For the first time in a decade, the Indiana-Northwestern game did not come down to the wire. Northwestern pulled out to a comfortable lead early in the game and torched IU's secondary, overshadowing a fairly good offensive performance by the Hoosiers. This team is playing very young guys at a multitude of positions, perhaps nowhere moreso than in the secondary, but it still was discouraging to see the way the defense played. It's clear even to my untrained eye that these guys are having a tough time grasping what they are supposed to do. Northwestern had a number of touchdowns on which it wasn't so much that IU defenders were getting beat, it's that their decisions were leaving NU receivers uncovered. Northwestern averaged 7.8 yards per play and 13 yards per pass attempt.
As discouraging as the defense was, however, the offense, under the leadership of true freshman quarterback Tre Roberson, seems to be coming into its own. I don't want to oversell the performance, which came against a defense that is pretty bad itself, but IU's running game really excelled on Saturday. Roberson was decent enough passing, completing 14-26 passes and throwing for one TD 1, INT, and a couple of near misses. On the other hand, he ran the ball very effectively, gaining 121 yards on 22 attempts. Stephen Houston had another fine performance, who gained 151 yards and scored 2 touchdowns on 19 carries. He has continued to improve, and will have an opportunity to see how he measures up against a couple of top defenses when IU plays Ohio State and Michigan State in the next two games.
Still, it's hard to overstate how thoroughly the IU defense was manhandled. Northwestern scored touchdowns on 8 of its 12 possessions and did not punt until the fourth quarter. The IU defense had no interceptions, only two tackles for loss, no sacks, on one broken up pass. As I noted above, the two games upcoming are road games against tough competition, and probably won't allow IU to show too much or allow us to determine whether there has been any improvement. Ultimately, at this point the season comes down to the Purdue game,which likely will be IU's only chance to avoid a winless Big Ten season.
Other individual performances of note:
- D'Angelo Roberts, the freshman from Bloomington, ran for 38 yards and a touchdown on 5 carries.
- Shane Wynn was IU's leading receiver with 41 yards. No Hoosier caught more than 3 passes and 9 players caught at least one.
- Leon Beckum led the defense with 13 tackles and one tackle for loss.