chance Saturday.
Ball State: The Cardinals host Eastern Kentucky, an FCS playoff contender, next weekend and will need their defense to play much stouter against a team that topped the 40-point mark five times last season.
Indiana: The Hoosiers get an extra week to fix the kinks before hosting Wake Forest. Indiana needs to build momentum with a daunting start to Big Ten play looming. They host No. 12 Michigan State on Oct. 1 and visit No. 4 Ohio State on Oct. 8.
Ball State: Safety Mitch Larsen, cornerback Marc Walton and linebacker Damon Singleton all left the game with injuries but Neu did not have a diagnosis for any of his players.
Indiana: Receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. left with an injured left ankle on the Hoosiers’ first offensive play, his first — and perhaps last — of the season. Wilson said he may need surgery and could miss the rest of the season. All-American right guard Dan Feeney left in the first half with a concussion and did not return.
THE STREAK: Ball State’s three-game winning streak in the series ended Saturday. First-year Cardinals coach Mike Neu expected the Hoosiers to use it as motivation. Indiana’s players got the message. “It was brought up,” Lagow said.
LAST WORD: “You get one chance on Saturday to put your A game on the field. We didn’t do that this week. Last week was awesome, we enjoyed it, it was a lot of fun. But every week’s a new week, it’s a new challenge,” Neu said.
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