Offense an issue in Indiana’s 27-22 loss to Nebraska

At one point in the second half, after watching his backup quarterback get stuffed on a fourth-down read option, Kevin Wilson stood on the sideline with his head hung and both hands on his hips.

The Indiana coach was a portrait of frustration as he watched another underwhelming offensive performance slow his team at the midway point of the season.

Saturday’s 27-22 homecoming loss to No. 10 Nebraska was another winnable game that Indiana failed to seize. Though the Hoosiers played from behind all day, they made the kinds of winning plays in the defensive and special teams phases that are necessary against ranked opponents.

They did so only to watch a punchless offense drag this team to a loss, yet again.

This is an Indiana team that is in between identities. Know as an explosive and prolific offensive program for much of Wilson’s first five years as a coach, IU is caught in a sea change in Year 6.

Right now, answers are in short supply.

“The ultimate gain is victories, and that means that’s where the offense has got to come through,” Wilson said. “It’s not about the stats. It’s not about the numbers. It’s putting it together. We should have been probably better than we were last year with the guys we’ve got. Right now, hey, you play the cards you’ve got.”

Against the Cornhuskers, the Hoosiers’ defense surely quenched coordinator Tom Allen’s thirst for takeaways with a pair of interceptions against quarterback Tommy Armstrong. But the IU offense managed a mere field goal off those turnovers.

Nebraska, meanwhile, played angry at the outset, building a 17-0 lead in the first 10 minutes. IU held the Huskers to only 10 points the rest of the way, but the offense failed to do its part in a game — much like the non-conference finale against Wake Forest — that the Hoosiers may come to regret.

Clearly, the Huskers were excited to escape Bloomington with the win. After the game, the ceiling of the press box elevator was soaked with water — remnants of a rowdy Nebraska coaching staff and their water bottles, according to one Memorial Stadium staffer.

Indiana hasn’t defeated a top-10 opponent in 29 years — and there would be no upset on this day, either.

With his offense freezing in the second quarter, Wilson inserted backup Zander Diamont, and the junior gave Indiana an initial jolt thanks to his shifty scrambling ability. But that’s a gimmick that can only work for so long. Nebraska adjusted to Diamont’s presence — he appeared in spurts throughout the remainder of the game — and locked down on Indiana’s ground game for most of the day.

With 17 yards, Diamont was Indiana’s leading rusher at halftime. The Hoosiers finished averaging only 2.9 yards per carry.

Using Diamont situationally was worth a shot, because at the moment, Indiana needs help.

“Every year is different, every team is different,” Diamont said. “I think the tendency is to look at last year’s team, look at Nate (Sudfeld), look at our dynamic and sort of assume we’re going to have the same dynamic this year. It’s just not the case. The team’s a little different this year.”

That much is clear. Look at the defense, which held the Huskers 10 points and 112 yards below their season averages.

Safeties Jonathan Crawford and Tony Fields both made interceptions, which were great developments until the offense fell short on its end of the deal.

The special teams unit, too, did its part. Chase Dutra was credited for the key play on a blocked punt that dribbled out of the end zone for a safety, accounting for IU’s first points in the second quarter. Kicker Griffin Oakes hit field goals of 36 and 45 yards, and may have had a couple opportunities to add more if he weren’t suffering from a “slight quadricep pull,” Wilson.

Yet, as poor as IU’s offense played, the Hoosiers were once again in a one-possession game.

They closed the third quarter with running back Devine Redding’s first touchdown of the season on a 33-yard fake reverse that cut IU’s deficit to 17-15. After Nebraska’s Stanley Morgan scored on a freak play from 72 yards out early in the fourth, Redding and IU responded with a four-yar touchdown reception to get the Hoosiers within 24-22 with eight minutes left.

A Drew Brown field goal in the final minute forced Indiana to seek a touchdown in the final 45 seconds of regulation, but Lagow tossed an interception on the second play of the drive — a fitting ending to a forgettable game.

As the Huskers celebrated the pick by safety Aaron Williams, Lagow took a long, slow walk to the Indiana bench, then sat next to Diamont and threw both hands up as if he, too, lacked the necessary answers.

“We’ve got to get the offense up to speed,” Wilson said. “Each year — just because you’ve been good on offense doesn’t mean you’re going to (be) every week. Just because you’ve been bad on defense doesn’t mean you’re going to be bad again. Each team is different.”

