Northwestern 44, Indiana 29: the pattern continues.

Jonathan Daniel - Getty Images

As has become somewhat customary during the Kevin Wilson era, an IU team that appeared to be hopelessly behind rallied, but it was too little, too late.

I mentioned this pattern after the Ball State game, and it has continued: as has occurred several times during the Kevin Wilson era, the Hoosiers fell way behind after a listless start to the game, but rallied to make it interesting. On two occasions in the last 16 games (Virginia in 2011, Ball State two weeks ago), IU came back to take the lead, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion). In several others (North Texas, Penn State, Ball State, and Purdue last year, Northwestern yesterday), IU overcame large deficits to put the game into some degree of doubt at the end). This list includes nearly half (7/16) of the games that Kevin Wilson has coached at Indiana. Obviously, it says something good about the team and the coaches that they do not quit and that they can adjust to what the other team is doing. It says something bad that the Hoosiers can't seem to do this in the first half. I don't have an explanation or a solution, but Saturday's loss to Northwestern was one of the more extreme examples of the genre.

Stats.

The beginning was very grim, of course. IU mustered only 132 yards and zero points in the first half. Northwestern had a 27-0 lead and 389 yards of offense (in the first half and their opening possession the second half), before the IU offense came to life with touchdowns on four consecutive possessions. Starting QB Cam Coffman wasn't exactly awful, but it was understandable that the staff pulled him for Nate Sudfeld for the final possession of the first half. Sudfeld was 0-3 on that drive, but was 9-13 for 157 yards and a TD in the second half. The Hoosiers' four TDs came on three long scoring drives and on a 96 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by freshman RB Tevin Coleman. Once the offense was clicking, IU ran the ball pretty effectively (159 yards, 5.7 yards per carry), and obviously it's good that IU found itself back in the game. Unfortunately, however, in addition to the sluggish start this game was very familiar because of the defense. IU allowed 704 yards of offense, and the Wildcats averaged 7.6 yards per play. They averaged 6.8 yards per rush and 8.9 yards per pass attempt. Kain Colter, nominally NU's starting quarterback, attempted only three passes but torched IU everywhere else. He ran for 161 yards and 4 TDs and caught 9 passes from Trevor Siemian for 131 yards. Fortunately for IU, the Wildcats turned the ball over three times. Perhaps the key sequence of the game was when the game was scoreless in the first quarter. IU picked off Northwestern and drove 47 yards, but couldn't punch it in from the one yard line, and Mitch Ewald missed a chip shot field goal. After that, NU put together a 6 play, 80 yard touchdown drive and that was that.

A few notes about the Hoosiers' performance:

  • The penalties were a bit more under control than against Ball State. Four for 25 yards.
  • Stephen Houston continues to establish himself as IU's primary back. He ran for 91 yards on 11 carries and scored a TD.
  • D'Angelo Roberts had 6 carries for 41 yards and a TD.
  • Kofi Hughes caught 5 passes for 110 yards and a TD.
  • IU had 9 tackles for loss but no sacks.
  • Greg Heban and Alexander Webb were responsible for IU's two interceptions.
  • Ewald's miss is troubling. He is now 3-6 for the year and what appeared to be a position of strength may not be.
Of course, the main question going into next week will be whether Coffman or Sudfeld will start at quarterback. It's unmistakable that during the last three halves of football, IU's offense has been much more proficient under the guidance of Sudfeld than Coffman. Since halftime of the Ball State game, drives led by Coffman have accounted for 42 plays, 145 yards (3.4 ypp), and no points. Drives led by Sudfeld have accounted for 59 plays, 492 yards (8.3 ypp), and 36 points. I don't think that those numbers should be the only consideration. Sudfeld has been on the field for desperation time, and obviously in those circumstances there isn't any reason to hold back, and he probably has been playing against softer defenses that were trying to protect a lead rather than make something happen. Still, the numbers are eye-catching, and it will be interesting to see how it works. Before last season, Steve Bradley, who played at IU from 1977-80, was the only true freshman QB ever to see action for IU. Now, after playing Tre Roberson for most of last season, IU may well be leaning on a true freshman for most of its QB starts for the second consecutive season. Crazy.

Don't mistake my headlines for discouragement. Yesterday was frustrating, but at high profile positions and everywhere else, IU is young, young, young. There are glimmers, and hopefully these youngsters will put something together as Big Ten play continues. Will it be next week, when the Hoosiers host Michigan State for homecoming? Eh, I have a hard time seeing it, but the preseason consensus that MSU would be IU's toughest game of the season probably isn't the case anymore. The Spartans have struggled to get anything going offensively. On the other hand, their defense will be the best that IU has faced. More on that game as the week transpires.

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