IUSportCom’s Chris Martin (filling in for Ben Baroff) takes on lead football reporter Jimmy Cavanaugh as they offer differing takes on the South Carolina State game:
It wasnâ€™t the kind of game I expected to see out of Kevin Wilsonâ€™s football team. In his defense, I doubt he expected or enjoyed much of it any more than I did.
Wilsonâ€™s perfectionist nature wonâ€™t let him.
Despite the fact that the game served as his first victory as Indiana head football coach, there were plenty of errors that will keep him and his staff busy throughout this week.
There were far too many negative takeaways for a game being played against an FCS school. Indiana played a historically sloppy game â€“ committing 19 penalties for 156 yards â€“ against what was an allegedly overmatched opponent.
Their most obvious struggles came on the defensive side of the ball, where South Carolina State more than doubled this seasonâ€™s average total yardage (377 to 174) and more than tripled their average passing yardage (234 to 66â€¦yes thatâ€™s 66. Those are two sixes next to each other forming a single number!). The Bulldogsâ€™ previous opponents werenâ€™t exactly top-flight material either, as Central Michigan and Bethune-Cookman wonâ€™t be occupying anyoneâ€™s Top-25 lists this season (not at the FBS level anyway).
Simply put, Saturdayâ€™s defensive performance will not get the job done in conference play and quite honestly may not get the job done next week against North Texas.
Both Jeff Thomas and Jarrell Drane were asked after the game to evaluate how the defense played, and both said South Carolina State was talented and that the defense played soundly. Iâ€™m not saying the Bulldogs arenâ€™t talented, Iâ€™m just saying every team IU plays from here on out will be more talented.
That worries me.
The offense wasnâ€™t great either. The top two running backs on the depth chart, Matt Perez and Stephen Houston, combined to average fewer than three yards per carry and neither broke a run longer than five yards.
The offensive line featured three freshman starters (Peyton Eckert at right tackle, Collin Rahrig at right guard and Bernard Taylor at left guard respectively), which could explain the inconsistency but also calls into question the practice habits of the former starters.
Late in the first half and early in the second, the offense stalled severely enough that Ed Wright-Baker was benched in favor of Dusty Kiel for one drive early in the third quarter. Kiel was on the field only four plays and played poorly enough (throwing an interception that would be nullified thanks to offsetting penalties) that Wright-Baker would return to the game.
While it may have been comforting to see Ed play well enough to reclaim the job (and have a solid statistical game in the process) the quarterback switch made clear to most observers that the Hoosiers will need to sink or swim with Wright-Baker. Kiel may have slightly better pocket presence, but heâ€™s simply not as mobile and, compared to Wright-Baker, doesnâ€™t bring as much to the table as he takes off it.
In the interest of fairness, there were some bright spots to take from the contest as well.
Sophomore wide receiver Duwyce Wilson had an outstanding game â€“ totaling 6 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown and looking like a future star. Wright-Bakerâ€™s statistical line (21/27, 273 yard, 2 TD, 0 INTs) made for a pretty box score. True freshman Dâ€™Angelo Roberts built upon last weekâ€™s strong performance and looked like the Hoosiersâ€™ best tailback for the second straight week.
Bottom line though, there wasnâ€™t enough team consistency and until there is, this team will remain a work in progress.
â€œLife and our game is about responding,â€ Wilson said during his postgame press conference. â€œWhat do you do when itâ€™s going good and what do you do when itâ€™s going bad?â€
I didnâ€™t love this weekâ€™s answer to that question; maybe next week will be different.
As a first year IU student and reporter, right off the bat I’ve noticed a lot of perks of going to a Big Ten school.
There is the tailgating and the subsequent walking through the field, trying not to eyeball the beer, girls and games of corn hole. There is the free food and (if you’re lucky enough) air conditioning, which is nice on a hot September afternoon.
But then, between all the good, there is something only the most esteemed teams put their supporters and campus reporters through – and IU seems to be in the midst of it – another rebuilding year for the football program.
After losing two closely contested games, we’ve seen a bleak response from most of the IU fan base towards Kevin Wilson and his â€œWin Todayâ€ mantra.
To make matters worse, it seemed as if more people were hanging out in the parking lots tailgating before the South Carolina State – a must win – game then actually watched or attended, you know, like normal fans usually do.
As someone who has witnessed a Norte Dame football saturday numerous times, I was taken aback a bit. We should expect something like this from an inconsistent program like Indiana. But, at the same time, we should not.
It is not a football school per se, but with Wilson, I believe it has the chance to, and eventually will be.Â But the important lesson to take from this weekends game, it has a long way to go after the display it gave those who showed up today.
Usually, you expect a top tier (I know Iâ€™m reaching with that) team who schedules a FCS team early in the year to dominate, to use them as a chance to experiment with young players and new formations. While Wilson did do some of that – such as running a relay strategy at Quarterback between red shirt sophomoreâ€™s Edward Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel – he also used this game to put in freshmen on the offensive line.
And despite IU giving up 20 penalties for 176 yards – a school record – the debate on whether the majority of these amounted to frosh mistakes will rage on.
Although South Carolina State – as proud a historical black college as any in the country – put a scare into the Hoosiers coming within 10 points early in the 4th quarter, IU never looked as if the game was in jeopardy.
Sure, the defense that gave SCSU more touchdowns in one game then they scored in their previous two games leaked like a faucet in a B horror movie before the heroine is killed. But, the offense behind the now sure starter Wright-Baker threw for 273 and rushed for 41 on 21 for 27 with no picks.
Next week, IU will head to the green side of Texas. Not that this particular part of Texas is green besides grass, but the Mean Green of North Texas. And while it is common sense not to take any team from Texas for granted, I expect an IU win.
Not because of the confidence they might or might not have gained from today, but because it is as important a game as any this year. Because a week later comes the Big Ten portion of the schedule and Grandpa Joe and his young lions will be on their way.
Hopefully, Wilsonâ€™s â€œWin Todayâ€ mantra will spread amongst the players. Because if it does not, the rest of the Big Ten will spread itself all over Memorial Stadium to win THAT day.