Indiana at Iowa football reports and commentary from Andy Graham

PREGAME: Gunner who?

After a looooonnnnnngggg drive through seemingly endless vistas of harvested corn and soy, we are in the hospitable land of the Hawkeyes. Didn’t see Shoeless Joe Jackson or anybody else emerge from any of the cornfields but we are, indeed, in Iowa.

Indiana’s Hoosiers are about to find out just how hospitable the Hawkeye football team is prepared to be. But, hey, a gift or two seems appropriate. IU true freshman quarterback Tre Roberson will get his first career start today on his birthday, and tomorrow is Indiana coach Kevin Wilson’s 50th birthday. The big five-oh.

Maybe the Hoosiers will surprise today. I’ve already had one surprise on the trip — we found a jukebox last night on which I could select tunes by Richard and Linda Thompson and the Pogues and Dustin could play his Gaslight Anthem and Frank Turner. Truly epic. Dustin managed to crash it temporarily with an overload of awesomeness (the jukebox system crashed, specifically, when Dustin tried to program in Weezer’s “My Name is Jonas:). But enough music. Time for fotball. As always, I’ll have scoring reports and my usual cockeyed (as opposed to Hawkeyed) analysis below the fold. And thanks, as always, for checking in.

FIRST QUARTER

Iowa 7, Indiana 0, 7:50. Iowa just ran off almost half the first quarter with the game’s opening drive, feeding the Hoosiers a steady diet of Marcus Coker runs, the last a 1-yard plunge for the score. But perhaps the key runs were scrambles by quarterback James Vandenberg, who bolted 24 yards on a 3rd-and-8 to the IU 13, then 6 yards on a 3rd-and-4 to the IU 1.

Indiana 7, Iowa 7, 1:34. The Hoosiers answer by consuming almost as much time (6:16) in going 88 yards in 12 plays to equalize, overcoming a holding call that created a 2nd-and-18. Tre Roberson looked especially sharp in guiding the drive, completing all five of his passes, including a 3-yard TD pass finding Cody Latimer on a crossing route in the back of the end zone. Roberson also showed quick feet on some effective quarterback draws.

Iowa 14, Indiana 7, 0:38: That tie lasted only 56 seconds as Indiana defensive backs collided, leaving Marvin McNutt completely free to receive an 80-yard TD pass from Vandenberg. Don’t know exactly what happened, but safety Alexander Webb got an earful from several coaches when he returned to the sideline. It was McNutt’s 22nd career reception, breaking Iowa’s career record.

SECOND QUARTER:

Indiana 14, Iowa 14, 9:33. Again, the Hoosiers respond behind Roberson, moving 73 yards on 13 plays in 6:05 and getting the TD on a 1-yard plunge off right guard by Stephen Houston.

Iowa 21, Indiana 14, 8:10. Iowa is ripping Indiana’s defense apart now, needing just 4 plays and 1:23 to go 72 yards for yet another TD, this time scoring on a 24-yard fade to McNutt, who beat Michael Hunter who, for the second straight play, didn’t turn his head to look for the ball. But the drive’s big play was Coker going 41 yards right up the gut. IU’s defensive front is getting flat-out whipped by the team that entered the game last in the league in rushing. Time to suit up Mike Ekeler.

Iowa 28, Indiana 14, 1:38. After a sack of Tre Roberson finally produced the game’s first punt, Iowa scored its fourth TD in as many possessions when Coker went in from the 2. The Hoosier defense seems hapless at this point. IU cornerbacks aren’t turning their heads to find the ball and are getting burned badly by McNutt and others. Vanderberg has thrown just seven times, but has completed five passes for 162 yards and 2 TDs. Marcus Coker has rushed for 109 yards and 2 TDs. I can’t identify a single aspect of defense Indiana has played even remotely well.

The Hoosiers are also being plagued by penalties on offense and on special teams. It seems like virtually every special teams play for IU has featured a flag.

Penalties and now a sack have backed the Hoosiers up for a 3rd-and-18 at their own 4 and Iowa is taking timeouts to get the ball back with 1:14 left in the half.

Iowa 35, Indiana 14, 0:18. McNutt again, this time for 29-yard TD pass, beating Heban. Again (and again and again) IU defensive backs seem incapable of playing the ball. They’re trying to play the man, never finding the ball, and it’s easy pickins for receivers as tall (6-4) and talented as McNutt. This is the worst  IU’s defense has looked since the first half against North Texas and, both times, it’s just been unfathomably bad. As in weird. I have no earthly clue what IU’s secondary is attempting to do out there.

HALFTIME: IOWA 35, INDIANA 14. IU’s horrific defensive and special teams play has wasted what was actually a pretty good half by the offense. Tre Roberson has played exceedingly well in his first start at quarterback for the Hoosiers. He hit all 7 of his first half pass attempts, for one thing, for 62 yards and a TD. The running game isn’t clicking quite as well as it did in the first half at Wisconsin last week, but isn’t bad, and Roberson has been on target and efficient through the air. But Indiana’s defense might as well have not been on the field, basically, the whole first half. Iowa got five TDs out of its five possessions and didn’t have to work very hard for any of them.

It isn’t just the secondary, though. No Hoosier defenders seem remotely interested in finding the ball. Vandenberg, who is hardly fleet afoot, has been able to scramble out of the pocket with none of the defensive linemen seeming to notice. As was the case in Madison last week, IU defenders seem completely incapable of getting off blocks.

Thinking back to North Texas, it seems that Indiana simply can’t or won’t play defense when it’s wearing all white on the road. Iowa has 339 yards of first half offense. IU had a respectable 180.

THIRD QUARTER:

Iowa 35, Indiana 17, 8:56. Indiana took the first possession of the half all the way to the Hawkeye 1, after Roberson had what was initially called a TD overturned because his knee touched on the half yardline. IU was unable to sneak it in on 3rd-and-goal and, after a procedure penalty by Andrew McDonald on abortive 4th-down try, Mitch Ewald booted through a 22-yard field goal. IU went 71 yards in 13 plays. Roberson remains impressive.

Iowa 38, Indiana 17, 4:50. First non-TD on an Iowa possession, but Mike Meyer still supplies  47-yard field goal. The Hoosiers stopped the drive via back-to-back cornerback blitzes, one from each side by Greg Heban and Kenny Mullen, each producing a sack, one by Adam Replogle and the other by Mullen. If the cornerbacks can’t cover receivers, IU might as well blitz them.

FOURTH QUARTER:

Another good Indiana drive dies, this time at the Iowa 5. The Hoosiers went for the TD on 4th-and-5, still looking to get back into contention, but after a scramble, Roberson couldn’t quite connect with Ted Bolser.

The total offense really evened out toward the end of the third quarter. Iowa is at 353 and Indiana is now up to 327. Roberson is 13 of 16 with no picks for 160 yards in the air and has rushed 13 times for a net of 42.

Iowa 45, Indiana 17, 3:10. A one-yard TD pass caps a 77-7ard, 8-play Hawkeye drive.

Hoosiers respond one more time, with a Houston wildcat run (after first dropping the snap), for a TD in the closing seconds.

FINAL: IOWA 45, INDIANA 24. A pretty doggone decent offensive performance for Indiana, totaling 414 yards, was wasted. But Roberson’s performance salves the wound of Gunner Kiel, the celebrated former IU commit, re-opening his recruiting Friday. IU may have found its quarterback of the future here Saturday.

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