BOZICH | Indiana football outlook: Defense better; Offense slipp - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Indiana football outlook: Defense better; Offense slipping; Bowl chances TBD

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Indiana could not overcome this interception return for a touchdown in its 27-22 loss to Nebraska Saturday. (AP photo) Indiana could not overcome this interception return for a touchdown in its 27-22 loss to Nebraska Saturday. (AP photo)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) — The road to six (or more) victories was not supposed to go through Nebraska, an unbeaten team that came to Memorial Stadium Saturday ranked 10th in the nation.

But it could have.

“Close ain’t it,’ IU coach Kevin Wilson said after the Hoosiers carved all but two points off a 17-0 hole before losing to the Cornhuskers, 27-22.

That means Wilson did not dwell on the head-scratching catch a Nebraska receiver made of a deflected ball while lying on the turf, a catch that led to the Cornhuskers’ first touchdown.

Not another word about Nebraska’s final touchdown, which appeared to be tracking toward an Indiana interception until two IU defensive backs ran into each other and a third overran the ball.

Or even as much as a sigh about an official review of a possible Nebraska fumble that went against IU after the head linesman ruled that halfback Terrell Newby was down before he completely lost the ball — even though a large patch of the 48,254 fans announced they saw the play differently. 

“Mistakes beat us,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to quit leaving points on the field. We’ve got to get them on the scoreboard.”

Credit Wilson for speaking the truth.

Midway through the season, Indiana sits at 3-3.

The record shows Indiana is one game behind IU’s 4-2 start last season. Of their six remaining games, one is likely unwinnable, a mid-November trip to powerful Michigan. 

The Hoosiers figure to be underdogs on two other Saturdays, including next weekend at improving Northwestern. 

To get to six wins and qualify for bowl play in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1990 and 1991, Wilson’s team will likely have to handle Rutgers on the road and Maryland and Purdue in Bloomington.

But here is the strange thing about Indiana:

The Hoosiers are allowing 25.3 points per game, a dozen less than IU allowed last season. But Indiana is averaging only 25.8, which is 11 points less than they scored last season.

Defense absolutely improved.

Offense absolutely slipping.

Tom Allen, the new defensive coordinator, has built a unit that forced two turnovers and limited Nebraska to 360 yards. The biggest failure by the defense was its inability to stop the Cornhuskers quickly after Devine Redding’s touchdown run pulled the Hoosiers within 24-22 with 8:26 to play.

But that is not what beat Indiana. Wilson knows that. He said before the game that Indiana would have to score 34, 35, 37 or 38 points. “We couldn’t get it,” Wilson said.

The easy answers are that the Hoosiers have been without three of their best offensive players.

Guard Dan Feeney, a consensus pre-season all-American, missed his fourth straight game. He suffered a concussion in the first half against Ball State and has not played again. It is reasonable to wonder if he will return this season.

Tackle Dimitric Camiel and receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. have also missed the last four games. Cobbs, IU’s top receiver with 60 catches and four touchdowns, will not return.

“You can say we’ve got some guys out but you’ve got to deal with it,” Wilson said. “It is what it is. Everybody else does (have injured players), too. We’ve got to get blocks, got to score points.”

The surest sign that Wilson is scrambling to solve Indiana’s offensive misfires came when he began alternating quarterbacks in the second quarter, not long after Richard Lagow had a pass intercepted for a 33-yard touchdown that bumped the Cornhuskers to a 17-0 lead.

Until Saturday Zander Diamont had played one snap in the first five games. Against Nebraska, Diamont was Indiana’s second-leading rusher with 34 yards on eight carries.

Diamont can run, but cannot throw deep.

Lagow can throw deep, but is not a dangerous runner.

When Diamont plays, defenses align to stop Indiana’s running game. When Lagow plays, defenses tilt toward stopping the passing game.

It’s not a winning combination, not against one of the best defensive teams in the Big Ten. IU averaged 4.8 yards per offensive snap, scoring only a pair of touchdowns.

“We’ve got to get the offense up to speed,” Wilson said. “Just because we’ve been good on offense doesn’t mean you’re going to be good every year.”

Indiana’s shot at returning to another bowl game depend on it.

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