By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Indiana’s defense spent all week trying to get things right.
On Saturday night, the Hoosiers finally showed their fans what they’re capable of doing — causing havoc on opponents.
After forcing two turnovers and producing two sacks, freshman Jameel Cook Jr. took advantage of the pressure his teammates applied on FIU quarterback Alex McGough by picking off a fourth-and-goal pass and sprinting 96 yards to seal a 36-22 victory.
"The pick was huge," Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said after Cook tied the fourth-longest interception return in school history. "We’re playing close games and finding ways. To get the turnovers is one thing. The linemen upfield are part of those turnovers."
It wasn’t just a one-play turnaround.
A week ago, the Hoosiers gave up 659 yards and 47 points to Southern Illinois. This time they limited FIU (1-1) to a more modest 409 total yards including 133 on the ground –a stark contrast to the 248 yards and 5.4 yards per carry Indiana allowed in the season-opening win.
Sure, there’s more work to do before Western Kentucky visits Memorial Stadium next week, but for now, nobody will quibble with the second 2-0 start in Wilson’s five-year tenure.
"Our defense did a tremendous job and this is what we’ve seen all camp, so it was good to see them kind of perform," Hoosiers quarterback Nate Sudfeld said. "But they can still do a lot better. We can do a lot better on offense."
The offensive numbers were solid, not spectacular.
Jordan Howard ran 27 times for 159 yards — his second straight 100-yard game since transferring from UAB to Indiana. Sudfeld ran for two scores, threw for another and finished 19 of 33 with 234 yards and one interception.
But the Hoosiers didn’t follow the usual script.
The high-powered offense couldn’t reach the end zone until Sudfeld scored on a 5-yard run with about 5 minutes left in the first half. It couldn’t take the lead until Sudfeld made it 19-14 on a 1-yard run with 5:49 left in the third quarter. They needed the combination of Sudfeld’s perfectly-timed throw and Mitchell Paige’s nifty run for a 16-yard score to regain the lead, 29-22, early in the fourth and they still may not have won without Cook’s play with 3:59 left.
Sudfeld’s offense wasn’t the only one out of sync.
Referee Ken Antee, a Conference USA official, wasn’t himself, either.
After inadvertently leaving his microphone on, the 41,509 fans in attendance heard Antee explain to Wilson that he didn’t call offside because "you gotta make contact, coach." The next word heard over the loud speaker was an obscenity.
The Panthers certainly had their chances, too. They led 14-6 early in the second quarter, 14-13 at halftime and 22-14 after McGough’s 28-yard TD pass to Dennis Turner. Alex Gardner followed that with a 2-point conversion run.
But Indiana tied it with a 40-yard field goal and turned the game by recovering McGough’s fumble at his own 16. Sudfeld found Paige for the score on the next play, and McGough came out of the game after the final turnover.
"We made more mistakes than they did," FIU coach Ron Turner said. "They played a solid game. They didn’t make mistakes. We made way too many of them."
McGough was 21 of 37 for 249 yards with three TDs and one interception. Thomas Owens caught nine passes for 166 yards and two TDs — not quite enough to prevent the Panthers from falling to 0-9 all-time against Big Ten schools.
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