We’ve seen this before with Indiana football, this shaky defense, this fourth-quarter opportunity wasted, this sense that nothing ever changes in a Cream ‘n Crimson world.
Kevin Wilson results looked in so many ways like Bill Lynch football, like that of Terry Hoeppner and Gerry DiNardo and Cam Cameron, recent coaches who arrived with impressive credentials and got squashed flat by IU tradition.
It doesn’t have to last, of course. Maybe the Hoosiers bounce back next week at Memorial Stadium against Virginia. Maybe they get their offensive and defensive lines to the point that they don’t get dominated as Ball State dominated them during Saturday night’s 27-20 season-opening defeat.
For now, all we’re left with is a sense that surely things will get better, that this can’t be what IU will be about this season.
“I don’t know,” Wilson said when asked why Ball State dominated the line of scrimmages. “Whether it is strength or the ability to sustain a block or get off a block. We will keep evaluating where we are. I think the through the preseason we have been good and they guys have worked awfully hard. We aren’t going to change what we do or panic. We are going to do what we do and believe in what we do…
“We didn’t make a lot of plays. We didn’t create turnovers or make any plays in the kicking game. It was kind of a bland, boring game, other than the line of scrimmage play, which we lost.”
Figure linemen will have an intense week of practice. Figure somebody’s manhood will be challenged. Figure that, if it’s true that the most improvement comes between the first and second games, that the Hoosiers had better get a heck of a lot better fast.
They needed 32 rushes to gain 103 yards. That's just over three yards a carry against a Mid-American Conference defense that last year wasn't good. Edward Wright-Baker made his starting debut and got sacked four times. He did go 20-for-32 for 272 yards and a touchdown, a 65-yard gem to Damarlo Belcher.
Yes, IU could play Dusty Kiel next week and Trey Roberson the following week, but this wasn't a quarterback issue. Heck it wasn't even a turnover issue. Neither team had one, which for an opener was pretty good.
Unless you're the defensive coordinator.
Speaking of defense, the Hoosiers allowed Ball State to rush for 210 yards and average 4.6 yards a carry. On what was basically the victory clinching drive in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals ran 13 times during a 15-play 80-yard drive when IU knew -- ABSOLUTELY KNEW -- they were going to run and still couldn't stop them.
So much for all that talk about improved strength and fitness.
And if you love to second guess, and who doesn't in this talking-head era when everybody either has a talk show, blog or both, what was up with Wilson's fourth-down gamble to go for it on fourth-and three inside the 10-yard line in the fourth quarter with the Hoosiers trailing 24-17? Take the field goal and the resulting momentum and move on.
Instead, the fourth-down pass didn't work, giving the Cardinals an edge they never lost.
And if you like mystery, there was the absence of starting defensive end Darius Johnson from the travel roster. When asked about that, Wilson said he doesn’t talk about injuries or team rules. A cynic would suggest that means Johnson broke a team rule, which might explain a little why the Hoosiers were manhandled up front in the second half.
Finally, nine true freshmen played. Either that means IU has a really strong freshman class, or the veteran talent and depth isn’t up to the necessary standards. Figure a little bit of both.
So what does this all mean? History suggests another long, disappointing season. Look, if you can't beat Ball State, which was 4-8 last year, what are you going to do against Big Ten powers?
Yeah, we know. You've heard that question so many times before. We were just hoping, hoping, we didn't have to repeat it.