The Indiana Hoosiers managed to pull off the best upset of the past decade. IU notched its first win in 17 attempts against Penn State with the lopsided 44-24 win. It was also the first time the Hoosiers won their Big Ten season opener since 2000.
The Hoosiers (3-2, 1-0) routinely lost to Penn State, even when the Nittany Lions were terrible. Beating PSU is impressive, but more importantly it keeps the hopes of a bowl game very much alive. IU has to post at least a 4-4 record in conference play to remain bowl eligible and this one one of the games the Hoosiers had to steal.
Indiana has three more games on the schedule that are winnable. The Hoosiers host Minnesota, Illinois, and Purdue all of which will likely favor IU. The games that IU likely won’t win? At Michigan State, at No. 18 Michigan, at Wisconsin, and at No. 4 Ohio State. Those are all difficult games, and not just because they’re on the road.
Here’s what we took away from the game:
- Better Defense. A few weeks ago, we said that the Hoosiers played their best defensive game against Bowling Green. Well, Saturday’s game nearly topped that. They gave up more yards and points, but Penn State is a much better team than Bowling Green. Penn State converted 50-percent of its third down attempts, but was held to just 1-for-5 on fourth down. Most importantly perhaps, is that the Lions were held to just 70 yards rushing. The Hoosiers haven’t held an opponent under 130 yards rushing all season. The stellar defense was capped off with a safety late in the fourth quarter to put a cherry on top of the win.
- Side Note: Did the coaching staff learn nothing about Allen Robinson last season? The guy needs to be double covered and beat up at the line of scrimmage. Allen had 12 receptions for 173 yards and a pair of touchdowns. How do you not scheme to cover him better? Its things like this that make me wonder why Doug Mallory is still the defensive coordinator, let alone why he’s paid $300,000. On the flip side, no one else had more than six receptions for the Lions.
- Big Play Offense. IU is bad at sustaining drives. Couple that with the pace at which Kevin Wilson runs this team, and it ends up putting a lot of pressure on the defense. On Saturday, the Hoosiers had just one drive that lasted more than three minutes. If IU doesn’t get a big play downfield, the offense sputters to a halt. The Hoosiers have more than enough weapons to get the big plays, but at the same time could easily dink and dunk their way down the field. Wilson favors the big plays and it leads to a lot of short drives. That said, any day your offense puts up 44 points is a good day (until your defense allows 45).
- Balance. It looks like Wilson has found the appropriate way to use Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson. Sudfeld played the vast majority of the game (and very well I might add) while Roberson was brought in during goal line situations and as a closer. Roberson was brought in when IU had a 25 points lead and needed to run out the clock. His ability to run the ball allows IU to get creative with the play calling and keep the opposing defense guessing on running plays. Roberson ended up with two rushing touchdowns, both from close range and both off option runs. This is exactly how Wilson can use the two QBs (and keep Cam Coffman on the bench). What Wilson needs to stop doing is saying he doesn’t know who the starter is. Its Sudfeld, with Roberson helping in special situations.
- NFL Talent. There might not be much NFL caliber talent on IU’s roster right now, but if there is its Cody Latimer. He had nine receptions for 140 yards and made some catches that laugh in the face of physics. Latimer is a prototypical wide receiver in the NFL at 6-3 and 215-pounds. He’s a junior, and likely will stay in college for another season but so far this year he has 28 receptions for 486 yards and two touchdowns. His skills seem lost in the red zone and if he’s going to score, its from further out. He needs to work on his ability to get open anywhere on the field, but a lot of this has to do with how Wilson uses him on the field.
- More NFL Players. I wouldn’t be surprised if kicker Mitch Ewald found his way to the NFL either, but likely not through the draft. My other pick would be tight end Ted Bolser. While he is a matchup nightmare, I question how the Hoosiers use him. He can be devastating on seam routes, slants, and posts. He has a tendency to disappear for long stretches and doesn’t seem to have his number called all that often. When he gets the ball, he’s very productive, with 15 receptions for 174 yards and four touchdowns. How IU uses him continues to perplex me.
IU needed this win to keep any postseason dreams alive. Hopefully this is the start of something big for the Hoosiers.
Indiana has a rough stretch of games coming up starting with a trip north to face Michigan State. It will be a game pitting strength against strength as the Spartans have the best defense in the Big Ten.
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