CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Indiana redshirt freshman quarterback Peyton Ramsey was scheduled to play a little against Virginia on Saturday. But when senior Richard Lagow, who threw for 420 yards on a school-record 65 attempts against Ohio State last week, started 3 for 10 with an interception against the Cavaliers, Ramsey entered in the second quarter and never left.
Ramsey completed 16 of 20 passes – including his first 11 – for 173 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Hoosiers to a 34-17 victory over Virginia at Scott Stadium. Ramsey also ran for a 26-yard touchdown.
“He was moving the team, so we just said, 'Hey, roll with it,'” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. “Hey, you've got two quarterbacks, that's a great thing. Richard's the starting quarterback, but you've got to compete.”
Virginia (1-1) again struggled to run the ball until it was forced by its deficit to throw 66 times. The Hoosiers (1-1) held the Cavaliers to 55 yards on 25 rushing attempts, a week after Virginia gained only 92 yards against FCS opponent William and Mary.
After A.J. Mejia's 22-yard field goal put Virginia up 3-0 in the second quarter, Indiana scored three times in the final 6:30 of the half behind Ramsey for a 17-3 lead.
Ramsey led a six-play, 59-yard touchdown drive to send Indiana ahead for good. Simmie Cobbs scored on a 29-yard touchdown pass, J-Shun Harris' 43-yard punt return set up Ramsey's 26-yard touchdown run, and Griffin Oakes closed the half with a 51-yard field goal, his school-record 54th. Oakes added a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter.
“The game really just slowed down for me, and I just had fun, that's really what it came down to,” said Ramsey, who gained 42 rushing yards on 12 carries. “I go out every week and practice like I'm going to be the starter. Rich is obviously the starter, but we battle every day and make each other better.”
The Cavaliers opened the second half with a 12-yard touchdown run by Jordan Ellis, Virginia's longest run of the day. They got no closer, and Harris put the game out of reach by returning a punt 44 yards for a touchdown with just under six minutes left.
“We just hadn't seen (Ramsey) much,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
“With the productivity of their starter against Ohio State, the thought that we had to prepare for No. 2 in the second quarter means that we were playing really good defense.”
The Hoosiers' special teams dominated Virginia and shifted the field to their advantage numerous times. Punter Haydon Whitehead averaged 43.4 yards on seven punts, four of which pinned the Cavaliers inside their 20. And Harris, a redshirt junior who hasn't returned punts since 2014, returned five for 109 yards and his first career touchdown.
Indiana's defensive end Greg Gooch was penalized for targeting during a strip sack of Benkert that Robert McCray returned 72 yards for an apparent fourth-quarter touchdown. But after a video review, Gooch was flagged and ejected. He will have to sit out the first half of next week's game against Florida International.
Allen captured his first victory as a head coach and briefly broke down when he dedicated the victory to his father, who had open-heart surgery Tuesday.
“He's my hero, and I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him,” Allen said. “Just a lot of emotion this week, a lot of things going on.”