IUSportComâ€™s Podcast Editor takes on lead football reporter Jimmy Cavanaugh as they offer differing takes on the Northwestern game:
Iâ€™m really thankful that the â€˜Take 2â€™ format is back this week because, quite frankly, itâ€™s getting harder and harder to exert conscious energy thinking about this team.
The offense was solid against a pretty poor Northwestern defense and put up a respectable enough performance, but the only real story was the defense. The Indiana defense looked downright respectable against Penn State and was decent early on against Illinois, but theyâ€™ve been dismal since then. Actually, dismal isnâ€™t a strong enough word.
Over the past three weeks, the Hoosiers have fallen to new lows on the defensive end, which for them is saying something. Theyâ€™ve allowed 40 or more points in every B1G game except for one and have allowed 59 to Wisconsin, 45 to Iowa and 59 more to Northwestern â€“ an average of more than 54 points per game over the last three weeks.
I can understand that this is young defense still learning how to play together. After all, they did start 7 freshmen against Northwestern â€“ the most by any FBS team this season on the defensive side of the ball. I can also listen to the argument that the cupboard was left somewhat bare by the Bill Lynch regime, as weâ€™ve seen very few juniors and seniors make any sort of impact on either side of the ball.
At the end of the day though, IUâ€™s defensive performance has been bad enough that none of those excuses (and to an extent, they are excuses) make me feel any better. Indiana has not played like a BCS team all season long â€“ particularly on defense â€“ and thatâ€™s on more than just talent and inexperience.
Coaches have talked abut accountability not just with pointing a finger, but pointing a thumb, and itâ€™ll be interesting to see how thatâ€™s addressed throughout the week. Playing young guys, particularly in the secondary, is going to open a defense to surrendering big plays, but these past few weeks have been about more than isolated breakdowns.
Somewhere along the line, there has been a communication breakdown between the defensive staff and personnel. Either players arenâ€™t playing hard enough, not comprehending and executing the defensive schemes or the schemes themselves are flawed. None of those three possibilities are appealing in the least.
With an explosive offensive day by the Hoosiers, a 38 point outburst led the Hoosiers to an easy victory.Â Wait, no.Â They actually lost by 21.
However, it was an encouraging day for the offense, and there is a lot the offense can be happy with.Â Yes, IU was playing a less-than-stellar defense in Northwestern, but it is important for a young team to gain some confidence, especially in a disappointing season.
Since the insertion of Tre Roberson into the line-up as the primary quarterback, Indianaâ€™s offense has had a spark that it did not have earlier in the season.
Roberson offers a dual threat at the quarterback position that keeps the defense honest. One could argue that Wright-Baker offered the same dual-threat, but Tre just seems to want to be on the field, whereas Wright-Baker looked disinterested.
The dual threat was in full force Saturday as Roberson gained 290 yards of total offense. In the air, Roberson passed for 169 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. On the ground, Roberson was able to tally 121 yards and a touchdown.Â As a freshman, those are big numbers to put up.
Yes, there were flaws in Treâ€™s game, but his execution of the offense has to be encouraging to Kevin Wilson. Roberson has physical talents, but his mental capacity may be the strongest part of his game. IU was able to execute their option game fluidly, and there was only one time that Tre made a bad decision running the option.
The biggest story of the day had to be IUâ€™s running game. Kevin Wilson has expressed his displeasure with the running game multiple times this season, but Saturday the Hoosiers offense established a strong running presence.
In fact, the offense racked up 319 rushing yards on the ghastly Northwestern defense. The Hoosiers were able to run the ball in different formations, different sets, and different people. Tre Roberson, Stephen Houston, and Dâ€™Angelo Roberts were able to put the ball in the end zone on the ground for the Hoosiers.
Stephen Houston is absolutely impressive. He is a downhill runner that does not stop running on first contact.
The fact that Houston was able to rush for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns, with 7.9 yards per carry is something that can excite the Hoosier fan base, and gives the team momentum in an area they have struggled with in the past.Â Houston and Roberson are establishing a strong chemistry in the backfield, and both are young guys with a lot of time to get even better.
The last encouraging point of the day was that Dâ€™Angelo Roberts saw his first action since his concussion.Â Roberts is somewhat of an undersized back, but he has been a strong runner for the Hoosiers, when healthy.Â Saturday was no different, as Roberts was able to take a long, 26-yard run into the end zone for Indiana.
As it was mentioned above, these numbers will not be put up on a weekly basis. Northwestern is a team that has struggled defensively, but has had the offensive firepower to keep them in games. It will be interesting to see the momentum IU takes into this weekend, as they face a much more stout defense in Ohio State.
As the defenseâ€™s progression has declined, the offense has really been finding itself for the Hoosiers. Indiana has three more contests this season, and it will be interesting to see if the offense continues to make significant strides.
If they continue to click as they have the past two weeks, IU can at least makes contests at Ohio State and Michigan State respectable. As the year winds down, the final contest of the season is against Purdue. The young backfield for the Hoosiers has the potential to continue their offensive progression against the Boilers, and take home their first of many Oaken Buckets.