Written By: Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)
Indiana had no right being in yesterday’s game, when you consider how poorly it performed on critical downs, its inability to take care of the ball and its lack of composure, committing some very untimely penalties. And in year’s past, with all those things factored in, Indiana would not have been within shouting distance of their opponents. So, in some weird way, could yesterday’s loss be encouraging?
While that might be a stretch, Indiana certainly exhibited some resiliency, a trait that has been carefully cultivated over Kevin Wilson’s tenure. But, moral victories won’t cut it at this point in the game, not for the fans or the players. However, let’s take a look at some of the stats from yesterday’s matchup with the Demon Deacons.
Bonus points if you can name the last time Indiana did not have a one-hundred-yard rusher in a game. Junior running back Devine Redding saw his five game streak come to an end on Saturday, carrying the ball 16 times for 68 yards. The team as a whole accumulated just 115 yards, for an average of 3.6 yards per carry. We knew coming in that moving the ball via the ground would be difficult against the Demon Deacons, and that task got infinitely more difficult when the team’s right side of the offensive line was ruled out of the matchup, as Dan Feeney was still recovering from his concussion and right tackle Dimitric Camiel was dealing with a “back thing.” Regardless of how long Feeney and Camiel are going to be out, this team operates with a larger margin of error when it’s got a steady and consistent rushing attack.
Oh, and it is Michigan State, the last time Indiana did not have a one-hundred-yard rusher in a game.
Don’t Lagow my Pigskin
It goes without saying that ball security is the hallmark of nearly every successful team, in every team sport. And Saturday’s loss to Wake Forest proved just that. Failing to get their running attack on track, Indiana’s offense became one dimensional for the first time since, Tevin Coleman’s last game as a Hoosier. As a result, Richard Lagow was forced to throw it 47 times on Saturday. For comparisons sake, Lagow threw it just 27 times in both the FIU and Ball State victories.
With that high of volume, there’s obviously a much greater chance that things could go wrong, and they certainly did, to the count of five times on Saturday. Who is ultimately at blame for the first three interceptions is hard to say, but regardless, the chances of winning a game while losing the turnover battle 5 to 0, in slim-to -none.
However, it is important to note that Lagow threw for a single-game school record 496 yards, which is part the reason this team had any chance of winning at all on Saturday. He also had bookend touchdown throws, as the team scored on Lagow throws on its first and last plays of the game.
Demon Deacon Possession
Time of possession is ultimately a product of other variables, but can still be a good indicator of a team’s offensive sustainability as well as their defense’s ability to stall drives. Last week in my “Numbers that Matter” piece, I mentioned that time of possession could very well play a role in determining the game’s outcome. Again, not the ultimate deciding factor, but the Hoosiers were just one touchdown away from securing a victory. Their inability to sustain drives as result of turnovers and a lethargic run game ultimately led to the team’s demise. After averaging around 32 minutes per game, the Hoosiers had possession of the pigskin for just 26 minutes on Saturday. Again, a more productive rushing attack as well as better ball security, Indiana likely makes the number a little more even and possibly has a chance to win the ball game at the end.
Third Down for What?
Sounding like a broken record? Well, I should, because the Hoosiers struggled once again on third down, converting just 5 of 14 attempts. Also, they were 0 for 2 on fourth down. For a team that was already have a hard enough time holding onto the rock yesterday, converting a couple of timely critical third or fourth downs could have been just enough to put them over the top.
Defense Did Enough
Fans have said for years that if the Hoosiers had any semblance of a defense, this team would be hard to beat. While not their best overall performance under Coach Tom Allen, the defense allowed just 26 points on the afternoon. Also, they gave up just 3.6 yards per rush and just 5.9 yards per pass attempt. Unfortunately, the defense failed to come up with a takeaway for the first time in a game under Coach Allen. In any case, more times than not a performance like Saturday’s would be more than enough for the Hoosiers to come out victorious.
Keeping up with the Joneses
The 2016 season had been mostly quiet for senior wide receiver Ricky Jones, catching just three balls for 18 yards through the team’s first two games, but he more than made up for it on Saturday. Against the Demon Deacons Jones caught 8 passes for 208 yards, both career bests. With Cobbs likely to miss the rest of the season, the Hoosiers will need more of this Jones the rest of the way.
Nick Westbrook also continues his hot streak, making six grabs of his own for 129 yards and two touchdowns. That’s now two straight games where he has eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards while corralling two touchdown grabs.