4 things we learned from IU’s loss at Michigan State

1. Indiana’s red-zone approach is abysmal.

There was no urgency as IU neared the goal line Saturday, no ingenuity and no aggression. To the casual observer, the Hoosiers stuck with stodgy, conservative offense and it was one of the factors that cost them another winnable game against a ranked opponent. The back-to-back quarterback draws to start a drive after Indiana claimed its first takeaway in three weeks? Perhaps after the first draw failed, the second was meant to surprise. Even so, that strategy is questionable. The three consecutive inside handoffs at the MSU 11 early in the fourth quarter? To borrow from former coach Kevin Wilson, you can’t call what you can’t block. Right now, that’s the biggest problem with IU’s offense. There are talent deficiencies within this unit to be sure, and Indiana dearly missed injured tight end Ian Thomas in the red zone, as well. But the crunch-time calls are also up for debate.

2. IU continues to lack a deep passing game.

J-Shun Harris has scored twice this season on punt returns. He should’ve had his first offensive touchdown on Saturday. On the second play of IU’s second possession of the third quarter, Harris beat his man downfield, but the throw from quarterback Peyton Ramsey was overthrown. What looked like a potential 89-yard touchdown connection instead fell wildly incomplete. Later in the same drive, Ramsey looked deep down the sideline to Cobbs and missed him by at least 10 yards. Luckily for the Hoosiers, they were saved on the play by a defensive pass interference call. Coach Tom Allen said after the game that there were no discussions about giving former starter Richard Lagow an opportunity to air it out against the Spartans. This is Ramsey’s offense, for better and for worse.

3. A very good, if not great, IU defense is going to waste.

One of Indiana’s primary objectives for 2017 is fielding a defense ranked in the top 25 by the end of the season. IU is positioned at No. 29 nationally seven games into the campaign, having allowed an average of 341.7 yards per contest. Consider, too, that Indiana has played four ranked opponents to date. It’s impressive production any way you slice it. After this season, the Hoosiers will lose eight defensive starters, each of them impact players. There’s reason to believe IU will continue to produce solid defensive play as long as Tom Allen is in charge. But this is a special group — and it seems to be going to waste.

4. Chris Covington is having a truly terrific year.

Saturday was a memorable performance by the senior linebacker. Having begun his college career at quarterback — and tearing his ACL midway through his freshman season — it’s a shame this IU program won’t get one more year of Covington on defense. Not only has he been a terrific complement to All-American Tegray Scales, Covington has been outstanding in his own right. After his 11-tackle performance Saturday, which included two tackles for loss and a sack, Covington is now averaging 8.2 tackles per game against Big Ten opponents this year.


WHAT’S NEXT:
at Maryland, Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, BTN.

The Hoosiers are a homecoming opponent for the second consecutive week, this time in College Park, Md. After a 3-1 start, which included a season-opening win at No. 23 Texas, the Terrapins have lost three in a row. They’re down to third-string quarterback Max Bortenschlager, a sophomore from Fishers who completed 13 of his 30 throws for 125 yards with one touchdown and one pick-six on Saturday at Wisconsin.