For the first time since 2007, IU strung together back-to-back Big Ten wins. The Hoosiers rallied twice to defeat Iowa, 24-21.
All season, IU has struggled to put away games when they had a lead. On Saturday, they managed to do just enough to keep the Hawkeyes at bay.
Now it appears that IU may be in contention for the Big Ten title game, due to Penn State and Ohio State being ineligible. They will have a tough game against division leader Wisconsin next weekend.
For now, let's take a look at what we learned from this game:
- Quarterback Cam Coffman is cooler under pressure. After being benched mid way through the first quarter, Coffman came back into the game for a drive near the end of the first half. The JUCO transfer led a blisteringly fast drive that ended with wide receiver Cody Latimer in the end zone with the ball. Coffman was poised in this outing and, despite being benched for most of the first half, finished the game 21-of-33 passing for 315 yards and three touchdowns. We've said for awhile that freshman Nate Sudfeld should start, but this wasn't his week.
- Latimer is the Big Ten co-offensive player of the week. That's not speculation, it's a fact. Latimer was on fire. He caught seven passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns. All season Latimer has stood out as the best receiver on the team. Kofi Hughes also had a nice game with six receptions for 110 yards.
- The defense was impressive. This might have to do with the fact that Iowa isn't all that stellar in offense, but they are still shutting down bad offenses. Over the past six quarters, the defense has held Iowa and Illinois to 17 points (seven points in the Iowa game came off an interception return for a TD). They forced two turnovers and Iowa was 5-for-14 on third down conversions.
- Running back Stephen Houston played poorly. Houston is clearly the most complete back on the team, but is often infinitely frustrating. Too often he tried to dance around in the back field to create space and would lose yards. He needs to learn that there is value in getting one or two tough yards. He is a big back who is more than capable of getting the dirty yards.
- The red zone offense still needs work. Early in the third quarter, Hughes appeared to have a 78-yard TD, but was ruled out of bounds at the one foot line. From there, it took IU eight plays to score. IU had two false starts, unacceptable at home, and was only bailed out on third down by an iffy pass interference call. Another red zone trip ended with a turnover on downs as a broken play ended with Houston being stuffed for a loss. IU needs to work on execution in this area of the field. Scoring points is extremely important for the Hoosiers as they have struggled over the season defensively.
- The offensive line played poorly. IU gave up an awful lot of pressure to a team that is the worst in the Big Ten in sacks. This pressure contributed to Sudfeld's poor play, but too often he gave up on plays and never got into rhythm. IU only managed 67 rushing yards as well. Sophomore Collin Rahrig missed a couple of blocks, badly. The o-line has been solid most of the season, but a number of little mistakes made for a bad day by the unit.
- The wide receivers still lack effort. Despite a good day by Latimer, Hughes and company, this group still gives up on plays and doesn't show enough effort. When Coffman, or Sudfeld, roll out to extend the play, the wide receivers would just stand still instead of working to get open. This seems to be a lack of effort, if they work to double back or put a move on the defender it could result in a big play.
It's hard to find too much fault when a team like IU wins back-to-back Big Ten games, but with Wisconsin and Penn State coming up, the previous efforts won't be enough. Still, this was a good win by coach Kevin Wilson and the team appears to be turning a big corner. They have finally figured out how to win close games and to maintain a lead. If they can improve the little things and continue to execute on offense, they may have a chance these next two weeks.
We'll have more on the upcoming games, as well as the impending basketball season, later this week.
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