4 things we learned from IU’s loss at Purdue

1. Once and for all, Indiana was simply a sloppy team.
The Hoosiers won’t enjoy a breakthrough season until they tidy up their play and approach. That’s particularly the case on the offensive side of the ball. Third-down play calls well short of the sticks? Check. Drive-killing penalties? Check. Just look at the way Indiana started Saturday’s second half. The Hoosiers worked their way from their own 25 into Boilermaker territory, only to see a 39-yard touchdown reception by Simmie Cobbs negated by a chop block from right guard Mackenzie Nworah. That’s to say nothing of IU’s flat performance to start the game, curious given the stakes of the day.

2. The Hoosiers never established an offensive identity this season.
Not with such poor — and, at times, patchwork — offensive line play, a nearly-non-existent running game and season-long inconsistency at the quarterback position. The playcalling, too, often felt like it lacked sizzle. There’s a lot to fix offensively before this team positions itself to take the next step. Just how much improvement can IU expect in nine months’ time? Its entire offensive line is expected to return, but can it play better (let alone stay healthy)? The Hoosiers seem to have young talent at running back, and will welcome four-star recruit Ronnie Walker next season. Can that group gel with the O-line and develop into something reliable? Quarterback, of course, is the big question.

3. Perhaps the answer to quarterback was playing in the Class 6A title game Saturday.
When Reese Taylor verbally committed to Indiana in August, the 5-foot-11 Ben Davis senior did so as an athlete/defensive back. “If he was 6-foot-3, we wouldn’t be talking about where he’d be playing,” Ben Davis coach Mike Kirschner told The Herald-Times then. “He’d be a quarterback.” Maybe Taylor will stick at the position, after all. Taylor and the Giants drubbed Penn, 63-14, in Saturday’s Class 6A title game. Taylor completed 18 of his 22 passes for 340 yards, with six touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for 131 yards on 13 carries with one 76-yard touchdown. Junior college quarterback Terry Wilson, a 6-foot-3 dual-threat passer who began his college career at Oregon, is also high atop IU’s recruiting board, and the Hoosiers remain invested in redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey and true freshman Nick Tronti. Right now, Taylor also looks like an intriguing option given his stellar senior season.

4. Indiana’s defense went to waste.
By Sunday morning, the Hoosiers were ranked No. 26 nationally in total defense with 340.1 yards allowed per game. That’s an average of 1.1 yards behind No. 25 Boise State. Of course, Saturday’s performance wasn’t up to IU’s standard, a disappointing development considering the stage. But for much of the season, IU played aggressive and attacking football. Now, the Hoosiers move forward looking to replace eight senior starters — defensive ends Greg Gooch and Robert McCray, defensive tackle Nate Hoff, linebackers Tegray Scales and Chris Covington, corner Rashard Fant and safeties Chase Dutra and Tony Fields. Linebackers will be the most questioned group of the bunch, and coach Tom Allen often says he has seldom seen a strong defense without great linebackers. In restocking this side of the ball, Allen will have his work cut out for him over the coming months.

WHAT’S NEXT: At Florida International, Sept. 1, 2018, at Miami, Fla., kickoff/TV TBA.

It’s a critical offseason for IU’s program, one that continues with the new early signing period that runs from Dec. 20 through Dec. 22. The Hoosiers will have to address questions at almost every position, including a field goal unit moving on without the program’s all-time field goal leader Griffin Oakes (69). Indiana will also await a final decision from redshirt junior receiver Simmie Cobbs, who could declare for the NFL Draft. It’s hard not to view this fall as a step backwards for IU’s program, and all involved — fans included — have a right to be disappointed with the losing record, the loss of the Old Oaken Bucket and the end of Indiana’s two-year bowl streak. Fixing the issues that led to those results is priority No. 1, beginning today.

36 comments

    1. Disappointing season, agreed. Losing away at MSU, MD and Purdue ruined a potential 8-4 season and resulted in 5-7. But IU will be much improved at QB next season. The defense is Allen’s special province. He has a lot of work to do! We lost 8 seniors including 3 great players: Scales, Covington and Fant, plus Hoff.

