Written By Sammy Jacobs (@sammyj108)
Let’s take a step back from the ledge and take this game for what it is. One loss, that’s all it is. The Hoosiers reverted back to their 2012 form when it came to getting off to a slow start in a 41-35 loss to the Navy Midshipmen. While the loss hurts, the season is not over and the Hoosiers still have a good shot at going to a bowl.
Opponent: Navy Midshipmen
Location: Saturday September 7th /6pm/ Memorial Stadium/ (Bloomington, Indiana)
Why They Played: This game was the second in a home-and-home series between the Mids and the Hoosiers. Navy is a brand name and brought a great crowd with them to create a festive atmosphere where the Indiana Athletic Department dedicated the prow of the USS Indiana and the new flagpole inside Memorial Stadium.
What The Game Meant:
The Hoosiers were trying to build off of the 73-point performance and victory over Indiana State to get to 2-0. For only the second time ever the Hoosiers host eight games, making this game, against a team Indiana was favored by two touchdowns, very important in the quest to make a bowl game.
Top Offensive Performers:
Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana – Sudfeld entered the game in relief for an ineffective Tre Roberson and almost completed the comeback for the Hoosiers. The sophomore signal caller threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns. Even though Sudfeld had one poor throw that went for an interception, he was very good. Sudfeld also lead the Hoosiers in rushing with 35 yards.
Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy- The leader of the Navy attack showed loads of talent and even more heart. Reynolds rushed for 127 yards and three scores, he even was an effective passer throwing for 71 yards on four attempts. Late in the game, when the Hoosiers had chances to make a big stop on defense, Reynolds willed his way to multiple huge first downs that ultimately doomed to Hoosiers.
Top Defensive Performers
Indiana- The Hoosiers’ defense was putrid in stopping the Navy triple option. The other stop they had came on a missed field goal and just could not get off the field when they needed to. The Hoosiers might have pulled this one out had the defense put up just one more stop.
Chris Johnson, LB, Navy- Johnson came up with the only turnover for both teams with an interception of a Sudfeld pass and it proved to be the difference in the game. The linebacker also added five tackles in a game that lacked much defense.
Special Team Performance:
The special teams performance against Navy was, well nothing really special. That is not saying it was bad however. Kicker Mitch Ewald became the career leader for PATs for the Hoosiers as he converted on all five attempts. Erich Toth had a weird night as he punted only once for 56 yards. While that may look like a monster punt, he also benefited from a great roll. The biggest issue for the Hoosiers came in the return game. This is an area that Indiana should have had an advantage, yet they couldn’t get anything going to gain better field position.
This was the average yards per rush for the Navy offense. It could have been higher if they did not get bogged down close to the goal line a few times. The Hoosiers just did not have an answer for the triple option as two different runners broke 100 yards rushing and a third finished with 97. The rushing attack limited Indiana to just eight possessions and was the difference between a win and the loss for the Hoosiers.
There were two turning points, weird, but there was. The first came on Indiana’s second drive when Kevin Wilson decided to go for it from his own 38-yard line and was stuffed on a running play. This gave Navy a very short field, which they took advantage of and turned into a 14-0 advantage. The second turning point was the Nate Sudfeld interception. Indiana seemed posed to get back into the game as they drove down to the Navy 12-yard line, instead Navy took the errant pass and turned it into three points for a 17-0 lead. Indiana would never recover even though they cut the Navy lead to just six at the end of the game.
I Knew it was over when…
There were several times that this game looked to be over early in the second half, but to their credit the Hoosiers never gave up and fought until the end, narrowly missing a shot to have the ball back with less than a minute left. The game was finally over when Cody Latimer was ruled out of bounds while trying to recover an almost perfect onside kick from Mitch Ewald. The kick really was a thing of beauty, but Latimer could not corral the ball before he slid out of bounds and Navy could just take a knee after that.
Players of the Game
Indiana– Nate Sudfeld, Quarterback- In everyone’s opinion, except the one that matters, Sudfeld shut the door on the quarterback competition. Aside from one poor throw, the sophomore was great in trying to lead a Hoosier comeback. He also was not awful on his feet as he lead the Hoosiers in rushing as well. Unless there is a tactical reason to why Wilson won’t name a starting quarterback early in the week, it should be announced that Sudfeld won the job. Otherwise Hoosier Nation and the media will have to keep an eye on twitter to find out who is starting under center Saturday afternoon.
Navy- Keenan Reynolds, Quarterback- What an impressive performance from this young man, as he totaled 127 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and let’s not forget the 71 yards passing. Reynolds made every big play that his team needed and showed a toughness that is hard to match.
What I took away from the game
Yes, this was a crushing loss to a team Indiana should probably beat at home, but by no means is it the end of the season. Indiana’s defense has nowhere to go but up from this performance. Navy is rarely a good match-up for any team, but a team with a young inexperienced defense it is deadly. There were some positives to take away from the game however. The quarterback discussion SHOULD be over as Nate Sudfeld out played Tre Roberson again. In addition the reemergence of Ted Bolser as a consistent playmaker continues. There are a couple of aspects that are concerning about the offense. First, the running game was nowhere to be found against Navy. Indiana tried to establish the run early in order to open up the big pass play, but had it backfire as the offense went scoreless in the first quarter. Secondly, there were too many dropped passes that should have gone for easy catches. Kofi Hughes, who is normally as sure handed as any receiver on the team, dropped two passes in the end zone. While the Hoosiers did end up scoring the next play or a few plays after it did cost them some precious seconds off the clock, which they could have used at the end of the game. Overall, the defensive effort needs to be astronomically better, the offense needs to start quicker, and the kick return game needs to be a spot where the Hoosiers can gain an advantage. Luckly, the Hoosiers will not have to face Navy again for a long time and do not play another triple option team this season.