Andy Graham’s Northwestern at Indiana notes

PREGAME

It’s a perfect day for football here at Indiana’s Memorial Stadium, but there sure aren’t many people here to enjoy it, so far. The crowd always arrives late for noon kickoffs, but this is still a very sparse turnout at this juncture, about 15 minutes before kickoff.

Regardless of attendance, this is a huge game for both teams. Northwestern, which has won five straight road games, is one win away from bowl eligibility. The Hoosiers are in dire need of a win to generate some positive momentum for their season and to regain some of the fan support now fading, as evidenced by the empty seats today.

As always, I’ll have observations as the game progresses, after the jump.

FIRST QUARTER: Indiana 3, Northwestern 0.

Indiana opened with a good series on both sides of the ball, but only garnered a 3-0 lead to show for it. The defense recorded a snappy 3-and-out, getting good pressure on NU quarterback Dan Persa, and then IU quarterback Ben Chappell started with four straight completions. But a Chappell QB draw on 3rd-and-2 from the NU 3 got stuffed by Bryce McNaul. The call made sense on-paper in that no defender is assigned to the quarterback and Chappell didn’t need to score, only to get the 2 yards needed for a first down, but it was still Ben Chappell running in heavy traffic from a pistol formation.

Indiana’s defense played a good quarter, overall, rendering NU’s first three possessions scoreless. The fourth would have been stopped, too, but on the last play of the period, when Darius Johnson came clean on a 3rd-down stunt but missed Persa, Mike Mentzer then, while helping make the tackle, committed a facemask penalty to keep the drive alive. It was the kind of mistake that can kill a team in a close game.

HALFTIME: Indiana 10, Northwestern 10.

Persa made the Hoosiers pay for the facemask penalty with  a great play on 3rd-and-8 from the Hoosier 11, rolling away from the rush to his left, then reversing his field and making a perfect throw on the run to Jeremy Ebert crossing at the back of the end zone for a TD. NU should have only gotten a tying field goal out of the drive, if that, but instead got the lead.

NU’s pass defense had made things touch for Chappell, who completed just 7-of-15 throws in the first quarter, by often dropping eight and rushing three and capitalized as Hunter Bates peeled back in a zone to pick off a Chappell pass with 9:05 left in the period. Bates fumbled on the return off a big hit from Belcher, but Ben Johnson recovered for the Wildcats.

Northwestern couldn’t capitalize, though it did punt to IU’s 3. Both defenses continued to play very well in what a lot of folks figured would be a shootout between the offenses.

But then IU’s offense put together its best drive in a while, going 97 yards in 16 plays for the go-ahead score, converting four 3rd downs in the process. Chappell made a good, quick decision to scramble 5 yards for the TD, stretching to break the plane.

Northwestern responded, via a couple of great scrambling passing plays by Persa, to get a tying 23-yard field goal from Stefan Demos to forge the halftime tie. Chappell started hot, then went cold, then got hot again. As usual, when he misses, it tends to be high. He had Doss open for a TD on the long scoring drive but overshot him, but then threw well on third down to keep the march going. Chappell is 19-of-32 for 164 yards passing at halftime.

The only time IU’s defense has really gotten hurt has been when Persa has demonstrated his great ability to escape and improvise. He does that to most defenses, but he’s really the reason NU still in good position in this game. IU has a 205-180 edge in total yardage and will get the ball to start the third quarter.

THIRD QUARTER: Northwestern 17, Indiana 10.

What the two teams did with its first possession of the second half might tell the tale, though Hoosier fans had better hope not. IU stalled after a holding call. Northwestern then moved 87 yards in 10 plays to take the lead, with Persa throwing a perfect post-pattern TD to Ebert, beating Donnell Jones on a 3rd-and-15 from the IU 30.

Persa has made plays, with both his feet and his arm. Chappell hasn’t made enough. He consistently has over-thrown deep fads routes, at least a couple of which looked like potential TDs, and threw behind Damarlo Belcher on a crossing pattern that would have been an easy third-down conversion from the Wildcat 22. Mitch Ewald then sent a 40-yard field goal attempt barely wide left. In a game IU essentially has to win, the Hoosier offense isn’t making enough plays.

31 comments

  1. These guys suck. Want to know why the students and a lot of others stay across the street? Because it sucks being here. Its paying to be frustrated. I’ve spent my whole Saturday just to get pissed off. We won’t win another game. Start looking for a coach now.