And these Hoosiers are still trying to learn who they are.

31 comments

  1. Tough loss.

    A really tough loss.

    It’s bizarro world. We have offenses for years that score 40-50 points a game but with no defensive back up. Now we have a defense and suddenly we can’t move the ball. WTF?

  2. To bad IU’s defense doesn’t have an offense it can count on. This was another winnable game that slipped through the cracks.

  3. After six games, IU’s passing game is still a work in progress. And with two key O-linemen out, the run game is ineffective. You can see how these defenses do not fear Lagow.

    Boy or boy, do we miss Feeney!

  4. no our passing game is not a work in progress…..our passing game has left the building!!! i like the way everyone is trying to protect Lagow, by blaming receivers for running the wrong routes, lineman and running backs missing blocking assignments and coaches call the wrong plays…but it all boils down to the QB has to do a better job of protecting the football…and placing the ball in the proper positions for the receivers to do something with the ball….Lagow passes are all over the place…no improvements in 6 months (sic).

  5. The answer isn’t Lagow or Diamont. The answer is Feeney. Hope he is back next week. We aren’t going to beat too many teams when we can’t run the ball in short yardage or goal line situations. All summer we were hearing about the defensive line’s lack of play makers and the offense’s abundance of play makers. The d line has played great and our offense has sputtered. Maybe Tom Allen can take over the offense for a week?

  6. IU can still win six games this year, but this season will go down as the one that was given away. The defense is vastly improved, but Wilson’s offense is floundering. He is NOT an offensive genius.

  7. Actually what we heard during and pre-Fall camp was the DL was often winning against the OL. What the IU offense misses is just not the Feeney name. It misses Reed, Spriggs and Camiel. There is where the run game went. No offensive genius has experience talent of that caliber just setting for “next man up”. Also Lagow is not NS because he does not have the benefit of 2-3 years in th eB1G. Now as IU enters the weaker part of the B1G season the run game should become more viable. I’ll venture to say we will continue to see ZD often to help with the rushing needs and probably he and Natee together for some mixed offense causing the D some extra concerns. The D played their a…s off.

  8. You’re right, HC, IU is missing more than just Feeney on that O-line, and it has an effect. And as for Lagow, you are correct, he does not have a lot of experience playing in Wilson’s offense or against Big Ten defenses. And it’s not Lagow’s fault that Wilson/Johns called an off-tackle run on 3rd and eight after IU’s defense secured an interception. But the depleted O-line makes the decision to run in that situation all the more ridiculous! Wilson has three other quarterbacks with experience running his offense, and one with ample experience playing against Big Ten defenses. Besides, the lack of experience does not explain why Lagow continues to throw high, over the heads of his receivers. I think Wilson fell in love with Lagow’s size and arm strength and convinced himself that he could manage him until he obtained the experience. But if experience is the key ingredient, why not play some of his other quarterbacks when Lagow begins to flounder? Clearly, Lagow cost IU the Wake Forest game with his five INTs. He was a major contributor to yesterday’s loss with that pick six. O.K., we weren’t supposed to beat Nebraska, but victory was within reach. If Wilson wants to produce his first winning season in six years as IU’s head coach, he’d better start figuring out how to score more points. For an offensive genius, that should not be too much to ask.

  9. Armstrong was the difference. Very few QBs are athletic enough to make the off-balance deep completion while running toward the sideline away from intense pressure. There was a tremendous amount of good fortune for Nebraska on that deep pass(winning drive)..Three IU defenders were there and two took each other out like pins at a bowling alley.
    Some weeks ago, v13 mentioned IU losing a very strong offensive assistant to North Carolina…Seth Littrell..? Was he the primary “genius” in the KW offense…? I’m beginning to wonder.

    Under Mike Leach, he spent four years from 2005-2008 as a running backs coach for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. He credits Mike Leach,his former boss at Texas Tech University, for teaching him many things about coaching on the college level, such as many aspects of the sophisticated Air raid offense which he incorporates into his offensive attack(courtesy: Wikipedia).

