1986 All-American Bowl Team to Reunite This Weekend
Sept. 21, 2006
When Bill Mallory became Indiana's 22nd head football coach in 1984, he became IU's third coach in three years and inherited a program that was clearly short on talent. The first year head coach and his squad suffered through an inglorious 0-11 season. It was frustrating, because eight of the losses came by a combined total of 48 points. But as Mallory correctly predicted, that '84 team set the tone for what was to come.
The '85 season brought improvement. The Hoosiers won their first four games, beating three non-conference foes and Northwestern in the Big Ten opener, before dropping their final seven contests.
The breakthrough year for Mallory and his hungry Hoosiers came in 1986. Fueled by the emergence of freshman tailback Anthony Thompson and a defense led by All-Big Ten defensive end Van Waiters, the Hoosiers roared to a 4-0 start, lost consecutive two-point games to Ohio State and Minnesota before falling to Michigan to go to 4-3. IU regrouped to beat Wisconsin and Michigan State to move to 6-3 and claimed IU's first winning season since 1980 and ensured a post-season bowl.
The Wisconsin and Michigan State games carried special significance. Not only did Thompson make his long-awaited starting debut against Wisconsin, but he was joined in the lineup by a redshirt freshman making his first collegiate start, quarterback Dave Schnell.
IU dominated Wisconsin, 21-7. The Hoosiers rolled up 285 yards rushing and 441 yards in total offense while holding the Badgers to 160 total yards, the lowest yield by an IU team since 1979. Thompson rushed for 207 yards in 39 carries, the second-highest number of carries in IU history (at the time), while Schnell scored two touchdowns and passed for a third. Ernie Jones, a junior receiver, caught five passes for 127 yards, including a 40-yard TD strike. IU's defense was so dominant that in the Badgers' 11 possessions, they ran six or less plays in 10 of those.
But the game that stamped the Hoosiers as a team that every opponent had to be wary of and prepared to play - a signature of the entire 13-year Mallory coaching era - was the 17-14 upset of Michigan State in East Lansing.
The Spartans featured an excellent quarterback in David Yarema and All-America caliber players in tailback Lorenzo White and receivers Andre Rison and Mark Ingram. And the Spartans displayed those offensive talents widely throughout the game. Yarema passed for 300 yards, White rushed for 65, while Rison set an IU opponent record with 196 yards on 11 receptions. Yet, it was IU's opportunistic defense that carried the day.
The Hoosiers had a 14-0 halftime lead on a Thompson 3-yard run and a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown by safety Alex Green. But after leading the entire game, the Hoosiers had to survive a Michigan State first down on IU's eight-yard line late in the game following a blocked punt. Green snuffed out that scoring threat with his second interception of the day at the one-yard line, preserving the Hoosier win.
Green, with his two picks, and Van Waiters, who totaled 11 tackles, five of them for loss, had a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and a pass broken up, shared Big Ten Defensive Player-of-the-Week honors following the game. Against the Spartans, the Hoosiers forced five turnovers on the day and held Michigan State to a mere 28 yards rushing, the second-lowest total by an IU team in Big Ten play ever.
The Hoosiers dropped their final two games of the regular season, again in heartbreak fashion, losing 21-16 to Illinois and 17-15 at Purdue when the Boilers blocked a 35-yard potential game winning field goal by Pete Stoyanovich with under a minute to play.
In 1986, the Hoosiers were selected to play in only their third bowl game ever, the All-American Bowl against a Florida State team that featured Coach Bobby Bowden and a cornerback by the name of Deion Sanders. Even though the heavily favored Seminoles prevailed, 27-13, the season marked the beginning of the best era in IU football history. Following that season, the Hoosiers would go on to play in six bowl games in eight years, compiling 53 wins against just 38 losses along the way.
To those '86 Hoosiers, we salute you.
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