IU football homecoming reports and commentary from Andy Graham

PREGAME — Pretty much perfect day for IU homecoming football today. And I had pretty much a perfect birthday, yesterday, as my St. Louis Cardinals concluded their historic game six win after midnight eastern and then went ahead and won the whole shebang before the 24 hours elapsed. So I got a heck of a present from the Cards, who then supplied the cake and ice cream, too. So I’m proudly wearing my Redbird cap in the press box today.

Hopefully a good crowd will convene here today, because this ought to be a high-scoring, entertaining affair. Neither defense has exactly stayed stout in recent weeks, while Northwestern’s offense is characteristically robust and IU’s offense showed some real capacity last week at Iowa as true freshman quarterback Tre Roberson shined in his first start. NU quarterback Dan Persa is completing 75 percent of his passes and his stand-in, Kain Colter, is at 67 percent and is an even better runner at this point, with Persa still dealing with after-effects of an achilles injury.

IU senior wideout Damarlo Belcher is suspended for today’s game for violation of team rules. Senior linebacker Jeff Thomas and junior center Will Matte, both nursing injuries, are not starting.

As always, thanks for checking in, and I’ll be providing scoring updates and my customary cockeyed analysis below the fold.

FIRST QUARTER

Indiana 7, Northwestern 0, 12:30. Well, that didn’t take long. The possibly resistable force has met the moveable object. IU’s offense roared 77 yards on just six plays in 2:30 to open the scoring. The first snap was a swing pass from Tre Roberson to Shane Wynn that went for 32 yards along the east sideline and nearly went the distance before a saving tackle by Collin Ellis. But it was a temporary reprieve. Roberson swept around right end from 12 yards out for the TD, scoring easily.

Northwestern 10, Indiana 7, 8:19. Northwestern took even less time to score on its first two possessions, the first generating a 37-yard Jeff Budzien field goal, the second a 29-yard TD pass from Kain Colter to Jeremy Ebert, with safety Drew Hardin beaten on the play. The second score was set up by a Tre Roberson interception, on which he pumped once and threw late toward Jamonne Chester, with NU’s Brian Peters easily picking the ball off at the Wildcat 42.

Northwestern 17, Indiana 7, 1:58. A holding call on Ted Bolser blew up a promising-looking IU drive and NU’s offense again wasted little time when it got the ball back, going 87 yards in just six plays and 2:25. An IU linebacker fell down, leaving Drake Dunsmore free for a 45 yard catch and run to get the drive going. Three snaps later, Kenny Mullen betrayed a blitz from the right flat, so NU checked to a screen the other way for 20 yards to Jason Schmidt. After Doug Dietrick ran through a Mark Murphy tackle attempt on the next play for 6 yards to the 1, Treyvon Green took it in from there on the next play.

Indiana started 7 true or redshirt freshmen on defense today, the most for any FCS team in a single game so far this season. It shows.

SECOND QUARTER

Northwestern 24, Indiana 7, 14:26. NU now has 24 points in 22 plays. Dunsmore got completely wide open behind Leon Beckum and Mark Murphy for a 22-yard TD catch for the latest score. The Wildcats have 221 total yards already. IU has 148, but has bogged down a bit, mostly through its own miscues.

The stadium cameras just showed Mr. and Mrs. Kiel, parents of Dusty and Gunner, on the “kiss cam” during the break after the NU TD, just as IU is seemingly in the process of kissing the game away.

But wait. Maybe spoke too soon:

Northwestern 24, Indiana 14, 12:13: When IU doesn’t stop itself, Northwestern’s defense isn’t really doing it, and the Hoosiers just went 68 yards on 7 plays to draw within 10, with D’Angelo Roberts roaring in from 26-yards out for the TD, featuring a nice juke at the 5 to free himself from the last defender who had a shot.

Northwestern 31, Indiana 14, 8:25: As bad as IU’s defense has looked at times this season, in the horrific first half at North Texas and the similarly bleak first half last week at Iowa, it is worse today. NU started its latest scoring drive at its own 4, but went 96 yards on 7 plays, with inexplicable defensive mistakes making it waaaaaay too easy. For example: the Hoosiers had a chance to pin the Wildcats deep, on a 3rd-and-5 on the NU 9, but cornerback Greg Heban deployed about eight yards off his man — then retreated another eight yards before the snap, not only conceding the first down but permitting a gift 23-yard completion to Kain Colter from Persa. Then, on a 3rd-and-9 at the NU 33, Chase Hoobler left Colter to rush a scrambling Persa, freeing Colter for a 57-yard pass catch and run to the IU 10. Persa hit Dunsmore for the TD on the next snap.

NU has scored on every single possession so far, a field goal followed by four TDs.

Northwestern 31, Indiana 21, 5:46: The Hoosiers caught a big break when Mark Venric fumbled away a punt and Heban hustled for the recovery at the NU 26. Roberson connected with Duwyce Wilson on a post pattern for the TD on the next play, with Wilson beating Jeravin Matthews for a fine catch.

