Kevin Wilson was somewhat defensive of his defense’s play after last week’s loss to Navy, but he was significantly less forgiving of his squad’s special teams’ woes so far in the first three weeks.
Bowling Green’s only touchdown in Indiana’s 42-10 win on Saturday came via punt block and return, and the Hoosiers were lucky not to have a second one blocked, instead getting a roughing the kicker penalty that helped Indiana drive all the way to the Bowling Green 1-yard line. Indiana also lost the ball on a fumbled kickoff for the second time,
“This defense has given up, on your stat paper that you look at, 28.7 points (per game), you take the pick six, the fumbled kickoff return they scooped and scored and the punt block, that’s 21 points in three games,” Wilson said. “That’s seven points (per game) so that’s 21 points. As a team, we’re giving up 21 points a game, not as a defense. Those areas of the kicking game are going to haunt us this week playing a tremendous team from Missouri and getting into Big Ten play. Returns have to get better. We’re not getting much out of kickoff return at all.”
The punting issues were particularly concerning.
“Execution,” Wilson said. “Bottom line, assignments that were one, they came into an attack block look. We were kind of in our spread trying to down it. I don’t think we had prepared our guys properly. The second one, we had a guy get beat in his protection. It’s something we work on daily. But it needs to be better. Bottom line, those people need to do their jobs or we need to look at new people or look at new schemes. If they get their hand on the second one, it’s not a roughing call. It was potentially two blocked punts, so we have to get that cleaned up.”
— Wilson has made a list of risky calls in the last two games, including six attempts at fourth-and-short and three onside kicks, two of which came long before the end of the game. The Hoosiers made two fourth-down attempts last week against Navy, but were 0-for-3 on 4th down on Saturday against Bowling Green. None of the Hoosiers’ onside kick attempts ended up in their hands. Wilson was asked about his calculations at making such risks, and said he thinks its important for IU to be aggressive.
“It’s not a gamble as much as this is what you think is going to work and your players need to go execute it,” Wilson said. “And you know what? Sometimes they don’t. And it’s nothing against them when they don’t. You’re sitting there looking at, ‘Here’s where it is, here’s what you do, go do it.’ It’s not being foolish. For us to do well, we’ve gotta be smart as we are aggressive. We can’t sit and wait and hope. That’s what Tiger Woods does. He’s not hoping the guy misses the putt. ‘He’s gonna make it, I’m gonna make it.’ That onside kick, we’re gonna go for it. Sometimes there’s a lip-out, but there’s as many lip-ins as lip-outs. There’s as many good bounces as bad bounces. We’re not gonna be stupid, we’re gonna be aggressive in what we’re doing, but there’s also a calculation.”
— Wilson said right tackle Peyton Eckert has been back to practice with his back injury, but there’s still an issue with wear and tear, plus backup Ralston Evans has made it difficult to win his job back. Left guard Bernard Taylor is still, “gimping around,” with his ankle injury, Wilson said. Defensive tackle Alex Todd (stinger) returned to practice Sunday night, but he has missed close to three weeks and may not be available for Saturday’s game against Missouri.