BLOOMINGTON — Indiana redshirt sophomore safety Juwan Burgess gathered his position group together during the fourth quarter Saturday against Maryland.
The Hoosiers were clinging a three-point lead and had yet to produce a takeaway.
“I said, ‘Hey we need to create a play,’” Burgess said.
Burgess came up with one, stripping Maryland running back Javon Leake and pouncing on the fumble with 3:50 left at Maryland’s 18-yard line. The Hoosiers converted the turnover into three points, then got an interception from sophomore cornerback Reese Taylor with 1:00 left to seal the 34-28 win.
Unlike last month, when defensive breakdowns and missed tackles in the fourth quarter proved costly in a 40-31 loss at Michigan State, Indiana’s defense finished.
“To create two takeaways at the end was really critical for a young defense’s confidence, in the way that we were able to go out there and finish a game off,” IU defensive coordinator Kane Wommack said. “Three weeks ago, we weren’t able to do that.”
Taylor, the 2018 Indiana Mr. Football who made the transition from offense to defense during the offseason, said the defense welcomes the challenge of closing games.
“We always want the game to end up on the defense’s shoulders,” Taylor said.
Indiana hasn’t produced takeaways at the same rate as last season, when it had 26 in 12 games. This season, the Hoosiers have six through seven games, though the two in the fourth quarter turned out to be crucial.
“We pride ourselves in getting the ball back,” IU junior defensive back Marcelino Ball said. “We haven’t as much as last year obviously, but it’s not like we’re OK with that, every practice we try to get the ball. … Those takeaways from Juwan and Reese — hopefully, that does ignite something to get some more.”
Burgess said producing more turnovers comes down to having the right mindset.
“Just got to be more locked in and play more hungry and play more fast, and that way takeaways go up,” Burgess said.
The development of Taylor, who has battled injuries throughout the season, and freshman cornerback Tiawan Mullen have helped strengthen IU’s secondary. Mullen made a big open-field tackle on third down to end another fourth-quarter Maryland offensive possession.
Indiana limited Maryland to seven points and 114 total yards in the second half.
“We found a way to make adjustments in the second half of a game and kind of flipped the script on the kind of production Maryland had offensively,” Wommack said.
Indiana announced its home game against Northwestern on Nov. 2 will kick off at 7 p.m. and air on FS1.
The IU men’s basketball added another walk-on this week, increasing its total to five for the 2019-20 roster.
The Hoosiers announced Tuesday freshman guard Michael Shipp (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) has joined the team as a non-scholarship player. Shipp helped lead Archbishop Moeller in Cincinnati to back-to back state championships, averaging 5 points and 2.2 rebounds as a senior.
The other Hoosiers walk-ons include junior guard Cooper Bybee (Ellettsville), freshman guard/forward Nathan Childress (Zionsville), junior guard Jacquez Henderson (Winter Park, Fla.) and senior guard Adrian Chapman (Brownsburg).