BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Coach Tom Allen kept telling his Indiana Hoosiers to ignore the critics and stick to the plan.
On Saturday, the payoff finally came.
Second-year quarterback Brendan Sorsby ran for one score, threw for another and led the Hoosiers to a long field goal on their final possession Saturday to snap a six-game conference losing streak with a 20-14 victory over Wisconsin.
“I just attribute it to the culture," Allen said. “They believe in what we’re doing, and I think it's showed the way we played the last couple of weeks.”
Things certainly didn't look promising for the Hoosiers (3-6, 1-5 Big Ten) until last week.
They entered Saturday with four straight losses and on the cusp of postseason elimination for the third straight year. They had the second-lowest scoring average (18.6 points) among Power Five schools and the Big Ten's worst run defense. They hadn't beaten Wisconsin (5-4, 3-3) at home since 2002.
But after last week's strong showing at No. 10 Penn State, Indiana finally raised the victory flag thanks to Sorsby and a defensive shutout over the final 25 minutes.
The loss prevented Wisconsin from becoming bowl eligible for the 22nd consecutive season and was as also a devastating blow to its Big Ten West title hopes.
“Nothing was sharp," first-year coach Luke Fickell said. “We can't dwell on the destination. We've got a long way to go. They've been through a lot the last year or two, and now we've got to dig deep.”
Indiana won this offensive quagmire despite gaining only 36 yards and scoring just three points in the second half, courtesy of Chris Freeman's 50-yard field goal with 70 seconds to go.
Sorsby was 19 of 31 with 186 yards and squirted free for an 8-yard TD run for the game's first points. Former quarterback Donaven McCulley had five receptions for 67 yards including a spectacular one-handed, 7-yard TD grab late in the first half to give Indiana a 17-7 lead.
Those were all the points the Hoosiers needed.
Wisconsin quarterback Braedyn Locke hooked up with Bryson Green on a 54-yard TD pass in the first half and Locke capped the first drive of the second half with an 18-yard TD pass to Will Pauling to make it 17-14.
Locke was 21 of 41 with 243 yards while Pauling caught five passes for 51 yards. Green had four receptions for 96 yards.
“The offense scored just enough,” Allen said. “Obviously, we didn’t get enough production in the second half, but at the same time you’re just trying to find a way to win a football game.”
The Hoosiers honored three-time national championship coach Bob Knight with a moment of silence about 20 minutes before kickoff. Football players also wore an “RMK” helmet decal with three stars, one for each of Robert Montgomery Knight's national titles. Knight died Wednesday at age 83.
Wisconsin: Mordecai dressed for the first time since breaking his hand but did not play. RB Braelon Allen and WR Chimere Dike also sat out and LB Jake Chaney hopped off the field in the third quarter after appearing to hurt his right leg.
Indiana: WR Cam Camper sat out with an undisclosed injury and WR Omar Cooper Jr. did not return after going to the locker room with a lower left leg injury in the first half.
BY THE NUMBERS
Wisconsin: Has lost three of its last four. ... Jackson Acker rushed 11 time for 40 yards and Cade Yacamelli had 10 carries for 48 yards. ... The Badgers had the only two turnovers of the game. ... Locke has now thrown at least 35 passes in three straight games without an interception.
Indiana: Aaron Casey had nine tackles, seven solos, four for loss with two sacks and a forced fumble. He also received a game ball. ... Indiana had nine pass breakups Saturday. ... Indiana has scored first in four straight games.
Wisconsin: Hosts Northwestern next Saturday, the first game of a two-week homestand.
Indiana: Visits border rival Illinois next Saturday.
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