Eventually, they all had to watch it.
As much as the Indiana coaches and players assuredly never wanted to relive Saturday’s 62-14 drubbing at the hands of Wisconsin, they all had to watch the game video just to try to piece together exactly what went wrong.
The players and coaches on the offensive side of the ball actually felt a little better about it when they watched it the second time. They didn’t have too much to be proud of with just 294 yards of offense, 61 rushing yards, three turnovers and four times as many punts (eight) as trips to the red zone (two). But they took comfort in the fact that they were just a little off.
“We felt terrible walking off the field,” IU quarterbacks/wide receivers coach Kevin Johns said. “We felt better after watching the film. Quite honestly, we were just a little bit off. … You know, one time we missed Teddy Bolser one time on an out route, just a settling down route across the middle. Really, we missed it by 6 inches. I know Cam (Coffman) missed Shane (Wynn) one time on a speed out. The ball was late. Instead of putting it on his front shoulder, he put it on his back shoulder. So, by about a yard, we were off on Saturday. On the scoreboard, it looks a lot worse, but from our standpoint, if we had some of those plays back, we probably make those plays nine out of 10 times. I think moving forward, we need to get that execution back, that precision where we’re putting the football. Receivers running their routes, running backs keying on the right guys, hitting the right holes. Just the little stuff. We were sloppy Saturday, we need to clean that up.”
The guys on the defensive side of the ball didn’t have the same view. Not after the Hoosiers gave up 605 yards of offense, including 564 on the ground.
“We got our butts kicked,” IU co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Mike Ekeler said. “Every phase. We absolutely got our butts kicked up front. We got our butts kicked at backer. On the back end. Didn’t tackle. Just all the way across the board. You know whose fault it is? Mine. It’s 100 percent mine. That’s why coaches get fired, for performances like that. I’ll take 100 percent responsibility for that. Didn’t have our guys ready to play. We came out and laid an egg. Our guys have fought their asses off all year. We come out and play like that. They play well, it’s on them. They play bad, it’s on me. That’s mine. I will take it. We’re doing everything we can that doesn’t ever happen again here. If it does, I’ll be putting my house up for sale. That (expletive) is unacceptable.”
Ekeler’s toned-down fellow co-coordinator Doug Mallory was less dramatic in his self-flagellation but also said he took responsibility as a coach for the Hoosiers’ failure to handle what Wisconsin was doing offensively.
“(In practice) we felt like we were giving good looks for what they did with all the motion and shifts and everything,” Mallory said. “We got into the game and just missed fits in plays in the second level with the backers. We got blocked up front. We got blocked on the perimeter. The ball came through. We just didn’t tackle well. Give credit to Wisconsin. They’re a good offensive football team. They literally kicked our butts.”
So the goal now is to find away from that thorough butt-kicking and respond in their two remaining games. The Hoosiers play Penn State in Happy Valley at noon on Saturday and then Purdue on Nov. 24 in West Lafayette.
“I’d love to see these men come back and respond to whatever standard,” IU coach Kevin Wilson said. “They have set the standard — we set it, they embraced it. I’d love to see these guys come back and have the week we need them to have. If we’re building a program, this is a good week to see what we got.”
It won’t be easy for the Hoosiers to correct course in this one. They play Penn State in Beaver Stadium this week, and will see by far a bigger crowd than they’ve seen all year. They will also find a Nittany Lions squad that, at least for now, has weathered the NCAA sanctions tacked onto the program following the Jerry Sandusky scandal and has posted a 6-4 record, including a 4-2 Big Ten mark so far. Though they are banned from postseason play, they currently stand in second to Ohio State in the Big Ten Legends Division.
Coach Bill O’Brien has done it by keeping together a talented defense, led by linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti and by changing the offense to fit quarterback Matt McGloin. After struggling through good days and bad through most of his career,McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing with 2,676 yards and 19 touchdowns and wide receiver Allen Robinson leads the conference in receiving with 63 catches for 786 yards and eight touchdowns.
“They have some balance in what they do,” Wilson said. “They use some tempo in what they do to put you on your heels. Just when you watch them move the pocket, it takes stress off the line. They use the screen game very well, which takes stress off the line. They max protect, take deep shots, back the secondary up. They piece an offense together in a very good way. It’s a credit to all of the pieces too.”
More notes from Tuesday’s press conference:
— Wilson said that Indiana senior tight end Charles Love III suffered an ACL tear in Saturday’s loss, which will end his IU career with two games to play. Love caught five passes for 51 yards and a touchdown this season, but was injured making a catch in Saturday’s game.
— Wilson also said that defensive back Tim Bennett, who was seeing time as a nickel and dime defensive back, sprained his foot in Saturday’s game and will miss this week’s game against Penn State. Wilson said he’s unsure about whether or not Bennett will return for the season finale against Purdue. Wilson also said that linebacker Jacarri Alexander (stinger) has been getting some action but he isn’t fully back in the mix yet.
Wilson also said that freshman quarterback Nate Sudfeld was “nicked up,” in Saturday’s game, and that was part of the reason he didn’t return after a first-half fumble. He refused to specify what exactly was “nicked up.”
“We just didn’t think he could go,” Wilson said. “But he’s been practicing and back with us.”