Down by three points with 25 seconds left in the game, IU was on Minnesota’s 9-yard line with second down-and-goal.
IU sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld threw a swing pass to sophomore running back Tevin Coleman to try to exploit a matchup against Minnesota’s man defense. Sudfeld’s pass was behind the line of scrimmage, making it a lateral.
“We just kind of got caught in the wrong look, and I thought maybe I put the ball a little behind Tevin,” Sudfeld said.
Coleman bobbled the throw and gave up on the ball after it dropped to the ground.
“It was behind me, but I just tried to make a play out of it,” Coleman said. “It didn’t happen.”
Thinking the play would be ruled an incomplete pass, Coleman abandoned the play. Since the ball was lateralled, the ball was still live in play.
Sudfeld realized the play wasn’t over, so he took off running to try to recover the fumble.
“I was hoping the defense didn’t notice, but they picked it up,” he said.
Minnesota linebacker Aaron Hill picked up the loose ball and ran 21 yards down the sideline before Coleman tackled him.
“After I’d seen the guy pick it up and start running, I tried to make him fumble,” Coleman said.
When Minnesota took over on offense near midfield, the Golden Gophers only had to hand the ball off twice to running back David Cobb in order to run out the clock and leave Bloomington with a 42-39 victory.
Sudfeld said there are a lot of things he wants to take back.
“(It was) just an unfortunate play and kind of really bad timing,” he said. “I should have just thrown it away.”
IU Coach Kevin Wilson said on a swing play, there’s always a chance for a lateral.
“It just didn’t get executed right,” he said.
Wilson said the offensive players around the fumble didn’t jump on the loose ball like they should have. He said in a close game, the fundamentals of grabbing the loose ball and giving it to the referee are very important.
“Don’t just assume anything,” Wilson said. “It was poor execution and really not an ideal call at that time in the game, and because of it, we lost the game.”
The fumble came after IU turned a 22-point deficit into a four-point lead thanks to 26 unanswered points in the second half. Minnesota quickly regained the lead with three minutes left in the game, setting up IU’s potential game-winning drive.
IU junior wide receiver Cody Latimer said it was “just jaw-dropping” because the Hoosiers were so close to victory.
“We should’ve had it, we need it, and it just slipped right out of our hands (with) a couple seconds left to go on the goal line,” he said.
Wilson said IU didn’t play well early, but the players battled and hung in the game.
“We had a lot of chances, but I made a poor call, and we did not execute the play at the end,” he said. “As coaches, we have to help them out at the end and make the right plays, and that last one was not the right call.”
Coleman said the loss was a really tough one to swallow.
“I’m not happy at all, not cheerful at all,” he said, barely above a whisper. “(We) just have to keep on going.”
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