Doug Mallory didn’t need to hear anything about the first question he was asked at Kevin Wilson’s press conference Monday other than the word “Navy” before he began falling on his sword.
“I’m disappointed,” Mallory said. “Real disappointed. You’re not going to win many football games if you let a team line up and run for over 400 yards. You never force a team to punt, you create zero turnovers. If you do that, you’re not going to have very many opportunities, regardless of how good your offense is and how well you play on special teams. You’re not going to have a chance to win very many games if you perform like that.”
The Hoosiers of course, lost 41-35 doing that on Saturday against the Midshipmen, surrendering 444 yards of rushing offense and 512 yards of total offense in the loss. It was obviously more disappointing for Mallory, because he and the rest of the defensive staff and his players started working against the triple option all the way back in the spring of 2012 to prepare for their two games with the Midshipmen. Their second performance against it was considerably worse than the first, as the Midshipmen had 257 yards on the ground last season and almost matched that by halftime.
So on tape, there was a lot that Mallory saw that bothered him.
“A lot of those plays we’ve worked and we’ve worked for the last two years,” he said. “We went in there trying to play it kind of based out of a quarters concept, a 4-3 scheme, and how we played it a year ago, added a few wrinkles in. Just a lot of those plays we’ve worked against for the last two years. … We didn’t execute the way we needed to execute. Other times we had guys on the ground and I think from a coaching standpoint did a bad job making the adjustments when they needed to be made. We got a little bit stubborn. We tried to continue to play it the way that we’d worked and we’d practiced throughout camp. We weren’t getting it done, so we had to go to Plan B on how we were going to try to adjust it. There was one particular play Plan B didn’t work so we had to go to Plan C. That started to help us a little bit more.”
The Hoosiers worked on dealing with cut blocks. They had an actual station in practice that was simply about the fundamentals of keeping a man attempting a cut block from getting into their legs, and it bothered Mallory significantly that it didn’t seem to make a difference.
“When you’re going to play that kind of offense, you’re going to spend a lot of time (on cut blocks),” Mallory said. “Just how realistic it is (to be able to stop it) I don’t know. I think the thing when you play an offense like that, it takes about a quarter just to get caught up to the speed of the game, just how fast that option is, how fast those guys can get into your legs and get you chopped, the tempo of the offensive line coming off. One of the things I was really disappointed in, I felt we were on the ground a lot more than we were a year ago when we played them. Credit to Navy, I thought they did a pretty good job particularly for their first game, they did a pretty good job of coming in and executing. We didn’t do anything to slow them down. You can’t play defense if you’re on the ground. We’ve gotta do a better job of getting to the ball. We’ve gotta do a better job staying on our feet, and we’ve certainly gotta do a better job of tackling.”
Mallory was asked specifically what adjustments he would’ve made if he had the game to coach over again.
“I think there’s a couple of schemes,” Mallory said. “The first drive, they came out in an unbalanced formation. They bring a tackle over and they put a wide receiver at the offensive tackle position of the field. They ran that formation twice a year ago. We repped that formation, but everything they’d done is they’d shown the run game was going over to the unbalanced side. We overloaded the coverage a little bit to that side, overadjusted to that side. And they came back and ran the triple option back to where that receiver’s playing a tackle. They got us, and the first play of the game, we were misaligned, and then we missed a tackle from the safety position, but they kind of worked us a little in that formation until we were able to make the adjustments on that first drive. They got us there, and I would’ve had a different plan against that formation. Some of the ways that we were playing the triple, whether it was bringing pressure or just pre-determining who had who and not necessarily trying to read the scheme are some of the adjustments I probably would’ve made.”
IU coach Kevin Wilson was somewhat defensive of the defense, and especially the defensive staff. He said he didn’t think the team came out with as much fire early, but said he thought the defense got better as the game wore on, pointing out a few occasions when the Hoosiers got Navy in third-and-long and the 3rd-and-7 when Keenan Reynolds threw incomplete, but IU defensive back Michael Hunter was called for pass interference.
He was asked specifically what he thought he was getting out of the defensive staff.
“I think a lot,” Wilson said. “We’re better. We’ve got five guys over there and those guys know what they’re doing. Sometimes you make a play or you don’t. You can always change. The reason I think we can positively coach our guys pretty hard is we’re hard on ourselves. … I heard our coaches last night, all of us, right after the game. We have to coach better. Our kids are working hard, our kids are playing hard. We gotta continue to learn and put them in better spots. That option deal, at the same time, they made enough plays and they had a chance. They’re reviewing plays, and we’re saying we didn’t play that well. It’s a tough opponent. A couple of years ago (at Oklahoma) we’re a BCS team and we’re hanging on to beat Air Force 24-21. And we’re hanging on for dear life and the head coach (Bob Stoops) says, ‘Never play a team like this again. ‘ It’s difficult, it’s a difficult challenge. and it’s difficult for your team, and I think as a team, I’m disappointed in the way we started, but the way we responded on all sides of the ball gave us a chance.”