Hoosier fans have gotten a taste of what life may be like for the rest of the 2014 football season without the services of quarterback Nate Sudfeld on Saturday afternoon. Hopefully, for the sake of the program Indiana can find a way to expedite Zander Diamont’s development during the open week this week. However, before we leave the Michigan State in the past, let’s go over the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Good (Tevin Coleman, Homecoming Tailgates, Tegray Scales)- On Saturday Tevin Coleman became the first running back to crack the century mark rushing against the Spartans since last year’s Big Ten Championship. Coleman did get some Heisman talk during Saturday’s broadcast, but continues to be hampered by factors such as a lack of carries and playing for a team that is 3-4. Another bright spot for the Hoosiers is the play of freshman linebacker Tegray Scales. Scales had another interception last week and has been flying all over the field. Finally, the tailgates during homecoming made the atmosphere surrounding the stadium feel like an actual Big Ten game. The fans packed the parking lots early and there were more RV’s than I have ever seen.
The Bad (IU’s Play Calling, Tim Bennett’s Play, Big Ten Refs)- As everyone knows the Hoosiers were breaking in a true freshman quarterback against one of the better defenses in the country. Head coach Kevin Wilson said earlier in the week that “we are going to do what we do”, citing that the Hoosiers do throw the ball about 30 times a game. Here is the thing. The weather was awful, the starting quarterback weighs maybe 170, and let’s face it, the passing game has been an issue all year long. Indiana has one of the best running backs in the country and yet Kevin Johns and Kevin Wilson only give him the ball 15-17 times per game. The man is averaging over eight yards per carry. I just do not get what their game plan is. Indiana left points on the field on Saturday as well. After a long Coleman run and a nice five yard burst the Hoosiers had it second and goal from about the five and they decide to start throwing the ball around. It is really a head scratcher.
Tim Bennett is routinely called the Hoosiers best defensive back and he goes against the opponent’s best receiver. However, he is constantly being beaten for big plays. Yes, he has had some big pass break up numbers. However most of them came against in the win versus Penn State last year. In 2013 and 2014 combined Bennett only has one interception. If the back end of the Indiana defense is to improve he needs to step up.
Finally, something has to be said about the officials in the Big Ten. They are absolutely awful. In Saturday’s game they missed several calls including an illegal stiff arm where MSU running back Jeremy Langford latched onto Tim Bennett’s facemask and dragged him into the end zone. It was not a momentary grasp or accidental, he grabbed the facemask and held on for 10 or more yards. The referee standing right there did not call it. The most outrageous call or non-call, however you want to see it, came on a third quarter punt return by Shane Wynn. Wynn was nailed about a yard and a half out of bounds and rightfully the flags came flying out. At that point the Hoosiers were still in the game and would have given them great field position, but then the refs huddled up and picked up the flag. If the roles would have been reversed IU gets called for that 10 out of 10 times. Get it together Big Ten and find some competent officials.
The Ugly (IU’s Passing Game, Empty Seats, and Recycling Commercials)- Let’s start with the passing game. Nothing went right on a day Indiana has minus-2 yard passing at the end of three quarters and finished the game with just 11 yards. The line did not give Diamont anytime to throw the ball. The play calling was absolutely atrocious. Keeping the routes short is one thing, but asking a third string player who should be redshirting to hit screen passes against a very aggressive defensive line is awful. Diamont did not help himself out either. He bounced two throws that were open, but you cannot expect him to light up the scoreboard against a very good defense.
A couple weeks ago, when the Hoosiers played Maryland I called for IU to start covering the upper sections with tarps. A colleague of mine asked Fred Glass if he had any plans to do this. Glass said no and that he wants the fans to know there are always tickets available. Really? This is a god-awful answer. I am pretty sure that the fan base is smart enough to realize there are tickets available when there are billboards, postings on social media, and many other forms of communication announcing that tickets are still available. Mr. Glass, I am sorry but if some one does not know tickets are still available they either don’t care about IU football or live under a rock. What will look worse on TV tarps over seats in the upper sections of the north end zone or hundreds of empty grey bleachers? I’ll go with the latter.
Another issue I had on Saturday was the “Greening of the Crimson and Cream” campaign. Look, I am all for being environmentally conscious, but someone had to stop and think “Oh hey, let’s run a different ad because we are playing Michigan State this week”. Heck, just record Glass saying “Hi Hoosier fans, today we don’t like the color green, but please remember to recycle.” It is little things like this that get under my skin.