This is a hard one to analyze. First, the MAC winning streak continued, in the face of the usual "upset special" talk. The IU defense found itself in possession of five turnovers, including a fumble returned for a touchdown by Greg Middleton (hope Tiller saw that one) and two interceptions by Mitchell Evans, who was filling in for Austin Thomas. Evans is a true freshman and a really nice find, and he illustrates the point that the staff has been making about our improved depth. IU led 31-7 at halftime and pulled ahead 34-7 with a field goal at the 4:57 mark of the third quarter. Yet, just eleven game minutes later, Western was within a two point conversion of making it a one possession game. IU managed nearly 200 yards of offense in the second half, but had only two field goals to show for it. Western managed two offensive touchdowns on its 212 yards of second half offense (plus a 98 yard kickoff return touchdown.
So, the good:
- Mitchell Evans. I suspect he will see the field quite a bit from this point forward.
- Taking advantage of turnovers. Yes, a couple of them were gifts, but we took advantage well (Middleton's "scoop" was textbook).
- Run defense. On 30 rushes, Western managed just 30 yards. Unfortunately, WMU's passing offense picked us apart in the second half, but for the second week in a row, IU stayed fairly strong against the run. We haven't played a powerhouse, but in recent years, nearly everyone has been able to run the ball against IU.
- Failure to hold lead. Sure, it's a 10 point road win. But against a MAC team, in a 3/4ths empty stadium, there's no good excuse for ending up in a position where losing that game was a possibility. And that leads to:
- Lewis up the middle on three straight plays? Had IU gone up 41-7, it's unlikely WMU would have put up a fight. I don't want to turn this blog into a center of second-guess-nit-picking, but it seems to be that of all of Kellen Lewis's skills, running up the middle like a fullback would seem to be about the worst way to use him. With second and goal from the one, why not spread Western out? With Hardy, Bailey, and Thigpen on the field, plus a QB who can run, it's not even fair against a MAC team. We chose a course of action that gave Western the best chance to keep IU out of the end zone.
- Pass defense. WMU's pass offense was more productive than IU's, with 354 yards and 6.6 yards per attempt.
More later on this one, maybe. Akron is next.