BLOOMINGTON – Indiana fell flat in the biggest game of its season.
The Hoosiers, who were looking for a win to help put themselves in better position for a bowl game, had a late rally fall short in a 42-39 loss to Minnesota on Saturday.
IU (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten) now needs three wins in its final four games against Illinois, at No. 24 Wisconsin, at No. 4 Ohio State, and home against Purdue.
After its rally against the Golden Gophers (7-2, 3-2) fell short, that task looks monumental.
The IU offense stagnated after jumping out to a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tre Roberson led the Hoosiers to two four-play drives and one three-and-out in the second quarter, and Minnesota reeled off 21 unanswered points to take a 28-13 halftime lead.
The Golden Gophers racked up 301 total yards to IU's 162 in the half, and Minnesota sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson completed 7 of 11 passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns.
But after another Golden Gophers touchdown, the Hoosiers rallied.
After punts on IU's previous five drives, sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld exposed the Golden Gophers defense.
With 6:24 left in the third quarter, sophomore running back Tevin Coleman burned the defense for a 34-yard pass, and Sudfeld connected with junior wideout Shane Wynn for a 40-yard touchdown pass on the next play.
IU made it an eight-point game on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Coleman took a pitch on a triple-option pitch, followed his blockers and broke a tackle for a 55-yard touchdown run to cut the Minnesota lead to 35-27 with 14:50 left.
On the next drive, Minnesota made it to the IU 39-yard line and went for it on fourth and 2. An open receiver dropped a pass on play-action, and the Hoosiers took over.
Coleman and senior running back Stephen Houston made quick work of the Golden Gophers from there.
The sophomore ran for 25 yards on two carries, and Houston had three for 37, including the 4-yard touchdown run that made it a two-point deficit with 8:45 left.
The Golden Gophers went with a risky punt fake call on their next drive. IU senior safety Greg Heban came up with a shoestring tackle short of the sticks. Sudfeld connected with tight end Ted Bolser for a first down, and then found Cody Latimer in one-on-one coverage on a post route for a 30-yard score.
The Hoosiers took a 39-35 lead, their first since early in the second quarter, with 5:33 to go.
Minnesota retook the lead about 90 seconds later.
Nelson, who finished with 298 yards and four touchdown passes, found Maxx Williams for a 50-yard touchdown and a 42-39 Golden Gophers advantage with 3:06 left.
IU then drove down the field and got to the goal line, but a backward pass was bobbled by Coleman and recovered by Minnesota with 14 seconds left.
Minnesota ran out the clock, and the Hoosiers had their third-straight loss.