Cavalier offense sputters as Indiana rolls on to a 34-17 victory

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USATSI

CHARLOTTESVILLE -- After going to its backup quarterback in the first half and scoring 17 unanswered points before the break, Indiana leaned on UVa to produce enough offensively to hang. Instead, the Cavaliers struggled to execute consistently and scored just 14 points after intermission on the way to a 34-17 defeat on Saturday afternoon.

Virginia (1-1) didn't turn the ball over for the second straight game but the Wahoos certainly tried. And though Kurt Benkert set a school record going 39 for 66 passing for 259 yards and a touchdown, his offense was largely ineffective despite having a defense that routinely put them in good spots.

Neither team scored until AJ Mejia put the Cavaliers up 3-0 with 8:08 left in the second quarter, capping a seven-play drive that started at the Indiana 20-yard line thanks to a Juan Thornhill interception. That UVa failed to get a touchdown there, in addition to not converting a fake field goal attempt earlier in the half deep in IU territory, proved important.

From the time he tossed that pick, IU starting quarterback Richard Lagow didn't see the field again. Instead, the Hoosiers (1-1) went to backup Peyton Ramsey, who went on to pass for 173 yards (16-for-20) and two TDs while rushing for 42 yards and another score.

Indiana closed the first half with a six-play, 59-yard scoring drive that ended with Ramsey's first touchdown pass followed by a another TD drive with 3:31 left and then a 51-yard field goal just as time expired.

The Cavaliers showed some signs of life after forcing a three-and-out from Indiana on the first possession of the second half. That eight-play scoring drive, capped by a 12-yard TD run by Jordan Ellis, cut the lead to 17-10 with 10:30 left in the third quarter.

After Indiana tacked on another field goal from Griffin Oakes, this time a 48 yarder with 7:32 left in the third, UVa's ensuing possession included three first downs but ended at midfield. The defense responded and the Hoosiers punted, downing it at the 3-yard line and forcing the Cavaliers to try to get their offense going in the shadow of their own goalpost.

Following UVa's sixth three-and-out to that point, when Lester Coleman's 40-yard punt was returned 15 yards to the 32, it left short work for Ramsey. He hooked up with Donavan Hale for a 32-yard TD to make it 27-10 Indiana.

Somehow, though, the game remained somewhat in doubt. During UVa's next drive, a Benkert interception was wiped out by a roughing the passer penalty and then later, a sack-fumble followed by a scoop-and-score was wiped out by a targeting call (and ejection) on Robert McCray. Eventually, Benkert found Joe Reed for a 7-yard TD and Mejia's PAT cut it to 27-17 with 12:45 left.

Indiana, which wants to go as fast as possible offensively, put together a long drive in response but it died at the 3-yard line on a failed 4th and GL attempt. Despite the successful goal-line stand by its defense, UVa failed to gain more than a yard on its ensuing possession before punting it back to the Hoosiers. J-Shun Harris caught it at the 44-yard line and returned it for a TD, effectively ending a game which wasn't even as close as the scored indicated at the time.