IU once again lost to Penn State this past weekend. The Hoosiers were unable to stop the Nittany Lions in the 45-22 rout.
IU's struggles on defense continued and inconsistency on offense led to the blowout.
Despite all the bad things we're going to talk about, the Hoosiers have shown a lot of improvement this season. Last year they were 1-10 going into the last game of the year. Now, they are 4-7 and about to go into a game simply for pride with nothing on the line. They have improved at just about every phase of the game. Hopefully they figure out how to play football again before heading to West Lafayette to face Purdue.
Here's what we learned against Penn State:
- Tackling is apparently harder than it looks. To say IU's tackling, in every possible way, was bad would be a huge understatement. Three times the Hoosiers had Allen Robinson behind the line of scrimmage for a loss, and all three times he turned sloppy tackles into big gains. It wasn't just against the talented wide receiver, no one, at any level was able to show a solid form tackle. They took bad angles, failed to wrap up, and must have thought that throwing their body against someone hard enough would stop them. Senior DT Adam Replogle was about the only one making plays all day.
- The offense is maddeningly inconsistent. This may be specifically directed towards QB Cam Coffman. The sophomore was just bad all day. He consistently failed to hit the open receiver by over throwing, under throwing, and just plain missing on his passes. The offense was unable to take advantage of the good plays that defense, or even special teams, managed.
- The defensive play calling was perplexing. Despite all the damage he was doing, the coaches seemed content to leave one man on Robinson. It didn't work very well as he had 10 catches for 197 yards and three touchdowns. They should have rolled a safety over the top to allow the corner to play underneath the pass, but they never double teamed him. Far too often it seems like the defensive coordinators have refused to make adjustments when they desperately needed to. IU will get help next season in the form of some good defensive recruits, but they may need to reevaluate the coaches.
- Why does IU keep calling the same plays on offense? Coach Kevin Wilson must be madly in love with swing and screen passes because that's the only explanation as to why IU keeps calling those plays. They must be extremely effective against the IU defense in practice, and honestly what wouldn't be effective against this defense? IU seems committed to plays that simply don't work on a consistent basis.
- How do you manage momentum? IU clearly has no idea. Every time things started to break the Hoosiers way, they would find a way to fail. A quick three-and-out or a turnover seemed to be the norm for the offense after everything the defense did for them. Or the offense would score only for the defense to give a crushing eight minute drive.
- Usually I dislike bad mouthing the refereeing during a game, but there were some questionable calls. The refs refused to call holding on the Penn State offensive line, even when it was blatantly obvious. The big play in question is the Zach Zwinak catch for a touchdown. Zwinak appeared to still be bumbling the reception as he turned up field and crossed the goal line and then dropped the ball. He never had control of the ball, but was still awarded the touchdown.
Another thing of note has to be the rules in the NCAA. At some point, they have to start mimicking those of the NFL (we don't mean things like down by touching the turf or one foot in for a catch). This is specifically geared towards safety and concussions. As far as we know, Kofi Hughes is healthy but late in the 4th quarter he caught a pass, turned and was immediately smashed with a helmet-to-helmet hit. In the NFL it would have been a hit on a defenseless receiver. This is a safety issue that needs to start at younger and younger levels.
IU will now face Purdue with it's pride on the line in a rivalry game. They need to fix a few things at a fundamental level, but thankfully Purdue is not as formidable an opponent.
We'll have more on that game later in the week.
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