Indiana 28 Michigan State 42: Talent or Schemes?

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

A complete failing on defense has Indiana fans asking the question of whether this defense is still lacking the talent to compete at the Big Ten level or if its a coaching issue.

Indiana came out early yesterday afternoon and looked like a team ready to go. The Hoosiers lept out quickly to a 7-0 lead and forced a 3 and out to get the ball back. They were moving it very well up until midfield when Indiana does what Indiana does. It killed its own drive with stupid penalties. That has pretty much been the MO of the failings of this team on offense all year. If they don't play well offensively you can always point to a couple drives where they stall out because of a dumb penalty or two that has them trying to play 2nd and 20 football. Instead of going up 14-0 and forcing Michigan State to press, they're punting and the MSU offense drives the length of the field to tie it up.

All day yesterday, the offense just looked a little off. Sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld looked especially antsy on the day. I don't know if it was knowing the kind of opponent he was facing or his first road game of the season, but there were opportunities there very early for Indiana to slash the elite defensive opponent. The Hoosiers went long early and often and guys were open, but Sudfeld's throws weren't really giving the receiver even a chance to go up and battle for the ball. Unfortunately he never settled down and the offense never really did find any rhythm outside of isolated drives here and there.

In the good category for the offense, Wilson seems to have really figured out Tre Roberson's role and it appears to be effective. Though the interception late in the game while trying to engineer a comeback was really the nail in the coffin, Roberson had himself a great game as the change of pace quarterback. You can tell that nerves-wise Roberson is a little more composed and confident in himself out there than Nate. However, he still doesn't quite have the passing ability of Sudfeld. There is no quarterback controversy in Bloomington. There are just two pretty good players that are going to share time. Sometimes more 50-50 than others, but Sudfeld is still going to get the majority of the snaps.

That's really all there is to say on the offense. It could have been better, but it still put up 28 points on an elite defense and limited turnovers. Maybe another touchdown or so, but that is really all you can ask from the offense given the context. They held up their end of the bargain. The defense, however, is still very much a work in progress.

Of course the most fickle fan base in the world for historically the worst collegiate program in the nation is calling for defensive coordinator Doug Mallory's head. Don't get me wrong, this performance was more than rough, but don't be stupid people. If you watched the football game at all you would have seen that a majority of the time the Hoosiers were right there to stop a play when it happened. Especially in the run defense.

It was super frustrating to watch as a linebacker plugged a hole to hold a runner for no gain but instead the runner grabs 5 more yards after contact. Over and over again the defense was lined up perfectly to stop a play in its tracks and instead a few more yards were attained. Poor tackling seems to have always been a calling card of Indiana defense's and this year doesn't seem to be any different.

I was really trying to figure out last night as I thought about this game whether I should blame the defensive schemes or talent on the field for Indiana's defensive struggles against quality teams and I think it's a point where we're still talent deficient against higher powered teams. On the bright side it is getting better. No longer are we struggling to stop MAC teams. That's something this D can handle now, it's just growing and learning to fight teams on our own level. I suppose we just have to be patient there.

Still its frustrating to watch when a relatively bad Michigan State offense puts up 42 points on your defense. And maybe we should give some credit to Michigan State. Their biggest issue to date has been the lack of a passer killing their run game. However, it does appear that Connor Cook has figured something out. He looked very good yesterday afternoon.

Indiana also shot themselves in the foot some on the defensive side of the ball. I'm not certain how many third and longs Michigan State converted but it was at least 3 and all of them were back breakers. Dumb penalties also kept Michigan State drives going when Indiana was able to get stops. It just wasn't pretty as a whole on the defensive end yesterday. I guess if we want to give props to anyone it should again go to the secondary. No one receiver broke 70 yards receiving in a game where Cook threw for 235 so I guess that's a win.

Overall a frustrating game. Not necessarily something we didn't see coming. I would have preferred a 14-28 loss over a 28-42, but I don't think anyone is shocked at the final result. It's disappointing but wasn't a game we were supposed to win. Looking forward I don't think we win a single road game this season. However, we should sweep the final three home games and finish with a season that we had expected to have. That doesn't feel like a successful season right now, but when we can put it in perspective away from this game I think we'll all be happy to see that the season is pretty well on track.

Next up Indiana will travel to Ann Arbor to take on a much better Michigan offense but a considerably worse Michigan defense. Indiana should keep it interesting.

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