A Short History of Indiana Bowl Games


After an inspiring 4-0 start, followed by a devastating six game losing streak, only to be book-ended by a two game winning streak, the Indiana football team somehow managed to finish the season with a 6-6 record. That’s right, in a matter of days Indiana football will be playing in a meaningful postseason football game. To put this in perspective, the last time IU played in a bowl game in 2007, “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” by Soulja Boy, “Don’t Matter” by Akon, and “Teardrops on My Guitar” by Taylor Swift were all Top 100 singles. Safe to say it has been a little while since Hoosier fans have gotten to experience this postseason excitement. However, for those who have been following the program for years, the Pinstripe Bowl bid is a return to former glory. IU has played in a total of nine bowl games in its history, holding a record of 3-6 in those contests. Some of those games have been exciting, while others have been more agonizing than a Tom Crean-headed IUBB tournament team. What follows is a short record of the more important and exciting bowl games in the history of the Indiana Football program.

1968 Rose Bowl vs. #1 University of Southern California (USC)

14-3 USC

I’m sure we all remember this one like it was yesterday. This was the peak of Hoosier football, which is pretty depressing considering the game took place 47 years ago. In fact, this was so long ago that the MVP of the game was OJ Simpson, who, as we all know, fell into obscurity after the game, never heard from again. In the first and only Rose Bowl game IU has ever participated in, the Hoosiers arrived in Pasadena as the fourth ranked team in the country, sporting a 9-1 record. Unfortunately, the Hoosier offense decided not to show up for the game, and only managed a second quarter field goal on their way to a 14-3 loss.

1979 Holiday Bowl vs. #11 Brigham Young University (BYU)

Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

38-37 Indiana

The Lee Corso-led Hoosiers (7-4) took down the favored and undefeated #11 BYU Cougars in an exciting back and forth game that saw Indiana secure its first ever bowl game victory. The Hoosiers pulled ahead in the fourth quarter when they returned a punt back for a touchdown, which may very well have been the last time the IU football team returned a punt for a touchdown.

1988 Peach Bowl vs. University of Tennessee

(January 1988)

27-22 Tennessee

The Hoosiers arrived in Atlanta with an 8-3 record, and were excited to play in their first ever Peach Bowl, and their first January bowl game in 20 years. Tennessee came out firing, and quickly built up a 21-3 lead halfway through the second quarter. However, Indiana stayed true to their strengths and continued to hand the ball off to the future IU Hall-of-Famer Anthony Thompson and soon built a one-point lead in the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, the Volunteers marched down the field and scored the go ahead touchdown with minutes to place, assuring yet another Hoosier loss to a highly regarded SEC team.

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1988 Liberty Bowl vs. University of South Carolina 

(December 1988)

34-10 Indiana

This was perhaps the best bowl win in the history of the IU football program. After returning many starters from the previous year’s Peach Bowl team, the Hoosiers entered Memphis on a mission. Coming into the game with a 7-3-1 record, and riding star junior running back Anthony Thompson (who had rushed for 1,600 yards and 24 TDs in the regular season), the Hoosiers scored in every quarter making this one a laugher by the final whistle. Thanks to this outstanding showing, the curse against the SEC had finally been lifted.

1993 Independence Bowl vs. Virginia Tech

45-20 Virginia Tech

IU came into the game with an impressive 8-3 record and was ranked 20th in the country. It is important to remember that these were the times when the term “#20 ranked Indiana Hoosiers” was something you could say without laughing, then ultimately crying, halfway through the sentence. However in this game, in the simplest terms, IU got physically, mentally, and emotionally dominated. IU was supposed to come in and shut down the Virginia Tech offense with their highly regarded defensive front. However, Tech held a 28-13 lead at halftime and never looked back, destroying the Hoosiers in the second half on the ground and through the air. Although many were surprised by the poor showing from IU, smarter heads could have guessed this may have been coming due to the fact that IU quarterback John Paci was the “star” of the offense, and had season totals of only 1,796 yards passing and 8 touchdowns.

2007 Insight Bowl vs. Oklahoma State University

49-33 Oklahoma State

After a 14-year break, IU finally returned to bowl contention by finishing an up-and-down season with a 6-6 record. As it seems to go for the Hoosiers in bowl games, Oklahoma State came out hot and never took their foot off the gas, taking a 35-10 lead into halftime. Luckily, Twitter was in its infancy and had very few users, so angry fans couldn’t spew curse words and death threats to the players and coaching staff during the game like they would today.