By Chris Goff
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Linebacker Aaron Hill recovered a fumble by Indiana's Tevin Coleman with 25 seconds remaining and surging Minnesota held on to beat the Hoosiers 42-39 on Saturday.
Minnesota (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten) led 35-13 midway through the third quarter before the Hoosiers stormed back for a 39-35 lead on Nate Sudfeld's 30-yard touchdown pass to Cody Latimer with 5:33 remaining. But Philip Nelson found Maxx Williams open down the middle for a 50-yard scoring pass on Minnesota's ensuing possession.
Indiana (3-5, 1-3) then drove to the Gophers' 9-yard line before Sudfeld threw a lateral on second-and-goal that Coleman juggled. Hill scooped up the bouncing football to secure Minnesota's third straight victory under acting coach Tracy Claeys.
The Hoosiers lost their third straight despite gaining 227 yards on the ground. Coach Kevin Wilson dropped briefly to one knee in despair as officials signaled the change of possession in the final seconds.
Nelson went 16 of 23 for 298 yards and four touchdowns. David Cobb rushed 29 times for 188 yards and a score for Minnesota. Coleman ran 14 times for 108 yards and a touchdown for Indiana before his fateful mistake.
Following a Minnesota timeout, Sudfeld lined up in a shotgun formation with Coleman to his right. Coleman floated into the right flat as Sudfeld threw a quick swing pass that traveled backward. Coleman did not attempt to fall on the loose football, while Hill alertly gathered the carom and saved a game that appeared ready to go to overtime or end with an Indiana victory.
The Hoosiers were down 35-13 after Cobb exploded for a 27-yard touchdown run with 6:24 left in the third quarter. But touchdowns on four straight possessions, combined with three consecutive defensive stops, allowed Indiana to improbably take a late lead in a contest critical to its hopes of reaching the postseason for the first time since 2007.
Indiana safety Greg Heban made a lunging tackle at the feet of Jalen Myrick, who came two yards shy of converting a fake punt on fourth-and-5 with 8:45 to play. That set up the heroics of Sudfeld and Latimer, whose touchdown put the Hoosiers in front for the first time since they led 13-7.
A string of 28 unanswered Minnesota points ended when Sudfeld connected with Wynn on a 40-yard touchdown with 5:13 remaining in the third quarter. Indiana's resulting furious comeback fell one score short.
One play after Stephen Houston used superb blocking to pick up 21 yards on third-and-10, he powered in from the 4-yard line to give Indiana a chance to tie. Minnesota's defense stopped Sudfeld's scramble on the 2-point conversion attempt to maintain a 35-33 lead.
A read-option pitch from Tre Roberson to Coleman resulted in a 55-yard touchdown run down the right sideline on the first snap of the fourth quarter. Coleman broke a last-ditch tackle attempt around the 7-yard line and drew Indiana within 35-27.
With coach Jerry Kill on leave to treat his epilepsy and watching from the coaching box, Cobb became the first Gopher to rush for 100 yards in three straight games since Amir Pinnix in 2006.
Minnesota outgained the Hoosiers 301-162 in the first half and led 28-13 at the break.
Nelson lofted a 10-yard pass to Derrick Engel for a 7-0 lead on the game's opening drive. The first play was a flea flicker that gained 40 yards. Cobb pitched back to Nelson, who found Engel wide open on a deep post route.
Roberson threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Kofi Hughes to give the Hoosiers a 10-7 lead following a turnover. Donnell Kirkwood fumbled at the end of an 11-yard run when hit by Indiana's Mark Murphy. Heban recovered for the Hoosiers.
The game was delayed for eight minutes early in the second quarter after Minnesota center Jon Christenson sustained a left leg injury. About 30 teammates left the sideline to wish Christenson well before he was carted off on a stretcher.