Image courtesy of IU Athletics
IUSC Editors Drew LaMontagna, Tony Adragna, Jordan Jackson, Jimmy Cavanaugh and Cody Harner cover four of the biggest questions around the world of IU sports. The guys go in depth on the IU football team, answering some major questions surrounding the squad; and then discuss this season’s prospects for the men’s soccer team.
700 yards of offense for Northwestern. Maybe a dumb question, but how much of that 44-29 loss is on the defense?
Drew: Just looking at the score, one would think nearly all of it. However, in the defense of the Indiana defense (insert witty comment here about defense use here), it took the IU offense just over two full quarters or so to get going, while Northwestern wasn’t exactly waiting for them to catch up with a 27-0 lead. After that, things got interesting as Nate Sudfeld, Stephen Houston and Co. started to put together a string of nice plays. In fact, the defense even chipped in with a few turnovers, but the deficit was just too much to overcome in end. Yes, 704 yards of offense – a school record for Northwestern – seems pretty bad, but they are not to blame for all of the loss.
Tony: I think giving up 700 yards of offense obviously warrants the majority of the blame for the defense, but it definitely doesn’t deserve all of it. Indiana’s defense held pretty strong through most of the first half, but the Hoosiers just couldn’t score any points to match the defense’s effort. Also, Indiana came up with a huge turnover when they were down by eight, and they put the ball in the offense’s hands with a chance to tie the game late. At the end of the day, Indiana’s defense really struggled with option reads from Kain Colter, and that cost them the game.
Jordan: The responsibility to play defense still and always rests with the defense; it certainly didn’t help, however, that Indiana’s offense was only 5-for-15 converting third downs. Also making matters more difficult for the defense was the time-of-possession differential. Northwestern out-possessed the Hoosiers by more than 12 minutes. When a defense spends that much time on the field, they’re going to give up a lot of yardage. That’s just the way it is, whether you’ve got IU’s or the ’85 Bears’ defense on the field.
Jimmy: When you allow an opponent to rack up 700 yards of offense, it’s bad. It’s always bad and will always be bad. Despite the defense playing so poorly though, IU still had a shot to win the game in the forth quarter after forcing a Northwestern turnover. The offense failed to respond, posting a three-and-out, which allowed the Wildcats to take the ball back and eventually score. They stopped Northwestern behind the line multiple times and, like Drew mentioned, they forced a couple turnovers – something they didn’t really do last season. The defense just couldn’t keep up with NU’s speed in the open field. It’s not a great unit, but Northwestern is a bad matchup for them. I expect a better effort against Michigan State’s less imaginative ground-and-pound attack.
Cody: Although every game is a team effort, this week the Hoosiers defense let the team down. The offense was not executed consistently, but 29 points should be plenty for a defense to protect. Giving up 394 yards of rushing can only mean a recipe for disaster. It appeared as though IU could not get any pressure in the gaps which freed up a lot of space for Northwestern’s rushing tandem Kain Colter and Venric Mark. The defense needs to be held accountable and needs to find a way to pressure the ball more to prevent this from happening again.
The offense put up a some points, but it also failed to execute regularly. How do these guys overcome that?
Drew: That’s simple – time. This is an extremely young team right now, and for at least the time being, headed in the right direction under second-year head coach Kevin Wilson. There are without a doubt going to be some growing pains to say the least, but it seems as if (or at least people want to believe) that this is a new era of Indiana football, an era that will eventually lead to success. How much success? That remains to be seen, but to stress too much about a young, relatively inexperienced offense not being able to execute regularly is like expecting those good old replacement officials to execute a game properly and consistantly. Unless you ask the Seahawks, most would probably say it’s not going to work. Time is the key.
Tony: This whole season is going to be a learning experience for the entire offense. I’m not sure there’s one tangible thing they need to do to execute more regularly. They just have to continue to get more and more comfortable with each other and the offense, and things will begin to click more regularly.
Jordan: In a word, execution. A drop here, a blown blocking assignment there. I agree with Tony, completely. It’s just a matter of cohesion, and it will take time to attain that. Eventually, they’ll get it and start clicking; for now, they’re clearly still wobbly.
Jimmy: Adding experience is going to be key for this offensive unit. Just about every player of note on this team has at least one more year in the Cream and Crimson, and the offense reflects that. Four of five linemen are underclassmen; every significant member of both the receiving and running back corps is scheduled to return next year; and every scholarship quarterback on the roster has at least two years of eligibility remaining. That youth showed itself when Nate Sudfeld and freshman tackle, Jason Spriggs each made a mistake (dropping a snap and committing a false start penalty) to cost IU. Fans would prefer to not see those, but it’s part of the process.
Cody: In terms of the offense, consistency needs to be the main priority. 21 points in a quarter is nice, but when that is the majority of the scoring for the game, that can be a problem. The Hoosiers are a young team, but excuses do not translate into wins. Coach Wilson needs to make a selection in terms of the starting quarterback in order to build the bridge to consistency. Switching quarterbacks in the middle of games is not a wise decision because little things like timing between quarterback to receiver and even game speed can vary between players. If you continue to switch back and forth, players cannot adjust to a routine and this makes the game more complicated for the team.
