BLOOMINGTON | Kevin Wilson presented his beleaguered players a treat, letting Indiana wear its new crimson-and-chrome candy-striped helmets.
More important than a change in attire was the Hoosiers adding a dynamic running game and stiff defense to go with an already strong passing game.
The results were sparkling.
Nate Sudfeld threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns and Cody Latimer had a career-high 137 yards receiving Saturday afternoon as Indiana (2-1) pulled away in the second half for a 42-10 victory over Bowling Green.
"We talked a lot about trying to have some fun," Wilson, the Indiana coach, said. "Quit worrying about the result. Don't worry about the season; don't worry about being a bowl team. Just focus on the day. No matter what happens, have some fun."
After giving up seven scores in nine possessions last week in a dispiriting 41-35 loss to Navy, the Hoosier defense dominated Saturday. They allowed just three points in 11 defensive series. Bowling Green averaged 3.8 yards per carry after Indiana began the day yielding 5.3 yards per rush.
Meanwhile, the Hoosiers compiled 601 yards of total offense and ended the day on a 35-0 run. Bowling Green (2-1) headed into Memorial Stadium seeking its first 3-0 start since 2003, but a normally reliable defense saw more than it could handle.
"We got beat bad," Falcons coach Dave Clawson said. "We are extremely disappointed. We got whipped across the board."
Following what players described as a very focused, upbeat practice Friday, Indiana (2-1) produced perhaps its best all-around effort in Wilson's three years in Bloomington.
"We're growing," Wilson said. "We're learning. When you play as a team, today was a win. We talked about having the best week we've ever had coming off of a loss. I'm very proud of our guys to play well. Moving forward, we're figuring it out and we've got a lot of figuring out to do."
Sudfeld's 33-yard touchdown pass to Latimer with 10:11 left in the third quarter stretched the lead to 28-10 and allowed the Hoosiers to coast the rest of the way. Sudfeld started for the first time in his college career and also ran for a 1-yard score. He completed 17 of 26 passes to bring his season completion percentage to 70.5.
The Hoosiers were also strong on the ground. Tevin Coleman ran 19 times for 130 yards, including scoring bursts of 1 and 43 yards. Backup Stephen Houston added 155 yards rushing and caught a pass for 31 yards, which helped set up a 3-yard rush by Tre Roberson around right end to close the scoring.
"They ran the ball, they threw the ball, they made big plays," Clawson said.
But Indiana's defensive turnaround was the story.
The Hoosiers had two sacks, five tackles for loss, an interception, a recovered fumble and 12 pass break-ups. Members of Indiana's high-powered offense, which has now scored a school-record 150 points in three games, enjoyed the show.
"Whenever the defense is outstanding, it just gives the offense the confidence because we don't have to worry as much," said receiver Kofi Hughes, who caught four passes for 34 yards and a score. "It was a very complete game today."
Bowling Green's Matt Johnson went 26 of 46 for 256 yards, but he was intercepted once and didn't throw a touchdown. Shaun Joplin had 104 yards on seven receptions. Running back Travis Greene was limited to 43 yards on 11 rushes.
Although they were outgained 366-210 in the first half, the Falcons hung around courtesy of Indiana mistakes and went into halftime trailing 21-10.
Bowling Green tied the game at 7 with a 56-yard return by Paul Senn, who blocked a punt and scored with 4:36 in the first quarter. After Tyler Tate made a 45-yard field goal to give Bowling Green its only lead at 10-7, Isaiah Gourdine forced a fumble by Indiana's Damon Graham on the ensuing kickoff. Senn recovered to force the second turnover of the game by the Hoosiers.
With 4:40 before halftime, Houston burned Bowling Green for a 50-yard rush to the Falcons 25, and Sudfeld hit Hughes four plays later from 8 yards out for a touchdown. Indiana took the lead for good on a 43-yard touchdown run by Coleman, who appeared untouched, with 8:10 left in the half.