BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -- James Hardy was too big a target to
The 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman had eight receptions for 122
yards, scoring the winning touchdown with 47 seconds left in
Indiana's 35-31 victory over Nicholls State on Saturday night.
"I just told James, `I don't care how many people are on you,
I'm going to throw you the ball," said Indiana's Blake Powers,
who passed for 307 yards and four TDs. "I just told him to go make
"Big players make big plays, and he did that," Powers said.
It was the first game of the season for Division I-AA Nicholls
State, a Louisiana school that had its scheduled opener against
Utah State canceled because of Hurricane Katrina last week. The
game at Indiana was in doubt, too, until the Hoosiers arranged for
a charter flight from Baton Rouge.
And for awhile, it seemed the Colonels' strong running game
might carry them to victory.
A 40-yard touchdown run by Anthony Harris gave Nicholls State
its first lead at 31-28 late in the third quarter, and the Colonels
drove to the Indiana 11 with under four minutes left in the fourth
before a fumble by Harris was recovered by Indiana's Tracy Porter.
Hardy then started the winning drive with receptions of 39 and
14 yards and finished it with catches of 4 and 7 yards. Hardy, who
also plays on Indiana's basketball team, caught the winning TD over
his 5-11 defender, Henry Johnson.
"Me and Blake talk about it," he said of the clutch
receptions. "It's not that I demand it, but I tell him `If you get
the opportunity to look my way, look.' I think about it before
every game. I see myself doing everything and I just try to come
out and do it."
"Catch after catch, I just try to do my job," said Hardy, who
had 100-plus yards receiving for the second straight game.
Indiana coach Terry Hoeppner said the Hoosiers tried to take
advantage of Hardy's height.
"You can't coach tall. A 6-7 guy who has a knack for going up
and getting the ball, he's got a great, great future ahead of
him," Hoeppner said. "We really feel one of our strength
positions now is becoming wide receiver. ... But they've all got to
be a threat."
Powers also had two touchdown passes to Jahkeen Gilmore,
including a 43-yarder on the opening drive of the game, and one TD
pass to James Bailey.
"Many people will say, Division I-AA, gosh, why did Indiana
struggle? But this is really a good football team," Hoeppner said.
"They played very well. Their defense gave us problems, and
obviously they ran the ball way too much."
Nicholls State rushed for 408 yards, including 219 yards in the
first half, when the Colonels did not complete a single pass.
A 30-yard run by Joe Tobias and a 14-yard run by Zach Morgan set
up their first touchdown, a 1-yard run by Broderick Cole that tied
the game late in the opening quarter.
"They weren't too sure about the option," Cole said. "I could
see they had a difficult times coming down, and when they did come
down at times they left somebody else open. Once they caught on,
they were still a little slow reacting to the option."
Cole said the Colonels needed the game after the turmoil from
"I was able to put football first on the field but as soon as
the game was over I had to jump back to reality," said Cole, whose
home in New Orleans was destroyed by the hurricane. "But it is
kind of difficult just trying to stay focused as much as we
The Hoosiers again seemed to take control after Cole's
touchdown, scoring twice in the first 3½ minutes of the second
quarter. A 3-yard run by Chris Taylor gave Indiana a 14-7 lead, and
the Hoosiers made it 21-7 on Powers' second TD pass to Gilmore, a
21-yarder three plays after Kenny Kendal recovered a fumble.
Once again, though, the Colonels came back strong.
A 50-yard run by Tobias, a junior college transfer, made it
21-14 midway through the second quarter. Then, after Indiana was
penalized for interference on a punt, Nicholls moved to the
Hoosiers' 24 before Alex Romero's 41-yard field goal cut the lead
Nicholls quarterback Yale Vannoy, who was 4-of-10 passing for 51
yards, fumbled early in the third quarter, and it took Indiana just
three plays to score again on an 18-yard pass to Bailey. Tobias
also scored on a 2-yard run midway through the quarter.
Cole finished with 99 yards rushing and Tobias and Harris added
95 yards each.
"I was just happy to play," Nicholls coach Jay Thomas said.
"We are not going to hang our heads after this loss, because in
the end we had a chance to win it and played a good game."
The Hoosiers donated $1,000 to Nicholls State to help athletes
affected by the hurricane.
"When coach Hoeppner came out and presented the check, I told
him it just gave me chills," Thomas said. "For IU to take the
time and open their hearts to us was just touching."