  2. …to hear Lynch’s postgame comments. “Northwestern is a real good football team. Nobody in the country is gonna stop that Dan Persa this year.”

  3. Yawn……..

    Everyone have a fun Thanksgiving!

    Looking into the future Purdue 24 IU 14

    By the way this is characteristic of Ben Chapbell and the IU offense…They rack up solid offense against inferior competition…then IU becomes the inferior competion and characteristically the true colors show…Lack of talent…By the way keep Lynch through his contract, then make a move short of a miracle…do you believe in miracles?

  4. Just cut and paste something from the previous 4 years and go out and enjoy your Saturday evening. It will surely still apply and certainly will be a better use of your day.

  5. what a beautiful day. I was throwing up all night from a 24 hour flu bug and had NO energy but I made it in to the game. The crowd was so week/dead and the grass lot did not fill up. People are fed up, they don’t want to watch losing. Maybe it was because I had been sick but as my wife and I exited the game, I had a feeling I have never had. I just don’t care anymore, at least for this year. There has got to be some stuff going on behind the scenes other than bad coaching, they did not look like they wanted to be there. A couple from out west sat next to us and talked a lot about lack of leadership and excitement on the field. A couple weeks back and last week someone posted that IU would not win another football game and I thought in my heart that IU could beat NW and maybe PU or Illinois last week…I guess I was looking at it through my rose colored glasses. I am embarrassed to be an IU football fan right now. I still support the players but come on….

  6. The players and the fans deserve better than what they’re getting from the coaching staff and the administration. Just because the last Athletic Director made a mistake in hiring Lynch (something that even looked like a mistake at the time) doesn’t mean the present Athletic Director has to continue it.

  7. wait until Big 10 basketball season is half way over–you’ll be counting the days until football season.

  8. get real, I will be trying to find out where the Hoosiers will be assigned in the NCAA Tourney. Sorry about YOUR bad luck!

  9. University Trustees, the President of the University and the Athletic Director have to understand that the next move they make in regards to IU football is a strategic one which can and probably will affect the future of Indiana athletics.

    The decisions they must make come at a time when the Big Ten is reshaping itself. The decision must be made in an environment where Hoosier fans refuse to continue plodding along in medicrity.

    Whether they decide to allow Coach Lynch to finish his contract or not, the challenge should be considered in terms of its long term consequences on the whole of IU athletics, the image of Indiana University in the State, the impact on recruiting and, most importantly, how students and fans feel about THEIR university. It is NOT a ‘football’ decision alone…it is as important towards building (realistically, we Hoosiers can not talk in terms of ‘re-building’) a future environment of hard-work, integrity, competitiveness and success as the regrettable selection of Sampson shredded the proud history of Indiana basketball.

    This is NOT the time to to react without thinking; to fire just to show displeasure with this season or, merely to make one more change, hire a ‘name’ (on its own sake) or pursue objectives determined by questions of cost or marketing alone.

    It is a defining time for all who are determined to see athletic programs that reflect the pride, competitiveness and respectability of all in all of Indiana’s athletic programs. Consequently, and, most important, because of its many years of failure…the football program.

    Vision about what the term Hoosier really means is fundamental to their answer. The entire Board of Trustees, President Michael McRobbie and Athletic Director Fred Glass are now responsible and will be held accountable for their vision as reflected in their decisions. Don’t fail us!

  10. Tsao, no one KNOWS in advance what coach will work out as a great coach-except a top 5 program where you actually can hire ANYONE you want. IU can not get Jim Harbaugh or Urban Meyer or Lou Saban! It is always a crap shoot. But the AD lives or dies with his hire in football and, at Indiana, basketball. No one knew for sure at the time that Bob Knight would succeed at Indiana!

  11. To Beat Purdue: I believe (respectfully) that you are wrong. I was thinking exactly of the choice of Bob Knight to replace Lou Watson at Indiana.

    Knight was a 27-year-old coach at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a great institution that worked under the handicap of having severe physical limitations on height because of service rules. Knight made his name by making Army a solid power in the East coast by designing a defensive system that relied on stopping ball penetration, support (zone principles) and by maximizing the number of offensive possessions through that defens, by reducing the number of times the ball was lost to handling errors and to poor percentage shots. It was the genius of reworking play to neutralize physical attributes and talent on the other team that made him a great coach. And, it was the system that made him the greatest coach in the country once he was chosen to coach at Indiana.

