Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
Welcome back to our Throwback Thursday series. Today we are going to kick off the holiday weekend with a look back at arguably the worst loss of the 2014 campaign. Sorry but it cannot be ignored. Since Kevin Wilson took over the program in Dec. 2010 he has preached consistency and never has the lack of consistency been so evident than between weeks four and five in 2014.
The Hoosiers were coming off arguably their biggest win under head coach Kevin Wilson the week before (some even said the biggest win in school history, which it isn't) and were returning home for a Big Ten opener. The day of the game was perfect, around 80 degrees and sunny. while playing a team that was not a powerhouse. It was set up to be a festive atmosphere in Bloomington.
That festive atmosphere never materialized as Memorial Stadium was a little more than half full by the end of the first quarter and the Hoosiers fell behind 20-9 by the end of the half, highlighted for the Hoosiers by a 58-yard field goal by Griffin Oakes.
This game magnified all the problems that IU Football has as a program. It was all just one giant missed opportunity. With as much momentum as they have had since 2007, IU failed to draw 50,000 fans to a conference game on a beautiful fall day.. As for the fans who did show up, the majority of them scattered for the exits at halftime. There were also major missed opportunities on the field as well. The Hoosiers had two touchdowns called back due to penalties.
This game was a dud. There is no other way to describe it other than that. The Hoosiers had an opportunity to build on the win over Missouri and came out at home and fell flat.
Opponent: Maryland Terrapins
Location: Saturday September 27th /1:30pm/ Memorial Stadium/ (Bloomington, IN)
Why They Played: The Hoosiers opened up Big Ten play at home by welcoming the Maryland Terrapins to the Rock and the conference.
What The Game Meant:
Indiana had a chance to break an 0-7 record in games following a win over ranked opponents since 1987 and really convince the fan base that this was not the same old Indiana football squad.
Top Offensive Performers:
Indiana- If this was eighth grade football and had to give out an award it would have to go to Tevin Coleman, but this is Big Ten football. A team that netted just 302 yards of total offense and 15 points while averaging 3.6 yards per pass just does not deserve an offensive player of the game.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland- The dark horse for Big Ten offensive player of the year showed why is should be ranked amongst the top receivers in the league. Diggs was a matchup nightmare for the Hoosier defense as he torched them for 112 yards on six catches with a long of 37 yards that went for a TD.
Caleb Rowe, QB, Maryland- Rowe came in to the game to spell an injured CJ Brown. He did not have gaudy numbers, but he managed the game perfectly going 12 of 18 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. To come off the bench cold, and complete 66% of your passes if pretty impressive.
Top Defensive Performers
Nate Hoff, DT, Indiana- The redshirt freshman had a big day for the Hoosiers recording four tackles, two coming for a loss including a sack.
Will Likely, CB, Maryland- The standout corner for the Terrapins had a lot to do with the Hoosier’s issues in the passing game. Likely had five total tackles, two pass break ups, and a pick. He limited Shane Wynn to only three catches.
Cole Ferrard, LB, Maryland- The inside backer was all over the field today recording a staggering 19 tackles, he had 16 coming into today, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a pass break up in the strong defensive performance for the Terrapins.
Special Team Performance:
This was probably the best aspect of the game today for the Hoosiers, however special teams had their issues as well. On a good note, the Hoosiers have found their new place kicker in Griffin Oakes hit three of four field goal attempts and set a school record for the longest field goal when he nailed a 58-yarder right before half time. All three of Oakes kickoffs went for touchbacks and neutralized a dangerous Maryland return game. Erich Toth put forth a second solid game as he averaged 45.5 yards per punt. The down side of this performance was a Shane Wynn punt return score that was nullified by a block in the back. That pretty much set the tone for the day as the afternoon was littered with missed opportunities for the Hoosiers.
.6 vs. 10.9
This is the yard each team averaged per pass attempt. The Indiana offense just could not get into a rhythm today and a big part of that was the passing game. Nate Sudfeld was down right putrid going 14 of 37 for 126 yard and no touchdowns. Now it is not all his fault. The line was dominated, the receivers dropped a hand full of balls and there just was not much imagination when it came to play calling. All of these aspects contributed to Sudfeld’s lackluster performance. Maryland on the other hand, had their quarterbacks combine for a crisp 22 of 33 day and accounted for three scores and no turnovers.
The moment Laray Smith, boy is he snake bitten, was called for a block in the back on the punt which Shane Wynn returned to pay dirt. This took the air out of the building. An explosive play that would have woke up this team was nullified by, what appeared to be a soft block in the back. This was the first of two scores that were called back for penalties and really just set the tone for the rest of the day.
I Knew it Was Over When…
When Brandon Ross took a pass 37 yards in for the score with eight minutes left in the third quarter to make it 27-9 Terrapins. The stadium was already empty and the energy from both the team and the fans was gone.
Players of the Game
Indiana– Griffin Oakes- No one other than the place kicker stood out today for IU. Oakes hit three of his four field goals, including a record 58-yarder right before halftime. His only miss came from 54 yards. All three of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. The Hoosiers may have found their place kicker, however the question that needs to be asked is why did the staff wait so long to make the switch?
Maryland- The Defensive Line- The Maryland defensive line made it miserable all day long for Nate Sudfeld. He was sacked three times, rushed into poor throws, and just could not get comfortable in the pocket. The line also stuffed the IU running game as they held the Hoosiers to just 4.3 yards per carry.
What I took away from the game
With a chance to really prove to the Hoosier fan base that this team is for real and that the win against Missouri just a week ago was not an anomaly, Indiana laid an egg. The Hoosiers were out played in all aspects of the game by a Maryland team who could be a factor in the Big Ten East. The most concerning issue facing the Hoosiers now is the play of quarterback Nate Sudfeld. He has not looked great all season and has only thrown two touchdowns on the year. He went 14 of 37 Saturday for just 126 yards. Something is not right with this passing game. Whether it be Sudfeld himself, the protection, the receivers, or the play calling it has to be fixed if the Hoosiers want to win any Big Ten games this year. There is nobody behind Sudfeld anymore who Coach Kevin Wilson can throw out there if he struggles. It’s ride or die with Nate Sudfeld.
This game is one of missed opportunities as well. This started early on when a Shane Wynn punt return gets called back for a block in the back. If that play counts it’s a different outcome. Another potential touchdown run by Tevin Coleman was called back for a holding penalty on Dan Feeney.
I am not only picking on the offense and special teams either. The defense needs to be better. They were not terrible today, I thought they did enough good things to win the ball game, but they need to get off the field on third and longs. For a second straight week they let a ball carrier get the first down on a third and 17 or longer. This team needs stops, whether it by turnover or punt, but allowing teams to flip the field does the struggling offense no favors.
Once again the Hoosiers are swallowing a bitter pill and come out of a game with more questions than answers, but there are eight games left in the 2014 season and nobody, and I mean nobody, is scary in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have to look in the mirror and find an identity, because right now they are a team who does not have a clue who they are.