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

1. IU opened its downfield passing game.

For five weeks, this had been the biggest missing piece inside Indiana’s offense. On Saturday, the Hoosiers leaned on their receivers to make the one-on-one aerial plays this team needs.

IU entered the weekend with only three passing plays of 30 yards or more, but against the Buckeyes alone, Indiana produced four. In doing so, IU showed that the capacity is there to attempt and complete these kinds of throws. Nick Westbrook answered the call. J-Shun Harris did, too.

Quarterback Peyton Ramsey finished with a career high 322 yards and tied his career best with three touchdowns, taking shots and giving the Hoosiers a vertical presence. He missed a couple deep throws that might’ve turned into points, but this was, for the most part, a solid performance from the redshirt sophomore.

The question now becomes: will Indiana roll this aggressive approach into the second half of the season?

2. Indiana lost the game, but won a prized recruit.

Avon running back Sampson James went to Ohio Stadium on Saturday as a Buckeye recruit. He left feeling uneasy about his choice.

By Sunday night, the four-star prospect changed his mind and flipped his commitment to IU, giving the Hoosiers one of their highest-rated pickups in recent history.

“He feels very comfortable with IU,” Avon coach Mark Bless said. “I don’t know what all transpired (Saturday) at Ohio State, but he told me he just didn’t have a good vibe.”

Indiana provides both comfort and familiarity for James, who is considered the No. 8 running back in the nation and the third-best prospect in the state of Indiana for 2019. There are strong ties between IU and Avon, which has been a regular participant in Indiana team camps during Mark Bless’ nine seasons as coach. New IU strength coach David Ballou also ran the high school’s strength program for 14 years.

“I think that relationship with Sampson and some of his brothers has always been strong and respectable,” Bless said. “I think it’s a number of things that fell into place with Sampson.”

James also represents Tom Allen’s ongoing pursuit toward securing the state’s top players. Allen now has in-state verbal pledges from James and fellow four-star prospect Beau Robbins, a four-star defensive end from Carmel who is considered the No. 4 ranked player in Indiana.

3. The Hoosiers put forth the energy and effort required to challenge a top-five team. But how does that translate to the games IU needs to win?

The latest contest between these two teams played out in similar fashion to so many other recent meetings — IU gave the Buckeyes a fight before struggling to make plays at critical junctures against one of the nation’s most talented and athletic teams.

Indiana has produced this kind of performance before, but it’s never really led anywhere. IU can be competitive with the Big Ten’s best programs, but the same level of play doesn’t always carry into the toss-up conference games that the Hoosiers need to win on their path toward bowl eligibility.

Iowa, this week’s opponent, is built with players of a comparable skill level. It’s a crucial game for the Hoosiers, who need to start backing up these nice efforts against the Big Ten’s upper crust with wins elsewhere on the schedule.

4. The window closed midway through the second half.

Bryant Fitzgerald’s third-quarter interception gave IU an added jolt with the Hoosiers trailing by nine with three minutes left in the period.

But after a reception by Ty Fryfogle picked up 11 yards and took Indiana to the Ohio State 38, the Hoosiers didn’t manage a single yard across their next six plays spanning two possessions.

From there, Ohio State scored the game’s final 14 points and out-gained IU 147-22 across the final 15 minutes.

IU had a window to make something happen. It just didn’t stay open very long.

WHAT’S NEXT: Iowa, Saturday, noon, Memorial Stadium, ESPN2.
The Hawkeyes are 4-1 coming off a 48-31 win at Minnesota, where they retained the Floyd of Rosedale trophy in shootout fashion. Each of Iowa’s last three trips to Bloomington have ended in one-possession games — two of which were won by the Hawkeyes. Iowa opened the week as a five-point favorite.

40 comments

  1. Point #3 is so true. If DeBord had used this gameplan against Michigan State, IU would be 5-1. Moral victories don’t get them closer to a bowl.

  2. No, outcome would still be a loss at MSU. IU fans bite on the smallest of hope and how often and soon they forget. Lagow and IU looked like one of the best passing teams in country first half vs OSU on national tv. Few adjustments made at halftime by OSU same result. I expect as October turns into November the season will play out P.R. limping and struggling to escape containment and inconsistent going downfield with a completion or two with hope to win six. (maybe M.P. will eventually see the field this season).

  3. Wow, you two are so negative against your old school that you both missed the point. Michigan State has lost to 2 marginal teams including Northwestern in East Lansing because those teams were able to challenge a poor MSU secondary. IU didn’t even try. Had IU used the OSU game plan, which included passes to Westbrook and Hale on throws downfield, they would have had the same kind of success if not more success against a bad MSU secondary. 300 yards of passing offense against MSU would have meant a win.

    1. 123,
      You’re missing the big point. What you saw against OSU was not downfield throwing. The only downfield passes I saw, missed both times. What I did see was around some 30 -35 yards in the air throws off of misdirection. Problem was that after seeing it a few times, OSU adjusted and took that option away. MSU would have done the same thing.

