Indiana did a lot of things well when it handled Indiana State 28-10. The Hoosiers ran for an eye-popping 455 yards on 69 carries, good enough for a monstrous 6.6 yards per carry. The defense was stellar. IU held the Sycamores to just 170 yards of total offense, including a measly 30 on the ground. ISU was sacked four times and held to 10 only points.
But, we all knew the Hoosiers were capable of this type of performance. They should do that to ISU 10 times out of 10. So, let’s not rest on our laurels and realize there are areas the Hoosiers need to address before its September 13 contest against Bowling Green.
Perhaps Nate Sudfeld was just having an off day. Maybe he’s still getting to used a new group of receivers and vice versa. Whatever it was, Indiana’s usually dynamic aerial game was under the weather.
Sudfeld was 11-of-18 (not too concerning) for an underwhelming 111 yards (concerning). He also threw a pick that was returned 60 yards, setting up ISU’s only TD of the day.
Now I know Sudfeld and his receiving corps didn’t get too many chances during the game. The Hoosiers seemed determined to establish the run and once they did, you can’t blame head coach Kevin Wilson for continually handing it off. I mean IU was averaging almost seven yards per carry. If you don’t keep attacking on the ground when having that kind of success, there’s a problem.
Still, even though the Hoosiers didn’t need gaudy passing numbers to win, I’m a little concerned. If anything, I think putting the ball in Sudfeld’s hands more would have given him and his receivers a chance to build some confidence. The Hoosiers will not be able to put up the kind of rushing numbers it did as the season continues. Big Ten defenses are just too good. The offense needs to be diverse, plus there are going to be times when Sudfeld will have to carry Indiana with his arm. A game with No. 24 Missouri is lurking, so IU must get the passing attack in-sync against Bowling Green.
Poor special teams can cost a team the game (just ask Alabama). A bad punt, missed field goal or return touchdown by the Hoosiers could be the difference between five wins or six, turning in the pads in November or practicing in December. They were not great in this department last Saturday.
First, there was the muffed punt by J-Shun Harris, which set up an ISU field goal. Erich Toth’s two punts went for a total of 69 yards. That’s an average of just 34.5, well under his 40.6 yards per punt a season ago. Finally, new placekick Aaron Del Grosso missed his only field goal attempt of the afternoon. Usually, I would be more forgiving to a kicker making his first start, but the attempt was only a 26-yarder. The Hoosiers cannot afford to leave points on the field, especially from a kick of that distance.
To stand a chance against much tougher upcoming opponents, the Hoosiers have to be solid on special teams, if not win the phase altogether.