  10. Very disappointed in play calling and/or lack of checks and changed plays by Lagow at the line. I read this morning where Wilson said 2 plays are called each time we line up, one a run, and one a pass, and it is up to the QB to make the correct read and run the appropriate play. If that is the case, Lagow has not been able to correctly read the defense a good part of the time. It does seem like our opponents have stacked the box the last 3 weeks, pretty much daring us to pass, but we continue to try to pound the ball through the line.

    When that interception put us in good field position down only 2 relatively late in the game, I couldn’t believe we ran the ball three straight times with absolutely no deception. We punted after a 3 and out and Nebraska then drove for a score. We get the ball back and score in less than 2 minutes with, I believe, 3 completed passes.

    A lot of fans think next year will be the year to really shine and I do believe our defense will be even better, but I am not convinced Lagow is the answer at QB this year or next, and without a productive QB, we will continue to struggle to score points and win games. He seems to have a big arm, but there is a reason why his only “big time” offer out of high school was Connecticut, and that when he left U. Conn and enrolled at Oklahoma State, he quickly left for junior college.

    I wonder if our rs freshman (King) or our true freshman QB (Ramsey) will be capable of vying for playing time next year. If not, it could be more of the same, as Diamont and/or Cameron are not the answer either. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get some hotshot high 3* QB to commit for 2017? I don’t, however see any such prospects on our radar as per Scout. Oh well, one can wish!

  11. I would not be surprised to learn that, in practice, Lagow makes throws that no other QB on the roster can make but he also throws a ton of picks.

    That would be consistent with what we’ve seen and it might also explain the strange play calling.

  12. A lot is said about Lagow but he still completes close to 65% of his passes. I don’t buy that he has the chance to throw every play but chooses to run the ball even in bad 3rd and long situations. I have been concerned about play calling since Seth Littrell left and this season is really showing that the play calling is iffy. I would like to know who took our coach that was happy to win games 60 – 56 and gave us a coach looking to keep us in the game into the 4th quarter.

    Before the season the talk was all the RB talent we had and it seems there hasn’t been a focus on the best two or three and building on them. Our OL is now filled with a freshman tackle a new sophomore tackle that played TE last year with players not good enough last year to start. It takes a effort to know what you want to do and work on it every day instead of a hat of plays to pull out to see if they work or not. If this OL can’t power run block then focus on passing and having short passes to take the place of running plays. Run enough that the defense can just ignore the run and have enough passes for the RB. It just seems that now that the team has a enough players coach is still coaching like he has not enough players and wanting to get the freshman ready quickly. We don’t see to have a team that players earn their way up each year with only a player or two that can play earlier.

    This team can still win seven games but I would feel better if the offense had a sense of what they are trying to build and getting better each week.

  13. The offenses stellar performances during the ’14’ and ’15’ seasons must have happened because Lattrell was texting plays to Wilson from Chapel Hill during the IU games. Quite certain Wilson called at least as many plays as Lattrell. Hell he was only here 1 year. Impossible to explain the Lattrell logic posted in this thread. If I was an outsider wandered onto this blog I’d have to flip a coin to determine if Wilson was descendant of William F. Buckley or from the family Maverick. The offensive drop off is because it is now obvious it is a reload year and Wilson and Johns are dealing with the transition. Let’s see; no Harris, Corsaro, Sudfeld, Howard, Spriggs, Reed, Cooper, Camiel, Feeney, Cobbs, Fuchs. No wonder. (8) 2015 starters gone or injured. Lattrell has nothing to do with 2014-15-16.

  14. Seth Littrell was an excellent coach. He helped Arizona, Indiana and North Carolina finish as top 20 offenses. He was an assistant with Mike Leach and credits Leach for his innovative passing attack. But he’s now a head coach with North Texas and making over $800k per year. I don’t think IU could get him to come back to be an OC.

    http://puntjohnpunt.com/ dissects several plays and shows the line problems. The line is just having trouble getting to their blocks.

    It just looks like teams are putting an extra defender against the run and making Lagow beat them with his arm. He may rack up a bunch of yards, but he eventually turns the ball over with interceptions.

  15. ’14 and ’15 was run heavy with questionable plays called when passing. Look at the Rutgers game and the final two series with Nate throwing two interceptions allowing Rutgers to win the game. No attempt after one interception to run the ball. People forget the ints Nate through that came at inopportune times. His best year was his senior year with a strong running game and 4 years experience.