      Most of the passing was the typical dink and dunk variety into some very tight windows. Credit PR for the accuracy to throw into those tight windows, but that type passing attack is not what you need to open up your offense. The only way it produces yardage is if the db took the wrong attack angle or was out of position. Biggest problem is you get your receivers punished by the D a whole lot more and the injury list is proof of that.

      Here’s the last little kicker, currently OSU is not in the top 50 of total defense according to ncaa.org. Iowa coming up is number 4 and Michigan is number 1. I think I saw both Minnesota and Maryland up there pretty well too. Whether or not those stats are meaningful will depend. Will know after IU plays them, if they are well earned or not.

  4. This week’s game against Iowa will determine how good this season can be. If the team brings the same intensity and effort they have a good shot at being 5-2 following the game. Carrying forward the energy will mean the team is learning how to play at a higher level. Learning to play that way is important to the future success of this team and future teams for IUFB.

    1. V13,
      What do you know about Iowa’s defense? Statistically they look very tough, but other than Wisconsin and Iowa State, not sure about their level of competition thus far. Turnovers did them in with Wisconsin and TA teaches creating defensive turnovers more than anything. Offensively they don’t look as strong as IU, but here again level of competition can be deceiving. First top 10 defense IU has faced this year, could be interesting.

    2. None of our Scoop football aficionados (including our beloved journalists) seem to be slinging the term “breakthrough” around anymore.
      OSU took their foot off the gas on a final drive at the end of Saturday’s game; deciding to let the clock run off after moving the ball with ease as they neared the 10-yard line. OSU deferred in piling on and making it into another 30 point shellacking. Needless to say, even with a pass defense many are concluding is weaker than OSU’s usual standard, it was still an OSU team completely dominating an Indiana football team in the second half.
      Breakthrough seems to always turn to breakdown. Watching golf in its off-season suddenly becomes nearly as exciting as watching an IU Football game. Another season will likely soon conclude with another mulligan. “Breakthrough” found the trees way outside the fairway. Mulligan!
      Was it a ‘slinging’ slice of the uninspiring past …? Man, we sure looked good at the driving range. And for a while, I was buying into the idea that IU Football didn’t need a whole set of clubs. Maybe this Ramsey kid could play 500-yard holes using only a most magical sand wedge for long drives.
      Dear aficionados of Scoop, have we put “breakthrough” to bed? We still have the ‘back 9’ to play….and I’m just curious. Are we going to leave our Penix 3000 driver in the bag? Are we going to putter along and make it “rough” to watch? Dunk and dink it down the fairway…? Walk the course with just a couple clubs and simply get out of the way of the OSU, Michigan, Penn State, and Purdue foursome when we’re holding up play at the BigTen East Breakthrough PGA?
      Maybe battling a stubborn gopher will be the new and improved standard for a breakthrough season? Hoosier Football? I’m alright! Nobody worry about me!

      1. July 24, 2017…..lest anyone forget.

        He was angry and frustrated by defeat, ired by another close game in a season full of them that the Hoosiers failed to seize. The word “breakthrough” kept popping into his head as he envisioned the future. And it was in that moment, with the 2016 season just recently pronounced dead, that Allen’s rallying cry for 2017 was born.

        It’s time for Indiana to finally break through.

        https://www.hoosiersportsreport.com/2017/07/allen-hoosiers-ready-to-follow-through-on-breakthrough/

  5. Will we ever see Ramsey complete a pass that travels 30 yards or more in the air from the LOS? Have we seen one yet? I can’t remember seeing one.

  6. thinkaboutit, Iowa’s defense is solid like always as they are well coached and the players use good technique to win match ups. They are down to two freshman corners [one form Indy] but the safeties are decent. They have replaced four LBs and those players have done well so far. There is some question about how good they truly are as they haven’t faced really good offenses so far. IU’s short passing game could be very successful against them and there should be some running lanes in that defensive front as they play base fronts a lot without many stunts.

  7. V- Ramsey’s short game may be needed this week. Iowa has 2 very good defensive ends. Anthony is tied for the Big Ten lead in sacks with 5 and Espenesa is tied for 2nd with 4. Espenesa was a 5 star recruit who will be a 1st or 2nd round NFL draft choice. With Cronk hurt, Espanesa could have a big day.

  8. And to think Cronk got hurt tackling a guy who was trying to return an INT on a failed two-point conversion, during a game that turned into a route. While I appreciated his effort, I wish he had made a “business decision” and not wasted his effort on a play that would not have altered the outcome of the game. We need a left tackle more than we needed to prevent those points from being scored.

    1. I want every player playing full tilt every minute regardless of the score. Cronk did exactly as he’s been coached to do. Allen just as Wilson before has instilled the no quit mindset into the Hoosiers. It’s now settled culture of IUFB.

    2. Po,
      HC & I disagree fiercely on several things, but on this one we do not. Cronk did exactly what he should have done. You know from your own playing days, more times than not, it is the aggressor who comes out on top. Cronk made an aggressive move, which he must do on any play whether it is to stop a 2 point conversion or making a hard block on a 2nd and 1. In FB you are either administering the hit or receiving it. It is a mentality you have to instill and sometimes the breaks don’t always go your way in terms of who gets the worst of it. On that play Cronk could have just as easily knocked the OSU guy out.

