Indiana 24, Indiana State 17: Hoosiers escape with win in opener.

Sep 1, 2012; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers cornerback Brian Williams (7) intercepts the ball against Indiana State Sycamores wide receiver Shane Wynn (1) at Memorial Stadium. Indiana defeats Indiana State 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

It wasn't the decisive beatdown that could have been interpreted as a sign of major progress, for for only the second time in the past 13 games, the Hoosiers won, holding on to defeat Indiana State after blowing multiple opportunities to put the Sycamores away. I would guess that both teams are beating themselves up over missed opportunities and dropped passes. For the Sycamores, those could have made the difference between winning and losing. For IU, those opportunities made the difference between a blowout win and a performance that was good enough to beat an FCS team but not good enough to quell grumbling about the direction of the program.

First, a bit about the game. IU appeared to be the first on the board, midway through the first quarter, when Ted Bolser went 38 yards for an apparent touchdown, but a pass interference call away from the ball (apparently a pick of some sort, although I never saw it on the replay and didn't take the time to rewind) negated that and ended the possession with a punt. On the next ISU possession Shakir Bell ran 54 yards for a touchdown, and the Hoosiers appeared to be in trouble. IU then scored 17 unanswered points, including a 71 yard TD reception by Shane Wynn and a 15 yard TD run by Stephen Houston. Unfortunately, a key holding penalty in the red zone prevented IU from going up 21-7, and the Sycamores then pulled to within a single possession with a field goal at the gun. The field goal is and remains a point of controversy. Indiana State, which had no timeouts remaining but had stopped the clock by going out of bounds, was lining up to attempt a field goal when Kevin Wilson called a timeout with seven seconds remaining, apparently to ice the kicker. Given more time to think about it, ISU decided to try one more play, and gained 7 more yards and setting up a more reasonable field goal attempt, a 45 yarder which they made. First, let me say that I agree with the consensus that Wilson made a bad decision by calling the timeout. The half was about to end with a 52 yard field goal attempt, which is a stretch for nearly any college kicker. Leave well enough alone. Bad decision, full stop. But one thing that hasn't been mentioned much is that I'm not sure it made sense for Indiana. Had anything gone wrong for ISU--a fumbled snap, a sack, a procedure penalty, a tackle of an ISU receiver in bounds--then any hope of a field goal would have been gone. My guess is that the timeout allowed Trent Miles and his staff time to evaluate whether they really had anything to lose. Tanner Fritschle, who spent last year as a kickoff specialist and had never attempted a field goal in college, probably wasn't going to make a 52 yarder. Still, it wasn't a risk free move for the Sycamores, either. Still, I agree. If you can live with what the other guy is doing, then let him do it.

IU began the second half with an excellent 75 yard drive culminating in a Tre Roberson quarterback sneak, but then quickly allowed a TD drive by the Sycamores on the next drive, and that was it for the scoring. There were no points scored in the final 20 minutes of the game. IU forced a fumble but the drive culminated with a rarity, a missed field goal by Mitch Ewald. A promising ISU drive was ended by a Brian Williams interception. An ISU interception was negated by a questionable pass interference call. ISU blocked a Mitch Ewald field goal. IU comfortably outgained the Sycamores, but it was a game that IU could have put away but didn't. It was a performance that was good enough for a victory, but probably wouldn't be good enough to beat any of our subsequent opponents, with the possible exception of UMass. On the other hand, those of us who remember the loss to Southern Illinois in 2006, or , or who saw that Youngstown State beat Pitt last night, know that it could have been worse. I don't think we know much more about the 2012 Hoosiers than we did 24 hours ago.

Individual notes:

  • As expected, ISU's running back, Shakir Bell, was fantastic, gaining 192 yards on 24 attempts. He's possibly the best player in FCS, and looked like it. I don't want to imagine what Leveon Bell and Montee Ball will do against this defense.
  • Tre Roberson looked transformed as a passer. Although the offense bogged down a bit in the second half, Roberson completed 26 of 36 attempts for 280 yards and a TD. His one interception was erased by a pass interference penalty. He looked very comfortable throwing the ball.
  • Although freshman Tevin Coleman (7-48) was listed as the starter, sophomore D'Angelo Roberts received the bulk of the carries, 22 for 67 yards. Stephen Houston was 10-33 but did have a 15 yard touchdown run.
  • Nine different Hoosiers caught passes, including two running backs (Coleman and Roberts). Shane Wynn led the way with 6 receptions for 95 yards, although 71 of those yards came on a single TD pass. Duwyce Wilson caught 5 passes for 52 yards but had a couple of drops. Tight end Ted Bolser, after a disappointing sophomore season, caught 3 balls for 45 yards and had a 38 yard TD reception called back.
  • On defense, safety Drew Hardin led the way with 8 tackles and a fumble recovery. The Hoosiers sacked Mike Perish five times, including 2 by Larry Black, Jr. and one each by Chase Hoobler, Adam Replogle, and Griffen Dahlstrom.
  • Special teams were a bit of a disappointment: a makeable missed field goal by Mitch Ewald, a blocked field goal, and only a 32 yard average on four punts by Mitchell Voss.
Well, it's a win. And it's week one. While IU's Big Ten schedule is very tough, the design of the schedule in September seems to work in IU's favor. IU next heads to Foxborough, Massachusetts, where the Hoosiers will play MAC member UMass, which is in its first season in FBS and lost 37-0 to UConn in its opener. After that, IU heads home to play Ball State. The Cardinals were solid in their opener against Eastern Michigan and have two consecutive wins over IU. After that, IU has a bye before traveling to Northwestern, which escaped at Syracuse yesterday. It was closer than it should have been, and the defense didn't look all that much better, but there were some glimmers of hope, at least on offense.
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