  1. Because of the present 2018 QB options I have to believe Allen and whoever is the OC have to put Reese Taylor to the test of fire. Treat him as a viable playmaker and see what he can digest in preparing for FIU.

  2. Though undersized Taylor is the real deal that may actually be a steal. Modify line play so he can see downfield. Randell El.

  3. Expecting a freshman who is undersized to come in here and win the quarterback job is just silly. Taylor may be a great answer longer term but don’t expect him to be it his first year here.

    Blaming Nworah for the chop block is wrong. Did you even see the play? MN just put a good block on the guy and Guest came in and chopped him. At least get the right guy if you are going to call a player out.

    1. I suspect Taylor will easily perform as well being a Frosh as has Ramsey as a RF and Lagow as a 5th year Senior. His extensive talents will be honed into expanding skills. Also, at least get the spelling right if you’re going to call someone out, he is Gest, not a Guest.

    2. Good call on the penalty block, it was all on Gest. Your first point on Taylor is “silly”. If he is “great”, then his time could be now! Neither you nor I know!

    1. Wilson talked improvement but averaged fewer wins than Lynch. Allen talks of breakthrough but produces 7 losses. This team is the same as past 20- bad to mediocre. Wins matter now- not slogans. I’ll watch next year’s games from home.

      1. I always attend a game or two every season. It’s just a holsum entertainment experience to be there on a Saturday afternoon watching B1G football.

      2. Wilson brought an excitement level to IU Football that Lynch could never approach. Whatever his style, it sure appealed to a couple very solid running backs now playing in the NFL. At least there was a running game to complement/replace sloppy qb play.
        Allen was still riding the wave of the cultural and talent changes Wilson brought to Indiana. Though wins are the only thing that matters when trying to get to a “urinal cake bowl,” you’d have to be dishonest or blind to not see the complete 180 positive shift to IU Football as a result of Kevin Wilson. Though he primarily also fell short against the murderer’s row of teams from the the Big Ten East, it was a given that the only reason IU Football was receiving some national airtime and ESPN appearances/games was because of the transformation under Wilson. I don’t think OSU hires a coach who simply talks.

        Allen attempted to ride the remnants of the Wilson momentum. Now let’s see if he can generate some of his own. I think most would admit, Wilson left an IU Football program garnering far more spotlight than anything present for decades..and he did it without the sideline showmanship; the over-the-top pogo stick sideline routines attempting to sell excitement/engagement/competitiveness because the program is absent the truly dynamic playmakers and offensive expertise.
        IU Football is now simply mirroring the ‘Dollar Store’ basketball regime we just had for nine years…..Good place to get balloons, streamers, and party hats. Unfortunately, not too many reunion parties can be planned for Memorial halftimes.

  4. Some quick research on salaries for the Purdue and I U Football Coaches. Purdue Head Coach $3.075 Million plus incentives I U Head Coach $1.8 Million plus incentives. Assistant coaches Purdue $3.075(with a pool of $3.5 Million for assistant coaches) I U assistant coaches $2. 8 Million. Also Purdue assistants were given a two contracts. We need more than marketing slogans for each year team. Cobbs will turn pro, unless there’s been a family decision change in the last week. I have football season tickets and it’s getting old sitting through the constant results of coming up short.

  5. Reese Taylor will be the best qb IU will have next year if it’s between Tronti, Ramsey, and Taylor. I don’t know that much about Tronti but in the past when IU has a qb with what I gather in Tronti he ends up lack of mobility to improvise on plays and becomes pretty vanilla. Taylor will be the best passer, runner, and athletically mobile. He will probably be the least likely to get injured due to his head and ability…even though undersized and a fresh. Not silly. IU will be fortunate to sign him. This is a legitimate chance with a year older OL, incoming rb with Gest, M.E., and a couple receivers and Taylor I am thinking success…once again with or without M.D. That will be what a talented trusted qb in Taylor could bring even as a fresh.