Northwestern 38, Indiana 21, 1:46. Same basic story. The worst defensive performance for Indiana in many a moon, and that’s saying something. The latest scoring drive went 80 yards in 10 plays, with Dunsmore beating Hoobler for a 6-yard TD catch.

HALFTIME: NORTHWESTERN 38, INDIANA 21. The Wildcats scored on every first half possession, with a field goal followed by by five TDs. Even by IU standards, the defense has been beyond atrocious. Words fail me, actually. I really can’t recall a worse performance.

Youth is a major factor, of course, but at some point the defensive coaches — and I have to say the secondary coaches — have to be held accountable. They’re the ones putting this product on the field. They’re the ones choosing who plays and who doesn’t. Obviously, it doesn’t help to have starting senior safeties Jarrell Drane and Chris Adkins unavailable via injury, at least allegedly, but it isn’t as if guys such as Mark Murphy and Drew Hardin haven’t seen a fair amount of snaps now. There is just no reason for them to be this bad. And if I were Kevin Wilson, I would be asking some very, very hard questions behind the scenes of my defensive coaches at this point. And I’d be contemplating various courses of action as the program moves forward. Because there is no way what IU fans are currently watching is even remotely acceptable.

Northwestern, unbelievably and inexcusably, has 405 yards of first half offense on 41 plays. IU also has run 41 plays and has a robust 276 yards of offense, but obviously can’t keep pace with the almost completely unmolested NU offense. The Wildcats are just three points shy of their school record for scoring in a half (41 versus Wisconsin in 2005), but they are certainly easily within striking distance of their school record for total offense in a game (674 yards set against the Badgers in 2000).

NU has nine plays of 15 yards or more. It has run 28 plays in IU territory.

The list of 12 freshmen  who started for IU today, for those who are curious about that,  is: true freshmen Tre Roberson (QB), Bernard Taylor (LG), Peyton Eckert (RT) and Shane Wynn (WR) and redshirt-freshman Collin Rahrig (C) on offense, and defensively it’s true freshmen Bobby Richardson (DE), Mark Murphy (S), Michael Hunter (CB) and Kenny Mullen (CB) and redshirt-freshmen Ryan Phillis (DE), Drew Harden (S) and Chase Hoobler (LB).

THIRD QUARTER

Northwestern 45, Indiana 21, 13:17. Things didn’t look any better for the home team on the first drive of the second half. Northwestern moved 60 yards in 6 plays almost totally unhindered to score. Drake Dunsmore caught his school-record fourth TD pass of the day, from 9 yards out, and even though the secondary really only had the end zone to cover, there was nobody within 10 yards of him. Astonishingly bad play by IU’s defense, especially its secondary, continues.

Dunsmore set his school record for TD receptions in just 32 minutes of play today. He has 112 receiving yards at this point. IU opponents have been Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, or co-winners of the award, in three of the past four weeks. Dunsmore, one would think, will make that 4 of 5.

Northwestern 45, Indiana 28, 10:20. The Hoosier offense continues to perf0rm pretty doggone well against an admittedly questionable NU defense. IU marched 80 yards on 11 plays to score, with Stephen Houston scampering in from 15 yards out around left end.

Northwestern 51, Indiana 28, 8:21. A Kenny Muller pass interference infraction (where, yes, he again failed to look for the ball, as all IU defenders fail to do ad nauseum) keeps the latest NU scoring drive alive. It only had to go 38 yards after the kickoff return nearly broke for a score.

So midway through the third quarter, NU quarterbacks Dan Persa and Kain Colter are a combined 17 of 21 passing for 290 yards and 5 TDs. And several of the throws, dear reader, are passes your or I might have been able to complete. Because as often as not, there are no defenders in the immediate vicinity.

Northwestern 52, Indiana 31: IU moved 50 yards before a Collin Rahrig holding penalty killed the drive, so Mitch Ewald came on to boot a 38 yards field goal.

FOURTH QUARTER:

Northwestern 59, Indiana 31. 14:57: Well, it’s just going to be this way all day, apparently, unless NU calls off the dogs. This time it was 68 yardx in 7 plays, capped by a 2-yard TD run by Schmidt.

The first Northwestern punt comes with 11:28 to play. The few remaining IU fans supply a Bronx cheer.

Northwestern 59, Indiana 38, 9:08. Stephen Houston scores from 2 yards out. IU moved 55 yards in 9 plays. Houston now has 19 carries for a career-high 151 yards rushing and 2 TDs, matching a career-high set last week at Iowa.

It was egregiously embarrassing to almost the very end, when NU’s reserves ran it right down IU’s throat — even though the Hoosiers knew they were going to run it every snap — before showing real class by taking a knee instead of running in another TD.

FINAL: NORTHWESTERN 59, INDIANA 38.

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