The Scarlet Knights were down 37-21 with two minutes left in the game when Noah Verdal dropped back and tossed the ball to Shameen Jones on a slant play on 4th-and-32. Jones was nowhere near the first-down marker but ended up tossing the ball to a teammate.
When an offensive lineman got the ball he tossed it like a bouquet at a wedding, and Jones got the ball back. He would run it a few yards and appeared to have gotten stopped. But somehow he got the ball out and it was lateralled to Bo Melton.
Melton would run and score what Rutgers thought was a touchdown.
Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, the play didn’t count.
“When one of the officials told me, Coach, we think one of the laterals was a forward pass, I was like,” Hoosiers coach Tom Allen told reporters after the game, according to the Asbury Park Press.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano added: “I couldn’t tell if that was a forward pass; how do I know? I do know this: They really executed it about as well as you can. They refused to go down with the ball, which is easy to do. How many times at the end of a game do you see the guy go down with the ball? They refused to go down with the ball.”
It wouldn’t have mattered so much anyway. The Scarlet Knights would have cut the lead down to nine or eight points and would have needed to recover an onside kick to even have another chance.
Michael Penix Jr. led the Hoosiers with 238 passing yards and three touchdown passes. He also had a rushing touchdown. Rutgers jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the first quarter but allowed 17 unanswered points in the second quarter to give Indiana the boost it was looking for.
Indiana improved to 2-0 to start their abbreviated season while Rutgers is 1-1.