    123, every QB throws ints if an offense gives up on the run unless there are enough short passes that replace the runs. Part of Lagow’s int are receivers that get put on the QB or being put in bad situations with play calling. He still throws too many int on his own but take out the WF game and he doesn’t throw any more than Nate threw.

    Our offense is now based on a good running game and downfield throws which is what happened last year. This year the running game isn’t good so they need to adjust the passing game to account for the change. As I said in another post, the coaches have not settled on players or an offense to build upon. They are still looking for some combination that works and when there is a good combination of runs and passes with the offense looking very good. When we get back to running the ball twice or more then passing on third and long no QB will look good. Coach Wilson and Johns need to get this offense settled down or lose the season that would be a turn around otherwise.

  16. I want to add that IU has played the #2 team and #9 team not the also rans of the conference. Games against NW, PSU, and Maryland will be a better judge of how good IU is.

  17. A very good discussion guys. My take is that IU’s offense has a tendency to lack situational awareness. We just played OSU (away) and Nebraska, both teams recognized for having really good defenses. As HC rightfully points out, we have a seriously depleted O-line. So why be so stubborn and continue to try to run the ball, especially in key situations (like after your defense makes an INT in the third quarter), when we’ve yet to run the ball effectively through the first two and a half quarters of the game? Why put in a 270 lbs. freshman running back who needs some space to get up a head of steam on first and ten behind an O-line that has yet to prove it can open holes against Nebraska?
    Sometimes I think Wilson/Johns either fails to assess the situation in the game or fails to adjust his strategy based on what the opponent is doing on defense. Maybe the responsibilities of being a head coach are dulling Wilson’s once sharp edge as an Offensive Coordinator. I don’t know, but Wilson better figure it out because he can’t afford to allow this promising season to slip away. He can’t afford to have a sixth consecutive losing season. As my father used to say, “the only problem with having a little success is that it elevates everyone’s expectations, and everything is relative to expectations.”

    Wilson is a smart man. He needs to figure it out, and fast. Because Northwestern is a good, well-coached team.

  18. Po, well stated,we saw the same thing against OSU when going into the endzone our offense ran the ball [at least they had some success on a few running plays] when passing would have a minimal negative effect at worse. Then coming out of the endzone with a big risk by passing the ball against that defense, we throw two straight passes ending up with a strip sack inside our 10. The passing should have happened going into the endzone and running should have happened coming out of the endzone resulting in a punt.

    Like I said, I don’t buy a QB having a chance to pass the ball calling a running play over and over when few yards are being gained. People say coach fell in love with Lagow’s arm [I still think Lagow is far better than others do right now] but if that is true King has an arm as good as Lagow’s. That gives coach an option to turn to if it is the problem of this offense. I think it is more relying on the run the previous two seasons and it is hard to get back to basing the offense on the pass with running the ball when the defense is weakened up front.

    This offense still shows streaks of being a good offense, coaches just need to figure out how to call that type of game once again. I have to say I just don’t understand the determination to run the ball at all cost; but coach has had a lot of good offenses so I expect this one to develop.

  19. vesuvius13 says:
    September 12, 2016 at 3:16 am

    Watching North Carolina last year I realized how much more Littrell was aggressive and I miss that for our offense since he left to go to UNC and now moving to HC in North Texas. I want our offense to stress defenses so every time they snap the ball the defense is worried.

    Nebraska could have been another one of those true “signature” wins. Last year’s bowl was plagued by the same conservative tendencies. I just don’t see the gunslinger and gambler mentality(or maybe it’s better defined as “lively” and “dynamic”) that was in the hurry-up and the passing game a few years back. While the defense has improved, the offense has been nothing of its old self/personality. And amidst those counteracting slopes, we once again find ourselves perpetually on the short end of stick in close games that would represent signature/headline-stealing victories.

    Littrell being “missed” was something originally brought up on this blog by v-13. I’m sure some positive effects from Littrell’s ideas could stick around for a year or two…Defenses adapt and I’m sure there are possible ways Littrell would have adapted his passing game that go beyond the vacuum of ideas he left behind. Maybe our offense is missing those ideas/energy/dynamics just as much as our defense would miss those of Allen if he were to, heaven forbid, depart for more green …or greener Irish pastures.

