Most people expect a rough transition when a new coach comes in and tries to take players who are, for the most part, used to losing and tries to instill a winning culture in the program. This is why no one freaked out when Indiana and new coach Kevin Wilson lost to Ball State last week even though the Cardinals were one of the worst teams in the country in 2010.
Wilson might have realized just how big a job he has after Indiana sucked, came back, and sucked again in a 34-31 loss to the extremely mediocre Virginia Cavaliers. Don’t let the score fool you, Indiana was awful for most of the game.
In the first half, the Hoosiers did everything they could to beat themselves with bad penalties in key situations, including two different trips into Virginia territory that were derailed by personal fouls and holding. The offensive line was just as bad as they were during the Bill Lynch Era, and as a result, the running game was essentially non-existent. The Hoosiers did finish the game with 148 yards on the ground, but they only averaged 3.6 per carry. 47 yards of that team total also came on two carries by running back D’Angelo Roberts and quarterback Edward Wright-Baker, respectively.
In truth, everyone knew the offense was going to struggle, so the penalties and mistakes were more or less expected. Wright-Baker isn’t a great passer, either, so his 16-30 for 171 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT line isn’t the worst-case scenario by any means. It’s a step back from his first game against Ball State, but it’s not the end of the world, either. I have faith that an offensive mind as good as Kevin Wilson’s can improve an offense that bad.
It’s the Hoosier defense that will need all the work. Co-coordinators Doug Mallory and Mike Ekler are going to have their hands full trying to make this bunch look like they ever should have started playing football in the first place. Put it this way, and I could probably end the post after these words: the 2011 IU defense managed to make Ball State and Virginia look decent on offense. That’s the main point of what you need to know about this team.
Make no mistake, Indiana showed a great deal of heart coming back down 20-3 in the second half. And when Virginia’s Cam Johnson hit Wright-Baker right across the facemask, which is somehow okay in the Big Ten this year, and caused the game-losing fumble for Indiana, it completed the Indiana meltdown that also showed their lack of talent and mental toughness.
The only reason Wright-Baker was even passing at all is because the IU defense let the deeply average Cavaliers march down the field down eight with little or no resistance on either the touchdown or the two-point conversion. Virginia took 6:24 to tie the game and converted two third downs and a fourth down along the way. Then Wright-Baker fumbled on the IU 14 and the game was all but over.
Virginia’s 360 yards of offense doesn’t seem all that great, but watch them the rest of the year. But only if you want to watch exceedingly bland, mediocre football the rest of the year. If they cross the 375 total yard mark at any point this season, it will count as a total offensive explosion and the coordinator of whatever defense that misfortune happens against will probably be looking for work shortly after.
In sum, I’m not angry at you, Hoosiers. I’m just disappointed. Violently disappointed.