    1. Taylor and Tronti seem to have a similar skill set except that Tronti is bigger and played in a more competitive situation in high school.

      I wouldn’t be so quick to write him off.

      1. IU should have many good options next season at QB. Defense will be the issue. Purdue loses a lot on Defense as well.

  6. Maybe Tennessee should hire Kevin Wilson….? Probably the best they can do at this point.

  7. IU offered 22 quarterbacks for 2018, 0 commitments. Tronti, Taylor (signed as an athlete) or Ramsey are choices. All are athletic, undersized and lack arm strength. Maybe one develops or they get the JUCO player, Wilson, away from Kentucky. Can’t “coach up” what they don’t have. Dump DeBord. Spend $1M for OC that can recruit.

  8. No, Tennessee understands that they need a head coach who has proven he can lead a team to a winning season. Wilson has never lead a team to a winning season. What IU should do, given the former Tennessee coaches now on IU’s staff, is to try to poach some of their recruits and/or recruit disgruntled players who decide to transfer out of Tennessee. Some 4-star wide receiver just got dismissed from Tennessee’s team because he went off on a profanity-laced Facebook rant in which he criticized his now-terminated coaching staff. If he passes a psych evaluation, maybe he’d be a quality receiver for IU.

    As for talented quarterbacks who stand less than 6 feet tall, I’ve always thought it was stupid for coaches to deny them a chance to compete for the QB job just because of their height. Somebody should breakout the old game tapes of the two greatest quarterbacks that ever played at IU; Antwan Randle El or Harry Gonzo. Neither of those two were 6 feet tall, but both are in IU’s Athletic Hall of Fame. And Antwan Randle El is the best college quarterback I ever saw play. If the young man can run, his height is irrelevant. Sure, height is useful in seeing over the O-line, but it does not improve judgement or accuracy. Mobility and quickness are also useful in seeing around the linemen and evading defenders when the pocket collapses, an issue that IU quarterbacks need to be prepared for. There have been some outstanding players that proved that shorter men could be highly effective quarterbacks. I hope Allen and DeBord avoid falling into the trap of “coaching group-think” and give Reese Taylor a legitimate chance to compete for the job. Sounds like he’s a winner, but I’m not sure if either DeBord or Allen recognize a winning quarterback when they see one.

    1. Wilson has never lead a team to a winning season.

      I think you meant ‘led’ a team…

      Let’s not forget that Wilson was .500 going into last season’s bowl game lost by Allen.
      Wilson didn’t have a chance to coach the final game of his final IU ‘team’ and thus get to that winning season. Allen was pretty rough around the edges against Utah…I think we win that bowl game with Wilson at the helm and Wilson gets his winning season.
      Regardless, none of it changed the mind of one of the top programs in the country putting Kevin Wilson in charge of their offense.

      1. Couldn’t have said it any better. Say what you want about the man but he took a rag tag team from Lynch and made gradual improvement except as HC said held onto assistants too long who had to go. Never produced a winning season but would’ve been interesting what he could’ve done.

  9. 18 for 22 passes for 340 yards in the State 6A Championship game! And that was on top of rushing for 131 yards on 13 carries. Sounds like Reese Taylor can run and pass just fine.

  10. How about Doug Flutie. Reese Taylor will be better than Flute and T.A. will recognize that. Taylor will get his chance/s.

    1. Reese Taylor is 5’10” and 155 lbs. Would you let your kid play Big 10 quarterback at that size? What do you think Randle El would say?

  11. I am talking strictly college and not pro. So he gains 10 lbs of muscle. List him on the roster at 5’10” and 175 and let’s go.

  12. IU has already tagged Reese as a QB recruit so he will get a shot to play if he comes to IU. The QB competition will be a real competition in 2018, something we haven’t seen since the time of Tre and Sudfeld. IU had no QB recruits in 2017 until Allen took over and took a look at him and brought him to IU. Reese and another QB [JUCO or another QB from state of Michigan] will finally give IU a full roster of QBs although they will be young.