    Fact remains….MSU looks far from a “signature” win….and nobody cares about a “signature” almost. We’ve had plenty of almost in our history(much like the Chicago Cubs).

  20. Well, Wilson’s got to win at least three of the remaining six games in order to get to another bowl game, have a chance to produce a winning season, and demonstrate that his program has turned a corner. And we’re NOT going to beat #3 ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor, especially after giving Harbaugh such a scare last year. Penn State is a potential upset, but they will be tough. That leaves little margin for error against NW (their homecoming game), Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue. Having beaten Iowa and MSU in their last two games, NW is getting their act together.

  21. V- IU is going to keep facing 8 guys in the box until they get some production out of the passing game. Lagow has played 6 games and has 9 interceptions. Any defensive coordinator has got to like his chances if he can force Lagow to try and beat you with his arm.

  22. 123, I agree. And Lagow has thrown nine INTs in the last four games. He did not throw any in the first two games against lesser competition.

  23. And speaking of offense being an issue, what’s wrong with the Cubs’ offense? I know Kershaw is a great pitcher, but I did not know he was also a hypnotist. The Cubs had some of the worst at-bats I’ve ever seen last night (Zobrist swung at a ball over his head and Bryant struck out watching four pitches without swinging the bat). Russell looks scared to death at the plate and Rizzo is so worthless (1 for 23), he should be benched. And at next year’s spring training, the Cubs need to spend some time re-learning how to bunt. I had to wince last night when Pete Rose said, “I don’t know how this team won 103 games during the regular season?”

  24. Still the offensive stats are pretty decent. Lots of passes to Paige help. It is scoring which is eluding the O. ZD will help that a little and Wilson gave me encouragement it will not be in a Wildcat format or scheme. Feeney Is key to better rushing and how good, how long Frosh Coy Cronk can play positive at left tackle. Some I formation inside the 10 with Clyde Newton lead blocking is another option. Some other outside WR need to step up as Westbrook and Jones disappear other than as blockers for successful rushing plays; Hale, Timian, Thornton. Patrick?? Cause if Paige were to be hurt our passing and punt receiving takes a hit. I do think our ST’s are the best they’ve been in some time. ST’s and D can go a long way towards winning FB and IU has a + on both.

  25. 123, I don’t deny Lagow needs to improve but don’t forget 5 ints came in one game. The other issue is all ints aren’t on the QB as when receivers tip passes or he is hit as he releases the ball changing the trajectory of the pass. Since the Big Ten season has started Lagow has thrown 4 ints in 3 games not bad but not great either. The thing that is missing in this discussion is the inadequate play of the OL. Is Redding regressing as a RB since he is now averaging less that 80 yards a game? There is one common denominator and it is the OL not getting its blocks in the run or passing game. To put things in perspective though IU has played MSU, #2 OSU, and #10 NE which had good/outstanding DL with a makeshift OL of a true freshman at LT, a converted TE at RT, and the other three were back ups coming into the season.

    IU isn’t in bad shape right now just not making the move up many of us wanted this season. All that would disappear with wins over NW, PSU, MD, Rutgers, and PU. That would give IU an eight win season and be a very good step up with the prospects for next year looking very good.

  26. i will start this conversation by say i believe in Coach Wilson and his staff…an if he wants to ride with Lagow, so will i…but he is not that good of a QB at the moment…if any other QB in the Kevin Wilson era had thrown 9 int in 4 Games he would be sitting on the bench…..Coach Wilson threaten to sit a running back for fumbling once in 5 Games…yes the offensive line is having some problems, but the Redding is still averaging 92 yards a game…..this teams problems is mistakes an inopportune times..but Lagow problem is over-throws thru out the game…some day one of his high throws is going to get someone injured…i am like every other fan, love the QB with the big arm…but a big arm lacking accuracy does not do the offensive any good…what is it 3 or 4 of Lagow interception has been returned for touchdowns?? looks like he is throwing the football to the defensive player in better position than our receivers….but like i said, i support Coach Wilson and his choice at QB!!! GO IU

