Wow. Really, that happened? I didn't dream that? What a roller coaster! What an ending!
It's kind of annoying that there was such a great ending in the Michigan-Notre Dame game, because it trumped the amazing finish in our game. Not because theirs was better (it wasn't) but because they are two big name schools. They probably aren't much better than us right now, but they have name recognition. But I digress.
The Hoos managed to pull off an amazing, unpredictable finish and they beat the Hoosiers 34-31 in Bloomington to start the season 2-0. Check back after the jump for my analysis.
Let's start with the first half. Despite some mistakes, we led 16-3 at halftime. It could've been worse, but it also could've been better. An interception on the first play of the game is bad. A blocked FG on the ensuing drive is good. This trend would continue. A couple of penalties, followed by a 42 yard Robert Randolph FG. A solid defensive stand highlighted by a very nice Chase Minnifield sack, followed by a poor 3 and out. A few poor defensive plays, followed by a nice goal line stand, forcing a FG. Any time it seemed like one team might really grab the momentum, something happened to chance it up again.
It was like that for pretty much the entire first half, although the 10 points in the last 32 seconds made it seem like we had played better than we had. A 16-3 halftime lead will do that. It should've been more.
In the second half, Indiana's offense finally woke up. I said during the game preview that Indiana's offense was dangerous, and it proved to be so. Although 319 yards isn't really all that many (that would've finished 18th in the nation last year for total defense), it seemed that Indiana was able to do whatever it wanted at times.
Statistically, it wasn't a bad defensive game. Two forced turnovers by the defense (plus one from special teams), plus 10 TFLs which includes 3 sacks. Indiana rushed for 148 yards, and a third of that was QB Edward Wright-Baker. There weren't any big plays, they were around the ball on almost every play. But, it just didn't seem good enough.
Special teams is much the same way. We had a blocked FG and we had good kick coverage (including the aforementioned forced fumble). Not to mentioned 4 more FGs from Robert "National Kicker of the Week" Randolph. But we also had a giveaway on a punt, and a few other miscues in the return game.
Finally, the offense. Indiana's defense isn't good. That we knew. We picked up 360 total yards, which is solid but not great. We also had a well balanced game, with 162 yards on the ground and 198 in the air. But, again, it didn't seem like enough.
QB Michael Rocco wasn't bad, but he wasn't good. The interception on the first play of the game was a very poor throw. His second interception appears to be mostly the fault of WR Kris Burd, who broke off his route. Maybe a more experienced QB doesn't make the throw, it is difficult to say. The running game was the same. Kevin Parks and Perry Jones got the bulk of the carries, and they were ok. They weren't great. Perry Jones did have some nice moments as a pass receiver.
The game tying drive was a great drive. The play calls were great, the execution was good and you could really tell how much the players wanted it. My question is, where was this for the past 20 minutes? Furthermore, if these plays were called because that is what the offense is most comfortable with, why are we ever calling other plays?
Any win is a good win, especially on the road. The team will get better, there is no doubt. I was thrilled with the outcome. Again, it just felt like something was missing all game long. Maybe we'll find it next week against the Tar Heels.
A few notes on the game, in no particular order:
- Clifton Richardson looked very good, and probably deserves more carries. Not to take anything about from Jones and Parks, but Richardson is a better runner right now. It remains to be seen how he handles pass blocking and pass receiving, but with the ball in his hands, he is dynamic.
- The play by Cam Johnson to strip Wright-Baker and set up the game winning FG was one of the most amazing plays I've ever seen when you factor in game situation. That wasn't just a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery, it was robbery. He simply took the ball out right of his hands.
- Tra Nicholson is going to be targeted a lot. Every team is going to try to isolate him on bigger receivers until he proves he can stop them. Even on plays when he had textbook coverage, he took too long to find the ball, and wasn't able to get up quickly enough to make a play on the ball. Again, he is a freshman, so he will improve, but this is something to watch.
- Dom Joseph is also getting targeted. It isn't surprising that the CBs other than Chase Minnifield are getting targeted, because Chase is so good, but somebody is going to have to step up on the other side. For now, it probably means more zone coverages.
- Opposing defenses are going to play their defenses really shallow until Rocco proves he can consistently make throws downfield. It doesn't have to be 30 yard bombs, but almost all of the passes he makes are of the 4-6 yard variety. Passes in front of the LBs are great when the LBs have to play off, but they are going to start playing right on the line of scrimmage, and Rocco is going to have to make plays over them. A post route or corner route here and there would really help keep them honest. Haven't really seen it yet.
- For all the hype about Dominique Terrell and Darius Jennings, we've seen little from them in the return game. I know, they are freshmen and they'll get better. But right now, the return game is still a weakness. We may see more of Chase returning punts.
- David Watford is fast. Very fast. I still don't know what kind of QB he will become, but he nearly chased down Lawrence Barnett on the fumble recovery. Great effort from Watford. Where was everybody else?
- I thought generally road teams bring the officials for non conference games. Does anybody know why this game had Big Ten officials? I'm not suggesting they were biased, but it did seem like a lot of the 50/50 calls went against us. There is a reason road teams usually provide the officials in these matchups, and the reason is that officials gain a familiarity with the coaches and players they see repeatedly. Home teams have enough of an advantage without getting one from the men in stripes as well.