    I think Miller wrote this article while still feeling the sting of the Purdue loss as his characterization of the team isn’t accurate. Every team has penalties and IU didn’t have an over abundance of them. The chop block was unfortunate and not the fault of either player. Gest thought he had a hard rusher by himself [he contacted the player first] and blocked the way RBs do going against bigger players. Nworah reacted back inside late when he saw the rusher come free blocking him high like an OLman blocks. Unfortunately both players were trying to do their job with legal blocks but as it happened the combination neither knew was happening was illegal.

    I get it that many didn’t like the Allen hire especially without making a coaching search, but I think in the long run he will be a very good HC. Someone as knowledgeable as John Gruden see Allen as the right fit for IU along with numerous college HCs. This season was a bit of disappointment but the reality is we lost one more game this year than last and played the best teams just as tough this year as last year. In other words this year was a wash and recruiting will tell if better times are coming.

  13. Good that Mike Miller felt the sting and overreacted….Hope he overreacted in the paper/HSR Sports sections/editorial as well. One of the major problems with IU Sports is how much the programs control(and manipulate to apologize for them) the local press. I don’t think you see anywhere near that sort of dependency in many markets(Penn State Football may be one of the few that is tradition rich and isolated).

    Fans are far to used to the apologetic drum beat. It’s almost a form of brainwashing in tempering and expectations. IU and its fan base deserves far better than the very substandard results in both major sports programs.

    Personally, I’m very bored and tired of a press so dependent on defending mediocrity. Over and over…and over we keep selling ‘patience’ and ‘processes’ while witnessing coaches serving more as condescending millionaires getting longer and longer contracts and novels in apology.

    Mike Miller and all of HT are far too kind to IU Sports programs. They can get away with it because there are very few in an IU fan base with enough perspective and intelligence to insult/know better.

  14. I don’t believe this year “was a wash.” Indiana continued its trend of underachieving and never making the step forward.

    According to Punt John Punt:

    “Indiana has underachieved the most out of any FBS program over the past 10 seasons with a cumulative 8.2 less wins than expected. Next closest team (Utah State) at 6.7

    2015 Expected 6.75; Actual 6
    2016 Expected 7.67 Actual 6
    2017 Expected 5.82; Actual 5

    3/yr Total Expected 20.24; Actual 17”

    https://twitter.com/PuntJohnPunt

    BUT, I think this will change over time. I think Allen deserves time and the chance to prove himself. I think he will prove himself over time. However, this season was a failure, by the standards they set for themselves. They said this season would be a “breakthrough” season. It wasn’t. Not even close. It was a regression.

    Time to keep building and get over the proverbial losing hump. Less slogans, more substance.

    Also, we need a QB. Pretty hard to win football games with average to poor QB play. Ramsey isn’t the answer.

  15. Whether Allen deserves more time or not is irrelevant. He’s going to get more time simply on the basis of his contract and the fact that Glass would be loath to spend the money necessary to buy it out. Remember, IU is still on the hook for $1 million per year (less whatever Crean’s getting paid as a part-time TV analyst) for three more years. I’m sure Allen is working very hard and doing the best he can. But the question remains, will Allen’s best be good enough coaching a program like IU Football? That’s why I say that if Allen fails to produce a winning season in the next two years, IU should fire Glass. Glass gets to keep his job (for a while longer) in large part because the Hoosier Nation has exceptionally low expectations of its football program. But sooner or later, Glass has to be held accountable for the football program.

  16. The hiring of DeBord to run the offense seemed like a wise choice- an experienced OC with a successful track record. But DeBord’s offense was unimaginative and unproductive. They need to spend some money and get an accomplished OC that can coach and recruit. The same goes for the quarterback’s coach. He did nothing to develop talent and he’s failed to sign a top recruit. Hope Mark Hagen doesn’t leave for a big pay increase like Deland McCullough and Greg Frey. Hagen is IU’s best coach and they can’t afford his loss.

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