  27. Let’s see 6 games, 1600+ yd., 187 attempts, 12 TD., 9 int., 60% comp. not bad for a 1st year B1G QB. I did not go back and look up NS’s Soph year but I’ll bet it is similar after 6 games w/the exception of # ints. I’m floating my boat with v in that the negative is not all on RL. 7-8 dropped passes, 2 tips(I recall)intercepted and twice WR’s zigged when Lagow thru the zag were intercepted. I am 3 times more concerned with the rushing attack than I am the passing game. The passing game I’m most concerned with is the receivers performance and most of that is with the outside WR’s not getting open to be targeted. Patrick could help immensely when he gets game ready and contributes. I’ve read he has been timed at 4.35. With that kind of burst in 17-18 yd. he can have 2 steps on 85% of the DB’s he’ll face even in a zone D. The rushing attack does loosen up the D for the pass but a deep pass threat loosens the D for more passing %’s and better running. The talent, coaching and scheme are getting closer to intersecting on the graph.

  28. Sudfeld and Lagow had similar big arms…They also had similar mobility issues. What’s with the knee braces? For all their size, the bulky knee braces give the impression that Lagow/Sudfeld are functioning within one wrong hit of being Joe Namath in pantyhose(without the Hall of Fame career).
    Did anyone else notice Lagow moving around rather gingerly during one or two of the series against Nebraska? Is the knee a constant concern or creating a certain amount of caution? Does it effect his accuracy?
    If you’re not 100% solid on your feet, you’re going to do things with the upper body and the arm to counter that instability. I’m wondering if he’s overthrowing because of the lack of a solid plant or secure knee on a follow-through.
    Bad knees also hinder a quick first step to elude pressure. There are situations when you can’t anticipate ….and rather than take that quick evasive action on a planted foot, a QB with a slightly unstable knee ,may hurry himself and jack up an off-balance throw.

    Just a theory on all the overshooting of receivers by Lagow….Zander does have very quick feet and reactions…His accuracy issues(or any that arise) could be more a result of anxiousness and hyperactive energy. I like the run option we get with Zander….

  29. Harvard- You said (wrote) it, man. The MO of the KW IUO of a few years ago was that the opposing D didn’t have time to catch its breath (much less sub players in and out), but now this supposed plethora of RB talent seems to have taken that out of the formula. This is not a hurry-up offense at all, often it seems to be a “stand around looking at the sideline while coaches look at oversized play charts and then try to get the play off in time” offense. There was a terrible series in the Neb. game where there was confusion about the play, so IU called a time out. Then after the TO they still didn’t get the play off due to a false start. On the third attempt to run the play they bungled it. Awful. Then on another series the IUO ran a play on fourth down and obviously didn’t make the line-to-gain, but stayed on the field and tried to line up and run another play as if they had. Unlike some here I don’t pretend to know the cause/effect/answer, but I’m just hoping that the offense can finally “gel” or start “clicking” or whatever.

  30. V- I’m not saying defenses will keep putting 8 guys in the box as a way of blaming Lagow. I’m just saying that is what he is going to face. So far, if you stack the box and force Lagow to throw, IU gets a lot of yards but the drives stall in the red zone and/or Lagow throws picks. Both OSU and Nebraska were also able to take away Westbrook and limit Ricky Jones. Without the threat of the long ball, why wouldn’t you stack the box? But hopefully the next several opponents don’t have the same caliber of cornerbacks and Westbrook and Jones can loosen up the defenses.

    Also, Camion Patrick went to the ground really easily when a cornerback hit him. He drew the pass interference call but I was surprised how easily he went to the ground for a 230 lb guy who is supposed to be such a beast. Maybe the knee that was scoped has lost a lot of strength?

  31. 123, CP is 6 months out from an ACL. He has performed an extraordinary short recovery/rehab transition making it even remarkable he is already playing. I do not know about the hit he took maybe some acting took place to encourage the flag. I do know w/o Fuchs and Cobbs red zone passing targets decreased, int’s increased. and w/o Feeney punching it in is slim(ZD will be of some help with that). Patrick has to quickly become that man now IU is by the Bucks and Nebraska. MSU only scored 21 on IU but hung almost twice that on NW. I would say it is a good time for Patrick to get some positive OJT. Maybe Hale ups the ante also. The D only gets stronger with both Robinson and McCray back and having Covington ably spelling Oliver and Dougherty doing the same for Big Ralph. Opposing QB’s should be in for a little more harassment.

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