| The Bloomington (Ind.) Times
MADISON, Wis. — The hit could be heard from behind the glass windowpanes of Camp Randall’s press box.
It was the result of Tiawan Mullen’s shoulder pads, with all 176 pounds of the Indiana corner’s weight behind them, shooting directly into Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz’s torso. The sack plopped the football on the ground, and late in the first quarter, it was the shockwave the Hoosiers needed to shift a defensive affair in their favor.
In a 14-6 win Saturday at No. 19 Wisconsin, Indiana’s first in Madison since 2001, the 11th-ranked Hoosiers didn’t need overly explosive offense to outpace their rival. Jack Tuttle was more or less steady, methodically leading his team down the field for the game’s first score after Mullen’s sack-fumble.
“I knew he didn’t see me, and I knew I had a clean shot,” Mullen said. “It was on me to get him on the ground and get the ball out.”
Linebacker Micah McFadden was dropped back in pass coverage when Mullen converged with Mertz, but he definitely heard it.
“It sounded like a gunshot on the field, for sure,” McFadden said.
The defense, it was gritty, refusing to give a ground-and-pound Wisconsin team overly much on the ground for most of the day.
All week, in the aftermath of Michael Penix Jr.’s season-ending knee injury, Indiana coach Tom Allen emphasized the word “team,’ and that Tuttle didn’t have to carry the Hoosiers. At Wisconsin, they proved it true.
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Indiana’s defense did its work, holding an opponent to under a two-touchdown score for the third time in four games. The run game for the Hoosiers didn’t roam wild on a stout Wisconsin defense, managing 90 yards, for a 3.1-yard-per-carry average, but there were productive gains in critical moments.
“This is one of those games I didn’t even know what we rushed for, but I knew by watching the game, we rushed effectively,” Allen said. “It allowed us to make the plays we needed to make.”
And when receivers were open, Tuttle found them. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
“Coach Allen says it all the time, and not many people believe it, it’s LEO,” Tuttle said. “We play for each other, we play for Indiana. That’s really the core of why we are making big moves this year.”
Indiana (6-1) has now won six of its first seven conference games for the first time since 1967. Those six victories tie the program record for conference victories, set both in 1967 and 1987. The Hoosiers have two more games to set a standalone record.
The dream season is alive. Wisconsin’s 10-game winning streak over the Hoosiers is just the latest to die.
Wisconsin threatened late, but some of it may have been Indiana’s fault for leaving the door open. Junior safety Jamar Johnson short-circuited one third-quarter drive with an interception, but a run by Tuttle was fumbled back to the Badgers on a third-and-1.
The Hoosiers held Wisconsin to a field goal on a 52-yard drive, thanks in large part to a shot by Mullen on receiver Kendric Pryor on a third-down Mertz throw into the end zone.
The game was just destined to go down to the wire, and Wisconsin had one more drive. Pinned back at their own 8 by a Haydon Whitehead punt, Mertz led the Badgers down to the Indiana 17.
Indiana responded with a McFadden sack and three straight incompletions to end the game and leave Camp Randall Stadium with another memorable win in its memorable season. The defeat of Wisconsin followed victories against Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State.
“Indiana is tough, just plain and simple,” Tuttle said. “We’re a tough team. Every single guy on this team fights and will never stop fighting. That’s the message we sent today.”