    That is exactly what Indiana needs today in football. (We came close once, with Coach Mallory). A Knight-like visionary, perhaps known/perhaps unknown coach with brilliant strategic vision that can change the game and how it is played.

    Anything else will continue to mire us in mediocrity. What Indiana can not do is to fear vision.

  12. Tsao, I agree, we need a bold move or IU athletics is going to suffer badly in the years to come. Just too many people expressing total disdain and disinterest in IU football. Aside from pride, etc, the issue is money, lots of it. Did IU have 35,000 seats filled today? If not, that’s about $400,000 in revenue that was lost. I wonder how that investment in the stadium upgrade is looking right about now to the IU Trustees?

    IU administrators turned the tragedy of Hep’s death into a disaster when they gave Lynch a five year contract. They had a choice and they blew it, took the lazy, low cost alternative. Gutless decision and now IU is paying for it, big time. The students, the alumni, the players, and Bloomington-area businesses are all paying the price for that stupidity. I just hope they don’t compound it by keeping Lynch another year, but I have a feeling they no longer have the financial flexibility to do anything else. They probably can’t afford paying Lynch severence.

    By the way, who wants to guess how many of IU’s heralded 2011 verbally-committed recruits will change there minds and sign with another team this winter? My guess, the best five of them will never put an IU uniform on.

  13. Tsao, great post. I was just talking to my wife about this. What is the vision of the IU Athletic Department? Let’s say it’s to be one of the top 25 athletic programs in the country? Then that would drive how you approach the major and minor sports. It has been my observation that leadership is sorely lacking at IU, and has for some time now.

    Who will be accountable? Who will step up and lead IU Athletics. Just because Glass is a marketer, it doesn’t make him a leader.

    Per JPat’s post, I obsevered when watching the Illinois game, players that were not hustling, and just looked defeated. My fear at this point, is that one of these players could get hurt (Wisconsin at Wisconsin!).

  14. Lets be truthful, IU needs to fire the football coaches and staff. The O play calling is so predictable.IU HAS NO PLAY MAKERS ON O. On the d side the hoosiers need to go to the inner cities of the midwest and get some real athletes.

    You guys are a joke thinking IU WILL HAVE A WINNING PROGRAM WITHOUT THEM. Running backs who don’t have good instincts, receivers who can’t get separation from their man. Where are the play makers !!!!!! FOOTBALL IS IQ, ATHLETICISM, INSTINCT , REPS AND COURAGE TO COACH THE BEST PLAYERS AVAILABLE.

    Ben Chappell is a good qb but he needs a quick slot (Wes Welker) along with Doss, Belcher and Wilsson to get them dawgs off him. U guys will never have a winning program until you face your true reality, but the stadium looks nice.

  15. I have followed Indiana Football since the early 60s (Yes, I remember Phil Dickens). I continue to get excited every August anticipating a breakthrough season leading to the program’s path to respectability. Every new coach is new hope. It is kind of Charlie Brown-like but I have no intention of giving up. We need to be aware that those teams are made up of young men who put their hearts into the team. When we make unkind comments about the program we must remember that reality. Lynch is a decent, principled coach and the Athletic Department did the principled thing in retaining him. I also think he is doing his job laying a foundation for the next coach to improve upon. I feel he should be supported and allowed to finish his contract. The NEXT coach will be the critical move. I think Glass has been the best thing for IU Athletics in years and when the time comes he will make the correct choice.

  16. Tsao YOU are wrong! You describe how Coach Knight was a great coach. I agree! But no one, certainly not anyone in Bloomington, KNEW that he would be successful at Indiana basketball. Knight was known in NY City and State, but a relative unknown in the rest of the country! Army was a totally unknown basketball team outside of the East, and generally considered NOT to be as good as the better Ivy League teams in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The press in Indiana was “ho-hum” about his chances of being great at IU, and George McGinnis left school early because he viewed the hire as hurting his chances for national recognition. None of us were too thrilled about a Buckeye leading the Hoosiers! I actually lived in Bloomington during his hire and early years, did you? It was a crap shoot that really worked well!

  17. Hire Mike Leach!

    There won’t be too much coaching turnover this offseason. Colorado may be the biggest vacancy.

    Take advantage of it, IU!

    Also, I’m not attending another game with Coach Lynch at the helm. My seats will be empty for Iowa.

