Bloomington – Marcus Thigpen decided his two-year, 232-carry touchdown drought was long enough.
After failing to score a rushing touchdown since IU’s week three loss to Southern Illinois two years ago, the Hoosier tailback broke free for a career-long 67-yard touchdown scamper on his first play and then followed with a 31-yard touchdown run on his second touch to lead Indiana to a 45-3 win over I-AA Murray State Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
Thigpen’s touchdown runs were his first since he scored twice against the Salukis Sept. 16, 2006. Thigpen failed to get in the end zone for the remainder of the 2006 season (86 carries), all of 2007 (138 carries) and in last week’s win over Western Kentucky (8 carries). But that came to an end in a big way Saturday.
“It was good to get him going,” IU Coach Bill Lynch said. “To get the ball in his hands is really important to us.”
After Indiana went three-and-out on its first two possessions, Thigpen broke free up the middle and out-ran the Racers’ secondary for the longest run of his career to put IU up 7-0. After a short Murray State field goal cut the lead to 7-3, Thigpen struck again on IU’s next possession. Thigpen took a Kellen Lewis handoff and bounced outside and raced into the corner of the end zone to put IU up 14-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Indiana was never again threatened by their I-AA foe. Indiana piled up 254 yards rushing and 476 yards of total offense on its way to its biggest margin of victory since beating Indiana State 55-7 in the 2007 season opener. All six of IU’s touchdowns came on the ground, the most rushing touchdowns by an Indiana team since it scored seven in a 63-31 win over Wisconsin in 2001.
Thigpen finished with seven carries for 100 yards and his two scores, while Demetrius McCray, Bryan Payton, Zach Davis-Walker and Ben Chappell all added rushing scores.
The Hoosiers also were able to show they can win a game without Lewis leading the way. After rushing for 185 yards and two scores last week, Lewis carried only once – a two-yard loss on day’s first offensive play – and finished 15-of-21 for 170 yards and zero touchdowns. Lewis was able to depart midway through the third quarter with IU comfortably ahead, and Chappell led a couple of touchdown drives of his own. Chappell finished 6-of-7 through the air for 52 yards and added five rushes for 14 yards and one touchdown.
“It’s a little like last week when, are you concerned that you’re getting all those yards but Kellen is getting them all? Well, it’s part of the offense,” Lynch said. “This week, they weren’t going to let (Kellen) run the ball.”
While Indiana was able to do what it wanted offensively, Murray State managed next to nothing. The Racers finished with only 138 yards of total offense, 28 yards rushing, and quarterback Nico Yantko was 16-of-24 for only 95 yards. Greg Middleton picked up a sack in his first game back from suspension, one of four totaled by the IU defense.
Indiana’s defensive domination was so complete that Murray State’s longest play came on a 15-yard first-quarter fake punt that went for a first down, but the Hoosiers were able to otherwise stop them in their tracks.
“The defense is playing faster,” Lynch said. “Part of that is confidence, and I think part of it is playing together.”
With the win, Indiana improved to 2-0 for the fifth straight season and heads into an off-week before facing Ball State in two weeks. While the Hoosiers have won their first two handily, the competition will start to get much better when the Cardinals come to town Sept. 20.
“I know it’s going to get a lot tougher down the road with the people we’re going to play,” Lynch said. “There’s no one in that locker room fooled about that. “
INDIANA – Thigpen 7-100, McCray 8-47, Davis-Walker 8-40, Payton 13-31, Burgess 8-29, Chappell 5-14, Lewis 1-(-2). Totals 53-254. MURRAY STATE – McKinnis 7-15, Jordan 7-12, Nwagbara 3-6, Franklin 1-4, Yantko 9-(-9). Totals 27-28.
INDIANA – Lewis 21-15-0 170, Chappell 7-6-0 52. Totals 28-21-0 222. MURRAY STATE – Yantko 24-16-1 95, Franklin 3-2-0 11, Cullen 1-1-0 15. Totals 28-19-1 121.
INDIANA - Means 4-40, Turner 3-41, Belcher 3-37, Doss 3-33, Thigpen 2-24, Evans 2-19, Ernest 2-12, Walker-Roby 1-8, Banks 1-8. Totals 21-222. MURRAY STATE – Trotter 5-25, Ard 4-42, Harris 4-16, Robertson 3-12, Kincy 1-15, Knight 1-11, Jordan 1-0. Totals 19-121.
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