We saw Nate Sudfeld come in again effectively in relief of Cam Coffman. Wilson said both QBs have been adequate, but SHOULD Sudfeld be the starter?
Drew: Yes. So far this season, although it’s not by much, Sudfeld has performed better than Coffman. The deal breaker for me was the fact that when Sudfeld got inserted into the game on Saturday against Northwestern in the third quarter, the offense began to click. Why? I’m not really sure, but it happened, and it happened relavely quickly. Going into the season I really thought Coffman had a good chance to out-perform Roberson to start week 1, so I’m not trying to knock him. I just believe that Sudfeld gives Indiana the best chance to win the game.
Tony: It’s tough to say. I did think Nate Sudfeld looked more comfortable in the pocket than Coffman, but he’s also a freshman, and he will certainly make a lot of freshman mistakes along the way. Although Coffman went to a junior college, he still has a leg up from an experience standpoint on Sudfeld, so he may be the starter based on that. With that said, Sudfeld has shown he’s comfortable coming on in relief if Coffman struggles a bit, so that may be a solid role for him to stick with.
Jordan: I don’t think either quarterback has done enough to assertively win or lose the position, meaning that I give Coffman the edge until he either loses the position via poor play, or better yet, wins it by playing well.
Jimmy: I think he should. He’s got a bigger frame, a bigger arm, and more upside. Coffman is a capable quarterback, but he’s looked tentative at times in his first two games. Both Coffman and Sudfeld are better than the Dusty Kiel/Ed Wright-Baker tandem fans were subjected to last season, but Sudfeld has put up better stats than Coffman in consecutive games and it’d be nice to see him get a starting shot.
Cody: Nate Sudfeld should be given an opportunity to start for the Hoosiers. Sudfeld has combined to go 22 of 36 for 329 yards and three touchdowns in the past two weeks. He has a quarterback ratings of 170.2 and 159.3 respectively as well. However, not simply relying on the numbers, the Hoosiers just appear to have an extra kick when Sudfield is in the game. Cameron Coffman has played relatively well, but the Hoosiers seem more in sync when Sudfeld is taking the snaps. Coach Kevin Wilson should make the move so that his team can prepare a game plan and players can know who will be the leader and under center for the game.
Changing topics a bit, IU’s soccer team came up short against Notre Dame in a top-10 showdown last week. For people unfamiliar with the team, how good can these guys be?
Drew: Quietly, Indiana’s men’s soccer team has been one of the more successful programs the past few years, and they don’t get enough credit. Right now, Indiana is 7-2-1 matching up at Kentucky (5-4-1) on Wednesday night. The strength right now for the squad is their defense and outstanding goalie, Luis Soffner, who is allowing just .49 goals per game this season with an 89.6 save percentage. Today, he was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the third time this season, second time in as many weeks. If Soffner keeps it up, they could very well end up on top of the Big Ten by the end of the season.
Tony: The sky is the limit for the Hoosiers. Although there are a lot of guys with valuable experience, there are also still some young guys that are just getting their feet wet. Eriq Zavaleta is a stud, and freshman Andrew Oliver has dynamic play-making abilities. Mix the offense’s success with the play of defenseman Caleb Konstanski and goalkeeper Louis Soffner, the Hoosiers can make a deep run on their quest for their eighth star.
Jordan: This soccer team is capable of great things. The draw against San Diego State a few weeks ago was a bit sloppy, but otherwise, even in losses against ranked opponents Akron and Notre Dame, Indiana has looked every bit like the team that made such a great postseason run a season ago. I think it’s fair to expect a similar–or preferably greater–outcome this season.
Jimmy: This soccer team is pretty dang good. They’ve proven capable of beating good teams early in the season, and while they’ve fallen against elite Akron and Notre Dame teams, they had chances to win both of those as well. The Hoosiers boast preseason All-American Eriq Zavaleta, in addition to a young core and a stingy defense. Not a bad recipe to compete in the B1G and make a tournament run. Keeper Luis Soffner will be key.
Cody: The Hoosiers are a solid team flying under the radar. Although they did lose to Notre Dame 1-0, they played them tight throughout the game. The Hoosiers have played well against two top ten opponents in Notre Dame and Akron. Those teams being ranked No. 8 and No. 7 respectively shows that IU can compete with the highest level of competition. The offense can seem stagnant at some points, but stellar defense and keeper play has kept the Hoosiers in their No. 11 ranking in the nation. The Hoosiers need to polish their offensive play, but this solid team could be poised to make a run in the the NCAA Tournament. The Hoosiers should be one of the favorites for the B1G title and I would not be surprised to see the Hoosiers in the third round or further in this year’s tournament. After falling to the eventual National Champion North Carolina 1-0 last year, IU can only hope to take the next step in 2012.