  18. Mr. BeatPurdue, Bob Knight had already created a strong following among the top coaches in the country while at West Point. This included the famed Claire Bee, Olympic coach Pete Newell, Oklahoma State’s Hank Iba, Don Haskins at Texas Western…all among those strongly recommending Knight for the job.

    The Indiana U. administration had the wisdom to envision the role defense would play in the evolution of college basketball, listen and buy into Knight’s ideas and his own conviction about the integrity of his program.

    You make reference to the press. Actually, many in the press were impressed by the ‘unexpected’ choice. Most important, many “knew” Knight was the right man to fit the vision. Soon many who “booed” watching Indiana focus on defense and make 12-15 passes before even thinking about a shot themselves became the stuff of “Hoosiers”.

    George Mc Giniss had just suffered the horrible loss of his father in a construction accident and needed to ‘go pro’ to help his family. It is true George wasn;t excited about Knight’s ideas and they had more than one conversation…but he would have accepted them and probably become an even greater player than he was. His partner and closest friend from Indianapolis Washington, Steve Downing stayed at Indiana, grew within that system and led it into the Glory days. George always remained respectful of Knight and a solid IU fan. (I was close to both).

    The issue here is simple (this is not about us or about saying ‘gatcha’). I’m sure you are as concerned and anxious to see us achieve that status. With vision Indiana solidified its reputation as a top basketball program. While it lost some luster when Knight was fired (a tragic moment in IU history), his impact was such that it remained one of the legendary programs…until A.D. Greenspan decided to give in to short cuts and brought in the corrupt Sampson based on his reputation as a ‘recruiter’. Sad, wasn’t it.

    The lesson to be learned and applied to the Hoosier story today is…develop a vision, identify the people capable of developing a plan and have the conviction to implement it, hire the best candidate to fit the vision and give him full support to carry it out. The same was true of the arrival of Jerry Yeagley and his soccer program, the international reputation Indiana University had as the best swimming program world-wide under Dr. James Counsilman, track and field under Jim Lavery…good, solid, visionary people make great teams.

    Most important, Mr. BeatPurdue…no shortcuts!

  19. Tsao; great post. Hard to argue with your points. You’re right, as close as I folow IU athletics, I have no idea what IU’s vision for the future of football or athletics in general is right now.

    Some people act as if establishing a competitive football team at IU is impossible. I just refuse to believe that. IU is a great University. It has a beautiful campus, good academics (and getting better), excellent new football facilities, and IU has a tradition of success in several other sports. I’ve seen lessor schools achieve success in football after years of failure. If those schools can doit, so can a great school like IU.

    But before you can pursue a vision, you need real leadership. They go hand in hand. IU has had a series of managers for decades, but no real leadership. It seems like key decisions are made by committee with the primary purpose being to minimize political risk to the members of the committee.

    If IU does have leadership in place, now would be a good time to demonstrate it.

  20. GO BACK TO PASSING A LOT B-CAUSE THE RUN GAME SUCKS
    AND READ BETWEEN THE LINES, GET MORE INNER CITY YOUTH THAT THE ONLY CHANCE YOU HAVE TO MAKE SOMETHING OF THIS PROGRAM, OOPPPPPSSS WAS i yelling… Stupid people deserve special attention.

  21. Taso you keep dodging the issue you and I disagree about! I did NOT say that NO one thought that Knight would be a good coach, I did not say that NO one in the Media thought that he might be a good hire. You are simply making up “facts” because you know that you are wrong-there is no certainty. Name the “many” sports writers who stated that Knight was a “certain” great hire. You can’t! Of course Knight had supporters. Did you see the letters and did you receive the calls of recommendation? Of course not. You are simply wrong to presume that the hire of Bobby Knight was a foregone certain great hire. It was a great hire, but at the time NO one KNEW what the result would be, except, perhaps, Bobby himself. If you do not see the risk and uncertainty in the selection of a new coach you are simply naive. You have hindsight, but you have no knowledge of the actual events at the time of the hire. Bobby Knight’s vision of how to be successful was his, not the President or Athletic Director’s, All you can do is to perform your due diligence, talk to lots of knowledgeable people, ask good questions, meet the person face-to-face and hope that you hit a home run. You also have to make sure that the new coach violates no rules and that you support him/her in every way possible. But it is still a CRAP SHOOT! Only Butler in basketball has a sure fire system, you just hire the guy in the next chair.

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