      1. Football “playing days” of Scoopsters?

        That sounds sort of fun…Can all give a brief account of their highest level of football playing experience? Please include where, when, height & weight with cleats on, and position/positions played. Did you start? Do you feel like you should have played more? Your best football memory while in a game? Any special memories of your coach? Your biggest play? Hottest cheerleader you couldn’t take your eye off of… Your “what could have been” moment?
        Enquiring minds want to know!

        Harvard:

        High school (2 years of JV @ Chesterton H.S. ). 1 year of middle school football(Liberty Middle School). Thousands of hours in the backyard throwing deep balls to a wide-open row of blueberry bushes.

        Running Back/Defensive Back
        6-1 165 lbs. (h.s. weight)
        Memories: Undefeated freshman year season(first in history of CHS JV program). My interception against Hobart. Starting star qb, Marty, lighting a match to his fart in the locker room. Kaboom!
        Cutest cheerleader: Karen Apple …Bubbly, genuine, infectious smile, thin as a rail, and a ‘crush’ since middle school that I will never be over.

      2. Eegads, PO, players are supposed run a cost/benefit analysis before making doing what football players do? “Football. Other guy has it. I tackle.” No further analysis needed or useful.

  9. Po, if you knew the future then Cronk could have made that choice but it was still a game IU was battling back in at the time. I hope is injury is not a serious one and he is back for Iowa but I wouldn’t want him to give any less effort – I know you’re not suggestion he give less.

    Iowa has a number of injuries heading into our game and have struggled to find a running game. With mistakes by the offense, Iowa showed they give up points when pressured. I hope IU can take advantage of every weakness and pull off a win most don’t think they can.

  10. Po- I couldn’t agree more. For OSU, TA said “we had our best guys against their best guys.” Well for Iowa, their best will now be going against our second string left tackle. That could be the difference in the game. Peak for winnable games, not OSU in Columbus. Rocky only wins in the movies.

    1. 123,
      I’m not so sure we can say their best guys are going at our 2nd string anymore than we can say our best guys are going at their 2nd string. From what V13 tells us, it appears Iowa has quite a few injuries as well. Should be an interesting game with Iowa’s defense versus the IU offense. Could boil down to the IU defense stifling a dinged up Iowa offense. Next few weeks should tell the tale on the IU FB season.

      1. tai, Exactly the attitude IUFB must approach every game. When IU gets Iowa down it is that attitude needed to put them away. Consistently competing is a little bit like shaving, do it every day or you’re a bum.

      2. TAI- I said their best defensive lineman will be lined up against our second string left tackle which is exactly what is going to happen. I’m not saying that Cronk could have stopped Epenesa, but he’d have a much better chance than Delroy Baker or whoever else IU tries.

  11. Line on game is Iowa by about 5 and IU has not covered in any of their big ten games. If P.R. gets offense bogged down and Iowa is allowed to contain and control up front the entire game and another qb doesn’t see the field Iowa will win by 10+.

  12. I guess my sarcasm did not come through in my previous post. I do appreciate Cronk playing all out and his extra effort on that play. I admire the grit and toughness T.A. is trying to instill in his players. But there is a place for thinking strategically, and T.A. seems to be behind the curve on that important attribute. My real point was that it was stupid to try for a two-point conversion in the first place! Scoring two points in that situation, and at that stage of the game, would not have influenced the outcome of the game. A blind man could see that IU was not going to beat OSU in their home stadium. Furthermore, it was a terrible play and Ramsey made a terrible pass, resulting in an interception and one of his most important linemen getting injured. Of course, no one could have foreseen that, but as it turned out, that stupid play could cost IU a lot more than just a few points in a game that was a lost cause. If Cronk’s injury leads to Iowa having a more effective pass rush, or Ramsey getting injured from a blind side sack, then the ramifications of that stupid play could be far reaching for IU Football. “You’ve got to know when to hold em, and know when to fold em.”

    1. Po,
      I didn’t question going for 2 as much as I did the play selection. TA was probably trying to build momentum which is good, but a bad play call messed it up. Unfortunate that Cronk got hurt, but he showed the aggressiveness you want in your players.

    2. In football, players get hurt in all kinds of ways (sometimes freaky ways) on all kinds of plays (sometimes the most ordinary plays). Pointless to speculate.

  13. And one more thing. Moral victories don’t get you to a bowl game, help you improve recruiting or fill Memorial Stadium for home games. IU Football’s history is full of moral victories and losing seasons.

  14. I always thought you go for two point conversions when you have no other choice, like when the game is on the line. In that situation against OSU, neither was the case. If you score two points, you get a mild boost in the team’s morale. But if you don’t convert, it diminishes the touchdown you team just scored and gives the opposing team a boost to its morale. It was a stupid call, a really bad pass, and a worse outcome.

  15. Two point conversion with P.R. Into end zone is a joke and just exploits another of his weaknesses. There is so much lack of authority when IU is near goal line, especially in passing game. For IU only go for two if game is on the line.

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