Hoosiers offense stifled by Nittany Lions: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

 Hoosiers need to bounce back in major way after this last weekend's performance against Penn State.

Hoosiers need to bounce back in major way after this last weekend's performance against Penn State.

Written By: Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)

We are at the midway point of the regular season and the Hoosiers are where many expected them to be, sitting at 4-2, and that's not a bad thing.  Again, it's not that Hoosiers did not have a chance against either the Buckeyes or Nittany Lions, in fact they clearly proved otherwise. But again, despite dropping two in a row, things are far from doom and gloom for this team. They are only two wins away from becoming bowl-eligible with plenty of winnable games left on the schedule. 

Next week Indiana welcomes Rutgers into Bloomington for homecoming, but before getting ahead of ourselves, let's look at some of the good, some of the bad, and some of the ugly.

The Good 

The Hoosiers uniform game has been 'on fleek' for the last four weeks, at least, I believe that's the term kids are using nowadays. But I am an accountant, so what do I know? White tops with crimson bottoms and lids, doesn't get much better than that in my opinion, classic and cutting edge at the same time. There is still a time and place for the stormtropper look, which I also like a lot, but we haven't had Crimson pants since 2010, so it's nice to see those become a part of the regular rotation. 

The Hoosiers second half defense deserves to be in the good category, doing enough to keep things respectable when they very easily could have gotten out of hand. During the final 30 minutes they only gave up 110 yards and 10 points, which were all scored during the final stanza. Considering Penn State possessed the ball for 11:30 minutes in the final quarter, it could have been much worse.

Additonally, there were also some strong individual performances, at least statistically, as Marcus Oliver led the team with 13 tackles, and Zach Shaw and Nick Mangieri both contributed two sacks apiece. Rashard Fant also had a couple of nice pass breakups early in the game. Erich Toth also had a strong day, averaging 41 yards per kick on 11 punts, four of which were downed inside the 20.

And while third-string quarterback Danny Cameron did not do anything remarkable during his quarter and half of action, he did about as much as you could ask. He is credited with an interception, however, if you watched the game, he isn't solely to blame for that turnover. While it was far from the prettiest thrown ball, it could have, and should have been caught. All things considered, Cameron looked okay in emergency duty. 

Also, from what I could tell from Bloomington, the weather in State College, Pennsylvania looked absolutely perfect for football. 

The Bad

While the first half defensive effort wasn't horrible, at least relative to what we have seen in the past,  there were still those moments that left you scratching your head. Specifically, the defense continues to be plagued by mental lapses, especially in the secondary. Granted, we knew going into the season that it could be feast or famine with such a young, albeit athletic group on the back-end of the defense. However, the Indiana defense got burned deep through the air twice for touchdowns, something that had not happened for a couple of weeks. Missed tackles were also an issue at times, especially on the perimeter. 

But again, as bad as they were, they did enough to keep the team within striking distance. Had the offense been operating at or near 100%, the outcome of this game could have been much different. 

 The Ugly

The offense was, well, offensive. Where should I start? The team only gained 234 yards on 66 offensive plays, an average of 3.5 yards per play. They also converted just 3 of 16 third-down attempts. 

Now there are a few reasons for this, most importantly your number one running back, Jordan Howard, and number one quarterback, Nate Sudefeld, were both sidelined for the entirety of the game due to injuries. Going on the road, against a top 15 defense, without two of your top offensive weapons, not a recipe for success. 

Making matters worse, was the injury to second string quarterback Zander Diamont. That's not to say the California kid was lighting up the world, throwing the ball 17 times, completing 9 for 90 yards, but his confidence and grasp of the offense were sorely missed and all hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed when he walked to the locker room.

Again, Cameron looked good in limited action, but it's too much to ask a player in his first ever collegiate action to bring a team from behind against a defense as stout as Penn State's.

However, even with the injuries, the offensive line did very little to make the back up running backs' or quarterbacks' jobs any easier. This was easily one of the poorest performances of the year, and possibly the last two seasons. They got very little push upfront, and the quarterbacks were under fire all afternoon. 

Finally, drops have started to become a problem once again. The Hoosiers have had a hard enough time moving the ball the last couple of weeks, letting catchable passes get away is a not something else they need to contend with. 

And penalties reared their ugly head once again this past weekend, as the team was hit with eight for 65 yards. But more than just the penalty yardage that was given up, it was the timing of the infractions that hurt the most. 

Darius Latham was hit with an illegal hands to face on a play that would have resulted in the Hoosiers recovering a Christian Hackenberg fumble deep in Nittany Lion territory. There were also a couple of false starts on the defense that resulted in first downs for Penn State. And there was the inexcusable sideline penalty that nullified a six yard run, turning a second and four into a first and 19. Any hope at a comeback took a major hit on that drive.

Conclusion

This was an odd game for many reasons.  First the offense was missing two of its main contributors, so it wasn't a big shocker that they had trouble moving the ball. The defense had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde performance, which isn't totally uncharacteristic, but with some toss up games coming up on the schedule, the team needs to start putting together more consistent efforts. But now our eyes turn towards the Scarlett Knights, a game that looks very winnable on paper.